My Cousin Banjo
Radiation Level: Lowered
Listening To: Murder of Birds by Jesca Hoop
Meet my cousin Banjo. She is my first cousin on my father’s side, but considering my father is an identical twin, she and I are genetically half-sisters. I was always hoping we’d have some sort of special bond because of this, like we’d invent our own secret language or have parallel dreams, but these things never happened. Then I used to have fantasies about us starting a folk band, I would sing and she would play banjo, of course. But when her parents actually gave her the instrument on her 8th birthday, she showed little interest and no inclination for music. What was she interested in? Bugs.
Banjo kept little insect farms. A roly-poly zoo. A restaurant for spiders (this was quite gruesome) and caterpillar beauty parlors. My cousin insisted she was responsible for these fuzzy worms’ “make-overs”. When I told her all caterpillars transformed into butterflies, whether they went to bug beauty salons or not, she socked me in the chin. I didn’t play with Banjo after that.
Years went by and occasionally we’d get post cards from her from various odd places like the Chino slaughterhouse or a lobster restaurant in Tijuana. I’d always assumed she was one of those “animal people” who communes better with the furry kind (or 8-legged-kind) than Homo sapiens. Then I found out she had been committed to a psychiatric hospital in Canada. She was not a member of the Extractor’s Club, so no action has been taken to remove her legally or illegally.
Banjo’s offense against sanity? She stole a car from a Canadian Subaru dealer/repair shop, only to realize the car didn’t have brakes. Banjo crashed into a Horton’s donuts. There were no injuries, but when Canadian Mounties arrived, they found her nonplussed, eating a French cruller.
At court, she was deemed unfit to stand trial and now Banjo stays indefinitely at a mental institution where she apparently thinks she’s on a European vacation. She spends most of her time studying Swiss French.
Recently, I have considered going to visit Banjo. But something always seems to come up. I feel bad for being so absent from her life, like maybe I could have been some sort of role model for her…but, I don’t know. I could rally my fellow Extractors, but I’m not sure she nor the general public would benefit.
For now, I’m going to leave my genetic half-sister in the imaginary Swiss Hotel and let her pursue her linguistic studies. And I will try to reconcile how she and I share DNA and yet are so different. I hope. I saw a caterpillar the other day and had to fight an impulse to put it in a Ball jar…Yeah.