A Smile

They say, “A smile is worth a thousand words…” What a genius *they* were. I chose the photo for a few reasons; one it is was a photograph by my oldest and closest friend. Two, I need an updated head shot post life and two children and the pandemic, but I had not been photographed professionally in over two years. Finally it reminded me of what I thought I had lost.

She said my name, I turned and laughed, click. In one click that moment in time was stilled to a screeching halt. If I close my eyes I can see it, I can see it all flash like lightening out the window in the heat of the storm. I see that moment, and I see her and I see me…

The news, the phone calls, the fourteen-hour time difference, the lab results, the surgery, their visit, the return, the results, cutting her hair and her curls falling, falling, falling. Her story, not your story, but still the fall while I was running, running, running. Flying to visit on my first solo trip abroad. The anxiety beating in my chest. Waking up vomiting. Her making me laugh saying, “It’s nice to hear the sound of someone else puking and it not being me.” God she was so funny. Why. Why. Why. Why are good people punished? Is that even something that is valid to ask? Screw it. I said it. It was, it is, and it sometimes still crosses my mind. The flight home and feeling like a chunk of my heart lay in Hong Kong receiving the drip, drip, drip, hoping the life force of chemo would somehow heal the broken body. The waiting, the wondering, and the waiting some more. Time halted with the call; they’re coming home. She’s coming home. Home. What is home for them? The last four and a half months, like a count down before me. The last time we watched a movie together. Choking down popcorn. Fucking cancer. The call from the stupid company thinking that if only they had her take more of their potions it would change things. Leave, my sister alone, for the love of God. That last show. The blood on her tissue. Thinking to myself I should go over and cuddle with her. Texting, calling, and waiting. Curling up in the corner of the hospital bed and holding her hand. Gently waking her to speak with the doctor. Talking, talking, talking, they’re talking at her and she’s not even awake. What the hell is going on? Surgery, for what? No more pain, no more needles, she said no more needles don’t touch her. Losing my mind in the hallway calling mom choking up on the phone. Yelling at, sigh, a priest when he offered me help. I’m not CATHOLIC I yelled. I’m JEWISH. Wow. So that happened. I just sat there taking turns holding her hand, taking turns, and crying and praying that her labored breathing would ease. My God. How selfish could I be, I asked God to make it stop, what is wrong with me? That last moment. I see her hands; I see the soft rounded half moons on her nails. The same hands that held mine. Hands that braided my hair. That took pictures together. That passed book pages. That shared chocolate. That cooled a forehead. That taught me to drive. Hands. Hearts. Hands intertwined. I missed her smile. The audience packed over three hundred souls in the room to honor her. I was numb. I just kept thinking, I can’t lose this one too, in the bathroom praying the blood not to come. Waiting, not feeling right. The blood tests. The ultrasound. Hearing, “I’m so sorry, please wait here.” The look on his face. God, make it stop. Here I go again. Calling out to God and where are… they? The hospital lights dimmed as the drugs smoothed the edges of my raw nerves. “How are you feeling?” she asked, I rolled my head over to her and smiled, “So good.” Hobbling to the bathroom and thanking the nurse for helping me. The blood, that’s to be expected. The color stained behind my eyes. Every month I saw it again and again, and again. The pulsing life force within me that kept me alive, and reminded me monthly I had more to give, I had more to live for, to grow for, I had to reframe my perspective, ‘cuz this ain’t it kid, this ain’t it. What did she tell me?

“Hineni,” Hebrew for, “Here I am.” That was it, here I am, and here I will stay. I am not my sister, and she was not me.

Click. Click. Click.

The rush of the moment. The train station walls illuminated as the dusky lights of night descended upon us. All in a moment, all was still, and the laugh subsided. We sat to take a rest after shooting in the park along the Willamette River. Shooting one another and covering her camera with what we lovingly referred to as the camera condom. The humor from middle school never seemed to disappear between us. Old habits die hard, “Was that a good one?” She chuckles, “Yeah I think I got it, you smiled!”

Click.

“And once again!”

Photo credit to: K. Sciuto. ❤

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