Before our parents’ broken marriage separated you and me and I no longer called you my step-brother, you stood at my bedroom door holding a handful of rose petals you left on my dresser where I found them the next morning, covered in ants. Before you took me, a nine-year-old girl, ten years younger than you, out into a lightning storm and spread your arms wide to howl at the raging skies, begging them to swallow you into their darkness. Before you began drawing the grotesque creatures holding their dripping charcoal eyes in the palms of their hands, the broken limbs that shattered from headless bodies sketched on the backs of receipts. Before you told me your aunt was a vampire and that she would crawl, lithe and wild, through my bedroom window at night to watch me sleep, her face as blurred and distorted as the figures in your drawings. Before the diagnosis and the pills you wouldn’t take and before the words paranoid and hallucinatory stuck on your skin like static cling you couldn’t roll away. Before I opened the notebook and found your words written over and over again like a song stuck on repeat: this is the end of the world. Before you saw the ghost of a man who had died in our basement walking up the stairs into the kitchen for a glass of water, his body a rough sketch smeared by the palm of your hand. Before the birth of your son, born five weeks too early, and the death of his mother, seven years later, who filled the needle too many times. Before the doctor told us it was an accident, and you looked at your son, your eyes as dark as charcoal, and said that sometimes living in the world is just too much.
Before all of this, we sit together, you and I, on the roof of a house our parents bought so we could have a place to start together. The night is cool, and we watch the deer run across the golf course behind our backyard, the view not yet familiar to us in its newness. A mother and two fawns. How beautiful they seem, in the darkness. Like shadows we do not fear. We look out across the black expanse of space and I tell you how magnificent it feels to be your sister. And when a tear rolls down your cheek, I reach over and take your hand in mine and say: it will be okay.
STORY IMAGE CREDIT: Nahid V/Flickr Creative Commons