We are sitting in an Italian restaurant in Old Town Alexandria. It is October 1995; a few days after my birthday, so it’s the beginning of October. We are holding hands across the table and sharing secrets like a couple of teenage girls at a slumber party.
“Promise me you’ll never leave me,” I insist.
“I promise. And you promise you’ll never leave me,” she replies.
“I’ll never leave you; I love you more than anything,” I declare.
We’re still holding hands across the table. I laugh and say, “God, we act like we’re in love or something.”
“Of course we’re in love,” she replies, “We’re sisters.”
My sister left me seven months later.
(This is from a cover sheet to a series of essays I wrote in the late 90s. It seems a little dramatic, but my sister and I had just been discussing the times when we felt so depressed and miserable that we sometimes felt like checking out for good. Me, knowing that she’d tried to bail on this world before, was afraid and made her promise not to leave me, not to take herself away. Silly me. It wasn’t the first promise to me that she broke, that final promise. What did I really expect? Really? No one ever believes someone will actually kill themselves. And then there is all that crystal clear hindsight. Does you no good, huh? She didn’t really leave too many hints, though. The weekend before she died, we hung up the phone after making plans to drive together to our cousin’s graduation. “See you next week; love ya.” She’d said. But when I saw her a few days later, she was dead and gone and she’d left me. And I felt very alone and lost. And angry. After all, that was the most important promise I’d asked of her and she couldn’t keep it. But I knew she was sick and she was tired. She was sick and she was tired. I just keep reminding myself. She was sick and she was tired. So tired. )