My sister has a never ending desire to walk by the sea. She’s quite adamant that it must be the ocean. No small body of water, contained by land, will do.
Swimming in it would be great, she tells us, but even if I could just dunk my feet in it, I’d be grateful.
I have this picture of her standing by the shore. Her feet are being kissed by the tide. The sun is just coming up over the horizon; we had taken the train by night. She’s got her backpack on and her shoes in one hand, and she’s looking at the sky, or maybe the horizon. I’m not sure. I took the picture sitting on the rocks by the road. There’s no wind and her long ponytail lies flat against her back. I couldn’t figure out what she was thinking, or even what she was feeling. She was so quiet I couldn’t bring myself to speak. It looks like she wants to just keep walking into the water, but her arms are locked in a perfect upside down V.
I find it hard to believe that the woman staring out at the ocean could be my younger sister. How could she possibly have been the young child that used to love tickling her nose with the ends of people’s hair? How could she possibly have been the young girl that scared me into running out of the house when she intoned in an ominous voice, what’s the password, from The Crack, a secret hiding place that we had created by pushing our beds together? How could she have been the teenager who loved to hide inside the cupboards, only her face visible, silently watching my mom and me cook? How could they all be the same person? What was the invisible string connecting them all and what wisdom had it afforded her so that she could stand open and vulnerable to the mighty ocean?
I didn’t feel like her big sister in that moment. I felt like a seagull perched on top of a floating buoy, wondering whether or not to take flight, wondering when the small black dot had grown into the giant ocean liner headed my way.