I was starting to hate Facebook. Every single time I opened the app there was either a newborn baby, a proposal, or a death. If it wasn't that, it was politics, with everyone shouting so loud they couldn't hear what the other was saying. The whole thing was exhausting and I had barely posted anything in months. I never felt like I had anything to share with people I hardly knew. And unlike Sarah Chessman, who had moved away my senior year, I didn't feel like every crock pot meal or selfie was social media worthy.
But out of slightly bitchy curiosity, and because I had another few minutes to waste on my walk home, I went to Sarah Chessman's page to scroll through her boring life. Maybe it was the fact that I was walking through the noisy alley and my feet hurt like hell, or that I'd be knocking on my dad's door in an hour, but Sarah's life actually looked okay. She had a husband—a newly minted soldier stationed in Texas—and a baby on the way. I watched a ten-second video of her opening a box full of pink balloons, revealing the gender of her upcoming baby. She didn't look terrified the way I would if I were her.
I started to feel like a hypocrite for judging her, so I clicked back to my main feed. My dad had posted a picture of himself holding a fish in one hand and a beer in the other. He loved to hunt; my brother and I couldn't stomach it. Austin more than me. He would go on hunting trips with Dad until we got to high school and started dating. My brother, who I had talked to every day up until a few months ago but now could barely get on the phone, had already liked my dad's post. So did someone with a golden retriever as their profile picture. The golden retriever friend had commented that my dad was "looking happier than ever."
It stung. It really stung. I had been hearing that since he got married three years ago. From the neighbors to the cashiers at the PX, everyone thought it was okay to congratulate my dad on how happy he was. No one seemed to consider that I might be in earshot, that telling him how happy he was now implied that he had been really unhappy before. No one seemed to consider me. That's when I started clinging to people, boys mostly. Some at my high school, some older. I was searching for something I wasn't getting at home, but I couldn't tell you what it was.
Mostly, I clung to Austin. Maybe it was the twin thing, maybe it was the fact that our parents were never around when we needed them most, when their guidance would have mattered. Staying close to my six-minutes younger brother seemed to help for a while, but once we were out of high school, I started to consider that maybe Austin wasn't the person I had built him up to be. One of the weirdest parts about growing up is the way memories change.
Like when Austin took me to that party in Chesapeake Manor, where all the officer's kids were partying. He told me that everyone our age was drinking, that I should just relax. Then he passed out in one of the bedrooms with some girl from a high school across town and I was forced to sleep there, surrounded by loud, belligerent boys. That's when one of them, the one who called me "Austin's sister" and had too deep a voice for a high school kid, swore I had a crush on him and shoved his tongue down my throat—repeatedly. Until I started crying and he got "weirded out."
Funny how my telling him to stop, my constant no no no, please no didn't do it.
Nope, it was the salty, hot tears streaming down my face that finally got him to go away. Eventually I fell asleep on a couch listening to some war video game being played in the other room. Austin never apologized the next morning. He never asked how I had slept or where. He just kissed that random girl on the cheek and made a joke that she and I both laughed at, and then we walked home like nothing ever happened. Our dad yelled at me, not him, and we both got grounded for a week.
I clicked on Austin's profile and thought about calling him again, but then Elodie opened the front door and surprised me. I hadn't even realized I was on my front porch.