I’m on the plane. We’re about to land. I just spent a spontaneous weekend in Amsterdam. I just spent an entire weekend with minty tongues and burning lungs and a head full of swirls, and yet I spent the entire weekend wondering how much striving for perfection has made me unlearn.
Hours after you died, I sat in the detective’s office with florescent lighting and watched you on a dim screen as you explained how you were done fighting. Hours after you died, I stared at the face that had woken me up for twelve years straight, and thought of all the times I had failed. Hours after you died, I promised myself never to be the same.
When the price to pay is as high as a burial six feet underground, these decisions come to you a lot more easily than it sounds. It was a conscious decision to never live blindly again, but all that followed was not necessarily part of the plan. Drowning in your grief made me want to lend life jackets to all those around, the anger made me stop whispering and people finally heard me scream out loud, and the fear of losing another refused to let me slow down. Somehow both overnight and gradually, I became the woman you see: loud and bold and able, fierce and nonsensical, proudly un-censorable. Losing you made it easy to shed any other identity I had loosely ever worn, and stitch the fabric of your death deep into my bones so that I never again become the woman who let you fall.
And sure enough, the stitches have stayed in place and I have never felt the same again. The world has permanently changed, and all that used to be glitter now only looks temporary and grey. And here I am, living with heightened awareness, trying to make up for all those years of being so careless, navigating through a world that is familiar yet it renders me helpless because I can change myself as much as I want but I still live in a world that is timeless and so it has long moved on and forgotten, and I am left defenseless against this self-imposed tempest.
So I booked a trip to Amsterdam. I’ve spent three days walking circles around Rome with a friend I met ten years ago back home. I’ve let booze burn my throat and swim in my belly, I’ve forced myself to socialize at parties, I’ve dressed up and dressed down, I’ve tried things as simple as eating out – I’ve thrown myself into all that I recognized as light and fun and airy because living with the burden of your loss is too heavy, but I must be a better seamstress than I am a sister because your death is stitched in too deep and detangling myself has become too much of a feat so here I am with my newfound lessons and promises and plans to live with wisdom and maturity, but they’re too deeply ingrained at only twenty-three.
For any time the stitches loosen enough for me to relax, my body goes cold as my insides begin to collapse. The slippery feeling of too much booze consumed or excitement that slowly inflates inside you like a balloon, or being overwhelmingly amused – these emotions all belong to the girl who had the room to slip. The one who hadn’t been swallowed by guilt. The one who didn’t have a weighted reminder against anything related to relief or leisure. The one who could let go of the reigns I hold so tightly today, because they meant nothing before anyway. Who knew that striving to be better and absorbing all these lessons would leave no room for anything other? That every time my grip will loosen and I indulge in any kind of fun, I’ll feel like a traitor? That any time I begin to feel anything but grief, I am reminded of the girl I used to be, and I can’t go back to being so blind, I couldn’t even see my brother.