She’s about to make a mistake. She should know better than this. She should have known that it was impossible to have a happy ending here.

Doesn’t she know that the path to safety is through silence? Talk less. Smile more. Nod when they ask questions, and make agreeable sounds at pauses in the conversation.

There’s no such thing as unconditional love, not here. The duty of care remains, but the condition for love is as it’s always been. Normalcy. Conforming to society’s expectations. Perfection, or as close to it as we can be.

The condition of being loved is to lie. To hide your truths, each and every one that makes you different. Unnatural. To pretend to be exactly what you aren’t, so you can get whatever you want.

My sister says, “I’m gay, myself.” I break a little inside.

I’ve made my mistakes over the years. Over two decades of them, in fact. There’s been many times where I couldn’t keep my mouth shut, where I couldn’t help but speak my mind.

I’ve learned that this is one of those times where the only thing to do is wait. To stand by as the blizzard tears through you, to try and keep everything together even as the world freezes around you.

It is well known that my parents are not the most tolerant of people. They never have been, and I’ve made my peace with it. I keep my secrets close to my chest, no matter what my sister chooses to do.

My parents shout. A plate is broken. My brother is silent, as usual, and my sister walks away. I try to keep the peace, but confrontation was never a strength of mine, and my voice is easily buried under the pandemonium.

My father storms outside to work on his garden, the only non-destructive activity he knows how to do. My mother sweeps the broken shards of the dish, silently crying, then she, too, leaves. My brother scrolls through his phone and continues eating his dinner.

I make my way to my sister’s room, but she refuses to open the door for me. Not a surprise—I’ve failed her too many times over the years for her to trust me now.

It’s hard to not make excuses. I am very defensive and selfish by nature, and I hate confrontation. However, the truth of the matter simply is that I’ve spent much of my youth choosing myself over my sister, and now I pay the price.
I lay on my childhood bed. It’s been a while since I’ve witnessed such an argument between my parents. They were worse when I was younger, of course, and I had hoped that they would mellow out in age but this has clearly not been the case.

I do understand my sister’s choices though, regardless of whether or not I agree with them. It’s hard to hide love, whichever type it may be. It’s hard to be someone else, especially to those you love.

I’ll never tell my own secrets. Not to my parents, at least. There are places that are more welcoming, people more accepting, and friends who love more and ask for less.

But here? In this beautiful, glorious house funded by decades of their work, there is just a thick, smothering warmth that melts only what does not want to be melted, that hurts in every attempt to help, that crumples the most delicate of special little snowflakes—

There’s nothing here for me, except the occasional bout of wistful nostalgia.

And there’s nothing for my sister either. Not if she’s looking for love.

Photo: Sharon McCutcheon on