Every day now, I take my sister to receive brain radiation. She gets locked into a mask and affixed to a table, a box is lowered over her head, and she squeezes her eyes closed while a searing light steals what’s left of her cognition. And in turn, perhaps, extends her life by a few months.
My sister is a fighter. I am now recognizing this as kind of a predominant identifying characteristic of hers, though for all of our adult life, I’ve considered her weak and crazy.
This being when I’ve considered her at all, which I’ve tried hard not to do.
I’m not sure what I’m doing here now. By her side. It surprises me. And sometimes I wish I would have run faster, traveled farther, and hidden a lot better than I did.
But ultimately, it’s too late for that now.
It’s too late for a lot of things.
“If there’s a fire, make sure to come and get me,” she says, for the third day in a row, as she’s escorted off to the confines of the radiation room.
She’s convinced that the technicians will leave her head bolted to the table if the hospital is torched.
I nod, reach out, my fingers skim her departing leg, her skin is so soft.
She’s desperate to live. Maybe she always has been, and it was just that her zest for life didn’t look exactly the way I expected it to look.
Or any way I expected it to look.
The lawlessness, the violence, the nights in jail: I interpreted these as signs of a rabid self-hatred when perhaps they were all just frantic attempts at defying extermination.
It’s hard to say for sure.
What seems clear is that her rock bottom sunk to depths most people could never survive, much less endure. Whereas she just keeps grabbing big clumps of earth and pulling herself back up.
Anymore, I have to admit that I’m in awe of it.
So every day, I take her to radiation. And every day, without fail, she comes out even wider-eyed and somehow younger than she was five minutes prior.
I take her sweet hand and guide her to the car, buckle her into her seatbelt. And some days she asks for an ice cream cone, which of course she gets.
Afterwards, I drive her back to her little house and the miniature legacy she’s created with her precious Harley Davidson husband, simultaneously the least refined and most pure man to ever grace our family.
God, how he loves her. It’s more touching than I can bear. The twisted and doomed fairy tale of their lives.
Never in a million years would I have said that she would be the one to truly succeed in a relationship.
But so it goes. I wouldn’t have guessed most of it, really.
I certainly wouldn’t have guessed how fixated I’ve become, as I walk her up the steps to her house, on her ankles. But I can’t seem to take my eyes off of them.
Her tiny little ankles, the size of my wrists, and something in the shoes’ fabric gives on the sides. Apparently, she can’t tie them tight enough to disguise the fact that she’s withering away to nothing.
Can’t disguise the fact that soon, she will be no more.