This means I scribble incessantly and compulsively on any blank sheet within my reach. That sounds rather grand but it doesn't have to be anything legible or even meaningful- an X or a pair of boobs will do. I go looking for canvas-of-life metaphors and deeper significance but my sister- who's a good 7 years older than I am, and quite the success story- narrowed it down to a more obvious (some might say "vicious"- ha, you've just been incepted!) possibility recently. She said- and I quote- "you've been babied by too many grown-ass women all your life. Go play with somebody half your age.".
On the face of it, this may just be a little sibling rivalry at work (though best of friends we are) based on the Mothership's well-documented partiality towards me. Or maybe it was my trail of broken relationships- wonderful, kind, women who figured out sooner or later that they deserved better- and how badly I'd been dealing with my latest heartbreak. It may also have been the fact that it was 9 AM on a Sunday. I'd just dropped in at her's after a night out with some old friends, and was badly in need of coffee. She, on the other hand, had been up since 6, had brushed, showered and packed off the niblings to Abacus classes, prepared breakfast for the clan, and was getting dressed to go to church. The implication was clear: I needed to grow up and do a little babying of my own. Or maybe it was finding a doodle of our childhood Ambassador car -replete with big round headlights, and the registration plate- on Page 1 of a 145-page report she shad typed up over the weekend on "Why Grown Men Don't Grow The Fuck Up and Leave Home". I kid. The report was on something far less serious, something to do with intellectual property law. Unfortunately, the drawing had left an imprint on at least the next 60-odd pages.
"I'm sorry, Chech," I say, "I'll get it printed out again."
"It's not about the damn print outs," she tells me, "it's everything. This thing you're doing. You want more sugar?"
"No," I say, and gratefully accept the mug of coffee she offers. Tastes like home. And hangover.
"Look Chech," I try another tact, "why don't you head out, go to church if you must, and a movie or a spa or something after, and I'll pick up the kids and make sure things go smoothly here, what say?"
"Make this about me and I'll hang you by your toes," she says.
She's got her back to me but I can tell she's smiling.
"The kids finish at 10," she says, as I kick back on the couch and wave goodbye.
"GET THE- go to your room- GET THE FUCK OUT OF MY HOUSE!"
Oh God, it's real. This is no nightmare, I've done something terrible. Again.
I wake up to see the niblings march their patented walk of reluctance to their rooms. They get in, leave their doors open just a tad, and settle in to watch. Further north of my eyeline is a familiar pair of hands on hips, and further up, a Very Pissed Off Chech. Scratch what I said about blank pages earlier; nothing intimidates me more than Very Pissed Off Chech.
"One thing," she says, "I didn't even ask you; you offered to pick up the kids. You couldn't do that for me."
"I passed out," I say, "I was exhausted. I'm sorry."
"Yeah well I'm sure sorry would have worked just fine if they'd been kidnapped too!"
"But they haven't been..." I stop, "I'm sorry. I'll leave."
As shameful as it is, this is an old trick. Offer to leave when I screw up, and she'd ask me to stay. Upsets the momentum of her fury.
"And don't come back till you've learnt to be responsible," she says, "I won't let you let my kids down too."
Sis safely fuming in her room, the niblings quietly make their way towards me.
"Hey guys," I say, "We were just playing a little joke."
"I'm ten next May," says my niece, "I can tell when a joke's not funny anymore."
I look up from tying my laces, and give her a hug.
"You stink," she tells me, "but don't go."
"I'm just going to give her some time," I say, "Sorry I didn't pick you guys up."
"It's ok," she says and goes back to her room.
"Hey buddy," I turn to my nephew and offer him a high five, "you've been a bit of a brat, haven't you?"
"I'm sorry," he says, and the severity of his apology, the solemnity of his voice, makes me want to kill whoever deemed it inappropriate to doodle on corporate documents.
"Hey, you draw pretty well," I tell him, "just not on anybody else's stuff ok?"
"Yeah," he promises, "I didn't realize."
"I know," I give him a stinky hug, "where'd you get the registration number? Nice detail on the front end too, great job."
"Mom's always talking about how Grandpa used to take you on roadtrips as kids," he says, "we just get driven to school."
"Hey, I had to walk to school," I tell him, "and we used to fight non-stop on those trips. And those trips only happened coz our Grandpa lived far away. We'd drive down to spend Christmas with him. You got your Grandpa right in your city!"
"I wish our whole family lived in different countries!" he declares, "except maybe you."
"Me too, Nephew," I say, "Get your shoes on. Let's go get you some drawing pencils."