My older sister died in the spring right before I was just becoming a senior in high school. Over the summer I didn’t really go out a lot and my friends didn’t know what to say when they were around me. Of course, I only actually had about two really close friends but when they came around they gave each other nervous glances as if in silence trying to tell the other to try to keep the conversation going.
I would sit by the window and stare out into the empty fields of grass that seemed like it had been murdered by some vicious cow as my poor friends sat there wondering if I would ever be the same again. They didn’t know if I would ever be the Janie who was laughing and wanting to go to the mall everyday ever again. I was unsure myself if I would ever want to do those same old things again. If I did, I knew it wouldn’t ever be the same. My sister was no longer there waiting on the couch for me to come home to see what new things I bought that she could borrow.
My sister, Vienna, was my best friend. We used to do everything together and when we argued we were still best friends the next day. That’s more than any friend I’ve ever had has had to offer. The strange thing is when I think of her face it’s as if she is standing right there stepping out of my imagination. When I hear something in the kitchen I think, Vienna is in there washing the dishes. When it’s hot outside I think, Vienna has gone to the beach with her friends. She won’t be home anytime soon.
My Father didn’t take it very well. He still hasn’t moved anything in her room. Her dresser still has all of her clothes inside. Her perfumes and books are still side by side on her faded bookshelf. Her shoes still placed perfected at the foot of the bed. Nothing has been moved since she passed away. My Father just can’t seem to understand that she is gone and is never coming back. He’s been through death twice, once with my Mother, whom I’ve never known. She died while giving birth to me and the only thing I’ve had that links us together is my life and her pictures that are shoved in my Father’s nightstand. It hurts him to look at them and it hurt him to see Vienna grow older, because she resembled her the most. Now their both gone and my Father and I are like two orphan children who lost the only things they’ve ever had in some overnight fire.
My Grandmother came over a lot. She would come clean the house and light incense. She would try to make up my bed with me still in it. She would try to make fun conversation. She would sigh really loud at my empty responses. I appreciated everything that she was trying to do but I just wanted to be alone. I wanted time to bury my face in the pillow and cry as loud as possible. I wanted to cry loud enough so God could hear me and send Vienna back. I wanted to wake up one day and she be there in her bed flipping through her favorite magazine.
One night Grandmother came over to talk to my Father and they talked in hushed voices but I could hear every word. They stood in Vienna’s doorway which was only a few feet away from mine.
“Fred, you should start to clear this room out. It isn’t good for Janie. How is she ever going to heal with all of Vienna’s things still in this room? How will you heal, huh?” My Grandmother thought she knew everything. Why couldn’t she just leave us alone? We don’t want to clear out the room. We don’t want your sweet morning conversation. We just want silence to cry in. We want to get away from death that just won’t leave us alone.
Vienna died in the spring. The time when the weather is starting to be on its best behavior and we don’t need jackets to go outdoors. I remember she was on her way to the beach with her friends and told me to hurry up and get dressed or I would get left at home.
“I don’t have anything to wear!” I had shouted.
“I’ll take you tomorrow!” She yelled back. “Look in my closet so we won’t have this problem tomorrow!”
“Yeah yeah,” I replied smiling. She went on to the beach that evening. I remember my Father was at work that night. I was in the kitchen making spaghetti when the phone rang. Vienna had been in an accident. They found only a small amount of alcohol in her system, not much. Vienna was going through a yellow light that turned red pretty quickly. Vienna was hit. Vienna was gone. Vienna, my sister, was gone forever.
“My daughter doesn’t drink!” My Father threw chairs and punched walls. Everything was a blur as the hospital seemed to devour our last hope for Vienna. As my Grandmother attempted to calm him down no one saw me sitting there. I sat there with no expression on my face. I sat there with an anger in my heart that I’ll never be able to express.
“Who gives alcohol to a 20 year old? She isn’t 21, she’s 20!”
“Fred, please!” Grandmother hushed him. That’s when the anger turned into an immense pain inside of me and I fell to the floor weeping like a wounded animal. I was indeed, a wounded animal at that point.
“God, please don’t take her away from us,” I begged into my folded hands. “Please don’t take my sister. It’s so unfair.”
Later, I was told not to question God, so I questioned him only in private. I questioned Him when I stared out the window at the dead grass, when no one was listening. I questioned Him when my Grandmother was trying to make conversation as she mopped the floor. I know He’ll never answer the way I expect him to. I know I will never understand. I hope one day I can see pink sunsets without sadness. I hope one day life will be fair. Watch over me, Vienna, it will be the only way I heal.