I heard you crying before I saw you.
Face, red. Tears and snot mixing into a salty mess across your face. Your eyes were black, and your arms were gesticulating wildly. Uh oh, I thought. Something is wrong here.
You are 6 foot something – tall. You are broad and what people used to call ‘big boned’. Yes, you are a bit overweight. You are a big presence – not necessarily in physical size.
You are wearing a metal headband in your hair; you are wearing what looks like a skater dress with white leggings – like you’re going out to a party. You have trainers on, trainers that are size 10.
You arch your back so that you look like a hunchback at times. Times like this, when you are angry, and shouting. And crying.
You wanted a doll. A Monster High doll. You want this doll, despite the fact you have already spent all your money this month. You think it’s unfair. You want Mum to buy it for you. You don’t care about Christmas. You want it NOW.
It’s not your fault you’ve spent all your money. You can’t help it, you need this doll. You don’t care you spent £20 on Lego Friend last week. Why can’t Mum buy it for you?
You stamp your feet. You shrug and shake your arms. You make groaning, angry glutteral noises. You start hovering over Mum, invading her personal space. You are in her face, pleading, asking, and demanding this doll. It’s only £15 you say. Mum can afford it. What does she mean she can’t afford it? Snot hangs from the end of your nose.
I tell you to take a walk round the shop. Calm down. We can’t talk about it anymore. You say no, you won’t, try to get to Mum. You don’t want to talk to me; you know I won’t buy you the doll. But Mum might. Your voice rises, chalk on a blackboard.
People stare, people back away. I wonder if security will come over in a minute.
I try and stay calm. Mum looks worn down. She can’t remember what she wants from the shop. She has mobility problems and I can tell that she’s struggling to stand up and talk to you at the same time. You start to lean on Mum’s shoulder, crying your eyes out. You want that doll. You’re sorry. You look like you are almost bent over double, leaning on Mum who is a good foot smaller than you. You just wanted that doll. You sob, you sob your heart out in the meat aisle at Tesco.
I know that it can go either way now. I hope Mum does not give in. It only makes things worse.
Mum tells you to go and get a Diet Coke, and you start to calm down. You walk off to find the drink, your sore thumb status really sticking out today.
How does Mum do this every week? Every day?
How do you? How can you understand the world, and be an adult, when all you care about is a doll. I worry about you. I wonder how can anything make any sense at all for you? You cannot shout and cry and wail because you’re 18. And 18 year olds don’t do that, according to the general public.
People stare and judge and look and mutter, because it isn’t what we all do. I don’t covet dolls or Lego. 18 year olds aren’t supposed to do that.
I think about myself at 18, and I think of you now. And that’s when it hits me. It hits me now, more than ever before. You are an adult now – an ADULT. But you’re not, are you? You are frozen in time. It was easy to think you’d grow out of it all, when you were little. But now that number just means you are out there in the world. A little girl, in a six foot tall, size 22 body. Things change now. You will never be like me. I will never be able to relate to you or you to me, in that way. I am your big sister, I take you to Zoos, and watch Disney films with you, and we talk about Eastenders. You don’t have any desire to go clubbing, you’d rather go bowling. You won’t have a career, not like mine anyway. You have no awareness of the world, or of yourself in it. I am glad you don’t understand when people gawp and tut and laugh at you. It doesn’t hurt you, like it hurts me, or Mum.
I wonder what the future brings for you. Your aspirations are so different from mine.
You will forever be my little sister, in every way.