by | Jun 11, 2024 | Fiction, Issue Thirty-Nine

She’s an independent woman, living her best life, or so she tells me. She’s vegan, collects Roman coins, roller-skates on steel wheels, bumping off curbs just like she did when she was eight.  I don’t understand her. Never have.

Me: Don’t you get lonely? Day after day, no conversation with anyone?

Her: I talk to you. I talk to my numismatist twice a week.

Me: Your what?

She laughs: Don’t be cute. You know Mr. Galanis is my coin specialist.

Me: He’s seventy-five.

Her: He serves a strong ouzo.

Me: I hope you don’t drink it before you roller-skate. You’ll break you neck.

Her: I’m quicksilver. I’ve got pluck. Skate with me sometime. I’ll get you out of your old stodge.

She’s the one who’s stuck in her ways. Sushi delivered Friday nights, Mexican every Tuesday, and Boba whenever she runs an errand. She gets 90% of Jeopardy questions right, watches “Drain the Oceans” and loves British crime, especially Nicola Walker who, she says, is appealing despite not being beautiful. I tell her (my sister, not Nicola Walker) she’s never going to meet a man. She’s never going to have children.

She says: I don’t need children. I have yours…when I want them.

Me: Don’t you get lonely?

Her: I have you.

I grimace: I mean a man.

She gives me a provocative smile: I can have any man I want. Neil deGrasse Tyson is available. Richard Attenborough. Even Cary Grant. Chris Hemsworth, for gods sakes! I just turn on the TV.

She has the strangest, loneliest job. She works from home at her SKARSTA / TROTTEN desk, writing directions on how to put together IKEA furniture because she is an independent woman who knows her stuff, she tells me, and takes pride in her ability to communicate.

I ask: Don’t you get tired of writing boring instructions?

She sighs: It’s a challenge, you know. People are just not that smart.

Most days, when she’s finished work, she pours herself a vodka tonic and sits outside on her apartment balcony watching the afternoon throng pass by. Cars inch through homebound traffic while shoppers dash in and out of cleaners, bookstore, grocery.  Kids shriek with laughter as they mosey along sidewalks, snatches of rap, pop, ska floating up.

Today we’re sitting side by side in deck chairs, watching her street’s afternoon activity.

I ask: Don’t you want more from life?

She says: I have the world at my feet, here on my balcony, a parade, you know, then she asks: don’t you have errands to run? Give your sister a hug and kiss your little ones for me. Take this roll of white butcher paper for them. I have so much. Do they need crayons?

When darkness closes the sky, and I am gone, leaving my sister in shadow, I can see her acting out her usual routine. She’ll grab her empty glass and slip inside, eat dinner watching “Jeopardy,” then put her coin books on the kitchen table and open the cloth bag of her most recent purchases from Europe, some from the time of Julius Caesar, some from Augustus’. Soon she’ll be deep in concentration, separating gold, silver, bronze. Her “loot” as she calls it will soon be separated, studied, and saved in the appropriate spot. She will smile. Watch TV, go to bed, and read. Tomorrow, she’ll skate to the Esplanade, breathe in the tang of ocean, sit in the sun. She is a strong, independent woman, free to be herself.

Sometimes, I wish I were her.


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