The Pajamas

September 6, 2008
The apartment building’s lobby was hot and muggy and I couldn’t find my keys. I felt a bead of sweat uncomfortably trickle down my back as a rummaged through every pocket in my bag. Giving up, I buzzed the door, hoping my sister would answer. The weight of my backpack was pulling down my heavy winter coat down in such a way that the collar was choking me. And to be honest, I really had to pee. “C’mon, c’mon, c’mon,” I mouthed. I buzzed again, three short buzzes and one long one. Another long one, and then another.

Finally, I heard my sister’s feet pounding the stairs, and then the scrape of chair legs being pulled to the door because she was too short to reach the lock. “C’mon Layla, please hurry.” I said it gently so that the doorman wouldn’t hear and then tell my parents that I was aggressive, or something, or that I shouldn’t be alone with my sister in the house. Not that he would tell them that, or anything. But just in case. The lock clicked, but she had turned it the wrong way. “Righty-tighty, lefty-loosey,” I hissed. She turned it again and the door swung open. “Well, that took long enough.”

“Molly, you always forget your keys,” my sister said. “You know, Dad says you shouldn’t be so careless.” It was the tone I imagined an Ancient Greek philosopher would use when saying something like, “A good mill always rumbles.” She probably had her eyebrows slightly cocked and her pointer finger raised as she reprimanded me, but I couldn’t tell because I was in the bathroom.

“Yeah, well, you shouldn’t be so impertinent,” I quickly retorted as I washed my hands. I wasn’t entirely sure if I had used “impertinent” correctly, but it didn’t matter. I had only said it because I knew Layla wouldn’t know what it meant. “And I didn’t forget them, I just couldn’t find them.”

I went into my room, my sister right behind me. “Why are you following me?”

“Hey, it’s my room, too, you know.” She was right. It was her room, too. We shared it. I stopped short as I entered our bedroom. I dramatically sniffed the air. It was permeated with the alcoholic stench of cheap and rancid perfume.

“You used my perfume?”

“Sheesh, it was just a little spray, I mean, you still have so much left, and it’s not like you ever really use it.” Again, she was right. I only liked the way the glass bottle looked. But that wasn’t the point. It was a matter of principle. And principle was very important to me.

“God, do you have to touch everything I own? Is nothing mine? It’s bad enough that I have to share a room with you, but...” I left the rest of the sentence to her imagination - for emphasis.

“You don’t have to yell. My hearing is perfectly fine.”

“I wasn’t yelling.”

“Uh, yes, you were.” She said “were” with a pre-teen inflection, as if asking a question. I hated it when she did that.

“No, I was not!” Now I really was yelling. Layla rolled her eyes, but I think she may have been a little scared.

We were silent for a while, both seething while we sat at our desks, which were on opposite sides of the room. An impressive five minutes had passed without either of us instigating the other. But all hope for serenity was dashed when I heard I small voice from the other end of the room. “Molly is annoying, Molly is annoying,” the voice quietly chanted.

“Layla, stop it,” I wailed.

“Layla, stop it,” she mimicked.

“No, seriously!”

“No, seriously!” I picked up a pack of magic markers from my desk and threw them at her. Not directly at her, though. I mean, I didn’t really want to hit her. In response, she threw a notebook at me.

“Ugh, I hate you!”

Layla gasped.

“I’m calling Dad. I’m going to tell him everything you did,” She said, and rushed from the room, a little but tremendous ball of energy.

I was feeling mean, destructive and base. I looked around the room for something I could do, something I could tear or shatter. I opened Layla’s dresser drawer and the first thing I saw were her little green pajamas, the ones with lizards on them. I clutched the pajama top in my hand and, before I could have the chance to realize what I was doing, pulled it apart. The buttons flew off and scattered on the floor.

These were the pajamas she got for Christmas one year. She just looked so adorable in them, so small with her little hands and little feet and little butt. I imagined her wearing them at night, painstakingly and deliberately putting the perfect amount Silly Strawberry toothpaste on her toothbrush. I imagined her in her pajamas, waking up Sunday morning, her fine hair sticking up all over the place, and crawling into bed with me before deciding to wake me, too. And then I imagined her opening her drawer to put on her pajamas, and finding that the buttons were missing, and having to throw them out. I slammed the drawer shut.

She came back into the room.

“Did you tell on me?”

“No, no one picked up.”

“Oh,” I replied. “That’s good, I guess.”

“Molly?” She asked.


“I’m sorry we fought.” Layla always said things like that. She could be so righteous sometimes. Well, sometimes. It was easy for her to say sorry, but it wasn’t easy for me. So instead, I just said

“It’s alright.”

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