Mid life crisis

Liz nibbled a knuckle, then moved her hand to wind a blonde curl around her finger.

“Oh, Amanda,” she said, grabbing my hand impulsively, “thank you for agreeing to meet on such short notice.” She hesitated. “I’ve got a little problem.” She coughed delicately.

I thought, yes, she does. My sister, the bane of my existence and the closest thing to my heart, showed no trace of her usual happy-go-lucky demeanour. She looked edgy; no – outright worried.

“So what’s up, kiddo?” I asked. We ordered coffees. I waited while she collected her thoughts.

“The truth is,” she said, “I need your advice.”

Well, I can say with pride that I did NOT faint dead away and fall under the table. We have known each other for almost 40 years, my little sister and I, and never once in all that time has she asked for my advice. This is in spite of the fact that on 1,234,567 occasions I have offered it, and although she has not once acted on this advice, I have almost always been proved right.

Utter scepticism and pathetic eagerness warred within me.

“All right,” I said, clearing my throat cautiously, “what’s the deal?”

“Well,” she said, “I’ve met this guy.”

I checked my vitals. No problem yet. I’ve heard those words a thousand times or so.

She continued. “I went with Janet to a rally for the Tamil refugees, you know how Janet is, but I’ll tell you it was really inspiring, all these fervent speeches about the conditions those poor people live in at home, and how they’re being treated here, and the injustice of it all.” She paused to looked up at me from under those long mascared eye lashes. I swear I saw a tear forming in the corner of one eye.

“Anyway, one of the guys was so passionate and so gorgeous…”

“One of the SPEAKER guys?” I interjected. “One of the ORGANISERS?” My heart skipped a beat.

We both paused while the coffees showed up on the table. The guy could probably sense the ratcheting up of tension because he gave us both a look as he placed the coffees.

“Yes,” she said, “one of the most important guys. He had a strong accent but he was so articulate and so driven by his cause. And you should see his slim, vigorous body. Anyway, we met up afterward, went for a coffee, then out for dinner, and then, well, I mean, really, Amanda, he’s just gorgeous and a wonderful man in spite of all he must have done and been through…”

“So you slept with him,” I said, not a question, in the most even tone I could manage. She nodded. “A Tamil Tiger terrorist and you slept with him?” I whipped a smile onto the end of the sentence to take out its sting. I had been asked for advice and the last thing I wanted was to blow my one chance at what was obviously a life-altering contribution I had to make.

Liz leaned toward me. “Oh, Amanda, he’s SO not a terrorist. I mean, he might have been a terrorist once when his environment was so against him, but I can tell he’s just a wonderful loving man now. So what if he’s a few years younger than me? So what if we have different religions? So what if we have different interests?”

“So you’re wondering if you should start a relationship with him,” I asked in strangled tones.

“Oh, goodness, Amanda, we’re a long way past starting a relationship. He wants me to marry him, move into his family’s home and have a baby together, and THAT’S what I’m wondering. Am I too old to try to start a family?”

I sat frozen, barely able to breath.

“Amanda, I love him so much, he just makes my head spin. I feel 16 again. I want to dance all night, and sing in the streets…”

Then her tone shifted subtly. A flicker of concern accented the little lines between her eyebrows as she leaned forward slightly.

“But it’s crossed my mind I might just be having a midlife thing. I mean, I’m over 30…”

“You’re well over 35,” my lips corrected her, as a flicker of hope gripped my heart.

“Yes, well, I am, yes, I am,” she said. “So I’m thinking, if I really AM having a midlife thing, should I marry this guy and start a family, which is really, like, stepping into the unknown, or should I just, you know, get a Botox treatment and try to forget about him.” This time she looked straight into my eyes. The hint of tear had turned into two pools that escaped her eyes and slipped down her cheeks. “What do you think, Amanda?” she said, as the eyelashes fluttered ever so slightly.

“Yes,” I croaked. “Get Botox, absolutely.” I could tell I was babbling but I couldn’t stop. “I have a friend who Botoxed out two worry lines and she says she’s stopped worrying now that…I mean, I wouldn’t use it myself but if that will help you take your mind off things, that’s what you should do.” I nodded wildly to underline my conviction.

She looked a little crestfallen. “Oh Amanda, are you sure?”

“Oh, yes, I’m sure, I’m sure, I’m really sure. I’m so sure I’ll pay for the treatment for you.” I tried to smile brightly at her. “I’ll write you a cheque right now. How much?” I grabbed my purse, fumbling for my cheque book.

“Oh, YOU,” she said. “You’re really something. What would I do without you? All RIGHT, I knew I could count on you. To tell me what to do, I mean. I’ll just pick up the pieces of my life and get on with it.” She grabbed my hand in hers. “It’ll be about $850, I checked just in case.” She beamed at me while my trembling hand dashed out the details of the cheque. She picked up her bag. “I gotta dash, sis. Love you madly!” She wrapped an arm around my neck and buzzed me soundly on the cheek with a sloppy kiss, and disappeared out the café door.

I sat frozen for a moment, then sipped the dregs of my coffee while I tried to compose myself. I pulled a ten-dollar bill out of my change purse and placed it on the table. I sat looking for a moment at the bill and thought fondly how it was always, always, always me who picked up the tab when we met.

The smile that had formed with the fond thought faded slightly. I looked at the money on the table, I looked at the door where currents of Liz’ blithe departure still lingered, I glanced at the cheque book lying just inside my purse. I nibbled a lip, then shrugged, relieved that I had played her so well and saved her life.

What are sisters for?!

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1 Comment

  1. Poor, naive Amanda. Even had to pay for the coffees.


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