X. Whim Day
"Good morning, good morning, it's time to get up, good morning! Good morning, good morning, it's a good good good good day!"
Caitlin's wake up song was like audible pain. My head throbbed and my face was in a wet puddle of my own drool on the sandy carpet. It was so dark in the basement, it could have been 6 a.m or 6 p.m and I wouldn't have known. She was standing above me in light denim jeans and and a white t shirt with a red fist on it. Under the fist it read, 'comunista'.
"What time is it?" I sat up and my head felt like an anchor I couldn't carry.
"It's almost 10. You okay down there scapegrace?" she knelt down.
"Yeah. My head hurts..."
"Empty corner'll do that to you."
"Must of been a bad night then... Eggo's are in the toaster, Tylenol is on the table. You'll feel better in no time," she helped me stand up.
The kitchen was idyllic, and it shocked and impressed me that Cait had left things in spic order for my sister night.
"Gone... I'm a fucking horrible sister."
"No you're not."
The Eggos popped and she put two on a plate for me. I opened the Tylenol and swallowed it without water.
"Sweet t shirt," I said, groggily.
"Got it at Blue Elephant."
"That resale shop? I thought you were banned."
"No, that's White Elephant, its' uptown constituent. I'm just another shopper down at Blue. I wouldn't go to White even if I wasn't banned.. those pirate bastards."
Cait had gotten arrested for trying to steal a desk chair last fall. She claimed she was protesting, not pillaging. She'd gotten in a fight over the price mark with an elderly Russian cashier. The woman said the smudged price tag said $21, Cait believed it said $11. The chair wasn't even remotely nice, but the argument became personal. Cait said the woman was condescending. The dispute eventually resulted in Cait screaming at her, "Don't take your bad day out on me old bird!" She then grabbed the chair and started running. The Russian screamed after her, "You make me bad day! You make me bad day!" She was arrested 20 minutes later. The cop picked her up 5 blocks north of White Elephant. Her side had cramped and she was laying on the ground next to the chair.
I slouched down at the kitchen table like a deflated balloon, scrolling through my phone to piece together the missing parts of the night. Lindy had texted me several times, and not only had she taken a cab to her car and drove back to Michigan at 3 am, but she clearly hated me too. What was worse than the myriad of angry messages, the multiple f bombs and name calling, was the fact that she didn't respond to my apology text. I doubted she would.
"You look so glum," said Cait, who was cutting up my Eggos for me.
"I feel like shit."
"If you're hungover, such is life. But if you're feeling guilty, stop. Just stop it." She looked at me sternly. She put a bib in my shirt and poured me a glass of milk and a cup of coffee.
"Alright alright, are you gonna get me a sippy cup too?"
"You might need one. I know it takes a shit storm night to make you sleep in empty corner," she said.
I ate small slow bites. She was right too, I needed help with simple functions. That fork into my mouth might as well have been a scalpel in a complicated surgery.
"What are you planning on doing today?" asked Cait.
"I'll probably just sleep." I put my head on the table. "Fuck."
"You can't feel guilty."
"You don't even know what happened."
"It's irrelevant. I don't believe in guilt. Everybody fucks up. Whatever you did, she'll get over it."
"How do you know?"
"Because were all capable of being despicable. She'll do something stupid and realize you're human. If she doesn't, then someone else will and she'll forgive you by comparison."
"She wouldn't do to me what I did to her."
"You don't know that."
Her positivity was irritating to me. She was trying to be hopeful, but sometimes too much hope just makes me sort of cringe. Like she could have just said, "You're right, you're a dumb ass," and that would have been alright. What happened between my sister and I felt monumental. Her positivity made it seem less. I didn't want her to get all bogged down, but a little shock and awe would have been nice.
"Since when do you care about your family anyways? Maybe she'll leave you alone now. I thought that's what you wanted," she said.
I didn't know what I wanted. On days when my family lectured me about responsibility, or called me ten times to confirm details about my imaginary routine, I'd told Cait she was lucky to not have a family. But even though Lindy and I were nothing alike, we were essentially the same too. Being honest with her just made me remember all of the aspirations I'd made when we were young. Honesty would be like disappointing my former self. That was a concept too heavy for me to fully address. I preferred to have my world an arms length away from her than to admit to myself that I needed something and didn't know what it was.
"Let's not talk about my family today," I said.
"What are you doing today?"
"I was going to go to some basement with Abebe and his friends to dance, but I tweaked my hip the other night. I'm thinkin we need a 'whim day'. You could use it," she said.
'Whim Days' were days when we got on the first bus we saw and let the city decide where we went and what we did. Once we ended up sleeping at the airport in Gary, Indiana. Another time we spent the day in a south side high school. We went to a few rowdy classes, ate pizza and chocolate milk in the caf for $2.25, and took an actual school bus to some neighborhoods. It made us both feel temporarily weird, and we harnessed the short lived philosophy for weeks afterwards that primary education was the root of all scum.
We categorized different parts of our day as the nuclei to some social ill. At lunch we wrote the word 'obesity' on a 3x5. On the bus we wrote the word 'violence' on another card. Cait eventually made a collage of the day and hung it up in the bathroom. Other cards say 'teen pregnancy', 'ignorance', and 'vanity'. In the middle of the collage is a picture of the two of us outside of the high school in large hooded sweatshirts with our thumbs up.
We created 'whim day' because we were sick of deciding what our plans would be. Cait said that planning was an art, and the lack of planning would be chaos. We were both intrigued by the idea, and thus Whim Day was born.
"I suppose I could use one," I said, "we pull the plug if we get close to Gary though."
"Let's get it goin'. Leave in 20?"
"Actually... make that an hour and 20. Mother's about to be on. Gotta catch it. I saw the preview for the episode and she talks about acronyms.. She actually says 'omg' and 'lol'. It's gonna be a good one."
"You would. I guess I'll get ready then. What should we wear this time?" The only thing we planned on whim day was our outfits.
"I'm thinking... Fancy dresses?"
"That's too much," I said.
"It's raining. It's hot out though. Casual dresses and galoshes."
"Who owns galoshes?"
"Are you kidding? It's a staple accessory."
She'd said the same thing about her sun hat. It was so large she could barely see from the drooping brim. It ended up catching on fire one day at the beach when she lit a cigarette. The straw burned fast and she ran through the crowded beach to the water to throw in the flaming hat. Some concerned mother nearby panicked and called the fire department.
When the fire fighters showed up, the concerned mother held her son and exaggerated the details. She said Cait screamed, "I'm burning alive!" when she ran to the water. Cait called the mom 'a sicko' and asked her if she was aware that her son was developing an Oedipus complex. The next day there was a fire fighter in our apartment shower, and Cait kept his uniform suspenders as a trophy. I could always tell when he was over because he made Cait's room smell like bonfire.
"You can borrow some of mine," she said, "Here, choose." She brought me 3 pair to pick from.
"These would be fitting, Scarlet." She pointed to the red pair.
"Yeah but they'd also match your communist t shirt."
"We're wearing dresses. Besides, I don't want to turn off all the capitalists if whim day takes us to Michigan Avenue."
"Good thinking. Why did you buy that thing anyways.. you're a nationalist!"
"I'm none of it. I'm just an American and I like t shirts. That, and it was cheap and I'm actually considered poor now."
"The government I guess."
Cait put on a booby blue sun dress that made her look like the Halloween version of Dorthy. She put on the red rain boots and bright red lipstick to match. She clipped back her hair with a barrette and slicked it down so it flipped up at the ends.
"It's like I've moused myself, but really my hair's just filthy with grease," she said.
"I think I'll shower while you watch Martha."
She sat on the sofa and turned on Martha, amplifying the volume in celebration of the coveted daily affair. She laughed while she listened.
"Oh Mother!" she said.
I took a shower and put on a cotton red sun dress. Cait's galoshes were all too big on me, so I wore flats inside the black pair with white polka dots. My feet felt awfully heavy, but it was what it was. No complaining on whim day. That was one of our rules we'd established, along with no turning down propositions from strangers, and no leaving each other for any amount of time. This included short trips to the bathroom. Cait had created this rule during high school day.
The bathroom reeked of feces and smoke, and there appeared to be peep holes in the stalls and on the wall side of the boy's rest room. I was waiting in the hall for her and she ran out immediately. "New rule," she said, "No leaving each other on whim day. Ever." I agreed with her fully after accompanying her into the bathroom. It was worse than any bar bathroom we'd seen. She took out a 3x5 and wrote the phrase, "defecation: both moral and literal," on it.
I scanned my room before turning off the light. There was a picture of Lindy and I when we were little framed on my desk behind a stack of full notebooks and misplaced papers. In the picture I'm sitting on a stoop with my head on my fist like 'The Thinker'. Lindy's spinning around in circles with her arms in the air. I put the picture faced down.
"You look so regal," said Cait.
"As do you!"
"Mother's just finishing her creme brulee. We can go."
We walked up the stairs. It was raining and humid outside, and oneiric fog lingered like fire smoke just above our heads.
"I suppose we can lock the door," she said, "since it's Whim Day we won't be separating. I have my keys actually."
"You never have them!"
"Well I'm carrying a purse today. It goes with the dress motif." She locked the door and we stood on the sidewalk. There was a bus stop on the corner which was a pickup for a multitude of routes. We walked to the shelter and stood in it with a grimacing group, all hiding from the rain. A bus sped to the stop and the doors opened. Only a few people got on.
"Here's our bus," said Cait.
"It appears so."
We got on and proceeded to the back. No one was even remotely smiling, indicative of how much the weather determines the mood of the day. We were beyond caring about the rain though.
"It's a warm day, everyone should quit bitching," said Cait. No one was actual talking, but it was clear by the heavy tension of the riders that the weather was unfavorable. I agreed with Cait. So what if it was raining? Sometimes I actually preferred the rain. Not in any emo type of way, but everything seemed to be less dire on rainy days. There was less pressure to be prompt or attractive. We didn't even bring umbrellas. I didn't own one, but wouldn't have brought one even if I did.
A man in the seat next to us had a frown on his face that could potentially make a child cry. His eye brows were gray and furry. They were probably more gray from stress than from age. He folded up his wet newspaper and discarded it on the ground, huffing over the smeared letters and his dripping cotton shirt.
"Nice day, isn't it?" said Cait, smiling at him and purposely invading his personal space.
He said nothing.
She leaned down and picked up the paper.
"You mind if I read this?"
"It's garbage. It's ruined from the rain," he said.
She unfolded it and opened to the entertainment section. The paper really was ruined and was ripping as she jolted around the wet pages.
"Looks like rain for the week," she said, scanning the back page of international weather.
"Ya think?" He rolled his eyes.
"Too bad were not in Athens. Gonna be 98 there today."
He pulled down the stop request and got up and stood by the door with his back to us.
"You know how many muscles you're using to frown?" she said.
He turned around and put up his middle finger, his frown more intense than before. Neither of us said anything. She pulled up the paper in front of our faces and we slouched down in the seat and laughed.