“Oh my, you two could be twins!”
As kids, my sister and I were greeted with compliments and talk about how we looked like twins. Laurie was nearly two years older than me, but our features were damn near identical. It didn’t help that mom dressed us in matching polyester get-ups, straight from the McCall patterns she cranked out on her trusty sewing machine.
I never cared about the assumptions. Being considered my sister’s twin in the fourth grade was a compliment. She was smart, pretty, and popular – who wouldn’t hitch their wagon to that star?
When high school rolled around, our differences were quickly unveiled; I was the awkward, insecure little sister, while Laurie effortlessly found her clique of popular friends. She was the free-flowing water to my clingy, goopy oil.
Puberty kicked my ass, in the form of grade four acne vulgaris, a serious skin disease that left my face covered in purple and red blood-filled cysts, followed by deep-seated “crater” scars. Laurie was spared this inherited trait passed on by our absentee father, and I didn’t understand why I was the only one affected.
At 14, my nickname in school was Freddy Kruger, and Laurie held a place in the Junior Prom homecoming court.
I tried so hard to fit in. There was my Goth semester, where I styled my hair with egg whites, used heavy eyeliner, and dressed only in black. The grueling cheerleading tryouts, where I was taunted, just for showing up. I forced my way in to countless social events where I wasn’t invited: parties, bonfires on the beach, and sleepovers. All with the hopes of feeling normal.
I envied my sister. While my desperation served as social repellant, her effortless sense of self drew people closer to her. Each of my failed attempts to fit in was another ingredient in my self-induced pity-pot, where I marinated in a recipe of anguish and uncertainty.
“Your sister is so pretty, what happened?” One of my classmates shouted from the hallway, as I was walking to class. An audience of her friends hollered with laughter. “Kruuuger! Kruuuger! Kruuuger!” They were merciless.
By my junior year, I began to unravel. I started skipping school and drinking alone at home. Erica Kane was my faithful companion, and thanks to heavily played re-runs, so were June Cleaver and Hazel. They kept me and my tumbler of apple juice and mom’s Chablis company, while I zoned out in front of the television all day.
I (barely) graduated high school in 1986, but not without a stash of cocaine tucked in my bra. My sister was away at college, so she had no idea how much of a mess I was by then.
I moved away from home before the ink on my diploma dried. In unpacking my things, I came across my sister’s old checkbook and immediately called my best friend.
“We’re going shopping.”
“Contempo Casuals, anything you want.”
Using my sister’s driver’s license that I managed to swipe a year earlier, I wrote a half-dozen checks from her closed bank account, and gifted my friend and I with a new wardrobe. I knew it was wrong, but not once did it ever occur to me, I’d get caught.
A couple of months later, I received a phone call.
“What were you thinking?” My moms voice was shaking with anger. “Your sister wants to press charges. Do you know what they do to women in jail?”
Scared shitless, I begged and pleaded for her to help me pay back the money, in-between wiping my tears, apologizing over and over.
“Don’t tell me, tell your sister.”
Laurie eventually forgave me, but my little checkbook scheme only widened the space between us.
I was floored when Laurie asked me to be her maid of honor, but happily accepted, not realizing exactly what that meant.
I knew I was supposed to throw her a bachelorette party, and assumed everyone hired a male stripper for the occasion. When Laurie answered the door, her hunk-for-hire was dressed as a cop, and pretended to arrest her for check fraud. By far, one of the worst ideas of my life.
“That would be her.” My sister was not amused.
Shortly after her wedding, Laurie graduated college, began work as a middle-school teacher and learned she was pregnant. I was go-go dancing at a topless bar.
While she was stocking up on booties and burp cloths, I was collecting tips on stage, saving up to go backpacking through the south of France with Guy, a one-night stand who moved to London. Before making it to France, Gypsy kids in Madrid ambushed us, and they took off with everything in our pockets.
Three years later, my sister called after opening her mail. “Why do I have a letter from the American Embassy in Spain?”
One of the Gypsy kids, who took my wallet, was using my sister’s driver’s license.
Once again, I found myself trying to clean up the awful mess I made, begging my sister for forgiveness.
It’s been decades since I’ve thrown Laurie on the chopping block, but we’re still navigating our way through sisterhood. We connect mostly through emails and texts, and frankly, I’m amazed we communicate at all.
I never meant to hurt Laurie, and looking back, am floored by my unfathomable behavior. I’m sure all the psychology books will say I acted out of revenge for the seemly unfair card I was dealt. Whatever the reasons, I can’t take any of it back.
My sister isn’t the type who speaks about the past, and part of me is grateful. But when it comes to us being closer, I wonder if we ever should.