This is what I'll be reading :)
It’s nearing and she’s clutching my hand as though the blood pumping through me is flowing right into her. I feel like life support, I’m keeping her alive, I alone am responsible for her strength, for each step that she’s taking. I am the mama bird waiting to shove my little offspring out into the cruel hard world. I’m making her grow wings and fly on her own.
We spent the last two hours in a car packed so tight that when the doors opened the suitcase fell on my foot. The radio the entire time was loud enough to drown out the screams in our hearts saying “Don’t change this, don’t leave.” And so we sang like we were happy, like we were whole, like we would stay this way forever and the trip we were taking was just an ordinary one. Like she’d be coming home with me in the end.
Now we find ourselves holding hands as the suitcase trails behind her, and I carry her backpack. We give strength to each other the way we had any time the other was weak. We approach the kiosk to check her in. The woman from the airline smiles friendly enough, but she doesn’t understand that I’m about to let go of the last four months of my life. That the girl beside me will be a fiercely independent woman the next time she walks through the terminal. I’m breathing, she’s breathing, the woman behind the counter is breathing. We don’t matter to her, she doesn’t matter to us, but in this moment, we’re all connected. She’s taking my sister’s luggage, taking her from me, and I smile and put my credit card in the machine to pay the $60 fee that she can’t afford because for some reason I always have money and she never does. She thanks me and says she’ll pay me back, and some day down the line, I’m sure she will…but I would rather keep her than my money. I once more ask her is she’s sure she wants to do this. She reaffirms to me that she’s taken an oath and has to leave, it’s out of our hands now (yet hers is still in mine, I don’t want to let go).
We carry the 36lb and 47.2lb bag to security. No sir, there are no flammable items, and yes sir, they’re unlocked. The bags are gone, save the backpack and computer case that she’ll carry on board.
I’m sad, but I find it hard to cry even at funerals. She sets her bags down and embraces me so I can feel her body pressed against mine like we’re merging to be one person. And that’s how it’s been for the last four months; we were one entity, one person. We were “The Smiths” or “The Smith-Heads”. I wasn’t Jennifer, she wasn’t Laura. She says she loves me just loud enough that it plays through my ear, and I can feel the emotion through her arms. My entire being is begging her not to leave me because I’m scared to be alone, because I’m scared of her growing too strong without me, because I’m not sure how to stand on my own without her. None of this I can say out loud, as I’m supposed to give her strength to pretend that I’m fine and so she’ll be fine, so I resolve to hug her until my arms tire.
I’m the little sister, and I am just that, little. Without effort, she lifts all 110 lbs of me, and because I like to make a scene, I wrap my legs around her in a koala like bear hug. And we sing Leaving on a Jet Plane because we don’t know when she’ll be back again. We laugh into each other as she sets me down. I tell her to take care of herself, she says to keep in touch. I can’t stay long enough to wait for her to board the plane or even walk her over to security, I’m two hours late for work, and it will be four by the time I arrive back.
We embrace once more and though we can’t feel it, a razor just crept between us, murdering The Smiths and birthing Laura and Jennifer. We step apart, dazed from the impact, and look at each other for the first time, the other half which had completed us for so long and begin stitching up the hole where the other had been.
Goodbyes are said, and I walk to my car, the car we had used the entire summer. There is vomit on the paneling from a friend’s birthday the previous weekend. On the other side of the car, there are massive scratches that will eventually be buffered out, and pieces that will hopefully be super glued down from her backing my car into a tree. But for right now, these pieces take the place of her for me.
The key has been in the ignition for the 15 minutes it took to get her settled in, and my car jumps gently to life. I look back at the airport and say a prayer under my breath that she’ll be brave in her new life, that she’ll survive the heat and humidity and have an awesome year. As a side note I pray for myself, that I can breathe on my own, that I too will be brave in my life without her.
My foot finds its way off the clutch and I alone head to my destination to lay claim to a place that had once been ours but is now mine.
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