There weren’t many times when Sister and I didn’t get along. We worked and lived together for two years. It was during those two years at The Restaurant that we really were tested in our relationship for the first time; we found ways to laugh through every hardship.Sister and I had Christmas lights up in our apartment year-round. That fact did save us money, but mostly we had them up because we liked the way they looked. They were strung around the painting from the Caribbean, arched over the sliding glass door that lead to the balcony, and wrapped around the railing outside.
We’d found a bench for $5 at a yard sale. We would sit, smoke cigars and drink wine, and watch our plants die. On that bench, the twinkle lights on, and the freeway streaming past, we could recover from the stress of our shifts at The Restaurant, muse to each other about what it must be like to be able to afford air conditioning, and talk about who’d hit on us during the day.
When it was actually Christmas time, Sister put a giant red ribbon up on the door and we cut down a tiny Christmas tree, our “Charlie Brown tree,” from a farm 20 miles out from the city. We got the tree home in the trunk of my Volkswagen, and it lived until June of the following year.
At that time in our lives, Sister and I not only lived together, but we also were attending the same college, and working at the same hellhole. Despite the fact that six years separated us, we shared the same sense of the ridiculous and laughed together about all of the tiny things that other people would have found silly or ignored.
When we were at The Restaurant working together, nothing went too wrong. She opened my wine bottles for me. We introduced each other to the other’s tables. We would meet in the freezer for bites of cheesecake, and, if we’d just been on a break, we would make exaggeratedly disgusting faces at each other over the bar to make sure we had debris-free teeth.
All of this amicability aside, we did have our short moments of conflict.
One night, we’d driven to work separately, but were leaving at the same time. Even though I had parked nearer to The Restaurant than she had, she still managed to pull up perpendicular to the back of my car, beep, and speed off, before I’d even had the chance to start up my engine. I watched her fly off in her dark green car, and laughed as I started the engine, put it in reverse and: CRUNCH.
I hit her?
It turned out that she had sped off, out of the empty parking lot, reversed her car back to its former position behind my own, switched off her headlights, and waited (presumably, giggling).
We simultaneously slammed our cars into park and jumped out of them.
“What are you doing?!” My hands flew high as I walked around to the back of my car to view the splintered red paint.
She responded, as she walked around her own to view the door I’d hit, “You don’t look behind you?!”
“I did! I watched you drive away!! You park behind people at night, in a dark colored car, WITH YOUR LIGHTS OFF?”
We actually laughed quite hard after my last comment and went home; my bumper and her passenger side door were never the same.
Our little collective life, Sister’s and mine, revolved around The Restaurant for the first year we were in our apartment. We had Manager running the place along with his two Underlings whom we adored. We honestly enjoyed working there even though we were occasionally bitched at.
This enjoyment came to a screeching halt one September, directly after we’d signed the lease to keep our (expensive) apartment for another year. Our favorite of the two Underlings to Manager let it slip that The Restaurant would be closing down Friday, three days hence.
While I know I’m running the risk of sounding dramatic, it really did feel like our lives were being turned over. Our livelihoods and entire social life were about to be decimated. God knows we didn’t keep company with anyone outside of work.
And how would we make money? During one discussion that we had about the latter problem, we were sitting in Sister’s car and she said, “We should just move to the wild.” I choked and laughed at the same time. “Yeah, so you can be like, ‘What?! The deer don’t fall over and cook themselves?!'”
It turned out that we didn’t have to move anywhere. The Restaurant did close that Friday… only to open the next day, retaining half of its employees. All those who had gotten drunk and stolen things the night before weren’t re-contracted. This list included one of the managers.
The Restaurant had previously been adorned by decorative Italian plates over the open kitchen, and those were gone, save three. The bathroom had once housed a gold-filigreed mirror. Not any longer.
Most notably, though, the liquor pantry had previously been stocked. Fully. After the closure, it was near empty (and, had anyone been checking trunks that night, all of us would have been culpable).
Eventually I left.
Sister still works at The Restaurant to this day and the place has changed ownership seven times now. I worked there for a year after the closing/reopening, and suffered through 86 lists longer than my arm and managers that came and went, yelled and cried, and were altogether miserable people.
Even my move to another country couldn’t inhibit our relationship. For my birthday, Sister sent me a total of seven birthday cards. More than one a week, all throughout my birth-month. She was also the one person who paid for the fifteen hour flight to come see me while I was away from California for those seventeen months.
Though both of us hate The Restaurant, she’s so used to it now that nothing fazes her, and I’ve become so distanced from it that I see our time there only through foggy, unhelpful, memory laden eyewear.
The Restaurant will always be the place where we laughed, squeezed each other’s boobs whilst making honking noises and tapped in our orders on the computers.
Sister will always be the person, regardless of how much time or distance separates us, who gives my life meaning and fills each memory together with worthy moments.