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11:06 am | 17 August 2004 | CLICK part two

CLICK part two

     My sister had been beautiful. I suppose she still was, but in a different way. Once, her eyes had been the anchor of every expression, clear, as though a film were being projected onto the inside of her skull—radiant. After the accident, she was like a caryatid: aware of her eyes’ blankness, she tried to keep them closed, and consequently her face moved very little. She became the surface of a sea only lightly ruffled by wind, while hundreds of feet below enormous things shifted about.
     We sold her car, her useless books—my relentlessly academic sister had once had a library that numbered in the hundreds, but what use were they now? In that first rush of goodwill, we enlisted her friends to record themselves reading her favourite stories, my sister suggesting who for which book as we went. “That’s got French passages and totally antiquated diction,” she said, advising that we telephone her Swiss friend. She was the sort of woman who had Swiss friends, friends at University in Barcelona, friends who rejected any kind of existence that wasn’t extraordinary. Since she first left home, she’d gone out of her way to distance herself from the middle-class bourgeoisie we’d grown up in, and in the suburbs she was exotic, eccentric, unfathomable: a crow-witch sitting on our porch, head cocked to listen for birds.
     Most mornings I came out to sit beside her in companionable silence. In the beginning I tried describing things to her, but she shushed me with a sad look. “That’s not necessary, Claire,” she said. “I’d rather imagine how it looks, or not think about how things look at all, anymore.” I took a gulp of coffee and looked automatically where she seemed to be looking, though it was of no consequence. A robin landed on the lawn and looked first at her, his head cocked, black beady eyes glittering, then looked steadily at me as though sharing a secret.

     After some months had passed, we found a first-floor apartment in the city for her, tiny enough to manage on her own. Inside, she had her typewriter, a few records, a closetful of black clothes, and a few pieces of furniture. Organization became essential, then, and she gave in to it with a defeat she strove not to display elsewhere—she had always been so messy, heaps of fabric and art supplies strewn in happy chaos. When we moved her, she politely requested that those now-useless things be discarded. As I lugged boxes crammed with expensive paints, brushes, and yarn to the curb, a teenaged girl in a rusty Chevy pulled over with a squeal. “Are you just throwing those away?” she said, round-eyed. “Yeah,” I said, straightening and wiping my brow with the back of my hand. “My sister…can’t use any of it anymore. You want it?” She nodded hungrily, began piling her backseat with my sister’s things. When I told my sister what had happened, she nodded, slowly. “I’m glad it went to someone who can see what she’s making,” she said. “Someone who can stand it.” I agreed, a little puzzled.
     She asked us to please paint the walls the color of pomegranate’s flesh. “I always liked the idea,” she said, “but I hate pink.” She gave a short, bitter scrape of laughter. “God. Talk about having your cake and eating it too.” My mother started to give one of her famous snorts, the one that said Quit feeling sorry for yourself, and then caught my eye and poured paint into a pan silently, shaking her head.

tune in tomorrow for part three

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