I saw my younger sister on Thursday. It is one of the most difficult and brutal things I’ve ever done in my life.
When we got to her apartment, she was super drugged up, eyes partly closed, breathing ragged and labored. Her face was thin, her skin gray, and her hands curled up on her chest, like a cat’s paws. I was, I admit, a bit horrified to see her in that darkened, shabby bedroom, so utterly zombified and tiny under the comforter. My younger sister has always been bigger than me in size -- when we were children, I wore her hand-me-downs -- and it was so strange to find her so swallowed up by that big bed, like a small bird in an ocean of a nest.
Her husband wanted to talk about her, in the bedroom, while she was sleeping in her morphine haze, and I had no idea how to tell him to stop referring to her in the third person, to stop talking about the picayune details of her care, to stop acting as though she were not in the room with us. It upset me, and I wanted him to stop, but as he continued talking, I felt I had to give him space to express himself. It somehow felt cruel, in the moment, to ask him to refrain from sharing everything.
I sat next to her, afraid to touch her, but eventually the need to make physical contact just overtook me and I stroked her hair and rested my hand on her bony shoulder. I tried matching my inhalations and exhalations to hers, to see, quite illogically, if my heartbeat could bring hers back. I’d brought a book of Jacques Prévert poetry with me, and read her some poems. I wanted his language and images to bring her comfort and remind her of life’s beauty and marvels. Maybe I read the poems for me. I don't know.
A few hours in, she woke from her sleep and I was able to spend an hour with her before she got confused and tired. I walked into the bedroom just as her husband was telling her that TA and I were there, and she turned her head and smiled at me. As I walked around to her, she reached out to hold my hand, keeping her eyes fixed on mine, and the recognition and connection was the most amazing and the most cruel I’ve ever experienced. When she whispered “hug,” I practically collapsed from sadness. I don't know how many kisses I gave her, or how many times I told her I loved her. It was as much as I had time for, and it was probably not enough.
École des Beaux-Arts
Dans une boîte de paille tressée
Le père choisit une petite boule de papier
Et il la jette
Dans la cuvette
Devant ses enfants intrigués
La grande fleur japonaise
Le nénuphar instantané
Et les enfants se taisent
Jamais plus tard dans leur souvenir
Cette fleur ne pourra se faner
Cette fleur subite
Faite pour eux
À la minute