I hang up. “What? What has she done now?” I have been talking to my sister, and Charlie, my husband, recognises the sister tone in my voice. We are walking the dogs in the park when she calls. “Oh the usual. She needs me to just, blah, blah, blah…” I trail off and watch Herman stand under a tree in the hope that a squirrel will fall out of it. “Why do you let her have that kind of control over you? I don’t understand why you don’t just tell her to take a hike.”
How do I explain? It’s always been that way with the two of us. Even though I am older she always tells me what to do, and makes her requests for help sound like she is doing me a favour and teaching me a lesson. We tramp on in silence; the post rain wetness seeping into the cracks of my shoes and through my socks. Charlie is a few steps ahead of me, as usual, so I can’t see his default to determination face. Herman sees us moving away from him up the path and begins his solemn one noted bark. First he barks up the tree, then turns his head to us and barks, then back up the tree.
This time my sister needs me to fetch our mother and take her for her checkup. It is the third time she has bailed on our mother and made me do it. And it really hurts, because my mother adores her and always compares us, and I always come off second best. Story of my life. According to my mother, Dana is beautiful and intelligent, and I should make more of an effort to be like her. According to my mother Dana is successful and brilliant and sorted out and she lives in the right suburb. I, on the other hand, have made choices that have disappointed her. She hates my clothes, my house, my career that focusses on people and not money, my husband, my childlessness, my animals. Dana has a child, a divorce and a social life that I should aspire to.
At least Charlie is my defender, my go to guy, when the female triangle of sister, mother, sister gets too complicated. “Oh Charlie,” I say to the back of his raincoat, “Don’t hate her.”
Herman bounds towards us with a stolen ball in his mouth. It’s one of those red rubber balls with teeth painted on it. He looks like a crazed cartoon drawing of a dog. He has pine needles in his fur. He looks demented. Charlie bends to wrestle the ball from him and his phone falls from his jacket pocket. It bangs hard on the ground and Whatsapp opens up. And, for a moment, literally a split second, I think I see a picture of my sister on his phone. Does he blush slightly before reaching too quickly to retrieve it?
A cute and puffing red faced man comes our way, to fetch the ball and scold Herman. He asks if I have a spare plastic bag for him; his dog surprised him by doing an extra poo. We laugh and share dog poo stories and he leaves.
Eventually I look at Charlie. He holds my gaze and then he can’t anymore. “Herman, let’s go boy,” he says. We walk on but my world has tilted on its axis. I am falling off the planet. I have that nagging feeling…
We’re doing this post (and hopefully more of them) as part of a weekly tandem blog post. There are three of us this time, writing on the same topic, That Nagging Feeling. Please check out Dave and Brett’s take by following their links.