I am 7 years old. Dad is driving us somewhere fun. You sit next to me in the back of the car, in your car seat, wearing your pick hat. Wherever we are going is far, so we pull over to sleep. All 4 of us in our seats, sweaters and shirts as pillows. You don't want to sleep, but you are only a year old so all you can do is cry. All night long. Later, I won't be able to tell you where we were going. I will only remember how much I hated taking this trip with you. Our family vacation, ruined by you crying all night. All I can do is sit here, tired and uncomfortable, with half a sister more than I wanted.
I am 10 years old. You ask me to a tea party. I would rather do literally anything else. But I am supposed to be here to see you, so I should go. I know Dad would make me anyway, so I let you take my hand and lead me to your room. You take me to a small yellow plastic table, surrounded by 4 matching chairs. Two chairs are already occupied, the two lifeless dolls sitting across from each other look as excited to be there as me. You walk to the other side of the table and pull out one of the empty chairs. I approach the last empty chair, which is much too small for me. Its little plastic legs bend as I test its weight. I don't care about the chair, but I know you will cry if I break it, and I still hate that sound. I push it aside and sit on the floor next to the table.
You tell me the name of the other tea guests. I'm not listening. I am present here only in body, my mind wherever the imagination of a 10 year old might be. You grab the white plastic tea pot and fill the pink cups with invisible tea. It's not enough for you that I am sitting here. As I inspect the plastic cookies, you tell me to try them. I don't want that dirty plastic cookie near my mouth. I shake my head and try to be polite. You get upset. Now I want nothing more than to escape, but I have to sit here, bored and uncomfortable, with half a sister more than I wanted.
I am 16 years old. You're showing me jewelry that you have made. Strings full of little gems. You put one on my wrist as you tell me about the other things you want to show me. I don't want to see them. I tell you I'm going for a walk, and I will be back. You want to come with me but I'm going to trade baseball cards; I don't want you to come. I leave you and your bracelet at home. Later, you jump on me while I'm playing video games. Annoyed, I toss you onto the couch next to me. You come at me another time, and I toss you again. We both smile. Now I'm here, wrestling with a halt sister I tolerate.
I am 24 years old. You have friends, and a life all of your own. You only see me for a little while, because you have places to be. We talk about liquor and music over dinner. We promise to keep in touch, even though we live in different cities. When I see you again, I am 26 years old. You are getting married on a beautiful summer day. We drive around together, listening to music in your convertible. You meet my future wife the same day I meet your future husband. I make a speech and watch you marry the man of your dreams. I walk from the podium and see how happy you are. I stand here in this church, proud of a half sister I don't see enough.
I am 28 years old. You get in an accident, but you are okay. The doctors just send you home with something for the pain. You don't even tell me about it until later. I'm just glad you didn't break anything and you're alright. I ask about your life, and if you are happy. You're trying to have a baby. Things are moving so fast for both of us now. I invite you to my wedding. You tell me you're struggling with money, but you will find a way to come.
I am 30. You are different now. When I ask, you blame your accident. You say you can't come to the wedding, that you can't afford it and that no one will pay for you to come. I find out no one will pay because you spent all your money on pills. I still offer to pay. You still don't come. I am here at my wedding, worried about a half sister I haven't seen.
I am 33. We haven’t spoken since before the wedding. Today I get a call that tells me I will never see you again. The pills have taken you. I fly out to your funeral, but I am so angry. You have left two brothers; You have left two children. We gather under the pink sky and release balloons, but I am still so angry. I was too far away to help you. Why did no one else help you? I am flying home on a plane, angry at a half sister that made poor choices.
I am 38 years old. There is a pink sunset and I'm thinking of you. I'm thinking about our tea party, and the little chair, and the little fake cookies with the jam; I'm thinking about how I wanted to be anywhere else but in that little chair. Why didn't I just try the cookie? I could have just pretended to put it to my lips. Why didn't I wear the bracelet you made me? Why didn't I come see you more, or call you more? I could have stopped you! I could have saved you! Now I am here, with my arms around my knees, screaming at the floor, missing a half sister I'll never see again.