11.9.2014

Dear Eloise,

Hearing your voice makes everything seem to be alright. I can’t believe you called! I would have expected the president of the United States to be on the other end of that phone before I thought you would be. I was talking to Gary when the phone rang. I think we’ve still got our sisters’ intuition, because as soon as that tiny chorus of a telephone ring lifted and struck my ear drum, I knew it was a special call. I flicked my chin so quickly my nose had to catch up to the rest of my face. My nose was still looking straight at Gary, and the rest of my face was looking at the phone. Even though I could sense that it was special call, I didn’t know how special. When was the last time you called me, sis? I think it was to tell me you’d rather see me die than get momma’s pearl earrings… maybe not the best of telephone history. I let my garbage man suitor stay by the door, but after I answered and heard your deep, calm voice, a gave him a shrill, “get outta here, Gary!” I was actually in the middle of telling him that if he’d wear something other than that smelly trash-man shirt, that I’d go on a date with him, but I can tell him that anytime.

You started off so sweetly it was as if we had never had a bad moment between us. You asked how I was doing, said you were sorry that you never got around to responding to my mail, and that you missed me at your baby’s birthday party. You did real good buttering me up and making me forget the frigid temperature that frozen the space between us for the last few years. You even listened intently as I told you about the boy I knew that had bombed downtown and my slip back into the bottle’s grasp, and through the warm notes in your voice, it seemed like you really cared. You never scolded, never make a sarcastic joke, never seemed to be anything less than my sister again. I felt lucky on the other end of that phone. I felt light, so much so that I felt as if I could have given an angel a race up to the clouds. At one time, our connection, as women and as sisters, was the most important relationship in my life. To have that reduced down to nothing, even on the family holidays, was if I was living life as a 32 year old orphan. I hated it.

Then I turned the conversation for you to tell me about you and what’s been going on in your home. You said that baby was doing just fine, ready to start preschool any day now. I bet, if he’s anything like you, he’ll be in first grade by the end of the month. You always shot past me in the smart sections of our life. Your son will do the same. Then I asked you about Rae, and you got all hushed. It was a wide open silence, the kind you have around a very awkward dinner table. I should have known something that I didn’t. I was not privy to something very obvious. You said to me, “Well, Rae just started her 5th month in prison. She’s still facing being convicted of fifty accounts of identify theft.” I felt so humiliated. How could I bring up such a depressing and awkward subject? I swore you never told me, and you swore you told me on one of those nights I was drunk. I don’t know who to believe in this case. I’m not the kind of drunk that blacks out and forgets everything they did last night, especially important things, but there were some nights that were really rough. Maybe you had called me on a really rough night.

It wasn’t until the very end of the conversation, when I was pleading with you to come and see me or at least call me back in the next week when you dropped the reason why you had really called. “El, I was wondering if could sell one of momma’s paintings. Nothing important, not one that we want to keep forever, just one that would get me Rodney to next month.” That’s why you called. You wanted to sell a little piece of momma. I should have known when you let me ramble on about the little ducklings I see on my bus path every other day. I should have known because you called at all- you’d want something from me.You’d want something that would break my heart to give to you, and something that would break my heart not to give to you. When momma died she wrote down how many paintings we each got. She kept us living in undesirable places all our life so that she could afford those paintings, and when she was dying she knew that they were the only thing she had left worth real money– lots of real money. She wrote it down that you’d get seven and I’d get seven. You’ve run out of your seven. I haven’t touched one. I told you that I’d have to think about it, because they are so close to my heart. What I really wanted to tell you was that you can go to hell, but I don’t want to lose you again.

I’ll probably let you have one, a little one… an ugly one. Just call me soon.

Love you,

Christina

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11.4.2014

Dear Lisette,

It’s still lying there- untouched, unopened, and dauntingly horrifying. I hate myself for being such a coward, but I can’t slide my nail through and pierce its skin. I don’t dare unleash what dark demons can be trapped within. I can’t bring myself to the realization that it’s just a letter. It’s a letter from you. It could be a good letter. It could be a great letter! It could be your request to come back home and live with me. It could be your cross-Atlantic romantic regards that will woo me back into a full-throttled, long-distance love affair. I could be a love note written on a napkin from the most precious cafe in all Paris. It could be all those things, but I doubt it. It’s something about the way you wrote my address. It’s too dark and involves too many extra curls. It seems as if you wanted to make it both fancy and angry looking at the same time. The stamps you chose are also not that promising. “Countries of the EU?” What does that mean? What message are you trying to send me by sending my one letter in almost four months with a stamp that is less endearing than ones with desert scenes on them? I am well aware that this situation is a pristine example or overly analytic thinking, but the note has wrapped around it far too much risk for me to take this lightly.

Dre wants me to open in soon, she says then she’ll know you are real. I’m starting to think that’s the exact reason I won’t open it. I’ve been living in a reality in which you were intangible, far off, and perfectly in love with me. It’s likely that I will open up that envelope and be forcefully transported to a new reality in which none of those previous attributes can be found. I can be sucked into a world were you despise me and promise that you’re never coming back. As miserable as these months have been, spending all my extra time and energy wondering what you’re thinking and doing in Paris, now seem much more attractive to knowing you aren’t in love with me. In this moment I am choosing torture over a quick and easy death. I’ve been so insecure that I’ve asked Dre to open it for me and read the letter out loud. She refuses saying that she “won’t be the bearer of a break up…” and she wonders why I’ve never asked her for relationship advice before. So, in fact, your letter is just anxiously dwelling on the corner of my shabby grey countertop. It’s probably wondering why it’s become so unpopular and feared, but I think I’ll keep it in suspense for a little while longer.

I must be honest, your letter came at a very strange time. I was talking to my sister after work one day and we were drinking her favorite 5:30pm snack- White Russians. She asked me to tell her about the people at work, and I started off the conversation by telling her that nobody there, myself included, was very interesting (and perhaps that is why we work there). However, when I started going, and I started to work my way through the list of people who inhabit the cubicles surrounding me, and then those that surround them, I started to realize that my coworkers really aren’t that boring at all. One tips over the water cooler at least once a week, one cries on the phone with her mom every Monday, and I always catch one sneak-reading the same series of graphic novels I read at home (and in the office). My sister sat interested and engaged, and when I was done spouting off about all the people I could think of, she asked me, “why don’t you ever hang out with any of these people, they seem… insane!” And with that, we both started laughing- no, cackling. I was over abundantly laughing at the thought of spending extra time with insane people when I already have one living with me, and I think she was laughing because she had one-too-many sips of White Russian. I laughed so hard my throat felt dry and sore afterwards. It was something I’d never reflected on, but seemed so simple. Why don’t I spend time with the people I like?

The mail came minutes after our hysterical outburst, and Dre ran around the entire apartment flashing your envelope chanting in her obnoxious schoolgirl yell, “paris! Paris! You got a letter from paris!”

This whole thing reminded me of why I don’t hang around those people… I’m still here waiting for you.

Love,

Jonathan

10.29.2014

Dear Cody,

It’s difficult to see you get upset with yourself. It’s difficult to see you so passionately attempt something, but then so gloriously fail. There is always glory in your failure, Cody, because there is always glory in the prospect of becoming better. It’s funny how sleep erases a lot of things. It can erase arguments, pain, sadness, and for you, can erase some basic motor functions. You woke up not quite sure how to walk or to talk, and the doctors assured us that it was not because your brain cells were dead, but just a little rusty. It unfortunate that in those times when you desperately grab onto the side rail of your bed and weakly try and force yourself upon two legs that little slices of your memory weren’t erased in your sleep, too. Every time that you try and stand, something you did without a second’s hesitation before the accident, we can all see on your face that you remember those times when it all was so easy. You remember the times when you ran half-marathons or the days you spent parading around a research lab, constantly doing the one thing that has now been made impossible- standing.

The doctors, your wife, and even I try to persuade you into not being too hard on yourself, and to take this process in stride (pun intended). You don’t listen, however, or at least you don’t let it sink in, because even though we plead for you to not treat yourself so unfairly, tears still well up in your eyes, your face burns with anger, and you push us away as you retreat back into you bed. The doctors have told both Vivian and me that “it’ll come, but right now he should be lucky he can even move.” It’s not uncommon for someone who escapes the unconscious vortex that is a coma to come out not fully capable of what they were able when they went in. When their brain went inactive it also decided to downsize some parts. You were lucky enough to not have that happen, your whole brain stayed with you the whole time. I know that it’s hard to see now, when you feel as if your body has been made to resemble that of an infant, but you are one of the very lucky ones.

Vivian continues to surprise me. She cries all the time, and many times, does more than cries, she sobs. She sobs when she walks up to your room, she sobs as she touches your arm hair, she sobs as she’s leaving. I don’t know what has gotten into her. There were the first few days when she was actually frantic. I couldn’t get a hold of her so didn’t know when she was coming into the hospital, and when she did it was as if she was a contained tropical storm. She’d run from nurse to nurse asking what they had done for you today, and demanding and evaluation of whether not they were at the top of their game. Next, she’d see a doctor and fire questions at them as to why you were not already released to go home. She hardly ever acknowledged me, but when she did it was to fill my ear cavity with blistering complaints about the doctors and nurses inside the hospital. I probably shouldn’t be writing this to you, it’s not showing your wife in the most picturesque of lights, but it does go to show you how much this process is changing all of us. Vivian doesn’t normally act like this. Yes, she can cry once in a while, but she’s never in such dizzying control of her emotions that she seems manic. I’ll keep an eye on her for you. I know that is what you’d want me to do, and it’s really not a punishment, I love Vivian. I just hope that I can see the Vivian I used to know sometime soon. Don’t worry about her.

You’re doing much better- give yourself credit.

Love,

Mom

10.26.2014

Dear Eloise,

I wanted to run over a man with my bus today, and I could have done it too. There are lots of bus drivers who have superiority complexes, and it has to do with the sheer power that’s held underneath our right foot- the gas pedal. There are some guys that you’ll see get off their shift and have a big ball of puff in their chest, because they knew they could have ran just about anybody off the road for the last 8 hours. We drive by these tiny cars with only a little tiny old lady in it and you can’t help but wonder, “what if I just turned this wheel a little more to the left?” What would happen if the side of her car and the side of our bus combine? I’ll tell you what would happen. The old lady would be the latest piece of roadkill to grace the paved top of our streets. That feeling, that rush of being the biggest and baddest thing out there on the road can really get to people’s heads. It can really start warping your mind and get you thinking that you are always in control of other’s fates. You can get to thinking that there’s not a person in the world that you couldn’t run over and hear their bones just crackle underneath the ton of metal I wield with ease. I’m not quite sure, I think it’s the sadness, but some of these feelings have worked their way into my own mind.

I actually didn’t drink last night like I last wrote you. I guess you won again. Me drinking was going to be your punishment. It’s always been the thing that I could use to get back at you. Last night though, I just didn’t have a taste for revenge. The taste of alcohol and the taste of revenge are almost identical for me (revenge, of course, has a little more spice to it), but last night, I didn’t feel like indulging either. I was just too tired, to sad. When you really realize that family’s not forever and that just being alone isn’t the worst in life, but better yet, being alone and realizing you’ve been left alone is, all the energy just kind of zaps from your body. In seconds its leaked down from your brain, swirled around your heart, and then escaped throughout the tips of your toes. I didn’t even have energy to open up my liquor pantry, so instead I went to sleep. I know, I know. I’m something of a miracle, because that realization may be the exact thing that forces some people to drink. In actuality, I like to drink to the little things. Family’s falling apart- nah- I’d rather just sleep that one off. Don’t get me wrong, I will drink over you Eloise, but it wasn’t going to be last night.

So, having gotten some sleep the night before, and still waking up wrapped in the sadness that has become our sisterly relationship, I got ready for work with the utmost precision and the utmost silence. I put on my shirt as if I were a robot and brushed my teeth as if every tooth deserved it’s own special celebration. I couldn’t perk up my eyes or lips to make my face look anything more than miserable, but it was presentable enough to get me through a day’s work. It was halfway through the day, I was on the route where I go through the part of downtown that has all the hippie cafes and cuddly thrift shops when I saw a lesbian couple walking down the street pushing their baby in a beat-up stroller. They were both beautiful and good have passed as sisters. Both with dusty blonde hair, one cut just above the shoulders, one growing long. Both had their ears pierced and small diamond studs in their nose rings. The one actually pushing the stroller was smaller, but had much longer arms, and the one that was walking along side had on leggings and combat boots. I would have thought they were sisters up until I saw the one walking alongside lean over and bite the other on her earlobe. They were perfect. They reminded me of you- two Caucasian versions of you.

The man I almost killed walk past them, and didn’t spit at them, didn’t curse at, or hit them. He just walked past reading his newspaper. If I would have been in his shoes I would have shut the whole sidewalk down. I would have stopped them to tell them how beautiful they were, how lucky they were to be in love and have a healthy baby, how I wished them the best in both their lives. He was just… unaware. Ambivalent to the true beauty that was happening on the same patch of earth that he was waking. Both him and my bus stopped at the next corner. Again, with out as much as a glance up from the printed headlines he crossed in front of my bus. As I stared at the red of stoplight I slipped into wondering if this man would notice the bus if it were to get closer and closer to him as he walked in front. If he’d have time to notice the screams and cries if he were to be pulverized by my dashboard. If he’d notice that it was me who was the one who decided his life was so insignificant. By the time I was done wondering all these things, he had passed my bus and was a half block down the next street. I scared myself by thinking those things, and didn’t want to drive the bus anymore. I couldn’t just stop the route, so I had to keep going,even with a dark pit in my stomach. I got used to that feeling, the feeling of having a murderer living inside of me, and pretty soon the driving became normal again. It felt normal to think murderous thoughts.

I think it’s because I have been thinking about you so much that I get these feelings. I don’t know if I want them to stop or if I want them to keep going. I’ll try not thinking about you and see how it goes.

Miss you always,

Christina

10.23.2014

Dear Lisette,

There comes a point in any separation when one has to press their entire being up against the notion that their loved one will never return. Soon, I’ll be forced to smash myself  into the hard brick wall that our reality together has built from the ground up and used a mortar concocted of my tears. I haven’t heard back from you in months, and every day, every second in which I continue to drown in your silence is a another moment in which this terrifying monument draws closer. I feel it, the realization, the startling and steadfast wall, starting to creep its way closer to the beginning of my face and body. It is so ostentatious that is does not sneak or make its way in mystery. No, instead it blatantly makes it way towards me, some days moving slower than others, some days making a mad dash for me. Can we never be together again?

If only a had some date, even if it was fictional or some million years away, I could have something to look forward to, something that would make this waiting in agony worthwhile. Do you have that date? Do you keep it in your calendar, circled in red as I would? You hold every drop of power in this situation, so you must decide when that date will be. Will you decide that it shall come next month? Next year? Never? Oh, Lisette, I beg you with everything I have to not make our expected and anticipated date “never.” I realize that you didn’t leave on the best of terms, but that doesn’t mean you should shun me into obscurity for the rest of our lives. Please, please do not make our date never.

I write you when my apartment is quite, when my sister has fallen asleep and only the eyes alive and wake are the lights of the surrounding office buildings. Their dull glare falls on my knuckles and collar bone as I write. For as late as she gets up in the morning/afternoon she still has a very predictable bedtime of 9:30. An hour later, after I am convinced that she is at peace, I take out whatever I will use to write your letter and begin. It’s possible that it will take me until midnight or later until I finish your letter. I strive to get every dot and word choice right, so it can take me a great deal of time to complete a single letter. As I write I hope that I am able to string together the right words and perfectly placed punctuation so that it’s enough to reach out from the page and touch you. I hope my letters rise from the ink and white spaces and are able to caress your cheeks and breath sweetly on the back of your neck. A rushed rambling-on would never accomplish this for me, so I take my time. I let the feelings and motivation run their course and they, too, like to take their time.

You are so very special to me and it’s a difficult fact to admit that you haven’t written back in months. It would greatly lift this poor saps spirits if you were to put a letter to him in the mail tomorrow. Please, Lisette, for the sake of my happiness- write me back soon.

With ever sustaining love,

Jonathan

10.21.14

It was the most beautiful shade of blue you have ever worn. Your wife had bought you a sweater for your anniversary four days before the accident. Today, she brought it in and we helped you put it on. For the first time in months I got to see you in real human clothes. Your body is a little oddly proportioned because it’s been cramped in a tiny metal bed for days on end, but as hunched as your shoulders are, and even if your neck can’t quite straighten itself, with that royal blue sweater on you looked like the most handsome man in the all the earth. I know I am biased, but I have seen many blue sweaters, and, believe me, I have seen many men, but none of them have ever worn the fresh perspiration of new life that you do. No one can quite emulate the sparkle that comes off your skin as fresh breath and reinvigorated blood springing forth to your capillaries, almost literally, seep out of your pores. You spend most of the day happy to be alive, and when this happens you could be on the cover of any magazine. Sometimes, however, you wear the look of a man who’s unacquainted with living and unsettled by all the noise and feelings this world can bring. In those moments you still look attractive, because you show a soft side of vulnerability, which you never had before. As you look at anyone around you with your “help me, I’m new here” eyes, all they can do is be warmed enough to feel deep compassion and do everything they can to make you feel more welcome.

Your father had that same look about him often. When he was in the classroom he was nothing but confident and strong-willed. When he was outside of his academic safe place he became edgy and unsure of himself. He could be so powerful and steady as a professor, but out at the grocery store would get nervous about what pasta to buy. So nervous, he’d buy 5 boxes just to cover all the bases. I stopped him once and said, “honey, why are you buying so much pasta?” He answered my in a hushed, serious tone, “you think I buy too much pasta? Do you want me to put it back? I’m sorry.” And I believe he was genuinely sorry. He was sorry that he wasn’t a perfected, pristine human being like I “wanted.” In many ways he was the opposite in the real world than he was in front of his students. He thought that would make me nervous, probably like him less, but when I got to see his human side, the side that cried easily, got cranky when he was tired, and laughed when people tripped in front of him, that was the side I really loved.

We dated for almost two years and each time when the new semester rolled around, he’d always try and get me to apply. “I know you are smart enough, and it’s not like you can’t get determined about things.” He said the last part with a mischievous smirk on his lips (probably because he was referring to the way I never let arguments go easily), but it still meant a great deal to hear him say that, and although it never fully sunk in, it was always a pleasant shock to my system. I come from a family where the only choice for me was to become homeless or a housewife. My dad stopped caring if I went to school around the tenth grade and my mom yelled at me when I asked to join the student government. In her mind, “those are things that only lesbians and ugly women do.” In my mind, it was the way to never end up like her- going through a bottle of antidepressants a month and chasing each one down with a small shot of vodka. That’s why I never stopped you from dreaming big, at least, I tried to never stomp on your dreams. I know, there were somethings that I did that stunted your personal identity growth, but I never wanted them to. I did what I had to most of the time, and if that shut you down, I’m truly sorry. Your father would have never wanted that.

I hope you keep that sweater forever- it just looks so damn good.

Love,

Mom

10.20.2014

Dear Eloise,

It’s hard to know that you won’t write back. It’s hard to know that a sister can ignore her very own sister. It’s hard to know that you wouldn’t be the first one to find me dead. It’d be Gary, a guy named Gary. No relation to you or me. Hell, he doesn’t even know you… (but I’ll get to that later)… Gary, the trash collector, would be the one to find my lifeless body. No similar blood running through our veins, no intimate love shared between us, just a trash collector and the woman who can make some trash. Every Thursday Gary comes up to my door, and my door only, to ask if I have any extra trash since I put my bags downstairs the night before. He also comes up every Thursday to ask me if I am ready to go and have a drink with him. Every Thursday I tell him “no,” and that, “I’m probably never going to be ready Gary, so why don’t you just give up?” Then he tells me that, “his momma didn’t raise a quitter,” wink a sly wink, and promise he’d be back next week.

It’s his teeth, El. They got that wide gap right in the middle of the top two- just like our brother did. Well, at least when he was able to keep both of his front teeth. If he hadn’t gotten in a fight in the last two months and gotten one (or both) of them knocked out, there that radiant gap was in all it’s imperfect beauty. He didn’t like it as much when we were growing up. Remember, the kids would call him Two-Buck Roger? It was because of his two buck teeth that were constantly at odds with each other. Two-Buck Roger, who grew into his teeth around 15, and then all of the sudden, a gap between your teeth was the cool thing. In my Junior year of high school I saw at least three boys go into their bathroom with black markers in hand and come out with their black markers in their pockets and noticeably fake gap in their front teeth. They were drawing lines on their teeth just to be like Two-Buck Roger. I was so happy for him, and happy to know him.

When Gary finds me dead, probably lying with a empty bottle next to me, maybe a little syrupy liquid at the bottom, he’s probably not going to know to call you. He sometimes comes up and I give a few more words than usual and he asks about my job, my days, and my family. I tell him about momma, even though he knows all about momma from when she lived here. And, I tell him about Roger. I tell him that the gap in his teeth makes him look handsome, but just not as handsome as my brother. Then he asks me if I got any sisters. I guess every hurtful thing is fair game now that you won’t respond… I tell him, “I got one, but she’s wayyyy off limits. I’ll talk to you about her at your funeral.” I don’t want poor Gary to step into something that he is seriously not ready to deal with! Unless he wants me to break down, shatter into little pieces, and then shove each one of them in a garbage bag for his daily run, he better not bring up you, Eloise. He quickly get’s my hint to not talk about any other females in my life, and changes the subjects to what sports I like to watch. You, Eloise, are nothing but a little annoying red asterisk before sports-talk, and I hate sports talk.

As you probably can tell, I’m a little angry. I came by your house to talk to you, and as soon as I rang the doorbell a second time your living room window slammed down fast and curtains flew by even faster. I looked liked an idiot standing out their ringing my own sister’s doorbell for ten minutes. I looked like a bigger idiot when your neighbor came down to tell me that he was going to call the cops. I guess that’s how we treat our sisters in this family. It’s probably how momma would have wanted it, right? That we’re just random strangers making weird passes into each other’s lives, and those passes aren’t even welcomed, actually they should be considered illegal. I’m going to start my drinking again tonight, after I seal and send this letter. I hope you know it’s all your fault.

Love/Hate,

Your sister