Sitting on the patio, sharing a bottle of Pellegrino in that intimate way I can only share with my sister. The sun is setting, she is tired from the long flight and making an effort to stay awake chatting about her newish boyfriend. She reaches for the bottle without asking for permission, gurgling down from the same neck I just drank from a few seconds ago. Anyone looking at us from the outside wouldn’t find anything remarkable in the scene. Two women of the same height and build, slouched on reclining chairs, chatting and drinking water. But we share the same genes and, although living a continent apart and never seeing each other more than once a year, the intimacy in that gesture, of sharing a bottle of water without bothering to round-up a couple of glasses, stems from the nights spent in the same bedroom, the stories recounted under the blankets, the arguments overheard behind closed doors.
My close friends can interpret my moods, know all of my secrets but there is only one person in the world who knows the whys of who I have become, who can read a sideways glance and laugh at stories no one else would find remotely funny – my baby sister, with her long legs and her little hands and the doe eyes, who steals looks of admiration wherever she goes and towards whom I harbor no jealousy. Those who meet us for the first time invariably remark on our physical similarity – maybe. I believe it’s the intricacy of the bond that shines through rather than our features, the same laughter, the same understated way of presenting ourselves to the world – a little bit of make up but never any lipstick, well put together but not too polished. Our styles might differ but the root is the same.
Unlike a friendship, a sister requires no effort, no tending to the relationship – she’s just there, ready and available when need strikes. We have spent the last 48 hours comparing thigh sizes, drooping eyelids, the signs of aging no one else would notice but us, finding it all rather depressing and then cheering ourselves up with a shopping expedition to Malibu that we can ill afford but the fun in trying on clothes, rummaging for sizes and staring at our reflections in the oversize mirrors has been more carefree than I have had in ages.
The world is going to stop for a week or, at least, it will stop intruding, while we will be painting my town together, with me eager to show her the city tourists don’t get to see and my sister ready to partake in the adventure, this time unencumbered by either husband or boyfriend. With our mother sitting in the back seat, sometimes shaking her head at our antics, sometimes scalding us as if we were five again, the two rocks of my life are finally both here, at the same time. I am finding it to be a meditative experience – being here now, requires no effort. How refreshingly comfortable.