Saturday, December 03, 2016

Tauy Creek Digest #30: Sister

"Everything is going great," Stephanie lied as she rubbed her neck. She always rubbed her neck when she lied--at least when she was with me. I don't know if she rubbed her neck when she talked to Mom or her boyfriend or whatever guy she was fooling around with or her bosses. Clearly, everything wasn't great or else she wouldn't be rubbing her neck.

"That's good," I sighed. "So what are you doing now?"

"I have a job answering phones," Stephanie replied. It was always a job answering phones. Not that there is anything wrong with it but those jobs were usually the easiest to get hired at and the easiest to lose. "It's taking orders for sit-down showers. Basically, I schedule for someone to go out to an old person's house and help get everything ordered and make sure one can be installed."

A couple years ago, Stephanie got a job helping the elderly get insurance to supplement their Medicare. The plans were usually vastly overpriced and Stephanie got to charge about twelve dollars an hour for this service. There are numerous places seniors can call to get free information. She happily did this job for six months before being fired for coming in high on cocaine that she had gotten from a fellow co-worker. "You're not taking any money from them, are you?" I asked her.

"No. Just getting the appointment set up," Stephanie said. "I'm trying to do good, Michelle," she said.

If I had a dollar for every time she said that. "You say that and then something happens."

"It's not like I plan for these things to happen. It just happens," Stephanie smiled that smile at me. She used that smile anytime she wanted to charm someone. If she wanted something or wanted to get away with something, her lips would part revealing her two front teeth, her nose would crinkle and her left eye would close slightly. It would be cute if she wasn't trying to be manipulative.

"Going into work high on cocaine isn't something that just happens. Answering ads online for escorts or whatever you want to call it isn't something that just happens. Getting arrested for breaking and entering because you are mad your boyfriend broke up with you isn't something that just happens."

"Look, you don't have to get all big sister on me. Things may not always be normal, by society's standards, but I try and if I have to do some odd things to keep the lights on, then I'm willing to do that," Stephanie explained. "It keeps me from having to ask you for money all the time."

I sighed. "How much are you asking for this time?"

Stephanie hung her head. "$1,300. I have a few bills to pay and I'm short on my rent."

I sighed, heavier this time. "Do you want me to write out your name or just put 'cash' on the line?" I tried to joke.

"Either is fine," Stephanie huffed a little. "I wish I didn't have to come to you for money but I was just never as responsible as you were, Michelle."

"Yeah, I know," I said, curtly, wondering where things went wrong. Our lives were exactly alike with the exception of her being the younger sibling. She was never coddled but had to watch me get all the kudos and congratulations when we were growing up. That didn't excuse her current, reckless behavior though. "You know my invitation still stands."

"I know but I think living with you and having to follow your rules would make me feel like a child. You gave me more rules than Mom and Dad ever gave us."

"I know. Because you need those rules. Nothing is going to change if you keep wandering around at night with your friends and whatever guy you run into," I finished filling out the check and tore it from the book. "I worry about you, Steph. I worry that you're going to take the wrong drug some night. I worry that the next strange guy you take home will murder you. I worry about you and you just don't seem to care."

Stephanie was silent for a minute. Her eyes flickered to mine and then down to the check then back to mine. "You don't need to worry about me. I know how to take care of myself. I've done pretty well so far."

Again, I sighed, and slid the check over to her. "We should try to get together at a time when you don't need to ask me for money," I said, trying to lighten the mood.

"We should. And, Michelle, I promise, promise, promise that this is the last time I will ask you for money," Stephanie said, as she rubbed her neck.