Saying goodbye to her sister for the summer, the author wrestles with sadness, anger, and confusion
All the boxes were in the apartment, and we got a good look at it for the first time. It was small but cute, with its baby-blue wallpaper and overstuffed crimson armchair. Alex cast delighted glances around the room, barely able to stand still. “Oh my god, Mom, it’s so cute!” She ran across the small apartment and hugged her.
No one seemed to notice I was there, or that I glared at both of them. Shrouded in frustration, I sank heavily into the armchair. Why is my own sister, who I won’t be seeing for at least a couple months, refusing to acknowledge my existence?! I didn’t notice my sister and mom leaving the room as I sat in a stew of misery. They were just meeting with the landlord, but I didn’t know that. I pulled out my iPhone and tried to busy myself, but even Tiny Wings couldn’t distract me from my pit of loneliness.
My thoughts were wandering as I halfheartedly glanced at the bright flashing screen in my hand. Why does feeling sad feel so wrong? Every person has the right to be sad. My thoughts lodged themselves in a memory from the summer. Alex and I were poring over poems, inhaling the smell of books and dusty summer air. A slant of golden sunlight poured onto the poem we were reading, “When I Am Among the Trees.” I had to read that poem and explain it to Alex, who was pretending to be a younger child who didn’t know anything about it.
“I’m bored. Can we do something else?” she asked, playing her part. I had given her a sharp flick on the shoulder for this, but it had only made me care for her more. She had giggled and patted me on the back. And now that can’t ever happen again, I thought in misery, sinking deeper into the armchair.
My sister and mom came tramping up the stairs, laughing and joking loudly. Finally, I thought sourly.
“Who wants to explore Bar Harbor?” my sister belted.
“Yeah, let’s do that!” I quickly said, jumping to my feet.
The frustration felt like a rock in my stomach, but the last thing I wanted was to have Mom and Alex question me.
We galloped out of the small apartment and set off on one of the streets. Mom and Alex wouldn’t stop chattering about her new life. “I guess I’ll go to the grocery store about once a week,” Alex was saying. My sense of frustration came rushing back like a wave. I finally managed to get Alex leaving out of my mind. I kicked a pebble as I plodded down the streets, my teeth gritted. I hung back a little bit as we left the town and went down to the seashore, but my sense of frustration still clung to me like glue.
I jogged to keep up with Alex and Mom as we came in sight of the crashing stormy waves of the ocean. The ceaseless chatter of Alex’s voice was still there, like a constantly bubbling stream. I looked out at the ocean, how the waves pulled in and out, furiously splashing on the rocks. They were strong enough to bear the weight of the ocean’s fury. Wow, I thought. These rocks aren’t distracted by petty squabbles or emotions. They’re just living.
Just as suddenly as the strongest wave of frustration hit me, it went away. I hopped down from the ledge down onto the rocks. I needed time to think. The ocean seemed to be tugging me to a memory, like I had been tugged to that poem, “When I Am Among the Trees.” I glanced out at the cold salty ocean and got yanked into it: Alex and I were padding up the familiar streets of Yiayia’s neighborhood, our steps intertwined. “I’ll miss you, and I know you’ll miss me,” Alex was saying. “But sometimes we can’t be kept in the same place for too long, and I think this is one of those times.”
“I know,” I said miserably, “But I’ll miss you.”
As I slowly slid out of the memory, I sank deeper into thought. I was lost in the rhythmic roaring and bubbling of the ocean. Each lap of the salty tide against the boulders seemed to be gently saying, you’ll miss her, you’ll miss her.
I sat on that rock for a long time, thinking as the waves crashed around me, the chiding of the ocean ringing in my ears. I’ll miss her. The realization came to me like a shock of icy water. I stood up abruptly, shaking off the frustration. Sprinting up across the rocks, I noticed Alex and Mom were shooting me anxious looks, but I didn’t care.
As we started off again, I could see confusion in Alex’s and Mom’s eyes, and they fell silent. I drew nearer to Alex, prodding her gently on the shoulder. “Alex, I’ll miss you when you’re in Bar Harbor. I hope you have a good time.” She took my hand and we looked into each other’s eyes.
“So will I,” she whispered. We continued our walk around Bar Harbor, trodding past generations of footsteps together.