One night at twenty-one, in a cramped
newlywed apartment, Florida heat slowly
draining from the blistered asphalt outside,
I dreamed of my sister. She was almost
seventeen, then. I missed our life
in my parents’ house, and our younger sister,
doll-small, who at four was riding always
our hips and shoulders. I missed too
the suffocation of family I’d traded
for the mystery of marriage, sleep
with a man replacing my usual sleep:
three sisters piled in together, though we
each had a bed of our own, elbows and knees
flung everywhere. We were cranky and sore
in the mornings, but more miserable apart.
In my dream my sister stood in our doorway,
her sun-streaked hair lank as seaweed,
her brown eyes flattened, sunk
in a phantasm of death, skin grayed and visible
only through gaps in torn, dull-black cloth.
She never said what she had become,
only warned me not to follow her, a message
she relayed with distaste, even indifference,
and that I received with a barren horror.
What haunted me most when I awoke
in the humid morning heat, my back unjabbed
by my new husband’s knee, was not whether
I dreamed my sister dead, or even damned—
most ghastly was that our dream-selves had not
loved one another. How strange that now,
of all hellish things that could have happened,
this end of love is the one that did.
Photo by Becky Wetherington