27. Closed Doors: What’s behind the door? Why is it closed?
The door is huge. And I am small. It has a bright, warm outline from the light in the corridor outside. All I have to do is reach up, twist the door handle and I will be back in the real world. Where the adults are, and the light is. But I can’t. Because they’ll shout at me. They’ll shout at me because it’s my fault she’s dead.
I don’t know what happened. She was fine, she was talking, and then the next minute she just stopped, her sentence hacked in half, and she just stopped speaking, and at first I laughed because I thought she was joking, but she still didn’t wake up, and now I’m crying and crying and I can’t breathe and I’m begging her to wake up and I think I might be too loud and that they might hear me and I half want them to so they can take me out of this nightmare and I half don’t because it’s my fault. It has to be. I’m the only person in here with her so of course they’re going to blame me.
I really want to know what you were thinking when you did that. When I was sitting next to you on the floor, crying and crying and bawling because I was a kid, and because I thought you were dead and I was shaking you over and over and you knew how terrified I was and you just lay there enjoying it. I really want to know what was going through your head at that time. The thing is I know you were a kid and I know you’re sorry now but how can someone be that sadistic and revel in someone else’s pain that much. Someone small who you knew was afraid of you and who you knew you had power over. And how could you then plan, and go over in your head, to get up, and say calmly, “Why are you crying?” and look at me slightly puzzled, and when I say, “You stopped in the middle of talking and you weren’t moving” say, “No I wasn’t. I don’t know what you’re talking about”. How can a child be that calculating? You made me doubt myself, you made me feel that maybe I had imagined it all, and you knew I would never tell anyone because you would deny it. Either I wouldn’t tell anyone because I felt stupid for believing you or I wouldn’t tell anyone because I didn’t trust my own memory enough, because you made me feel like I made it up. So either way you won.
The more she reaches out to me the more it makes me want to pull back. It’s making me cringe because she’s drunk and she’s spouting cliches that she thinks make her sound damaged and dramatic but really just make her sound ridiculous. She shouldn’t be with anyone because how could anyone love her. She just hurts people. She just pushes people away. Her voice is slurring and she’s saying these things so that I will deny them so that she can argue and impress upon me just how fucked up she is. I retreat further and further back into the sofa and my words sound so false to me that I keep waiting for her to hear it herself, even as drunk as she is.
And then, somehow, she drags the conversation onto us. What a bad sister she was. How can I love her. She was so horrible to me. My life would have been better if she wasn’t in it. It still would be now. And of course I rebut the things she’s saying. She is a better person and sister now, it’s not a lie, and of course my life is better with her in it. But I know what she really wants me to say. And I can’t. I told myself I’d only say it if and when I meant it. And I don’t. I love who she is now. I’m glad she is in my life and that we have a relationship. But when I think of her as a child, and I see her with her dark eyes and her knowing, false smile, I can’t. I can forgive my adult sister for being a self-absorbed, sometimes cruel (she’s still got that nasty streak), melodramatic, embarrassing person. But I can’t forgive her child self. For anything. There’s a home video where she doesn’t realise she’s being filmed and she thinks a photo is being taken. She’s staring into the camera, and the quality is so bad that her eyes are black. She’s smiling and her smile looks way too calculating, way too knowing, for a child. And it’s very clear she’s doing it for the camera. It’s very clear that she’s used to performing. And that is the face of evil to me. And I can’t forgive her for anything, because to me she wasn’t a person, she was just this malevolent force that ruled my life. So I don’t say it. I won’t say it until I mean it.
Just in case any of you were wondering, no, I haven’t forgiven her yet.
But I might be thawing slightly.