The air is thick with grief in this house. Every move I make seems intrusive. I’m sitting on a chair that could be hers, drinking tea from a cup that once touched her lips. Am I being properly respectful? What should I mention or not mention?
There’s just the two of them now, mother and daughter. I don’t know about the father, but the sister has been gone just two weeks. I have not met them till this day and unlike so many others to cross their path, I have no sense of what fills the hole. I had never met the dead sister, only been told of her charm, her outgoing personality. All I see here is the gap, this space where she once was, now filled by pain.
I’ve accompanied my pastor on this visit, in the hopes I can talk to the younger sister, be an ally in the days to come. My mouth feels full of marbles and sand as I try to talk to her. The two of us awkwardly set up future meetings in more neutral places. Coffee next week, lunch in a month or so. She twists a colorful friendship bracelet around and around her wrist and I notice that its lettered beads spell out her sister’s name.
Uncomfortable in my intrusion, I excuse myself to use the washroom. There are framed pictures all down the hall. One is of the two sisters, brunettes with matching eyes, the older one with her hand on the younger’s shoulder, her smile broad and inviting. I enter the bathroom and it smells of vanilla and patchouli, hairspray and Nair. There are bottles all over the bathroom; body spray and shampoo and body wash and essential oils – all in colourful bottles, arranged like candles on an altar.
I glance at myself in the bathroom mirror, my eyes full of tears. Catching my breath, I wash my face and go take my place again at the kitchen table, carefully, slowly, not wanting to make even a ripple in the air.