My 19-year-old sister appeared on my doorstep Monday evening with a bag of groceries and a basket full of clothes. Her blonde hair was pulled back in its usual ponytail, and her Covergirl eyeliner was pristine. She did her best to smile but I could tell she was about to burst into tears at any moment, so I held the door open while she walked passed me into the kitchen. "What's going on?" I asked in my best sincerely worried, big sister voice. "Oh Katie!" she said, and that was all it took before she crossed the distance of the kitchen to hug me, started sobbing uncontrollably, and mumbled a lot of unintelligible things into my shoulder. I tried really hard to understand her but I only caught a few things; "I don't know..", "uncomfortable in my own skin..", "don't know who I am."
She made me feel old. Even now I go through most of my days feeling like a teenager, like I never really grew up, but she proved to me that I had. I could listen to her slobbery cries and understand that she is freaked out right now. She's tense about where her life is heading and what her future holds. She's trying to "find" herself and map out the rest of her life all while her friends move away to college, proving that high school really has ended. It didn't happen quite the same way for me but I understood it all the same. I hugged her back and smiled over her shoulder, "It's going to be okay."
It turns out the groceries and clothes were all part of her master plan. She decided she was abandoning her on-campus apartment and inept roommates to vacation at my house. She needed a week of solitude and our place was the closest and most affordable thing she could think of. Only our parents, Jon, and I know her whereabouts, but her roommates do know that she is alive and well (except for their speculations that she is in the hospital psych ward.) She has turned her cell phone off, and barricaded herself into my spare bedroom, washed all of her laundry, and somehow convinced Jack that she is the best thing since bread and butter. And I don't mind as long as she is happy; all though I have seen her almost finish an entire tub of peanut butter ice cream and a very large bag of animal crackers.
It has been a lot like a slumber party having her around. I think I was in need of a little more estrogen and female conversation than Jon is able to provide. I haven't been asleep before midnight so far this week. Last night we played rummy, ordered pizza and watched Hayao Miyazaki's My Neighbor Totoro. And we still have plans to play a little Man Bites Dog, watch Resident Evil: Apocalypse, and have everyone over for Labor Day this weekend.
Right now, I feel like she could stay forever, but I know that eventually I'll want to charge her rent.