It’s been over two years since I last posted and that was the first post since my heart attack. That’s a long time to go without reflection through the written word, without silence, without exploring the hairline cracks, the fissures between lines. I have spent much of that time worrying that I would have another heart attack. I am like a Geiger counter, registering and measuring all of the tiny quakes in my body, analyzing the data that comes in through nerve endings and palpitations.
But worse than this was losing my sister three months after my heart attack. She died in the middle of the night, in the bathroom, from blood clots in three thin arteries. She was my best friend, even when she wasn’t speaking to me. She cut me out of her life and let me back in so many times I couldn’t begin to count. Each time she cut me out, I felt I had lost a limb. As I got older, I began to see my hands as hers, my feet as her feet–we shared these small features, short, chubby digits, wide, duck-like feet. Sometimes I will glance at my hands and think she is here, holding my hairbrush or putting on my shoes.
I envied her courage while I dreaded her irrational anger. She was singular. She wore black slips over black tights, little black boots, and a black biker jacket. When she was really poor, she made like Scarlett O’Hara, wrapped a curtain over her waist and down to her ankles like a sarong. Stylish, without a hint of irony.
Her expectations were too great for the world. Although she fought against this quality in herself and was genuinely generous, she expected the world from those who loved her: infinite patience, forbearance, forgiveness, money, authority, adherence, unobtrusive but unconditional love. She was always let down.
She was my best friend. I told her everything. She got my jokes. I got her jokes. We made each other laugh with the simple raise of an eyebrow. She could listen and hear and understand. She gave good advice. She gave the best hugs. She spoke with passion and urgency, like a powerful current in a deep river.
She had beautifully sculpted cheekbones and a rueful smile. Gracefully athletic, sports came easy to her. She was a coach to anyone who wanted to learn.
She loved her son most. When she learned she was pregnant, she came to my dorm room to tell me and then immediately told me she was gay. We were in college together then. Her boy was born over summer break and she brought him back to school in the fall. She toted him along with her everywhere. He was the part of herself she could love unconditionally. She could never love her own mind, her own heart, her own gifted soul the way she loved him.
My sister was a painter. Like everything else, her painting was unconventional, bordering on prose and poetry and primitive images and appropriated photographs punctuated with scientific symbols, math equations, marginalia. Many of her paintings were wittily chagrined, some were dark and heavy. I envied her brilliance.
I found her on Facebook after losing her for three years when she was once again not speaking to me. I found her before my heart attack, and she came to see me on my birthday a week after it. Her last message to me said that we would see each other again, “when the snow melted and the mountain pass” between Cincinnati and Pigspittle “was clear.”
The grieving nearly took all of me. I wondered why she died and I didn’t. She had more talent, grace, wisdom than I. She was more beautiful and intelligent. She had a son.