She was eight years older than me. A gap that large creates a lot of distance between two people. We went to different schools, had different interests, and hung out with different friends. Sometimes we even lived in different houses.
We were nothing alike. She was the practical one. I was the one who lived in her own head.
She knew about things like vacuum cleaners and how they worked. I knew about things like where to find the best hidden reading spots.
She knew how to cook. I knew where the blackberry bushes grew.
She knew important things like where to hide us from our drunk father whenever he’d had too much to drink. I knew silly things like the red crayon left a mark on the floor and if Mom saw it, there’d be trouble.
We came from two different worlds. No two people could have had less in common.
She was tall and blond. I was short and red-headed.
She was charming and knew all the right things to say. I said all the things that made eyebrows rise and people whisper.
She was graceful and rarely hurt herself. I came home every day with scratched or bleeding feet, knees and elbows.
She knew about fashion, which styles were in and what colors complimented each other. I knew how to tie my shoes.
She watched horror movies late at night. Movies with names like ‘The Evil Dead’ and ‘Psycho‘. She dragged me up in the middle of the night to watch them with her so she wouldn’t be scared. I had nightmares. I watched movies like The Princess Bride where the scariest thing was encountering a Rodent of Unusual Size and even death could be conquered if you found a grumpy old man who made potions.
She picked out the perfect bathing suit and laid out in the sun. I played in the mud.
Yet for all the times I had no clue, she watched over me whenever she was around. I was maybe ten years old and didn’t know how to swim when I fell into the pool. I had been holding onto a float and some boys sprayed water at me with a hose. I fell into the water. I remember seeing the fence and lounge chairs, wavy through the water. I remember raising my arms toward the surface, my hands floating strangely in front of my face. I kept falling. Some part of me panicked. I opened my mouth to scream. Then, just before everything went black, through the air bubbles, I saw someone dive into the water.
She saved me. And now she’s gone.
The thing is, I’m not ready for her to be gone. I still have things to say to her. And for the first time in forever, I’m angry about the unfairness of it all. I’m angry about death and life and sorrow and guilt and regret, the whole bit.