I remember when we used to sleep in the same room. I always had the top bunk, tinier, but definitely cooler in my perspective. My sister had the huge bottom bunk and I remember how she would always play with her Barbies and Littlest Pet Shop on her little pink hopscotch rug. I would build huge Lego mansions for them to live in. Only the best for my sis. We were a duo. In the backyard was a huge maple tree. My favorite time was during the Fall when I would climb and shake the yellow leaves off the tree and they would bounce off each giggle that chimed from my sister's mouth, gently falling to her feet. We would make bowls with the leaves as big as our faces and collect huckleberries in the summer. My sister and I were inseparable for the longest time and because we were homeschooled, we were able to spend most of our time playing in the forest outside together. We lived in Woodinville, a little suburb off of Seattle. She's 17 now. When she was 16, I went on a study abroad trip in Cambodia. We lost touch, but I talked to her the day before my dad called telling me he thought she was gone.
I remember gasping and the numbness. I remember trembling with disbelieving. I remember how it felt to go from perfectly fine to breaking down in just one sentence.
She swallowed two bottles of sleeping pills.
I felt the slow twisting of the blood, roots we share of the organ below my left breast, smelled the yellow of the falling maple trees as their paths met silence in the memory of a chime. Their legacy, the same air she breathed before she held white, poison pills, tasteless in dainty hands.
I can only imagine the stillness she must've felt. The slow certainty the two bottles of death on her bathroom counter. The same counter where my theo would wash his hands as we banged on the hallway door to get his attention playing childish games, our giggles chimed quietly on the worn stairs as we hid. The same bathroom where I did her makeup. For the first time she glowed in my shitty eyeliner and it wasn't the mask, but the sun underneath that shown, strong and flexible like the maple outside. Or where I wrote on the mirrors to remind her of her beauty. The tears we shed, the hair we straightened, the nails we polished the time we spent together in the mirror. And in that mirror she stared holding the last moments of her life and the overwhelming desire to be done, to never have to feel the beating of her heart against her ribs or the sweet tastes of caramel made stale in the sinking pit of a number or the shadow constantly pulling at her feet, telling her to just go to sleep, the tiredness, the mask. I had talked to her the day before she tried. We had talked about normal things. Her friends bugging her, mama giving her grief, but we didn't know. We hadn't felt her drowning, shutting her eyes. Filling her lungs with drops that poured like a rain storm, beating the maple trees like rivers through streets because they weren't prepared. The crashes, flash floods down her roots.
The smell yellow, of fallen maple leaves as their paths met silence in the air, met silence. And the sister I knew shattered in my mind, scattered across memories, smattered in yesterday's feelings played electric on my brain, made hands tremble, emotions gamble, an invisible space between my name and the face of our youngest piece. I had never felt so empty or open or vulnerable or broken or scared or... I cannot explain the sadness that coursed through my veins when my father told me about how many years she had wanted to die. Or the terror that I would never hear her laugh again or see her smile, or listen to her issues or hold her hand. Be her sister.
But someone told me: the maple tree in Fall holds a rainbow. The maple tree in Fall holds a promise. The maple tree in Fall told me she didn't go. And yet I still feel the slow twisting of the blood, roots we share as we still dance under maples of yellow.