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I stare deep into the creamy whiteness of the water, where colors and clarities seem to intertwine. Tiny bubbles float upon the surface, each a tiny globe. When revealing its bare self, so delicate, it could shatter. Those little sprouts of happiness not meant for this world, where there cannot be light without darkness. Though the urge is there, always looming in the back of my mind, I ignore it. I won’t pop them today. Today they may live out their few seconds of a life until the pressure around them is what finally makes them collapse. What makes them give in.
The faint, muted laughter of my sister erupts to a loud chaos.
“Anika! Were you even listening?” She frowns. Her tiny forehead crinkles into an unfamiliar expression, following, her sharp nose immediately scrunches up. Inky brown hair is plastered to her forehead, splotches of fluffy white foam distributed in unfair amounts all over her bare body. Her calculating eyes stare right into mine, always thinking of something to say. Something to get out and reveal yet another part of herself. She’s… stunning. It seems like an understatement. Just another one of those lousy compliments someone could throw at you any day. Her smoky brown skin seems to scorch the world in flames. But without it, there only remains a heavy darkness.
“It was ‘See You Again’,” she sighs. We’re playing the ‘guess the song’ game underwater like we usually do.
“Anaisha, Anika! Come down!” Mama’s muted voice slithers through the cracks of the door, as something breaks inside me. The serenity of our little world has been fractured.
I really don’t want to go down, but Anaisha lifts herself up and out of the tub, so I do too. We quickly change, and as we descend the stairs, she skips every two. I stop right at the top, my toes curled around the cool-tiled dropoff. The slabs of concrete we call stairs, now stretch out before me. I can do it… right? My mind is screaming no, but without any hesitation, I leap down from step to step. My eyebrows are knitted in concentration, big eyes narrowed. I’m starting to get the hang of it, and a prideful grin spreads like the light of day, across my face. Until a few steps from the bottom. I leap once more, and there’s… nothing - just a blank space that should've been filled.
Dear Anaisha, thanks for the scar… I guess.
My sister and I aren’t that close anymore. All the time, I hear kids saying they just want to be older already so they can be free. But what they don’t realize is that their family is their freedom. The memories made with those closest to them bloom the happiness in their hearts. The happiness fades, as their time together quickly runs out. And though I’m only 13, I truly wish with my everything that I could go back to when we all had little hearts. It’s only now, when my sister’s about to graduate, that I’ve finally realized this. The moments we spent together were long, lived to their fullest. But the time disappeared. And now I can never get it back.
I still remember all the games we used to play as little kids. I remember playing that impossible “song-guessing game”, or lining up all the Beanie-Boos to welcome the new toys we got. I remember each of us hearing a tiny, “are you asleep?”, in the middle of the night, to find that the other one of us somehow was in fact awake. I remember. It was those little things that made life interesting. That made life livable. But these are simply memories - things of the past. Our hearts grew, and we changed as we tore apart. I guess that little door to our secret place wasn’t strong enough.
I can feel it crawling closer, seeping through my veins and mind. Sleep consumes me and swallows me whole. My body is a melted puddle of limbs on the pink polka-dot sheets of the bottom-bunk. Above me, I can hear the soft breaths of my sister. Sleep has probably taken her… I should let go and be carried away. But the thing is that I don’t want to go. I don’t want to wake up in that timeless dream world where everything is perfect and lose touch with reality. Because when I really wake up, I’ll suffocate from the imperfections of this world. The disappointment will plant a longing in my heart to erase myself.
“Are you asleep?” A soft voice above me whispers. So she is awake.
“Yeah,” I reply. Everything’s completely silent except for the cold blow of the AC above us.
“Can you come up?” She requests.
Without any hesitation, I climb up the ladder grounding the top bunk and snuggle in the blanket next to my sister. It's cooler here, so I curl up close to Anaisha.
“Promise you won’t tell Mama or Papa?” She starts.
“Ok.” The words slip out of my mouth without any hesitation. I must know.
“I broke the Africa ornament.”
A tiny gasp escapes my mouth. So she was the one that broke it. My eyes narrow, but I force myself to stare up at the gray ceiling. “Mmh, ok,” I sigh. I don’t have the heart to be mad at her for longer than a mere minute.
I know she’s awake, but surprisingly, she doesn’t say anything. Usually, we’d talk more, but today we’re both silent. All we need is each other’s presence. No words. Just our hearts beating to the same rhythm in the darkness, forever searching for each other.
I can feel the secrets leave the quiet room. Disappearing out the window, into the night. Never to be known by another.
When I was younger, I was my sister's shadow. Everything she did, I had to do; it just felt so cool. Whether those actions hurt or embarrassed me, I still pursued. It was as if, if I didn’t do it, something very wrong would happen. I eventually grew out of it as the years passed by. But I can’t help thinking if I was right… that when I turned around and stopped following her, I’d lost the other half of my soul.
There have been so many times where I’ve sat in my room, crying and choking for air as I drowned in the tsunami of my own thoughts. In those moments I wished for nothing else than to have my sister there with me. She’d always have something to say. Something to pull me out of the little dark room I’d locked myself in. But in that tiny space, I wore heavy chains in my mind, that bound me down and wouldn’t let me escape. And my voice that ached to call her went silent, just as the still air around me.
Over time, we’ve become great actors - my sister and I. But the dark circles that deepen with each night on my sister's thin face can’t be erased. They are scars from long nights spent alone studying. She’s going to university soon, and each day the pressure to do well increases. The older she gets, the more work she’s assigned. And with that, we continue to grow further apart.
Most people spend the duration of their time with their families from the day they’re born to when they graduate from high school - usually at 18. Then, they’re let out of the delicate cocoon their families wove for them, into the real world. They have their own lives. And the process just continues on with their kids, passing through each new generation. Life is painfully short. But what I guess I’m trying to say is try and make the best of the time you have with the people that you love. Whether it’s a parent, sibling, or your closest friend. The person with who you can share comfortable silences with. The person who will remain in your mind even when you’re old and can’t seem to remember anything else. The person whose voice will forever stay with you, even when you have forgotten their face. That one person who may be tracing your mind as you read this.
Even when we fade eventually, I will still love you, ‘Anaisha’.
Baton Rouge, Louisiana
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Words mean more at night