Fiction · 01/27/2010

Endangered

I landed an office manager position with the NYC Ballet, and moved into a studio in Greenwich Village. Feeling generous, I invited my younger sister up for the weekend.

“Want to rub my nose in it, huh?” Sally said.

That first night, she wanted to watch lions kill antelope and mount each other on Animal Planet. We drank red wine out of plastic cups and buttered popcorn out of cereal bowls, the salt stinging my lips. Live music carried through the window from Jack’s: the Stones’ “Satisfaction.” Sally had forgotten her fake ID. I was twenty two, she seventeen. We drank more wine from a box.

The next morning, Sally complained the noise of the coffee grinder had woken her. She played with her blueberry pancakes, and glared into her percolated coffee, asking if I had any instant.

I proposed our itinerary: the usual suspects.

She said, “I heard The Museum of Sex rocks.”

We rode the subway to the Museum, saying little, the excursion Sally’s attempt to outrage me. I offered her gum. She claimed she didn’t chew it anymore.

“Who gives up gum?”

“Who gives a fuck?”

“I see you took up swearing instead.”

“You didn’t ‘see’ me anything.”

I flicked the foil from my stick of gum at her head.

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Inside the Museum, Sally headed straight for the “Naked Ambition” exhibit: wall-to-wall with oversized porn prints. She stared, open-mouthed, touching where it said “no touching,” and wore a stupid happy, slobbery dog face. I wondered how many times she’d done it. Probably more than me.

“The Sex Life of Animals” exhibit revealed in graphic detail how our urges weren’t any different than theirs. “The Sex Life Of Robots” was a porn movie starring machinery with remarkable flexibility. I refused to enter the “Techniques Exhibit.” Sally plowed ahead.

She exited looking like she’d wet her underwear. “I’m famished.”

In the diner, I said, “That was bordering on sick.”

Her color rose. “How could you not get how tight that was?”

“‘Tight?’”

She dropped her sandwich onto her plate, its insides spilling out, and tossed a slice of tomato, hitting my cheek.

I wiped my face with my napkin.

“Can’t you ever stop being so fucking together?” She threw her pickle, hitting me in the eye.

My eye steaming, I moved my napkin there.

She threw her wad of turkey slices, hitting my chest.

I grabbed the turkey and threw it back, hitting right between her eyes.

She fired her side salad, getting me full in the face.

I returned the wet lettuce with force.

By the time the Manager appeared, Sally’s potato salad had slid down my chest and onto my lap.

Outside the diner, I went East and Sally West.

On the subway heading home, I felt stupid sitting in my stained clothes, starting to sour and stink. We entered the dark of the tunnel. The Museum’s video of the pandas’ coupling came back to me, how frantic and strained they had seemed, as if they knew they were in danger of extinction, afraid they wouldn’t make it.

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Raised in Ireland, Ethel Rohan now lives in San Francisco. Despite the much sunnier climate, she remains as pale as the day she was born. Perhaps because she spends far too much time indoors writing. She’s grateful to have published widely, and blogs at straightfromtheheartinmyhip.blogspot.com.