I’m trying to remember how it was. I see myself skinny on the concrete driveway, dirty knock knees, a striped t-shirt, tiny bumps for boobs. Not only the youngest, but a young youngest.
I didn’t develop until I was 17, didn’t know about Kotex or tampons, although my older sisters told me about starting periods and not to worry when it happened.
I sat on Janet’s bed and watched her being a teenager, brush her thick black hair and curl her eyelashes. When she was out with friends I tried the eyelash curler on myself, clamped down steel on rubber, my eyelashes held hostage as if in a guillotine, waiting for the blade to fall. I was startled by how tightly the contraption held on to my lashes, so startled that instead of opening it back up, I pulled it away from my eye and ripped out a bunch of hairs. Afterwards, I felt like I was peering out of one of those old clown wigs that’s missing sections of bangs.
Being the youngest makes me think of creeping around places I shouldn’t be, opening drawers, looking for scandal. Nudie pictures, drugs, notes from boyfriends. I fell in love with Janet’s boyfriend, Paul, and every time he called I listened in on the conversation. I perfected how to lift the receiver without them knowing. I would unplug the cord from the wall jack, pick up the receiver, plug back in the cord.
Once Paul yelled at me to get off the phone. I got so hurt that I crawled under the impossibly small space under Mom and Dad’s bed and cried myself to sleep. I woke up hours later to my parents and Janet, frantically searching the house, about to call in a missing person’s report.
I loved sneaking around Larry’s room, too. I stole his clothes, wore too-big flannel shirts that sometimes smelled like sweat, but I didn’t care. I wanted to be like him, listen to New Riders of the Purple Sage, Alice Cooper, Jethro Tull.
No music, it seems, was ever my own. Everything I got they gave to me, from 50s bop (Patty), Carole King and R&B (Bobbi), Cat Stevens and The Carpenters (Janet), and Frank Zappa (Larry).
They taught me how to drive, I still remember going around the corner of Glenarbor Court for the first time in Janet’s VW. She said to shift into second, but second was right next to reverse. I hit the wrong gear and it sounded like the engine was going to drop out. We came to a halt and she said, “I’d better drive.”
Larry once rescued me when Jay Baca was going to take me off to one of the bedrooms. We threw a party when Mom and Dad went to the lake and Janet had already moved out. I got drunk and Jay had me in his arms. “Where do you think you’re going with her,” Larry asked, blocking Jay at the hallway. They threw Jay out, and me and Larry got in trouble, much as Janet tried to erase the traces of the party the next day.
Being the youngest, I think how much I adored my older siblings, how much they left their imprints on me. I sometimes wish we could go back to those days, those natural roles. My oldest sister says I’m bossy now. I think she’s probably right.
-related to Topic post, WRITING TOPIC – BIRTH ORDER