I woke up from a long nightmare this morning. In this dream, I was in my mother’s house, sitting on the floor of the living room. Angry and sad that Joscelyne was dead. Angry and sad because I felt that only I truly cared anymore.
I got up and headed out to Starbucks. If I was going to be up, I mine’s well be really up.
It was on a Saturday morning in May 2012 that I knew I was losing Jos. I had gone by Starbucks, got an iced coffee, and then drove to my mother’s house. Jos and her family had moved in when they were evicted from their cute little two bedroom apartment a couple towns away. My mom had already taken up residence in an assisted living home, and her place- the little yellow cape cod that was our childhood home- sat empty.
I pulled into the driveway and got out with my grande iced skim white mocha in hand. I quickly called Jos on my cell and told her to come down. She told me the door was open. I headed up the stairs and walked in. My heart sunk. The house had gone through a fire nearly a year before, and despite work done by our brother Joe and his then-fiance Jenny, it was not in great shape. Boxes sat on the heavily scuffed wood floors, and it felt cold and drafty. The kitchen, where the fire had started, was just plain bleak. The floor had been stripped to the beams and the walls were unfinished. There was no cabinets or stove, just a fridge, sink and microwave. My chest tightened. The house I had once loved was just an empty, fire-scarred shell of itself. I went to the hallway leading to the second floor and told her I’d be sitting outside waiting for her.
I went back out and sat on the concrete steps in the bright sun. Minutes later, my nephew and niece petered out and hugged me. “Where’s your dad?”
Justin, squinting from the sun, answered, “At work.” He skipped down the stairs and walked on the grass in the front yard barefoot.
Jos came out and walked down the stairs, standing in front of me. I looked at my little sister and wanted to scream. She had lost weight, but not in a good way. She looked exhausted, and her naturally round cheeks, sunken. Her eyes, always so pretty, were bloodshot. She had smeared remnants of eyeliner and mascara around them. Her lips were chapped. Her hair… well, her hair, even with the rest of her a hot mess, was slicked back with gel neatly. That Joscelyne, always had to keep the hair on point.
So jolted by her appearance, I could barely make conversation. She went on about her never-ending job hunt, her jacked-up back and having lost weight. I listened, but took more stock in her nonverbal comminique. Her shaking hands, her jitteriness, the way she was talking non-stop frantically. I turned to the kids, “Want to take a picture?”
“Okay!,” Sophia chirped, and collapsed on my lap. Justin was hesitant. He took a picture of me and his sister, but resisted joining us at first. I coaxed him into it and handed my phone to Jos. Her hands trembled holding it and she struggled to see our image. She took a number of blurry, off-focus shots. One was good with some cropping.
I got up and walked to my car. Jos followed me, dragging her feet.
“You are not okay,” I said cooly outside of the kids’ earshot.
“Yes, I am, I’m just tired. I had insomnia and…”
“Stop it. You are hooked on those damn pain pills…”
“I don’t have a problem! Do I look like a junkie to you? Huh? How dare you… how dare you…”. She turned her back on me.
“That doctor isn’t trying to help you. He’s just pumping you full of pain meds and now look… You walk worse than me!”
She turned back around, glared, and then, as if all the anger had been flushed out of her, she said in a totally normal, matter-of-fact tone, “I’m in pain.”
Driving home, I pulled over twice. I told myself to suck it up. My body felt the truth, that I was terrified, and my right foot went numb. I sat, car pulled over to the curb on Third Avenue in Roselle, and sobbed. My sister, my little sister was dying.
I walked into my apartment and collapsed on the couch. “K, Joscelyne isn’t good…”. I broke into hysterical tears. “She’s hooked on those pain pills and… And she’ll be dead in six months if something doesn’t change. I just know it.”
K looked up, “Stop it, Alisha. Just stop. Don’t be dramatic.”
I looked at him with teary eyes. “You didn’t see what I saw.” I stormed into the bedroom.
Six months, and one day later, Joscelyne was dead.
In the little yellow cape, in the yellow bedroom we shared growing up.
Today would’ve been Joscelyne’s sixth wedding anniversary. I ordered an iced soy black and white and got back in the car. I drove home, avoiding my mother’s house, avoiding Linden City Hall, where Joscelyne vowed to be Manny’s wife. I drove past the street where their first little apartment stands, upstairs from a corner bodega.
I thought about driving straight to Virginia, to Giddel, to my other sister, but knew I was in no condition to make a four hour trip. I drove home.
Tomorrow is Mother’s Day, and Justin and Sophia don’t have their momma. On Thursday, they each released a balloon to Heaven, gifts for her.
These thoughts invaded my mind, and I cried. I pulled off my glasses, and cried for them, for my parents, and for me.
I turned on the PC, and went to Youtube. I turned on the speakers and listened to Han’s Zimmer’s bass-heavy and haunting score for “Inception.” “Half-Remembered Dream” and “Dream is Collapsing.” And finally, “Time”.
I turned up the volume and cried.