We never were friends, and yet, we are really close. No, not like sisters, its more than that. For one brief moment in time we were united in a common experience that tied us together for life. It wasn’t anything dramatic – that, I’m sure, happened at another time – but it forged a strong enough bond for us to not kill each other, or inflict drama upon each other. Like I said, it wasn’t anything big, though it did change my life. You see, for the briefest time, shorter than a student exchange, you and I lived in the same town, the only two people with the exact same ethnic composition in our genes in a town that hated anything that was not tall, blond, and blue-eyed. Well, you had the tall part covered, but that was as close as you got to fitting in. Me, I was short, but I spoke the language. I had that perceived advantage over you. I say perceived, because it really didn’t do me much, if any good. I was fine over the phone, but most things, even then, especially then, called for a face-to-face interaction.
You were older than me. Not by much, but enough for it to matter. If I’d been able to pick any person I could be back then, I would have picked you, in a heartbeat. Without hesitation. You had everything, the poise, the looks, the clothes, the boyfriend. The life. Me, I was still learning how to use a mascara wand. My friends got their looks and know-how from the fashion magazines they read. Me, I got it from you. I’d watch what you were wearing and how, then file that information away for later, when I was old enough, when I was your age. It’s funny how age matters when one has double digits and the other is still learning to count. You barely acknowledged me, which was fine. I never held it against you. I knew I was an annoying brat, always getting under your feet when we did end up somewhere together. But I longed for your friendship. Sometimes it would threaten to consume me, that desire. The need for you to acknowledge my presence with a barely visible nod.
You moved away pretty suddenly after that. Your father died, and your mom married a new guy. Which isn’t as creepy as it sounds, me knowing all that. I really was a terribly precocious kid, and neighbors talk, about each other. Especially when there’s not too much else to talk about. They forgot about you soon after that, moved on to someone else, my own family perhaps, since we moved away soon after that, too. But I never forgot you, I always remembered. I’d celebrate your birthday by myself every year, usually wearing all black, because you never really acknowledged my presence. I thought of you a lot, too, wondering what had happened, where you were, how you were doing in general. All the ties to our old neighborhood had been cut, so it was hard to get information. I wasn’t actively searching, but I kept my ear to the ground in case I heard something. Even so I heard something once in a blue moon.
Which is why I was caught completely by surprise when all these years down the line, doing a job I hated and wanted to quit more than anything else (seeing old people die was just too much for me to bear), my supervisor told me that you had requested me as your carer, had specifically asked for my presence in your room. I hadn’t even thought you’d remember me, nor that you’d care. Why you’d pick me over the other carers was not something I could comprehend.
Except that the minute I saw you, it all became clear. You were in so much pain, my heart literally bled for you. I watched you trying to stir, trying to communicate, and I could see the pain you were in. Even just talking was a huge effort. The only way you were able to communicate was with your eyes. And that’s why I think you wanted me there. You knew that all those years studying you when we were kids would lead to this, a deep understanding, knowing exactly how you’d react in any given time, gauging your reaction, intuiting what you need, desire or want.
It’s how I knew you wanted me to trip over the plug that connected you to all those machines that still held you alive. Trip so it would come loose, yank it out of the socket really, those things were pretty sturdy, had to be, seeing as how they kept human beings alive. I hope I got the message right, that you really wanted to be released from all this pain like that and not any other way.