“Don’t you dare start episode 2 without me.”
Those were the last words he’d ever hear from her. It’s been five years and the agonizing truth of that statement still hasn’t sunk in. When he goes to the bathroom in the morning, he’s still wary of her popping out of the blue, shoving him aside with a infuriatingly smug expression, and taking her usual 40-minute shower while his balls turn blue. When he game-rages at his laptop deep into the night, he still awaits that pissed off scream of “shut the fuck up.” When the ghost of winter creeps into his dorm room, he still opens the door on Sunday mornings expecting a small cup of Spanish Latte to be smiling up at him from the floor.
14 years they’ve slept a wall and ten feet away from each other, and now all that’s left of her are some fading, disjointed images that return to him at random intervals with diminishing lucidity. Like a group of flickering candles about to be extinguished by the gale of all the intervening years.
Nose sharper than broken glass. Eyes greener than lime peel. Hair browner than bark, dryer than wheat. Exact replicas of his own features. His female avatar.
The same questions still bombard his mind. Why couldn’t he have told her that he’d watch the whole damn season if she took even one step out of the house? Why couldn’t he have insulted her dumb friends like he always had and made her start a cuss war with him? All he needed was a few minutes. Perhaps even seconds. Just a moment longer for her to jay-walk at the intersection right after the Lexus zoomed by. He alone had the power to prevent that goddamn car from crashing into her narrow hips, from inflicting a lifetime of sorrow and regret upon his whole family.
A cool Autumn breeze picks up the yellow leaves from the grass, twirling them around his sister’s gravestone. 1995-2009. He lights a Marlboro and stares at the hyphen linking the two numbers – the representation of her whole existence. In that hyphen is everything that happened between her first heartbeat and her final one. Every laugh every dream every accomplishment: condensed to a single line. The same line that represents every life ever lived on every gravestone ever erected. He lifts his eyes to the silvery blue sky and expels circles of wispy white smoke, remembering with a blinding clarity the one time she asked him if their children would also look like twins.
Perhaps the hyphen is the perfect embodiment of every person’s journey through life. Souls may be created with unique features, but they all leave the same way – as memories for other souls.