The last thing my sister wrote to me before she died was that we would see each other again, “when the snow melted and the mountain pass” between Cincinnati and Pigspittle “was clear.” She hadn’t known that winter would take so long and that she had so little time. I’ve tried hard not to hate winter ever since.
I think of her now and wonder when we became best friends. She was three years older, and a moody middle child. We shared a bedroom until I turned 13. We weren’t best friends then.
It may have been during my first year of high school. That October, I was nominated for Homecoming Court to represent the freshman class and she, a senior, was nominated for Homecoming Queen.
The movie Carrie would not come out until the end of the school year but I’m pretty sure we both thought we would end up with pig’s blood on our heads. We must have crossed over a teenage demographic divide, like a song meant for a country station crosses over to the mainstream and becomes a hit. We were popular on the fringes of cliques. Still, I like to think it was a magical fluke—some butterfly flapped its wings in India and then a sequence of events led to the ridiculous nominations that made us self-conscious and, yeah, a little full of ourselves.
We stood on the stage together like goats at a 4H competition. My sister had to give a speech. I don’t remember what she said but I remember feeling privileged to know her. We were unified, my sister and I, like two warring countries finally making peace for all to see, foreshadowing Menachem Begin and Anwar Sadat, shaking hands and winning the Nobel Prize. We were more powerful together. I wish I had stood up and yelled, “That’s my sister! Yes!”
The vote was later that day. We lost. It was better than OK.
The past is murkier now because we can’t share stories. I rely on my version of the truth.
She might say that we became best friends later, when she called from college asking me to bail her out of jail. Maybe it was when she confided in me that she was pregnant and then that she was a lesbian. A year or so later, she accidentally dyed my hair orange. Those things add up: bail, confidences, hair disasters. Maybe it was a slow build.
All I know is that by the time I was 30, she was the first person I called when I needed a friend. When she was angry and not speaking to me (it was a thing), I would leave notes on her door and messages on her voice mail, telling her I hadn’t given up, that I loved her.
I still leave messages on her Facebook page and imagine that she’ll post something funny back, like saying she’s in Canada and not really dead. And I would laugh.