A Silly Little Story That Wanted ExistPosted: June 7, 2013
A house on the sea and a foot in the city, Violet used to tell me dreamily. She meant Paris, of course, and the coast of Maine–never the reverse, “American cities are so vulgar,” Violet would say. When we were younger I actually believed one day we’d still be living down the hall from each other, with me extracting choice camisoles from her closet, and her sleeping until noon.
One summer, when we were 14 and 12, our parents took us to the coast of Spain. They went to bed early every night, so we explored the Costa del Sol with a guileless innocence. I was afraid of men at 14, but Violet looked at them like they were another species, to be studied and understood. Her sexuality was awkward and some nights I’d beg her not to wear a certain dress because she embarrassed me. But she’d shimmy her bottom in too short skirts after I walked first into bar or a restaurant. Violet welcomed the attention we got from the dark Andalusian men. I preferred to sample deserts and sweet liquers before scurrying back to our lovely ocean side auberge to write it all down in my journal. I though Violet would want to record her experiences too, she was the writer in the family after all, but we must not have caught the same jet lag, because she turned into a night owl while I relished every sun drenched day.
Eager to get back to my room one night, I left a dark dance club in exasperation when Violet repeatedly ignored my pleas to move along. I lost her. I should have stayed and searched for her, but I thought her admirers would look after her. I should have held her tightly by the hand. She was only 12.
Violet returned mid morning the next day. She was barefoot and gleeful. We took a walk on the rock of Gibraltar, and she collapsed into fat tears when one of the naughty monkeys stole the fedora she had returned with that morning. Our father had to console her with a visit to Prada to find a new pink wallet to take her mind off the tragedy. Everything that day was irrational, but at the time it seemed completely normal. Violet didn’t sleep until late that night, when she guiltily stayed in with me to watch Audrey Tatou movies. I quizzed her on what she had done, but she was vague. My questions were eventually returned with blank stares and vacant gaps in my attempts at conversation.
When we got home two weeks later, our relationship was markedly different, and that sense of shadowy superficiality never disappeared. Violet closed her bedroom door, and took mysterious daily walks to the post office. We’d never shared our diary entries out loud again.
For college, I studied marine biology in Bar Harbor, while she started at Hampshire, transferred to the American University in Paris, then back home to Boston University. I’m still unsure if she received a degree. That is the way our life so quickly and precariously unraveled. We saw each other along the way, long weekends during the semesters and longer weeks over the summers. But I was never clear what she was looking for, even what she majored in, besides boys and parties. I can pinpoint the end of our childhood though, when I stopped believing in her innocence, and she stop seeing me as infallible.
Now, Violet and I see each other every other year or so. We talk on the phone sporadically, but have never sustained regular conversations. I send her pictures of my son, usually with terse or no reply. I can’t remember the last time I saw a picture of her face, so to me Violet always looks 12.
Writer’s note: For this post, the name of this bloc, In Progress is very apt!