She was an over-achiever from birth. My sister, T, has incredible intellectual horsepower, combined with quick wit and the ability to use words as weapons. Even as a child, she would frequently be able to reduce adults to tears. Parents attempting to intervene in neighborhood scuffles, teachers, merchants… no one was safe from her verbal warfare skills.
Just twenty-two months older, we were closely coupled growing up. i was a large lumpy child, and she was small and lean. Despite our age difference, we were frequently mistaken for twins. Competitive to the core, she never really played, even as a little kid. Friendly games of “Capture the Flag” in the soybean fields behind our house were combat. Not content to play flute, she made a successful switch to saxophone in high school and scored a coveted spot in the jazz ensemble. Academics were no different, as she powered her way through school*.
By the time we were in high school, i was pretty comfortable being in her shadow. It often worked to my advantage as a new teacher would say “Oh, you’re T’s sister…” and give me the genetic benefit of the doubt before i ever opened a book.
The only time i ever remember a concession of defeat to “Li’l Dumpy” was on the guitar. She’d hacked around with it for a few years, but had no great skill. Rather than go head-to-head with her in competition, i borrowed Dad’s classical guitar when she wasn’t around and taught myself to play. i was about twelve years old. i knew i was better, but kept the little secret to myself just to avoid conflict. Some drama club party we both attended afforded the first opportunity for me to play in public and once she realized i had surpassed her, she never touched the guitar again. Small victory for the dumpy sister…
She was very active in band and drama, and served as a mentor to many younger students. It was around this time that she started spending time with one of my good friends, SL. They became inseparable, and T had apparently taken SL under her wing as a protege. SL accompanied my family on a visit to Grandma’s in Indiana for a long Easter weekend. Nothing really out of the ordinary for us to bring along a friend on such a trip.
Grandma’s house had limited space, so i was relegated to a sleeping bag on the floor of the spare bedroom while T and SL camped in the queen size bed, directly above me. Tired from a day of travel, i was trying my damnedest to get some sleep, and simply ignored them as they made snarky comments about me, obviously trying to get a reaction. Eventually, T reached over the bed to poke me.
Rather than play the game, i pretended to be soundly asleep. Turns out? This was a supremely bad call on my part…
What i overheard next was the unmistakable sound of my sister and my friend engaging in quiet, but enthusiastic, sex. Eyes opening “cartoon window shade” style, i was frozen on the floor and at a loss for how to extract myself from this rather unfortunate moment. At fourteen, this is probably not the best way to find out your older sister is a lesbian.
* She is very smart, but had to work at it. As testament to her tenacity, she managed to go through her PhD in Business with a nearly perfect academic record. All “A’s” (highest honors) – except for one lonely “B” – for her Associates Degree, Bachelor’s Degree, Master’s Degree and PhD. She escaped The Park after graduation, and has had a rather remarkable career as a professor, and now Dean of Graduate Research, at a major university.