I hear my grandmother whisper, “Is she really thinking about…?” And my mother answers, “I don’t know,” exasperated, “I try to stay out of stuff like that.” And I am in my room, poetry pressing against my eyelids because it’s easier this way, easier than seeing the rain clouds.
Am I really thinking about…? My fingers are flying across the keyboard, metaphors and similes and phrases that say nothing directly about you or me. I’ll keep it this way; delicate little lies to fill my insides with something like warmth. Something like the glow of a candle in the face of a snow storm.
I awoke this morning, dried salt sealing my eyelids, and the words I had with my brother ringing throughout my mind, “But what have you done for her?” as he showcased the thoughtful things his girlfriend had done to remind him that she loves him. “But what have you done for her?” He didn’t have a satisfactory answer.
In the other room, they are asking about her, what she’s like, if she’ll be around as long as the other(s). My mother answers, “I don’t know,” exasperated, “I try not to ask questions.” And my grandmother, with all her years of dealing with stubborn daughters, “They’ll tell you if they want to; it’s better that way.” They start a new thread about passports.
I don’t stop spilling syllables on paper—if I do, I will have to acknowledge the question like a hang-over headache, Am I really thinking about…? And all the hushed voices my family will fall into, and all the schedule changes my work shifts will transform into, and all the memories I will have to erase to forget you. In the other room, they ask questions I don’t want to give honest answers to.
My father stands in my doorway, the in-between space. He asks, uncharacteristically, “Are you okay?” My mother must have said something to him before he arrived home. My fingers falter, and for a moment, a whisper of time, I wonder how it would feel to be honest. But it’s easier, I’ve found, to lie, to smile, to pretend—it’s all the same. “Yes,” I reply, even though I want my sister, to lie in bed with her, watching Castle and laughing; even though I want my father to hold me, like he did once before, and let me cry on his shoulder, broken-hearted and alone; even though I’m running out of fuel to keep the candle glowing inside, against the cold.
“Are you sure?” Am I sure? But my brother is home and he’s brought her with him. So it’s time to be someone’s sister, someone’s friend, someone’s daughter again. So it’s time to set these matters aside and tell myself I’m just tired, to tell myself Things will get better. These simple lies I chant to keep myself from falling under the weather.