I feel iron gates close the moment he brings it up, I know where he is going with this, he is remembering what he said to me at thirteen, that never resonated, that he feels again now, in crisis, that I am a rock, but I was never a rock, I was a scared girl, so scared that I took on Talia’s trauma and packaged it as my own memory, the hours and hours of staring at the ceiling that no one remembered but I knew happened, the whole year. I stared at the ceiling for hours each day, and no one remembered how I panicked like that all year long. But it was you, Talia, it wasn’t me, it was you, which I found out later, though I knew on the bema when Daddy spoke at our B’nei Mitzvah that ‘rock’ was not me, rocks are solid and you build things on them, they are bulky, but I’m gone, or quiet, not good building material, and I was scared, I never did anything, nothing at all, besides exist.
And here we are now, and you are in a coma, and he says “you are a rock again,” but I’m not, I am a thousand pieces barely held together, and some of them are dropping. “Make a list,” he says, “it’s okay you are forgetting things, make a list,” but yesterday I did and then I forgot I had one.
Weeks ago, when you both stopped in Portland on the way back from the neurosurgeon, Daddy talked about his knee surgery so I would have a frame of reference for your spinal fusion. “Remember how they put screws in my knee…” but I don’t know what they did because I checked out then, too, I wasn’t staring at the ceiling but some part of me was, and has been, and does.
Bumpus, I’m not a rock. I am your sister, in a thousand pieces that are dropping all over the place, and you would feel so guilty if you knew, because you didn’t want me to be scared that you would die from this surgery. Please don’t feel bad, bumpus, you didn’t choose the body, the illness, the pain, or the coma. These things are beyond our control, and they are hard, but the kind of hard I would choose again and again out of my love for you, who are me, my blood, my heart, my soul.
I am not a rock, daddy, I am alone and confused and rocks are solid but I am gone. Gone and here, I can’t go yet, in case Talia needs me. I can maybe be a rock for her, but then I might shatter, even rocks shatter when outside forces exert enough pressure.
I am Talia’s sister, like you said, Daddy, how it’s grown in me with her growing illness. I am Talia’s sister, whatever else goes away, and I am carrying her stuffed wallaby wherever I go, like the ceiling in eighth grade, I can’t put it down and I don’t know if I’m tending Milbur for me or a because it’s her living in me—a piece of her soul.