Sunday, 18 April 2010

Hand in Hand in Hand

Image from Being Human: Enigmatic Images of People by Unknown Photographers

Mother was pretty oblivious, Dad was god knows where, and I was never really all that close with any of my brothers, so I guess it makes sense that, instead of imaginary friends, I came up with two imaginary sisters. Esther and Mathilde were their names. The first was just a couple years younger than me, the other five years older. Me, myself, and I, you’ll probably think, but it was more complex than that. I was already ten or eleven at the time, and I’d sit around, making up entire conversations with these two other girls. I was fascinated by all that Mathilde knew, the way Esther looked at the world. They were different, yet sisterly. They weren't just the projections of an awkward girl, vague presences in the background. They were others, they were true siblings I loved.

Mathilde wrote poetry and was always running off to Europe, returning with cigarettes and small souvenirs and tales of foriegn men. She told us once about a fairytale evening in a Viennese garden, waltzing barefoot with a baron, a married man (his wife inside doing the dishes). She talked about staying up all night in a museum and doing cartwheels across the marble floors, through prehistoric times. Also getting kissed under streetlamps in the rain.

Esther was a long distance runner, 9 years old and just as fast as the junior varsity champ at the local high school, a boy named Dean. She chopped all her hair off in second grade--Christopher Robin short--in order to cut down on wind resistance. She also liked stealing books from the library, conterfeiting library cards and checking things out under assumed names, whatever she could get away with. Once or twice she even passed herself off as boy, signing her name with a flourish.

Me, I was always turning to them for advice, getting their points of view on things. I also found myself saving little stories for them, things that had happened to me throughout the day, things no one else ever would have given a damned about. Just them. They had faith in even the smallest of things. Faith that real life was a hidden thing that could be discovered, collected, and cared for. Held cupped in both hands, warmly, protectively.

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