She outlived herself but seemed to die younger than her fifty-eight years. Which seems strange since she chased the worm from her teen years on. I’ve heard that drunks grow hard and worn before their livers give up, but she never looked that way; I guess I didn’t know her the way I thought. My second sister and the closest of four to my heart and I in the middle and big brother to them all.
We fought she and I but only over words, “Pa-lace” I’d read and “palace” she would grrrrr, and we’d argue til she’d pinch and I’d run whining to mom. Six years my senior (I’d often hee hee hee to her chagrin), and strawberry blonde with a sublime beauty that made men turn and pine. Her freckled face in photos, bobby sox, and saddle shoes, such high fashion back then she wore so well.
I’d taunt her through the window while she and Bobby necked in the dark (his Ford Maverick I thought so cool), and Teas his youngest brother, my brother there in arms. She’d turn to glare at us at times, but Bobby’d yank her back, a sign that nights would reach an even darker black.
Our parents told me once after she crashed into a car, she had sneezed while crossing railroad tracks. She was lying to them then, not that I thought they believed her. Looking back, there were so many “sneezes,” but I was away and mom and dad didn’t want to worry me, and so I didn’t know until much later how much pain she caused them.
She worked as a cocktail waitress in Tampa, Fort Lauderdale, Clearwater among other places. The Don Cesar her favorite bar, I visited her there once. A silly job for someone with her weakness.
When the breeze comes through the window And my thoughts begin to flow With my nose pressed hard against the screen The years rewind ’til I’m seventeen When you showed me your brand new baby boy Those were the years after we grew up fast When we looked ahead and had no past When life was a game and death a life away And we laughed and never thought we’d pay Not long before that church boy beat you up I entered the world, was on my own A bit reluctant at leaving home While you had wed and been divorced I didn’t know you had seen the worst A husband could do to his young bride I didn’t know about the life you led, How you were beaten and how you bled I was shielded from that by mom and dad No idea how your world had turned so bad, Or the baby you couldn’t bear to give him I had no idea of the things you’d seen While seventeen and living my dream The sun had not yet climbed near its peak My destiny was still my own to seek While yours was turning toward the worm