I’ll be the one inside you to hold you, to keep you safe, to bring you to light.
And then I won’t be.
You said, You, come here, and I didn’t hesitate to oblige. The day smelled of summer rain and evaporating concrete. Sometimes when I closed my eyes I pictured you in ways that shouldn’t be pictured. When I cried to Mama she said that I needn’t feel shame, that I was growing up, that it was to be expected. Encouraged it, even. I caught her looking with jealous eyes as my body flourished and hers deteriorated.
I swear that when you first curled your baby fingers around mine was the moment that I knew I had a heart. I hadn’t lived until then, hadn’t felt it pulsing behind by ribcage. Your skin was so paper-thin I could feel your heartbeat throbbing in your tiny hand.
You were digging a hole by the side of the road, saying you were making us an escape route to a faraway land. I told you about my visions of you and you weren’t surprised. I told you about Mama’s looks that I saw out of the corner of my eye and you said, You, don’t be worried, She’s just jealous. Then you smiled and I smiled too.
Mama tells me, Don’t touch her. Don’t you dare touch my baby. I back away and slam the door. I didn’t understand why Mama didn’t comfort you when you cried. At night, I would sneak underneath your windowsill with the cricket and junebugs as white noise to cover my steps and listen to your quiet sobbing and heaving and I, too, would weep.
Your focus went back to the hole. I watched you stab it with the shovel Papa gave you before Mama would make him sleep on the couch. With furtive glances I watched the muscles in your arms rub under your skin, glistening with sweat under the sunlight. I looked away when you stopped and I said, You, do you need help? You shook your head and I ran away.
Baby sister, if I could care, I would. I would sweep aside the stars and make a pathway for you to the universe then watch as your laughter populated planets. I would reach my fingertips inside you, scrape the insecurity from your bones and pull the doubt from your veins so you can be pure again. But I won’t. My hands would only dirty you more.
Fifteen years later and I find myself questioning why you had to go. Teardrops fall from my eyes and mix with the saltwater from the ocean as I stand where you stood. I try to imagine what was running through your mind. I wonder what prompted you to jump.
Your whole life you can be told something is wrong and so you believe it. You didn’t, though. I did and the winds toss me to the moon as I fly downwards. I’ll watch you as you grow old and wrinkles crease your face and you find someone else, someone who is Right. Someone who is not me. And when you look to the night sky and smile, I’ll smile too, and wait for you to climb to me where I’ll embrace you with stardust.