Posted on: May 27, 2013

Leigh and Tara sit on a white seersucker blanket with rainbow stripes spread across the lawn of their Aunt Mary’s backyard. Leigh wrinkles her nose to push up the bridge of her thick, black-framed glasses as she chews on the last blackberry and leans back on her hands. She wears a black Macgregor hoodie and cut off shorts, the lining of her pockets peeking out across her thighs. Tara pulls her dress over bent knees and wraps her arms around her legs, glancing at her toenails and wondering if she should paint them gray. The wind rustles the canopy of leaves above, casting shadows that sway back and forth like seaweed underwater.

“Are you okay?” Leigh typically asks Tara once a week, often prompted by a sobering Facebook status or blog post.

Tara is both appreciative and annoyed by the inquiry, not understanding why something must be wrong in order to inspire serious reflection and discussion.

“Oh yea! Why?” She sounds overly chipper.

“I dunno.”

Leigh tugs at a few strands of denim. Just five feet and four inches, her long limbs and narrow face suggest a much taller frame than her sister. Tara is the same height, but her legs are thicker and her torso shorter. Even next to each other, she seems closer to the ground than her younger sister.

“Remember when you asked me if I had an eating disorder? We were on the swings and you were upset when I threw up after lunch.”

Leigh doesn’t say anything, but looks up at Tara and meets her gaze. Her posture straightens, conveying that she’s listening.

“It’s not that I think I’m fat. And I don’t count calories,” Tara continues. “I’m really not even aware that I’ve gone for a while without eating. I just get so hung up on my thoughts that I forget I need fuel to sustain them.”

She picks at the corner of a toenail, annoyed at its length.

“So, what about throwing up?” 

Leigh remembers listening to her sister regurgitate a super expensive meal and feeling confident that her concerns about Tara’s weight were officially justified.

“I make myself vomit when something doesn’t feel right, like if I eat too much or I feel like my stomach can’t digest whatever’s in there.”

Tara’s face feels really hot, not because she’s lying, but because she feels scrutinized.

“It’s not punishment. I promise. I do it because I feel like my body needs me to do it.”

A dove coos from a powerline, a sound Tara and Leigh always mistook for an owl until today, looking up and noticing the tail feathers press down as the soft murmurs tumble out.

With a sharp intake of breath, Leigh sings, “Ooookaaay-eee,” to signal her surrender.

This is a significant difference between them; Leigh has no problem dropping a discussion if it’s causing more harm than good. Tara, on the other hand, is mildly confrontational and likes to get to the root of a problem, even if it means stalking the opposite party and hounding her with questions until she’s reduced to tears. A couple years ago when the sisters were still in high school, Leigh walked in on Tara standing in the living room gaping with confusion just as their mother was slamming her bedroom door and weeping hysterically within.

“What the hell happened?” 

Leigh dropped her purse to the floor and threw her keys on a side table as she slipped off her Birkenstocks.

Tara turned to look at her and shook her head. 

“I don’t understand why Mom gets so upset when I want to talk to her about something serious. She gets all defensive and says her blood pressure is too high and she can’t listen to me anymore. How are we supposed to work on things if she can’t even talk about them?” 

She slumped onto the sofa, propped an elbow up on the armrest and cupped her cheek in one hand.

Leigh walked to the fireplace and sat on the cold stone hearth, sneering at her older sister. 

“There’s a huge difference between having a conversation and being interrogated, Tara. You’re really stubborn and don’t let up until you get answers.”

“Well, I didn’t get any answers outta Mom. She’s in there crying and I feel like a shithead. Why should I feel bad for wanting to know the truth?” 

Tara sat erect, her hands flat on top of her thighs, staring directly into Leigh’s eyes.

“Tara, you’re immune to pain or something and as much as you preach practicing empathy, you pretty much have none. You’re a bully. You want people to be able to process stuff the way you do and honestly a lot of us can’t because we’re too busy just trying to get through our own crap. Not everyone spends all friggin’ day trying to figure out the meaning of life.” 

She leaned back against the masonry, palms together between her thighs, eyes heavy with exasperation.

“Why doesn’t anyone give a damn?” Tara asked.

Leigh closed her eyes, careful not to sound pissed after forming her reply. 

“We do, Tara. The truth is, you’re the one who doesn’t give a damn about anything other than what you think is important. And while you spend all your time looking down on other people and accusing them of living shallow lives, you end up alone. Are your deep thoughts worth it?”

Leigh never found out what Tara was hounding their mother about. As she sits on the blanket across from her now, she notices the perpetual furrow between her sister’s brows and that her shoulders are rounded forward as if she might cry, but Tara’s face is blank and her gaze without purpose.

“Is it worth being sad all the time?”

Tara looks up, blinks. 


“All that thinking and not eating. All your truth-seeking and isolation. Is it worth it?”

Tara’s eyes close as tears stream down her cheeks and drip onto the dress stretched over her knees.


Photograph by: Whitney Ott
Written by: Natasha Akery

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