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It’s still the same. The same overgrown palm tree, droopy leaves skimming the cracked roof tiles. The same old mulch-colored rocking chair creaking lightly in the cool breeze.
I don’t know what I expected. I guess I supposed that everything would have changed- just like you had.
The thick envelope is sticky in my hand as I walk up your driveway. I look at the address. It’s another college help guide for your sister. Why bother? It’s not as if she’s going to college anyway.
I ring the doorbell and perch myself on the armrest of the ancient rocker, like I always used to do. Your psychotic dogs come running to the door. Their barks and whimpers seep through the cracks. I don’t know whether they’re barking at me or the thunder that just roared.
Now I finally get to see you. Only your disheveled head makes it past the door frame, but I recognize the tank-top you had in the fifth grade, now three sizes too small, and the flannel pajama pants slipping on your thin frame.
The shocked expression on your face says it all. I’d like to think it’s because I woke you, but creating more lies between us isn’t necessary.
I hand you the envelope and you mutter something about the mailman always getting it wrong. I nod and turn to go.
I’m halfway down the drive when it happens. The sky releases torrents of rain. Perhaps it’s because I’ve done it so many times before, but I drape my arms over my head and dash back to the shelter, the security of your porch.
You’ve almost shut the door when I call out. I think you turn around more because I say your name than anything else.
Rain drips off my nose, and shivers crawl down my spine as we stare each other down. What was I thinking? I should’ve known you wouldn’t- invite me in?
You look just as hesitant as I feel. Even though you’re not cold you wrap your arms around your chest so that only your bare stomach shows. Another clap of thunder causes you to jump. You always did hate thunderstorms. I watch more white lights flicker and dance in the sky behind you, and nod.
Inside you ask me if I want something to drink. I catch sight of the lemonade pitcher you always had filled with sugary water. Today it’s empty. No. I don’t want a drink.
Upstairs in you room I sit on your unmade bed. The sheets sidle off the edge and melt into a puddle, alongside discarded clothes and neglected stuffed animals. You don’t bother trying to make your room more presentable, just more accessible. In one sweeping motion you clear off your vanity and pull up the stool.
You mention how much you love my skirt as you brush your high-lighted hair. I smile and watch you apply your make-up. In the haste to put on your face you strew your belongings across the floor.
You keep talking, making mundane comments, not even noticing me. I stroll about the room, re-living moments from before.
This is the wall where that paint stain was. The one shaped like a deer. We used to think it became darker when it was angry- do you remember?
No, of course you don’t.
Under the bed used to be your secret box of Barbie dolls. We’d only risk playing with them when no one else was home. Now it only holds your secret stash of weed.
In the back corner, home to dust bunnies and allergy vermin, contents of your room, long forgotten, are haphazardly scattered. A photo album lies open to a blank page. I delicately extricate it from the graveyard of the lost.
The cover is adorned with shells and sea glass and a thin layer of dust. Each page, though photo less, is lovingly decorated with ribbons and glitter. I run my fingers lightly over the glittered spiral; it chips off in my hand.
I show it to you and your eyes hardly waver from the mirror.
Yeah- you say- someone gave it to me for my birthday. I don’t remember who. You can have it if you want.
I close it and brush the dust from the crevices of the shells.
It’s stopped raining. I tell you I’m going home and you offer to walk me to the door. Silently, we tread down the stairs. I’m barely outside when I hear the door click close behind me.
I rest on the chair, just like earlier, and then turn the last page in the album.
But you wouldn’t remember that, would you?
I shut it once more and lay it on the faded rocker. Then, I turn my back and go home.