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Monday, October 10, 2005

Adventures in Time and Spain Part III

And on the third day it all went horribly wrong. A HUGE row. And I mean a stand-up in the street, histrionics, accusations and tears. A big EastEnders style ding-dong on the largest street in Salou. We even attracted an audience.

As a family, we never argued. My now-absent father would bellow and beat us; my mother would be the peacemaker, trying to moderate everything doled out, leaving my sister and myself to become pass-masters at being passive/aggressive, winding the situation around ourselves and showing our displeasure by then picking at food and sighing sullenly and dramatically. For weeks, if need be.

And as per all arguments, it started by the smallest thing. My sister was refusing to talk to me because I'd shouted at her a few days back for carelessly throwing the towels in the bidet. I'm not blameless in all this, but I did believe I had a point.

"I have not been miserable! Besides, if I had, you deserved it," she declared.

"Oh, you've been following us around like a bitch under a bad cloud for the whole week. What, are you pre-menstrual or something? Why do we have to suffer your blob-strop?"

I was aware my hands were on my hips. And that I sounded a little too close to a drag queen at closing time. There was an intake of breath from the assembled audience.

"This holiday's just gone from bad to worse!" cried my mother and turned to find a taxi. Well, that answered where I got my melodrama from.

"It's not my fault!" protested my sister. "You started all this! If you hadn't shouted at me, I wouldn't be angry!"

What?

And then it clicked.

My sister was so used to getting her own way that this just didn't make any sense to her. She was oblivious as to why we were pissed at her, but only to why she felt bad. She was unconsciously trying all the tricks in her usual armoury to make it all better for her, from trying to transfer the guilt to bursting into tears at the drop of a hat. A little bit of my heart went out to her - she really didn't know what she'd been doing wrong. She'd go into any argument with a whole series of breadcrumbs laid out, right back until it was your fault.

"Why are you being so horrible?" she screamed.

Goodness, the girl must be teflon-coated.

"We're not," I said quietly. "We've tried to be accommodating, forgiving and as kind as we can. But there are limits to my patience. Yes we shouted at you, but that was because we both believed you'd done something wrong. And that's the centre of the matter - you had done something wrong."

"But... I... Mom," she turned, pleading, "is this true?"

My mother nodded slightly. Almost imperceptibly. After years, the peacemaker had picked a side, if only for a second.

My sister burst into tears.

Real ones, this time.


* * *


We came back to the hotel, barely speaking. My sister had been wiping her eyes with the balls of her palm and has smeared her mascara sideways all the way to her ears. She looked a mess, and rather like a girl from a Robert Palmer video. She seemed to be coming to terms with a lot.

My mother announced she was going to bed as the taxi drove off.

"We can't leave it like this," sniffed my sister. "Come for a drink in the hotel bar."

I still had my arms folded. My mother was looking at her shoes.

"Please," she implored.

We followed her in. We sat, we drank. We started to talk. We drank some more. We started resolving issues. We talked some more. And then in this quiet bar in backwater Spain, the oddly British pastime of bingo was announced. And finally - finally - after all these years, we bonded a little more as a family when my mother won a cheap bottle of rosé for a line of numbers.

Not ideal, but it worked.
 

8 comments:

Broadband Ian said...

This was one of the most touching posts you've ever made.

Though in regards to your sister, I have also used the expressions "mess" and "a girl from a Robert Palmer video" though - crucially - not in quite the same way.

CyberPete said...

I'm happy that you could bond with your family. That's huge!

Bob said...

but you still left your sister in spain, right?

mainja said...

oh my, mr. binding, i do believe you just posted something that was actually almost serious, and most certainly almost personal. it's like little electric shocks through my body - in a good way i mean...

sounds like some very good came out of the trip. exhausting, difficult, but good.

i think what i'm saying here is congratulations

kyknoord said...

"...teflon coated..." I'm convinced that your sister and mine must be related. Is there possibly a skeleton lurking somewhere in the closet (ahaha!) that your mother hasn't told you about.

Vampire Librarian said...

Can't recall if you've mentioned this, Lee, but is your sis younger? If so, I have the male version which instead of tears and tantrums, he pinches, pokes, and does any other not overtly violent action to bruise unlucky family member and doesn't understand when said family member finally takes a swing at his head.

Inexplicable DeVice said...

All sisters must be the same. My two, Indescribable and Inexcusable, are horrific monsters. Bless them.

You must be very focussed to be able to remember the reason for the hostilities. I mean, three days had passed, afterall.

I must admit, I'm with Bob on this one. They always find their way back. Eventually.

Snooze said...

Ain't family break-throughs grand? I think I had one yesterday over Thanksgiving dinner (in my case I'm the self-centred sister)