Monday, February 3, 2014


I've been avoiding her for a while, this sister of mine.  I see her around, and when she smiles at me I always look away.  I don't want to catch her eye, and I certainly don't want to talk to her, because frankly she always asks questions that make me squirm. 

She keeps popping up, though, to the point where the sight of her makes my chest give a little anxious squeeze, knowing that I can't avoid her for too long.  Well, she finally caught up with me.

She sat down on the bench next to me and didn't say anything, didn't even look at me, knowing that I'd have to be the one to say the first word this time.

I could not speak, caught off guard and embarrassed.  She is not the kind I'd like to be seen with, not someone I'd like associated with my good name.  She has a tendency to say things to which I have no response, and her social awkwardness is discomfiting.  She's not the prettiest girl, and she's not the kindest, but I fear that she's the smartest, because she always knows what I'm really thinking, and she's so bold she never hesitates to say it out loud and make me feel incredibly, incredibly uncomfortable, hearing the ugliness of my own words out there in front of me.

But she's unavoidable, so this time I didn't run away, or tell her off, or tell her that I didn't want her in my life any more.

I just stared at the ground, feeling her on the bench next to me, her eyes on me, waiting for me to speak.

Her stare broke something in me.  I have done such a good job of avoiding her, but it seemed inevitable that she'd wind up here next to me, sitting on a bench, reading my thoughts.  Now that we were here, I couldn't wind up the strength to tell her off, and she seemed to sense that in me - she wasn't as prickly as I expected her to be, and she didn't tell me off for avoiding her.  She surprised me by reaching over and taking my hand, and her tenderness nearly made me burst into tears from the surprise of how acknowledging her made me feel.

Hello, Loneliness.

She didn't say a word, just slid over and wrapped her arms around me, laying her head on my shoulder.  I stared at the ground, thrown off guard at my own relief: avoiding her has taken a lot of energy, and I don't have to pretend any more that I don't know her.  No more looking away quickly, no more answering questions from well intentioned friends, "Don't you guys know each other?"  We're old friends, she and I, and we'd grown quite close during my marriage.  I thought she'd gone forever when the marriage ended, but such relationships are complicated, and can't be ended with courtroom papers.

And now, here we sit, alone in the crowd.  She joined me on my morning run - ten miles with a PR, accomplishing a time I'd thought impossible, passing the smiling couples running on the same trail, running by the families playing on the beach even in the cold weather.  She sat on a chair in the kitchen, watching me as I prepped for a Superbowl party at my house, silently observing me as I made chili and brownies.  She joined me at the party, sitting next to me on the loveseat, watching the couples I'd invited laugh together, observing the siblings teasing each other at the party.  I saw her take a look at my daughter, an only child, and elbowed her sharply.  "Cut it out.  She's got friends, and you can leave her alone."  My voice was sharp - I have my limits.

She's moved into the guest room, but I know that when I wake up in the night she will have slipped into my bed; the cat will flee from her disturbance, and I will lie there, wide awake and not speaking.  Loneliness will roll over and ignore me to fall asleep on her side of my bed, but I will lie awake, clinging to my edge of the bed, feeling pushed out but with nowhere to go.

She's a part of my life, for better or for worse.  I might as well try to make friends with her.

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