a gift for my sister (this)

“Oh you don’t have to get me anything!”

My sister smiled her closed mouth smile and stared me down.

She does this a lot when she’s joking. She’s half-serious in her mannerisms but she is all business in her intentions. She would be pretty pissed if I didn’t get her a Christmas gift.

Of course I got my sister a gift. Ok, so the holiday work bonus encouraged my generosity. And what I got wasn’t anything special, just something I know she wants. It’s just money, really.

I’m trying to think how I can do more. Your twin sister deserves more than money on Christmas.

If I could draw, I would draw my sister. No, I couldn’t just look in a mirror, because what my sister is… is the flurry of motions of her head tilts and hair flips and exclamations. She is more than someone who shares similar features with me. In one of the more terrifyingly vulnerable things I’ve said before: my sister is a different person. She is an individual apart from me.

It is terrifying for me to admit that my sister is her own person, because I fear that with this declaration, she will leave me forever. If she is her own person she can grab her boyfriend, and our cat, and get a new car, and drive far away to a place where I am not. She’ll leave the dog because the dog likes me better. She’ll probably leave me my favorite boots but she’ll take our best clothes, since she picked most of them out. She’ll leave a big gaping hole and it won’t matter that we look the same, because we won’t be together.

I would draw my sister, if I could, and present her with herself. “Send this person off to another place. You stay here with me.”

I would draw my sister as she was last week, standing in our dimly lit living room, holding her phone close to the wall so she didn’t pull the charger out. I was lying on the daybed, moping in a way I hadn’t moped in at least a month and a half. She stared me down, and she looked angry. She clutched the phone but didn’t look at it. It moved as she moved her fist, up and down, to emphasize her point.

“You have so many good things! You have all of these good things!”

She started to cry. Just a little bit, but enough to make her voice crack.

She was telling me why my one sudden sadness didn’t matter in the fullness of my life. She has been telling me lately that she’s proud of how I’ve made new friends. She has texted me “you’re strong much stronger than I am.” She has encouraged me in all of my individual pursuits. She has comforted me, cheered me, and when necessary, chastised me.

I would draw all of that. Do you think I could capture it in one or two dimensions? Surely I would have to invest in a 3D printer to adequately represent my sister. Those things can move right? And do they leave room for really, really long hair?

As far as I know my sister isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. Just because I’m afraid of something does not mean that it exists. But it doesn’t mean that it couldn’t exist either. I will stay afraid. I will grab a pen and a pad of paper and I will start scribbling as quickly as I can. If I draw you here, does that mean you’ll stay here forever?

My sister and I are growing up. We’ll throw each other a “whoa!” whenever we do something remotely adult-like. But still, we know that we are growing into older versions of ourselves. The other day my sister sent me a dramatized video account of her cleaning the litterbox. My sister never, ever, ever cleans the litterbox. She appears to be quite traumatized in the video. But, she cleaned the litterbox. We are growing up.

We fall asleep, crouched over my laptop, on my bed, horizontal but still managing to balance cereal bowls on our chests. “Get me some more? And water!” — whenever one of us lumbers out of the warmth of my dog-hair covered comforters. My dog then takes the place of the absent body. It’s like musical chairs with a few more pillows and a couple of animals thrown in.

I can, at least in my mind, draw my sister in this way. I can turn my head and see her propped up on her pillow, cereal spilling on to her shirt. “Damnit. Whatever.” She sees me looking at her and flings her head into my lap, thinking I may, for the first time ever, feel like stroking her hair. And I will. I’ll do it because I love her and she is my sister, and I think that’s just a necessary part of the drawing.

We won’t always be together. I know this. I don’t like that I know it and sometimes I don’t even know how much I know it. (Really, it can’t be true.) But as long as I can close my eyes and see my sister, standing before me, showing me my life, I will be okay. If I can always draw my sister on the pillow next to me, laughing out loud at the same TV episodes we’ve seen one hundred times, we will stay together, even when we are apart.

I hope you like your other gift too, Sissy, but these words are more important to me. Merry Christmas to you.