This is part one of the short story I’m trying to write. Mind you, I do very little fiction — this is predominantly a review website — but I’m taking a stab at it. I haven’t gotten to the really scary stuff, yet:
“Well first of all, the air is stifling here. But really, just everything is stifling here.” I was craving a Frappucino but was working on exercising my self-discipline. Sometimes a hot gulp of black coffee sounds like a delicious, stimulating indulgence. Other times, it feels like a necessity. But there are times – like that night – when it just felt like a punishment for someone who loves Frappucino but carries its calories in her thighs. I paused and realized that I was tapping my foot frenetically.
“Michelle, if you’re unhappy, start a blog or join a poetry club. People don’t just quit their jobs and move to California. What the hell are you going to do there? The price of living is astronomical, you’ll have no job…it’s just…and alone?” Nan had always been the reasonable twin. But I doubted very much that she was speaking on behalf of reason alone when we had that conversation. Of course I have no doubt that she was concerned for my welfare, but I knew she would miss me. And I knew, above all, that she felt miffed because she wasn’t invited. Not that she would have accepted the invitation if I’d asked her, but it’s still always nice to be invited.
“You know, since I’ve been, how old? God, I can’t even remember. I’ve always had this image of me heading west. I mean, Texas is west, but further west. In the image I have sunglasses on and a backpack on my back, and I’m wearing a sundress with my head turned backward to say goodbye to what’s behind me. I know you love it here, Nan,” and now I had to pause, because my resentful, vindictive side wanted to be condescending. I looked at the hallow sun drooling through the café window. I know you love the guns and the bars and the simple-minded cowboy men, I wanted to scream, just because she was trying to trample on what I loved. But I simply said, “I know you love Houston, but I don’t, and I never have. I’m going home.” Nan was one of those people who had such conviction that she almost never questioned herself. But the zing of her conviction fell away.
“I just,” she began, “I’m just afraid something bad is going to happen to you. I have a troubling feeling about all this. And you know how I get those feelings. Sometimes they’re right.” I looked out the window to see a pair of identically dressed men on a tandem bike ride by. Dappled gray clouds were beginning to interfere with the sun’s light. I heard a worker behind the coffee counter enthusiastically greet a customer. But I could not hear Nan. I could hear her, but I could not really hear her.
And sometimes her feelings were right. Nan was convinced that if you dreamt of death or saw a black crow on the lawn, a friend or relative was about to pass. I mocked her superstitions but secretly found them intriguing; I, too, had an imagination, but mocking my sister was a source of one-uppmanship that I always felt was necessary to maintain equilibrium in our relationship. She had dreamt of death two nights before our grandmother passed. And she noted a black crow on our lawn – accompanied, she said, by a feeling of dread – a week before my best friend Annie died of a heroin overdose. But sometimes she was wrong, and needlessly histrionic besides. Knowing then what I do now, I may have heeded her warnings. But I was done with the desk job, done with the shallow friends – none of them had been like Annie – and done with callous little boys disguised as men. I’ve heard the term “geographical cure” before – a term used to describe a person trying to cure a soul-sickness with a futile move to another location. Maybe that’s what I was doing. But I couldn’t see it then, so I smiled, patted her on the shoulder, and promised I’d call. “Nan,” I said, “we’ll always be friends. You’ll always be my favorite sister.” Of course she would be. She was my only sister.
I did not know what I was walking into, then. No. I did not know then.