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23. Reverence

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She was young. As we all are. And she was in pain. That’s how everything starts. We hurt and hence, we heal. My sibling, my sister. She was young and foolish, as we all start out. Headstrong and stubborn. I was never right in the whole time I had her. Not once. You learn as an adult, with those younger than you, no matter how hard you try you’re never going to be right. She was young, sixteen or so. She would’ve been eighteen now. Old enough to be a statistic. Old enough to vote. But even then, it wouldn’t have been enough.

She wouldn’t listen. I often wonder – if I were her would I have listened to me? Of course not. That’s how life goes. And ends. She was young and foolish and I did all I could. I did everything in my power.

She got into trouble, as kids do. You name it – she did it. Drugs, sex, rock and roll, right? She was my baby sister. All I had. The parents gave up and put me in charge. I’m her brother, they told me. I should be able to help her, they told me. I’m a cop, they told me. Look after her, they told me.

I told them I’d try. I told them – no promises. I told them that I’d do everything I could. I warned them. Did they listen? No. If kids know everything, parents know everything plus one.

All I did was try. Did I succeed?

In the end, did I care?

She went out late, stayed out, did what she did and came home when she wished. The school dealt with my folks, when and if she chose to go at all. She was out of control. I took steps. I put locks on the doors. She found new ways out. I locked down everything I possibly could – everything.

I told my family this. They didn’t care. They disowned me anyway. I screamed it at the top of my lungs when they tried to drag me out of the funeral. I screamed and kicked…and was thrown out anyway. I went after her owner, my sister’s. I went after him. And after everything I’d gone through…it was just more beneficial to drop it.

If you can’t beat them…join them.

I was in league with the enemy for a long time. On the silent side. I monitored Max, made sure he kept on task. When he started slipping, I made sure the man knew.

The man of course being Doyle. He survived this game. How, I’ll never know. But he lived to retirement, to take care of bigger, better concerns. He’s the top of the food chain now. And I got on his good side.

I tried to avenge baby sister. But after a certain amount of beatings, the idea sinks in. You give up. Quit. It’s over. She was looking for trouble anyway.

There was no way that anybody could have stopped her. This I told myself repeatedly. This I told myself over and over because it got me to sleep at night.

My baby sister was Layne’s first girl. She was younger than him, smaller. And he went away. And left her here alone. And she snapped. This I found out later. When he came back with Serkis, my baby sister couldn’t take it. She came home to me that night.

I remember her tears. I remember her pain. I remember because I could feel it shaking my entire being. Tearing at me from the inside – out. I knew this would end badly. I tried to help her. She wouldn’t let me touch her. She lit a smoke in front of me and took a few hard pulls. I watched her pace around, silently. She looked around the place, analyzing her options. I looked at her, watching her young mind work.

“There’s no way out. You’ll deal somehow,” I told her. She glared at me.

“There’s always a way out.”

She smiled at me, such a wicked little grin as smoke snuck out from her lips. I shook my head. I didn’t know what to do with her. I didn’t know how to care. I was out of options. I was sick of her; she was driving me crazy with her uncaring attitude. I got up, shrugged my shoulders, locked everything down, and went to sleep. I thought she would be safe.

I thought.

Something I seldom do anymore.

I woke up in the middle of the night to the smell of fire. I went running out of the room like a madman. Her room was ablaze. How the fire hadn’t spread rampantly I wasn’t sure. But it hadn’t. I tried the door but it was no good. I heard sirens and knew they were already en route. It would be a waste to call them. I threw myself against her door as hard as I could but it was wasted. I got it to burst open just as the firemen came flying in.

Empty. The room was empty.

And a young girl’s body was on the street below.

According to the coroner’s report, she sat in her room and wrote to no avail. And then she set fire to what she was working on. But she kept working. She worked through the smoke and ash. And when she was just about to pass out, she slid out the window. She probably passed out on the way down. There was nothing to be done. The fire wasn’t as rampant as I’d imagined. It was contained. My apartment had stood up especially well.

The place built for interrogations. It has a concrete foundation. There might be steel in there somewhere. My apartment is part of an old police complex. But it just so happens to be mine. Coincidence?

My sixteen-year-old baby sister killed herself. And I let her. Because I didn’t care. I didn’t talk to her. I didn’t even pretend to try. I may as well have pushed her out the window myself. She died on my watch. What do I have to say for myself?

I’m always gone when you need me.

She was a punk anyways. She was an up and coming street demon. She would have been in jail or dead by now anyways. Trouble walking. And they always get theirs.

One big enough screw up can throw the works completely out of whack. As I learned. My stupidity led to my solitude. You adapt, you change to suit the environment.

My home, my shelter, is a home of forgotten pain and madness. I still see her eyes – they haunt me in my sleep. Tears clenched back tight, daring to escape, as she looked me dead in the eye. She was telling me. She was screaming at me at the top of her lungs in those eyes. And I blinked. And I walked away. I let her go.

Compassion died with her. Now I just follow orders. Ironic, considering the few important things my folks ever asked me to do I managed to fuck up. Oops. But you can’t write “Oops” on my baby sister’s headstone. Her story is still falling together in parts and pieces, all this time later. But it’s a story that I must hold and cherish. That will haunt me in my sleep.

Now and Forever. Always and Never.

Passed on to another girl, slightly less lost than my baby sister. It’s not fair. That this one should get another chance. You can try again and make it right.

Fair.

What do you call love and devotion when it hurts this much? When you pay for it in blood and tears? I’ll tell you what you call it.

I called her…Sacristine.

And I always will. Even if she can’t hear me. Because how do you make amends to the dead? You keep their memory living on. You keep it alive. You learn from it. You make it scream as loud as it can until it hurts everyone around you. And even then, you make it scream louder. Never back down. Make up for time forfeited.

Here’s a beginning for you baby sis. It’s your end, but we can always work backwards. Then again, maybe some things are better left to rest.

I hope you’re well, baby girl. It’s a hell of a ride up here. Keep a place for me?

I’ll be seeing you, kid.

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