Defining Sisters This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

I had always imagined this day to be both exhilarating and a touch chaotic, but my expectations were far from correct. Leaving the house just past dawn had been the plan; in reality, it was closer to noon. After loading, unloading, and reloading the rented minivan, we were ready to begin our journey to the liberal arts college in Maine that would soon be my new home. Hassled and frustrated, my mother promptly fell asleep in the front seat, while my father concentrated on the news station blaring from the radio.

I glanced at the individual in the seat next to me. From the reflection in the window, I watched a single tear slide down her cheek. Seeing my sister in this state was surreal. Feeling a lump in my throat, I diverted my eyes and clenched my teeth in an attempt to suppress any signs of emotion.

“Are you okay, Ashley?” I asked in a hushed tone.

She glared at me.

Typical, I thought. She has always struggled with her emotions. I couldn’t help but smile for the next few miles of rural Pennsylvania. It is hard to imagine a time when we weren’t polar opposites.

Since elementary school, Ashley was never without a book: her favorite companion. She is a student of the written word and drowned herself in epic novels like Pride and Prejudice and Jane Eyre. School bores her and, thus, causes a variety of letters to be displayed on her report card.

Spending hours with a single piece of paper and a ballpoint pen clenched in her fingers is a daily activity. Choosing to be a vegetarian and environmentalist came with her nature; Ashley embraces her political liberalness and altruism in even the smallest ways, like purchasing an iPod Nano (PRODUCT) RED Special Edition with partial proceeds going to fight AIDS in Africa. She often spends her allowance on movie tickets (which she proudly mounts on a bulletin board with magazine articles and pictures that inspire her creativity). When Ashley sings, a soft sound rings true; she also has the uncanny ability to hear a song once and remember all of the lyrics. Film and music are her oxygen; her addiction to suspense is fed by her Netflix subscription. A dreamer in the most literal sense, she is eccentric and nonconformist; she challenges authority and stresses the importance of the individual.

All my life, I have been the teacher’s ideal student. I sat in the front of the class, asked relevant questions, participated in class discussions, completed all my assignments to the best of my ability, studied for exams and quizzes, volunteered answers, and sought help when I needed it. Quite simply, I’ve been a lover of learning. I’m a planner. Current events are my passion; I’d much rather watch CNN than a soap opera about oversexed doctors. I’m a realist who would rather read about a person affecting my world than a character in a novel. In my opinion, tasks must be completed well and in the correct manner. I overanalyze people and their actions, seeking a motive when there is none. Sports are my outlet for frustration: watching college basketball, listening to NFL commentary, analyzing professional tennis brackets.

From a very young age, I’ve kept a meticulous budget where I record all transactions and save my pocket change. My brain understands numbers and theories; I adore deriving equations and proving postulates. For the longest time, the only letters I cared about were algebraic variables, never mind novellas or summer reading. Reason and logic make sense to me: There is only black or white, right or wrong, correct or incorrect. Perfectionism is the bane of my existence.

It has been almost three hours since we left West Chester. We’ve alternated which CDs we’ve listened to: my choice of Matisyahu, and Ashley’s choice of “Les Misérables.” Stopping for a fast-food lunch, she munched on a veggie burger while I opted for chicken fingers.

Living with her is impossible, but living without her is unthinkable. Although I’m ready to start this new journey as a college freshman, it will truly be an adjustment.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

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inkstainedfingers said...
Sept. 10, 2008 at 8:04 pm
Wow, it's amazing it's like you took the relationship between my sister and I and wrote it down, though I would be Ashley in that context.
Is your sister not going with you to college, or will you be living together as room mates?
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