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Apathy Girl and Other Tales

Musings of the Overly Naive Cynic

Clichés are clichés for a reason. And that is a cliché. Her hair was forced into perfect spiral curls, she had glitter on her chest. When she smiled, which was at once frequent and unrepeated, her teeth were yellow and grey from tar and tobacco. Her skirt did not reach the ground, revealing the cellulite on her calves. She is not wearing shoes. I tried again and again to ask her if she realized what she was doing. That it was not necessary, we could work out something else. I was talking to a rag doll. I tried to give her my bracelet, insisting that it was borrowed, and that the beads were blue. I tried to smile and tell her I was happy and she was beautiful. Because she was. But on the day of my little sister’s wedding, all she could say to me is: “This doesn’t matter.” She is eighteen, pregnant, and up until about thirty-six hours ago, we thought redeemable. Certainly though, she is not unique. That may be the most painful thing. The fact that I am steaming the aged lace on my teenaged sister’s borrowed wedding gown is no phenomenon. She would tell me as much. And use ‘love’ as her reasoning. The cynic in me rears up.

Upon arrival at the home where this blessed event was set to take place, we were greeted by four or five women laying on various couches, watching television, at high volumes discussing how much had been done for the wedding, and how they had done it all. This was ignorable, I said ‘hello’ and ‘nice to meet you.’ When I went outside to get my sister, who was decorating the porch for her wedding, I was followed out of the room by the epitaph ‘skinny bitch.’ I grant them that. I am no waif, but each of these ladies had at least fifty pounds on me. I help my sister get ready for her wedding, pull the stained gown down over her head, ignore the constant stream of word-like sounds from her future family. I take a page from my Mother’s book: pray. Time must slow down, because there is no way this is actually happening. It is too much.

She is ready to walk out of the garage of his home, around the corner and up to the front steps where a preacher is waiting. The problem is the fiance is almost an hour late. Most of his family is in the house, getting ‘ready,’ why this is so time consuming is beyond me, almost all of them are wearing their every day jeans and cotton t-shirts. People stand around in the yard smoking (for the first time since the election, I am among them), poking at the decorations, the father of the groom walks out of the house eating a sandwich, there are three tractors in the yard and dog shit on the carpets. The families are aligned as the Capulets and the Montagues…or the Capulets and Larry the Cable Guy’s family. My Mother, Step-Father, my sister’s best friend and her mother, we lean against our cars on one side of the lawn, we talk quietly, my Mother’s lips move in prayer. On the other side is the groom’s family, talking loudly, cursing, jiggling.

The groom finally arrives via his friends truck, they donut into the yard and he jumps out stark naked. He too pulls on jeans, does not take the time to tuck in his shirt, or brush his teeth. But he does stand at the foot of the stairs and wait, as the bridal party moves into position. The groomsmen are barely men, they lear at me as I walk in red heels over the sloppy ground. All of them are chewing tobacco, occasionally they spit in unison, a feat that would make me laugh if it did not make me sick. Two out of three are wearing baseball caps, one of them is camouflaged and stuck through with fishing hooks. My sister follows me out, to the sound of camera snaps, talking, no music, my mother crying. When she reaches her groom he turns to his friends, rolls his eyes. Before he says his vows, he lets go a wad of tobacco from his mouth, to her feet. I pray. I am not exactly what one would call a God-fearing woman. But I pray for lightning. I pray for a localized plague. I pray for anything. I acknowledge my involvement in junior rodeo, I could hog-tie her, throw her in the car, take her to an abortion clinic, then to a private all girls college with a liberal discipline policy. But before I could pray for this boy to drop dead, it was done. There was no reverence, as soon as they kissed as man and wife, someone yelled for them to stop mucking up the lawn, that they needed to take pictures. They stood at the top of the yard, waiting for someone to direct them.

His aunt called him over to say his respects to our family. Apparently he forgot them. Must of dropped them on the way over. He would not look me in the eye, I had to grab his hand in order to shake it. I saw the fear in my sister’s eyes, the anxiety, So I wished them a happy life. “She is a wonderful girl.” And I meant it. I watched her grow up. Heard her sing, watched her play. Encouraged her dream of becoming a doctor, then becoming a nurse, then becoming a beautician, then becoming a nurse’s aid. And then I heard this boy, that she is now linked to for life, for better or worse, say “She’s not that wonderful.” There was no reception, the bride and groom went out to dinner together. She paid.

It is not that my sister is pregnant, that can happen. She made a choice for herself that is different from my own, and that is fine. It is not that she is married young, my Grandma married my Grandpa when she was just fourteen, she lied about her age, they were never technically legally married, but she was his wife, he was her husband, until the day God took him. It is not that she is marrying someone who is uneducated. What is most important is often not learned in print or prose. It is the fact that she has lost herself to this boy, and his family. She needed his identity so desperately that she cared not for the fact that he verbalized, to the best of his abilities, I am sure, on multiple occasions, that he did not want her. She gained nearly a hundred pounds, she dropped in and out of school, she stopped thinking. She simply regurgitated. His family was violent towards her, vandalizing her property, stalking her, terrorizing and harassing her, the situation became a complete cliché when she could not go to the police because he was related to the police. And now she is pregnant, and fifty percent more likely to be abused, eighty percent more likely to be unable to leave her current situation.

The problem is not that none of this matters to her; not the control, not the disrespect, not the violence, not the separation from her family, none of it. The problem is we saw this coming, my sister’s and I, perhaps even my mother, and we apparently did nothing for it. The fact that I went to sleep thinking of all the times I had thought “she’s going to get knocked up,” and did what was ultimately nothing to prevent it. The fact that we saw her lack of boundaries, we saw her confusion as to what is a ‘good’ and ‘bad’ life path, and did not drill into her head enough. The fact that we were relatively silent when my mom moved them to a small town, and at once came down on my sister and ignored her, and said nothing. The fact that we allowed my intelligent, naïve, simple, trusting sister to become a small town harlot, to sleep around, to become something there is no nice word for, that is the problem. And now it simply is, because that is the way it is with clichés, they are clichés for a reason.

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