My older sister is the one who introduced me to dirty martinis. She’s obsessed with that briny flavor – she used to dump salt onto her hand and lick it off at restaurants when we were little. With Carly, every pizza had anchovies, every reuben came with a pickle, and every martini had extra olives.
I can trace most of my hobbies, tastes, and features to my sister; it’s a creepy serial killer diagram with pictures and notes on a corkboard, and all of the red strings lead to a fathead picture of her in her volleyball uniform (which actually exists and sits in my parent’s garage. The fathead – not the corkboard). From musical theater to Anthropology wine glasses, the bits and pieces that decorate my life were ones she introduced me to. Three years older than me, she also paved the way. The brambles and weeds of her youth had been adequately trampled on by the time I came across them. Any mistakes I made that I would start to kill myself over – like getting into a car accident or drinking too much at a party – had already been made by her. My parents actually used that fact to calm me down if I started spiraling – Carly hit an Uber once and the world is still turning, you’ll be okay.
In the complex multiverse, in any reality that she does not exist in, neither do I. I am not me without her.
I moved to LA for my first post-college job less than a month after I left school and found myself bunking with my sister again for the first time since I was fourteen. The space got cramped pretty quickly. She resented me when I locked myself out, drunk at two in the morning and she had to come fetch me. I resented her patronizing. Once, she tracked my cell phone when I came home late and bombarded me with questions about the boy whose house I had been at.
“Why didn’t you tell me you were going to his place?”
Because I knew she’d be annoying about it, voicing an opinion I didn’t care for. Because I was playing adult for the first time, paying a rent I most definitely couldn’t afford, so I had the right to privacy if I wanted it.
“I forgot,” I told her instead.
“Well, I made extra salmon thinking you’d be here.” She directed me to the tupperware in the fridge, filled with salmon and rice Emily Mariko-style.
Three years older than me, she also paved the way. The brambles and weeds of her youth had been adequately trampled on by the time I came across them.
She moved across the country a couple months ago. In February she landed a new job, but she was able to hold off the migration until after Coachella, which was literally her only reason for waiting two months to move. So much of my post-grad life revolved around her, and suddenly, she was gone. No one to nag me about standing up to my bosses and no one to pay for our martinis when we went out in Hollywood. No one to annoy me. No one to annoy. No more built-in best friend. We spent nearly a year living our lives parallel to one another. Now, it was different.
No one was actively wondering what I was doing or who I was with. You know, the way an older sister does.
But, like I told my therapist, there were up sides to this situation. Maybe not up sides, but opportunities. I was now forced to establish my own life, something I was able to do only once before, when I went up state for college at a school where no one knew my older sister. With my sister in LA, my time wasn’t defined by weekdays and weekends but intervals between seeing her. In her absence, I was bequeathed freetime. I imagine this is what it’s like after a breakup: Now that there isn’t someone to constantly spend your time with, you have endless time to spend with others.
This new responsibility is scary but exciting, like I’m a freshman in college all over again. Last night, I was out on a date that no one had to know about. No one was actively wondering what I was doing or who I was with. You know, the way an older sister does. Still, I found myself slipping her into the conversation, even subconsciously. Like when my date asked me what my go-to drink is.
I’ve been reading and watching a lot of multiverse media lately, and proof of their connection is that in every universe, in every lifetime, they are together. There is only one person I feel that way about, only one person I could ever feel that way about, and she has the same freckled face I do.
There is no universe where I exist and my sister doesn’t, because I am all that my sister poured into me.
About the Author
Lindsey Staub (she/her) is a writer and editor living in Los Angeles.