We will drink red wine together and remember leaning back to back against each other—laughing, dreaming of being beautiful old ladies charming gray-haired men”–Marian Aitches
~~Everybody has been coping with my sister’s murder in different ways.
Me? I wail, scream, lament, and moan like a wounded dog. I awaken in the middle of the night to moonless skies and dark waters. I dream fragmented dreams that terrify me.
I asked my sister in one of these nightmares , “What the hell happened?” And she responded, “He shot me three times.”
I despise the murderer, but I don’t spend my time hating.
Generally, I spend my days and nights drenched in tears; so many tears. I spend my moments trying to find God again. I spend my minutes thinking about what my sister’s future might have been. I contemplate how I will move forward without splattering all over the floor again and again and again.
And I get aggravated effortlessly.
Yesterday, somebody stated stupidly, “Oh, my knees hurt.” I spurted back at them, “I don’t give a shit. My sister is dead.”
I’m not enjoyable to be around these days. The man we ate Sunday dinners with killed my sister. Did you expect me to stroll around talking about the fucking weather or your idiotic sore knees?
At any rate…
My brother copes by working out. He sweats. He pumps iron. He goes to the spa to set the treadmill on fire. His smile is not the same. When I look inside his eyes, I see the pain, the loss, the absurdity of it all. I see my sister’s face. I see myself.
My dad lifts weights, too. Sometimes he sits on the oak swing in his back garden staring into space. He plays golf with my sister’s boys. He wraps his arms around me and says he loves me more than usual. When I look into his sweet, dark face, I see a 70 year old man who has lost his daughter. I see the child he once was. I see myself.
Lost. looking. Longing.
My mother washes clothes, waxes floors, vacuums carpets, cleans windows, but mostly, she bakes cakes. She uses buttermilk in all of her recipes: chocolate coffee cake topped with old-fashioned cocoa frosting, rhubarb cinnamon cake, banana cake smothered with philadelphia cream cheese icing.
She is a Goddess. She is our Mother Theresa. She is the Glue-God that keeps the family moving forward, onward, functioning.
“Sweetheart, did you know that I can make four cakes from a half gallon of buttermilk?” she says.
When I walk into my mother’s house on Seaver Avenue, the scent of chocolate fills the air, cinnamon lingers, sugar and cocoa simmer and bubble on her twenty year old stove.
It all appears so normal. So utterly ordinary. Unchanged.
I almost expect my sister to be sitting at the kitchen table with that pink-lipsticked grin on her face playfully teasing, “Hey, Kimmy, split a piece of mom’s low fat cake with me, will ya?”
But she is gone. Gone. Three gunshots. Then gone.
I am gone.
What remains is an empty chair, a flower left out, and a void so massive that I gasp at the size of it.
When I think about the horrific change in our family, sometimes I can’t catch my breath. I am forced to fall to my knees. I am forced to cry out to my silent God.
I look at my mother’s appearance as she serves me a piece of chocolate cake; her bottom lip begins to tremble, her brown eyes fill up with moisture, her mascara begins to run.