I didn’t know what to do for her. Or to her. Or with her. She cried, a lot. She thought I didn’t know, didn’t notice, or maybe just didn’t care.
I saw her dancing in the rain one Saturday afternoon, nude. Not a stitch on her, and dancing by the creek, red welts rising on her skin from the biting mosquitoes. She never danced. I watched, and marveled that she could dance and still look sad.
When the rain let up, she stopped and stared at the creek flowing and bubbling over big flat mossy rocks. I called her name without using my voice, and she turned, but then looked away again. I wondered where she was in her head, that she could stand there and ignore the itchy bites and not worry that she was naked.
I envied her lack of self-consciousness. I pulled my heavy cardigan around my shoulders, even though it was hot and muggy out. I hid in its folds like a turtle hides inside its mobile home.
Sometimes I could feel her tugging at me, begging. I was stubborn though. And while she cried openly and danced naked in the rain, I kept what I felt a secret, no matter what it was. Like when mama passed last month. She threw herself on mama’s bed, on top of her lifeless body, and screamed. But no one saw her. They saw me, stood in the doorway, afraid to go in. I felt my heart crumble into dust. People brushed by me, and said excuse me, and asked if I wasn’t going to go in and say goodbye… but I was frozen to that spot, and unable to show that I felt anything.
My brother said, “You never did love her anyways.” His tone smacked with accusation.
Maybe he was right.
I finally went in and pulled her off, because no one else was going to. I didn’t look at mama though. Just took hold of her thin shoulders and took her out, through the little crowd of empty-faced relatives, back to our room. We sat together on the side of the bed and I held her while she cried.
Of course I cared. She was a part of me. Maybe the only part of me that was real.