sister, you break my heart:
standing in the tall grass behind the shed, 16 years old, one foot in front of the other, lips parted like the models you’ve studied in magazines. something’s not right — the shade of lipstick you chose a little too bright for your white-pale skin, the two-piece swimsuit you bought from k-mart on sale at the end of last summer a little too faded, your feet a little too big for our mother’s high-heeled sandals. there’s lipstick on your teeth.
months later, when you still haven’t heard back from the modeling agency, you tell me i’ll never be a photographer.
dancing at our father’s wedding, 27 years old. you don’t know how to move like everybody else moves. you shake your hips and flail your arms above your head, a grotesque parody of the women you’ve seen dancing in music videos. the others move away until it’s just you there beneath the disco ball, you and your dusty stilettos and too-tight dress.
you dance all night and i try not to look at the faces of my friends as they watch you.
halloween, eight years old. last month the teacher called mom to tell her that the other kids weren’t playing with you during recess. we can’t force them to like you, can we? after school you hang out with me and my friends. you made a blue bird mask out of feathers today and tonight dad will paint a yellow beak on your chin with face paint. you will put on a leotard and cape in mismatched shades of blue, white tights and tennis shoes, and we will walk up and down the streets of our old neighborhood, just like we do every year, holding hands and jumping together over the cracks.
i found these photos today and felt sad. you haven’t talked to me or anyone else in the family for two years — i don’t know you anymore. the last email you sent said you were moving to new york city, but this is a lie you’ve told before.
i hope that this time it’s true, that you really did find a place in the big city.