Letterbomb (Short story/sketch)

My sister, four years older than me, has not spoken to me in 12 years. (Of course it is a euphemism for surgically cutting me out of the fibre of her life.) She blames my love for women. She is of the opinion that it is infectious and consequently a threat to her young. I, of course, do not hold such an opinion.

 

At the outset of the excommunication, birthdays and holidays turned into thorny issues. The other days of the year I was free to disregard her. But on a momentous occasion? Do I congratulate? Commiserate? Wish her a merry whatever? Or show her the depth of my discontent with a measured silence. My mom, the endlessly hopeful peacemaker, as expected, insisted that I keep my side of the story spotless. To prevent blame from falling on me. But then blame had already been placed on me.

My approach turned out to be a knit one, slip one affair. It depended on my mood, how forgiving I felt.

Truth be told, after 12 years the mood is now unchanging. Absence does not make the heart grow fonder, in this case. One tends to adapt to your circumstances, your heart bonds with those you are surrounded by. My heart has adapted to a life without her. So much so, that I truthfully feel like an only child. (I do have a baby brother, but that is the subject for another day.)

 

With my birthday approaching this year, I understandably did not imagine receiving any well wishes, cards or calls from Ousus. When my mom phoned to say a letter addressed to me in my sister’s handwriting had just been delivered to her home, I had a few thoughts.

Utter dread in the pit of my stomach, was the first. You see, the last letter addressed to me in my sister’s handwriting and delivered to my mother’s house 12 years ago, was in fact a three page condemnation to hell written in all bold capitals. Based on the content of the letter it was safe for me to assume that she knew bold capitals amounted to screaming, and that three pages of it meant screaming with force. I was much younger and still thin-skinned at the time. I allowed it to hurt me so deeply that the mere mention of a letter addressed to me in my sister’s handwriting could 12 years later instantaneously fill me with dread.

My second thought was, letter bomb. Kapow, and all the evidence is gone.

My third thought was, anthrax. I would succumb to the poison, and possibly take a few innocent bystanders such as my mom and brother (guilty parties in my sister’s opinion) with, but at least there would be enough evidence left that could lead to her arrest.

My fourth thought was, a legal document of some sort. But then there was nothing that I needed to be restrained from. There was nothing she could sue me over. Or did she need to legally remove me as godmother to her son?

My last thought was, reconciliation? What if it was birthday wishes, or the tentative beginning of a dialogue? What the fuck would I in fact do then? Embrace her? Show her the door? Address her in bold capitals?

 

I decided to stop wondering and told my mom I would see her in the morning. I am sure my mother was tempted countless times in the dark of night to steam open the envelope, scour the contents for love, or for forgiveness and carefully glue everything back together again. Apart from the fact that my mom is a bit of a sleuth, she was excommunicated 12 years ago alongside me. Reconciliation between her two daughters, even if it was without her, would give her such joy.

 

In the morning I drove the required half an hour, casually picked up the letter and took it into the bathroom. It turns out, it was not condemnation, a letter bomb, anthrax, legal papers or reconciliation, but just a fucking estate agent with a handwriting similar to my sisters who wanted to wish me a fucking happy birthday. I tore it up.

 

I am much older now, and a little bit more thick-skinned. Yet I had hope.

www.reneywarrington.co.za

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