Are We Bad?Are We Bad?

Clothes Tearing


They say that when parents separate, the kids have a tendency to blame themselves. But I didn’t blame myself. I blamed my Dad. It was all him.

He walked out on my Mom three weeks after I was born, leaving nothing but a Post-it note on the table, addressed (absurdly) to us both: ‘Theresa not so much as a sign he was still alive. My mother and I simply never heard from him again.

We once ran into his sister (my meth-addicted aunt) in the parking lot of Walgreens. She first tried to pretend she hadn’t seen us but Mom was having none of it. She charged up to my aunt and demanded to know where my Dad had been for the past six years (the length of time it had been).

“All I know is he’s happy and in love”, my aunt had said furiously, while loading groceries into her car. It was not clear why she was so furious (possibly the meth). She was so loud that my sister and I heard every word from five cars away. “He’s with a better woman than you could ever be!” she added for cruel effect.

“Janet, please…” my Mom had pleaded, “at least tell me will Josh ever hear from him again?”

“Not if Dan’s got any sense,” my aunt said, getting into her car and speeding out the lot.

She drove passed me on the way and our eyes met through the filth of her windshield. I think the expression on her face was pretty blank, if I’m honest. But over the years I have remembered it as vile glee. Sometimes I have her cackling like a deranged witch. All I recall at the time was thinking, ‘Gee, Dad has no message for me?’

I remember Mom trying not to cry the whole drive home. She put Whitney Houston on too loud and tried her best to howl quietly beneath the padded synths.

I don’t know exactly what went down between my Mom and Dad in their marriage. Maybe I never will. But I do know she loved him – perhaps more than any man she has ever loved. My Mom is a good woman. But she doesn’t have the best judgment.

My parents had been sort of hippies. I say ‘sort of’ because I’m not sure either of their hearts was in it. It was more something everyone else was doing at the time than an ardent spiritual quest of their own. But they were young and it was California. Apparently they liked sex and took a lot of LSD.

They even joined a cult for a while. A small, suitably weird, closed-community of long haired jobless folk on an abandoned ranch (think: benign version of the Manson Family). Here they learned, in theory at least, how to meditate, question reality, and smoke a hell of a lot of weed. I understand there was also some kinky, couple-swapping shit that went on (as a bonus).

My Mom will rarely talk about that time, unless we get her really drunk at Christmas. But she continues to blame the cult’s guru for all the bad things that have occurred in her life since, most of which are entirely unrelated. I broke my arm roller blading once and ended up in the Emergency Room and even this, she somehow determined, was a remote act caused by her once-beloved cult leader, punishing her for what? It was never made clear. I guess it was like blaming God, or the “government”. Mom had a lot of anger. Some of it justified. And as I say, she was a bit of a head case.

Mom abandoned the cult when she became pregnant with me. She still swears today that it was on good terms, despite the fact she left unannounced in the dead of night, heavily pregnant and frantically flagging down passing cars on the freeway. Seems legit, right?

My Dad remained at the ranch, intending to visit her in the city from time to time before I was born. He managed two brief visits, both of which were after I had already arrived; one to meet me and one to say goodbye, via Post-It. A few months later Mom learned he had left the cult at around the same time she did. I guess he didn’t want to be in a close knit community anymore, not even his own family.

My Mom did her best as a single parent but she got lonely. She would cry a lot, I recall, mostly at night. And there was usually a guy or two hovering around, in some stage of wooing, dating or abandoning her. She was very attractive back then and I think she knew this was her best currency. She has an endless and oftentimes tragic desire for intimacy.

I remember from an extremely young age how two or three times a week some new guy would arrive at the front door, ready to take her out on a speculative date which rarely led to another. My sister and I would be left with our Grandma, and Mom would inevitably return home early, forlorn and disappointed – or worse still, the next morning, forlorn and ashamed.

But I am jumping the gun a bit here, because the first serious relationship she had after my hippie, runaway Dad, in fact, came around quite quickly. Maybe it was a rebound thing to begin with, Avrupa Yakası Escort but she began to date, and sort of fell for, this rich guy named Peter. And within three months of my first birthday, she was pregnant with my sister. Two kids, within two years, by two different fathers – neither of whom stuck around.

By the time my sister was born, Peter had disappeared too. It was as if there was a Bermuda Triangle into which any man my Mom cared for would sooner or later vanish, leaving only a baby inside her as evidence he had ever existed.

To be fair, Peter did pay monthly maintenance checks for my sister, which was more than my own father ever did for me. And they were decent too, because Peter was wealthy. We lived off that money, sometimes entirely, for years. And Peter himself eventually reappeared in my sister’s life at about the time she began school. She still didn’t get to see him that regularly as he lived on the other side of the country and his work took him overseas. But he was ultimately a better father than my own (which wasn’t hard).

I remember feeling jealous when the phone would ring and it would be Peter, or a package from him would arrive for my sister, and I would witness her delight and excitement at hearing from her Dad.

My sister, Amy, is amazing, by the way.

She was amazing from the moment she was born. I can’t imagine what life would have been like growing up without her. More than just my not-so-little half-sister, she was also my best friend, my partner in mischief, my comrade in suffering, and someone with whom I felt safer (and of whom, I felt more protective) than anyone on earth, including our Mom.

Amy and I were frequently forced to fend for ourselves from way too early an age – whether it was cooking, homework, or generally taking care of one another. I remember one time, when I was about 11, looking after Amy for eight hours straight while my Mom completed a shift at her waitressing job. Looking back this seems like bad parenting (not to mention bad babysitting – I was less than two years older than the “baby” I was sitting). We set fire to the kitchen once while baking brownies and only narrowly prevented the house from burning down.

But look, before you judge her, my Mom was doing the best she could. She loved us immeasurably, and like I said, her judgment is not fantastic in general. We were frequently more responsible and grown up than she was, still to this day.

Amy and I are extremely alike in appearance, but especially so back then. We each had a thick, unruly mane of sandy blonde hair that for most of our childhood needed to have been cut several-weeks-ago. And we both had blue eyes – hers on the aquamarine side. We were a similar height from the start, and even our faces were similar. Nobody could have guessed we didn’t share the same father.

When we were teenagers, one of Mom’s closest friends would refer to us both as “Lagoonies” – a reference I didn’t understand at the time but later learned was because we supposedly resembled the central characters in the movie, The Blue Lagoon. It’s about two older teenagers abandoned on a paradisiacal island, forced to fend for themselves in order to survive.

The reference was ostensibly about our physical resemblance to the characters in the film, but looking back those similarities were more than superficial. The characters in The Blue Lagoon had been cast away; they were alone with only one another – a society in their own right, and forced to fend for themselves in the absence of parental supervision. And while our Mom never abandoned or cast us away like our fathers did (to varying degrees), she was nonetheless absent for much of the time we were growing up, despite her being present, if that makes sense.

Amy was a beautiful girl and I guess I have never been that bad looking myself. Some people mistook us for identical twins, which we loved. We trusted one another more than anyone in the world, and certainly more than any grown-up. At one point Amy created a secret society to which we had to pledge eternal allegiance. We drew blood with a rusty nail we found in the woods (again, no parental supervision), and promised to always be there for one another until the end of time. We swore we would keep one another’s secrets and never tell a soul.

I remember being present when Amy first learned to swim, ride a bike, leave for school on her first day… I cried when I was forced to leave her bedside in hospital after she had her appendix removed. And I remember our summers together – long, magical summers in which we would get lost for days in the woods surrounding our home, or go off-grid camping with our Mom in the wilds of California. In Bahçelievler Escort many ways it was an idyllic existence, like the kids in The Blue Lagoon.

Our family home was a ramshackle bungalow made of dilapidated wood. We were permanently escaping out the window to climb trees and build dens, and on hot days we would shower outdoors with the hose-pipe, taking turns to douse one another with shockingly cold water.

The climate, seclusion and laid-back vibe of our youth meant that we were often partially clad or in a state of complete undress, which inevitably led to us becoming caked in dirt from the Great Outdoors. Our mother was constantly telling us to wash and clean ourselves before sitting at the table, often sending us back to complete the job when we had only been partially successful.

Looking back now, it was a free and enchanting time. It seems like another lifetime ago, especially seeing how everything has changed so much between Amy and I. But I am getting ahead of myself. I want to tell it in order.

The wonderful, irresponsible childhood that Amy and I shared, despite our frequently troubled souls, is still one of the highlights of my life. It forged a deep bond between us that has really never been broken. Until the events I will describe here, that is, which have come to test it.

My sister and I were often inseparable and we loved one another deeply. And yet, once we reached puberty, certain aspects of our relationship changed. Perhaps that was to be expected. We didn’t spend quite so much time together, or eat from the same plate of food anymore; and we didn’t hose each other down while naked.

But it was when Amy turned 18 years old that things changed forever.


Amy has always had a beautiful face. She has also always had a great body.

She is quite athletic, having been raised in the outdoors, like me – even though she is also studious and smart (much more so than me). But it had never crossed my mind to find her attractive in the sense that I might desire her.

I was aware that she was one of the cutest girls at school, and popular with the guys in her year (for whom she didn’t show an awful lot of interest). But whereas when we were younger her figure and mine were not too dissimilar (apart from the obvious), once she reached 18, her body changed quite dramatically.

Her breasts, which remained small, became more shapely, and her face began to change – most strikingly, her cheekbones. She had become a truly gorgeous young woman.

I was equally aware however that Amy did not believe herself to be gorgeous. Like many teenagers (especially girls, in our messed-up modern society) the pressure to look a certain way can be overwhelming, and even though Amy was attractive by all objective standards, she was still a little boyish, tall and lean (she described herself as “lanky”).

She was by no means a tomboy and yet because of her lean figure, her body would tend to get lost inside clothes. And while this hardly matters at a young age, by the time she hit puberty and grew taller still, it started to be something that made her sad.

One night when I was supposed to be in my room, I was hiding in the shadows of the hallway, listening to her cry in Mom’s arms. I couldn’t pick up everything that was said but I remember it having something to do with the way she looked.

Mom had been very reassuring and told her it was an impossible ideal, trying to compete with the women in magazines and her friends at school – the sort of thing a kind parent says – true, but not particularly helpful to a teenager.

I was predominantly interested in anything but girls. Fishing, shooting a bow, comic books… all these things occupied my mind more than the opposite sex. That is, until the infamous Fall that Amy returned home from her gap year overseas.

You see, Amy did not spend her 18th birthday at home with Mom and I. She had spent almost a year traveling with her father in Europe. Across the course of 11 months, Peter took her to France, Italy, Greece, Spain, a long period in Portugal, and finally up to Scandinavia – all as part of his entrepreneurial business (selling something that none of us really understood). It was supposedly a chance for him and his daughter to connect while seeing some of the world. And to be fair, it was an incredible experience for Amy.

It was discussed in advance for some time and I kept imagining it wouldn’t end up happening, what with all the near hiccups involving Mom’s approval, permission from the school; and perhaps most of all, Amy’s own initial reluctance. The trip was going to happen and then it wasn’t, and then it was again. I could barely keep up for long enough Bahçeşehir Escort to imagine what it might feel like to be without her. It would be the longest time we had ever been apart.

For Amy the trip was a number of things. It was a chance to connect with her father – although prior to the trip, she didn’t know him well enough for this to be much of a persuasive factor. Her biggest desire, I think, was simply to get away from her senior grade at school, and her so-called friends, who really weren’t that awesome at the time. Not to mention it would be an exciting chance for her to see some of the exotic places she had read about in the fashion magazines and books she loved so dearly.

The initial length of her trip was supposed to be eight months, but it got extended by Amy’s own request for a further twelve weeks because she was enjoying herself so much in Sweden at the end. I missed her terribly, sometimes with a great pain. But the idea that she was happy – and my own immersion with skateboarding and other pursuits – meant that the time went by faster than I expected and was more bearable than my worst fears could have imagined.

And yet nothing could have prepared me for that week when she returned home. I will never forget seeing the white cab pull up outside in the dark and her tall, lean frame emerge with about three times as much luggage as she’d taken with her. She came in through the kitchen side door and I instantly rushed to embrace her. She was pleased to see me and hugged back, but it was distant somehow. Not as much as I wanted or expected.

I tried not to take it personally because she was warm and friendly enough. I just figured she was exhausted from the flight, or feeling some sort of culture shock at the transition back to her older, smaller (and let’s be honest, poorer) life with Mom and I in California. But the unexpected distance in her mood was not the biggest change.

Physically, she almost seemed like a new person. Her clothes, purchased by her rich father from the most expensive boutiques of Lisbon, Paris and Milan, made her look elegant and gorgeous, exactly like the women she idolized in her fashion magazines.

She had turned 18 in the year she had been away and her figure had transformed wildly. Or maybe it hadn’t. Maybe I just noticed it more because of the new, ultra-flattering clothes. But I distinctly remember noticing her petite ass in the tight black jeans she wore when she walked through the door, and having thoughts about it that were a shock compared to anything I’d thought about her body before.

I had never previously found myself drawn to her in a lustful way. But she wandered into the bathroom later that night to brush her teeth, wearing a long t shirt and tiny pair of hot pants. And I found myself irresistibly aware of her flesh, the length of her legs, her toenail varnish, blue and chipped. It all seemed so provocative. She was a grown woman suddenly and it was jarring that my body felt awake to her sexually for the first time.

She had all these new references too. Philosophy and poetry, and all sorts of new opinions about the world and America. I almost didn’t know who she was, but for the same mesmerizing blue-green eyes. But our souls remained linked. I still saw her deeply and she still saw me. Inside the chic new, supermodel exterior of my darling sister, was the same rural country girl I loved. My half-blood; my best friend.

After a few days she started to relax and became more like her old self. Our sibling dynamic returned to its usual depth, which was a relief. But something had changed for me. Something new that I couldn’t put back in the box, now that it had been let out.

The exact genesis of this change can perhaps be traced to a specific incident. It was about a week before I was scheduled to leave for college for the summer semester – a big deal for me, because I was approaching my first year finals and hadn’t been getting the best grades.

I was rummaging around her room for the hair straighteners (I told you we both had unruly hair) and I stumbled across a little blue journal with a silver clasp. I know I shouldn’t have opened it, but I did. And once I realized it was a diary of her European trip, I told myself even more harshly that I shouldn’t read it. And yet, once again, I did. (I don’t write any of this for you to forgive me, I just want to be honest).

I read about three pages until I had to stop. Not because I grew an appropriate conscience, but because what I read affected me so strangely and deeply that it stopped me in my tracks.

She had clearly spent some extended time with a new male friend in Sweden and most of the two entries I read concerned this guy; something about cooking a casserole that had too much salt in it, and other sweet, trivial details, like her trying to reverse-park a car on a different side of the street than she was used to.

But then, suddenly, and with no preamble (not that there should have been, or that it would have made any difference to my reaction), the diary-entry for this one particular day read: ‘And then I sucked him off three times.’

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