She had a towel around her body and another towel on top of her head like a turban- making her look like a bobble head. Steam was rising up from the iron. I sat on the edge of my big sister’s twin bed watching her meticulously iron her blouse.
“What is wrong with me?” she shook her head, as if she was expecting an answer, but it was clear she wasn’t addressing me. At barely 11 years old and over a handful of years between us, I was just another object in her breathing space. She sauntered over to the other side of the room, and pulled out a record from her collection. I tried to get a glimpse of her choice, but her toweled back was in the way. I heard the scratch of the needle on the record and the music started to blare. She nodded her head, as if in agreement, singing, “I just can’t believe all the things people say….CON-TRO-VER-SY“, and danced back to the ironing table, hands in the air.
My sister blared the music when mom was gone, and tonight mom was out to dinner. My other sister and brother were out somewhere too. I never really knew where anyone was or when they’d be back. Mom worked a lot. And when she wasn’t working she was trying to have fun. There was a faint knock at the door. “Oh, shit, Jules!” my sister blurted out. Then, “Sorry,” at me. I smiled. I hated cursing, thought it was some kind of sin. But, when my sister cursed, all was forgiven. “Come in!” my sister screamed from the top of the stairs on the landing, her voice traveling down towards the first floor where you could see our front door.
The words pounced from the record in the background, “Do I believe in God? Do I believe in me? …CON-TRO-VER-SY“.
The door flung open, “Geez, Michelle, I thought I’d have to break the door down!” Jules yelled, half-laughing, with a large silver studded black purse in one hand and clothes tucked underneath clear plastic on a hanger in the other. Her dirty blond hair hung down to the middle of her back, undone. “You have your crimping iron, right?”
“Oh, of course. Let me plug it in,” my sister said, heading back in towards the bedroom.
The song continued, my sister and Jules singing along, “Some people want to die, so they can be free.” My eyes were on my sister and her friend, my ears were glued to the sounds emanating from the record player… “CON-TRO-VER-SY”.
The two of them paraded around the room, like they were already out on the town, “You think Danny will be at the club?” Jules asked my sister, giddy.
“I don’t know. He said he might go to Debbie’s party instead,” my sister replied, deflated. There was barely a pause and then the music seemed to pick her right back up. She finished ironing her ruffled shirt and hung it over the corner of the door.
Further conversation was overshadowed by the lyrics, “Our Father, who art in Heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on Earth, as it is in Heaven...” What?! The ‘Our Father Prayer’ in a dance song?
My sister stood in front of the mirror, applying blue and gray eye shadow-like her face was a canvas, creating a smoky, dramatic painting. She swept rose-tinted blush across her high cheek bones in an upward motion. Her red wine lipstick was the final stroke. She took a tissue and blotted her now stained lips. She flipped her head upside down and dried her thick-permed chestnut hair, carefully scrunching; teased the front until it stood several inches high. Jules’s hair looked like an accordion. Her eyes clear blue, lips- an overpowering fuchsia.
“Aren’t you going somewhere?” my sister turned towards me, as if she ever knew anything about my whereabouts.
“No, I wanted to spend the night at Lana’s, but her mom said they have to leave early in the morning,” I muttered, bummed my plans with my best friend were squashed.
“Oh. Well I’m sure you can find something on TV,” my sister said, almost as an automatic response. TV, her usual babysitting tool. She put on her ruffled shirt that tied on one side, buttoned it up to the top. She pulled up her tight jeans, and laced up her tall black suede boots that looked like they could hurt someone. Jules squeezed into her long straight skirt and short boots, with a fancy blouse that she also buttoned up to the top- brooch pinned at the center of her neckline. They were like twins, although I’m certain they didn’t see it that way.
Aquanet Hairspray filled the air. “Eck, Eck,” I coughed, getting caught in the fumes. Perfume soon floated about the room too, creating a nauseating concoction. My sister took the record off the record player. Grabbed her purse.
“Keep the door locked,” she called out before the door shut behind her. They were off. And I was alone. I pulled the record back out- stared at the cover. Did my sister know she looked like a mini-female Prince? The words on the cover jumped out at me, “Love Thy Neighbor”. I took a closer look and read, “Gun Control”.
I put the record back on, grabbed the hair brush off of her vanity, teased the front of my hair like my sister. It looked like a poorly constructed bird’s nest. I went to the mirrored closet doors holding the brush like a microphone, “Am I black or white, am I straight or gay?” I played it over and over until I knew the words by heart. I went to the top landing overlooking the first floor, singing as if there were an audience. “I wish there was no black and white, I wish there were no rules..” I sang to an imaginary crowd in a big empty house, belted out the words and the audience filled the space. I just kept singing, dancing, listening to the music, and suddenly I wasn’t alone.