Forever 28. Three years old.
Friday marked the third anniversary of my sister Joscelyne’s death.
Around 8AM, I pulled the black and white photo of her, ensconced in a shiny, mirrored frame, off the bookshelf, and placed it in the center of the piano. I set out a couple of candles, and searched through a closet for the least tacky plastic flowers I could find. I wanted fresh lilies, but due to a sprained ankle I’ve been nursing for three weeks, that didn’t happen.
I found some pink and purple ones, part of a bouquet that she had purchased in 2011 for our mom that wound up in my possession. They surrounded the candles, which I lit and watched flicker. Their light could barely be seen because it was bright in the living room. November 20th of 2015 was sunny, unlike the gloomy and overcast 20th of 2012.
My sister is so pretty in that picture. It’s a selfie she snapped in January 2011 while waiting parked in her car. I think she was in her driveway waiting. I don’t know for who or wait, but I remember she was waiting.
I sat down after I lit those candles and started doing my own waiting. Waiting for texts or calls or emails from friends and family saying “Thinking of you today!” Hmmm, well, without the exclamation point. With a period, more tonally appropriate.
Naomi texted and emailed AND sent me an e-gift card for Starbucks. I smiled and fought back tears. I texted her a thank you and felt encouraged.
Looking at the little memorial and feeling restless, I hobbled over to the piano and snapped a few pics to post on Instagram. Once completed, I waited for people to show some love. They did. I then posted it on Facebook. More likes.
“Good,” I thought, “if people forgot the date, now they know.” I waited some more for texts or calls. Some people left a few words in the combox on both Instagram and Facebook, many laden with emojis of flowers, hearts and praying hands.
Thomas inboxed me on Facebook, assuring me of prayers and his sincere sorrow for me and my brother Joe. I thanked him, and again I felt as if I would cry. I didn’t.
Instead I got Zoe breakfast, washed dishes, bathed me and Zoe, worked on Zoe’s school lessons for the day. We did a science experiment using food color and water to change primary colors to secondary. We did it again because she begged me to do so. We ate pizza delivered promptly from the usual place. We pretended to build a house for Zoe’s Curious George with a plastic tool set.
I checked my phone repeatedly. Joe called, but didn’t mention the date. “Stop what you’re doing…”, he paused for drama, “and turn on Netflix and watch Jessica Jones.” I felt some confusion, then irritation. Not even Joe would mark the day? Mention the loss?
K was away, working, ever diligent. He called via FaceTime that night, but failed to mention Joscelyne until I brought it up. I slid the iPad over to Zoe to talk to her dad, and cried.
I sipped amaretto out of a glass Ball jar while I looked at the piano, at the frame smudged with my fingerprints, at the black and white selfie of my dead little sister. Her smile is small, but, to borrow from Whitman, contains multitudes. Sly? Certainly coquettish. Her eyes are wide, so there’s innocence.
One of the candles had gone out, the wick spent. I threw it out and blew out the other. I stared at her face, under glass, and saw my own face, or rather a sliver of it, reflected back in the frame. Twenty-eight. That’s it. She’d lived until 28.
I turned off the light, and settled into bed, the TV watching me. The amaretto sat in the little jar on the night stand by the bed. I checked my phone. No one else had called or texted. Thomas had sent another message via Facebook. I clicked on Joscelyne’s Facebook profile. It’s still there, having fallen into a memorial page over the past three years. A few people left comments. A few. I exhaled.
Twenty-eight years on this earth, and three years later… forgotten? I gulped the last of the liquor. No, her memory was still there. Just that in a midst of online arguments about Syrian refugees, Patti pies and Kylie Jenner, I suppose most people’s empathy- and attention- had gone out.
I hobbled to the bathroom, brushed my teeth, and went back to bed. Under the covers, I reached for my phone, pressed against it’s right side, then swiped. The screen went black.
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