Killing Time (working title)
I hate parties. They are places where a person like me should not be. I do not care for the “where are you from”, “what do you do” “how do you know Kristy” bullshit. It feels so silly, yet, here, they are all doing it. I am in the corner, pretending to peruse Kristy’s endless collection of books. You can tell a lot about a person by looking through their book collection.
Except I know Kristy. She’s my sister. Though, I’m still not convinced we shared the same womb. Kristy is social, witty and well-adjusted. She has a gazillion friends who she’s always going out with. Her job as a Concepting Director is a mystery to me, but I know it’s important, because she’s always traveling off to somewhere cool to “see the client.”
She’s got it all together, whereas I am “lost” or “troubled.” At least that’s what my parents said over Thanksgiving when they thought I’d gone outside for a smoke. They sat at the breakfast bar in my parents’ kitchen on stools, picking at cheese and other snacky foods. My family loves to snack. Come to my parents’ home, and you can guarantee there will be an assortment of cheese laid out on the jagged slate Kristy bought my parents from William Sonoma.
“It comes with chalk,” she beamed. “So you can write what kind of cheese it is right next to it.”
Bob and Jackie were thrilled, of course. I was silent, as usual, awed and envious at how Kristy was so good at picking the perfect gift. I showed up with an assortment of Tea. Neither Bob nor Jackie drink tea, but I liked the packaging,. Plus I’d waited until the last minute (as usual) to buy them something.
Bob and Jackie couldn’t wait to try the new cheese plate out, so Jackie announced at breakfast that we’d be having “some snacks” at 2pm. I’d hoped to be gone by then, but Kristy was my ride, and I knew she wouldn’t miss the chance to try it out.
“I just worry about her,” Jackie said, in a hushed tone, thinking I was outside. “She seems so lost. Every time I call her and ask how things are, it’s the same thing. ‘Fine,’ she’ll say. But is she? Fine?” She looked at my sister. “Does she say anything to you?”
Bob joined in between bites of cheese. “What is it? Is she troubled over something? Did some guy break her heart? She used to be so happy.”
“Libby’s just…Libby,” Kristy said. “She likes to keep to herself. Trust me, I’d know if something were wrong, but I think she’s just not really found her groove.”
“Well, I hope she does — soon,” Jackie said, peering over her shoulder and lowering her voice to a loud whisper. “She’s not getting any younger, ya know.”
“Mom, enough with that bullshit, okay? Not everyone aspires to live in a big, beautiful house with a finished basement and a two-car garage. She’s just fine. Seriously. Now stop talking or else she’ll hear us and feel like a loser.”
But I was a loser — at least in my parents’ eyes. Kristy loved me. Though, I have no idea why. She’d often say things like, “Of course I love you — you’re my sister.” It always baffled me to love someone just because. I didn’t love Bob and Jackie. Sure, I liked them a little, but love? I don’t even know what that feels like. With Kristy, I appreciated her. Is that love? How can someone who’s never felt loved be able to say whether she loves or not.?
Whatever it was I felt for Kristy brought me to her party. She knew I didn’t want to come, and I knew she wanted me to be there, so I came. If that’s love, then I guess I love my sister. What I didn’t love was this stupid party. I did my best not to encourage conversation without being rude. I didn’t tell anyone I was her sister, because that would just invite a longer exchange of bullshit chit-chat. “Her sister? WOW! You guys don’t even look alike. That’s awesome!”
What’s so awesome about not looking like my sister? We do, in fact, look very much alike. But I have short hair now, which is dyed dark red — think a cross between candy-apple red and cabernet. It’s dramatic in a low-key way, especially when compared to Kristy’s long and wavy light brown locks. Take away the different hair color and styles, and we pass for twins with our pouty lips and heart-shaped faces. If it weren’t for that, I would never have believed that we actually shared the same parents. But Bob and Jackie were ours.
“Hi,” I mumbled, glancing up and away quickly at the guy standing next to me.
“See anything interesting?” he asked scanning the bookshelves.
“Uh, no. I…just…well, um…”
“Hiding over here, were you?”
He had a slight accent, Irish maybe. Scottish. I couldn’t tell, but I was trapped and had to think of something to get me out of there. But the accent…I really wanted to know.
“Where are you from?” I asked and could have slapped myself. What the hell was I doing? I don’t do small-talk. I don’t ask, nor care where people are from, yet, this guy…I wanted to know.
“Ireland, originally, but I came to the states about ten years ago for school and just kind of…stayed on.”
“Oh” was all I could come up with. God, how I hated this kind of shit. I knew I was supposed to come up with a next question — like a volley of sorts — but I couldn’t. I just stood there, awkward, the heat of discomfort rising on the back of my neck.
He seemed completely at ease, looking from me to the books. “How do you know Kristy?”
“Libby!! Come meet my boss. Come on!” Kristy called from across the room.
“Um, I have to go,” I said, squeezing past him toward my sister, oddly relieved by her insistence on introducing me to her boss.
“I’m Caleb,” he said, as I hurried past. “Nice to meet you, Libby,” he said, pleased with himself for making the connection.
I muttered something incoherent and wished I could stop in the bathroom and catch my breath. That was not part of the plan. I came here out of respect for Kristy, but I was just going to mind my own business, say hello when she asked me to and get the fuck out of there and back to my couch and my Netflix. But…Caleb, was it? Shit…