Laurah Norton

When you ignore her in the halls, you don’t let yourself feel guilty. You look at the people passing you in the hall, smell their school-time odor of baloney and chalk and hormonal sweat and imagine they notice the snub, imagine they whisper of your treachery.

Fuckers, you think. You look away when she’s coming, too.

And all the pretty girls who never talk to you, who shift their bodies left and right when you sit next to them in Biology, look back. They are accusatory. Their eyes say: But she is not our sister. She is not our responsibility. They don’t understand why you do what you do. They couldn’t.

You see her coming and have time to prepare how you will pass. It is hard not to look at her; she draws the eyes like a car wreck, enticing passersby into unabashed gawk-fests. She tries to detract from the grim reality of her face and her body with her bright clothes and wild clumps of hair. It just makes everything worse. She is a great, garish smear of color lumbering through the halls. People don’t even whisper, it’s that bad. They don’t understand that you have to live with it, with the hulking shape that glides up and down, up and down, endless and horrific.

You stay in your room, most of the time. You smoke cigarettes. You wait until you hear the front door the slam, wait until the heavy footsteps go clunking past your window, before you even think about going to school. Walking together would be horrific. You’d have to talk.

When the guidance counselor approached you to ask about your behavior, to insinuate, you got so angry you wanted to scream it out loud: But she’s not your sister! Of course you didn’t say anything. You never do. You smile and nod and look regretful and promise to do better, knowing all the while that you will never “feel compassion for your sibling’s situation.” You have your own situation to think about, don’t you? You’re not exactly riding on the Homecoming float yourself. You have wet, sweaty armpits and an angry red flush of acne. Your hair never does what you want it to. It stands up in greasy orange cowlicks, defying both prayer and comb. You wash your hair every night, but each morning there it is: dandruff. High school is hard and it is painful and you have enough troubles without walking to school with your big, ugly sister. You don’t want to be included in the pitying glances that the teachers cast over her like fishing nets. There still may be some hope for you.

So when you pass her in the hall you can’t feel guilty, not even when you look into those big dull eyes, hurt and smudged with purple shadow. You have your own shit to deal with. She may be your sister but you are not her keeper. You keep yourself to yourself and don’t plan for anything.


Laurah Norton is a 24-year-old MFA student presently enrolled in Georgia State University’s Creative Writing program. She likes writing stories about North Carolina, collecting pin-up girl art and listening to punk rock. E-mail: vivalrevolution[at]

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