Little sister.

I sometimes hear birds singing sweetly at all hours of the night from my apartment window. I’ve read that the parent-bird does this as a way of protecting it’s babies from nocturnal predators such as cats. They sing from a nearby tree to entice the hunters to a different tree to that which houses their nest of helpless children. Now when I hear those birds singing “happily” at night, I know that they’re actually frightened and trying desperately to protect their precious ones from harm with a distraction. It doesn’t sound so sweet anymore.

I remember that I saw you having the talk with mum and dad on the back patio as the sun went down. I watched and listened from the kitchen window. Every serious conversation they ever had with us had a hint of hilarity associated with it. It never fit their image or my idea of them to have serious conversations.

Your silhouettes were framed by the purple and orange of the setting sun behind you. This has made this image forever burnt into my brain as if it were a dream – hazy, beautiful and with a sadness that doesn’t need any explanation.

You saw me there, watching from the kitchen window. I couldn’t see your face because of the location of the sun but you complained that I was listening. Mum and dad told you that it mattered to me too.

I don’t remember what was said specifically. I think you were pretty nervous but at the same time relieved that they cared and something was being said. It wasn’t a secret anymore. Mum and dad knew and they weren’t turning a blind eye to it. I don’t remember how they found out or how long they’d known before they said something to you. I hope it wasn’t long.

We weren’t close like I’d wanted us to be, for so long. I think now, at 23, you’re finally letting me in again. You’re finally able to trust me. I guess you never did that to begin with, really. We didn’t know each other.

I see those scars on your thighs now, long since healed – and all I see is a frightened, lonely, little girl that I neglected for years. I was too caught up in my own nightmares to see yours playing out right in front of me.

You’re not ashamed of those scars – you don’t hide them. I always wonder whether you explain to your lovers – if you say anything about them at all. Do they even ask about them?

Where did you do that little sister? Did you do it in your room, with your closed door without the lock? Did you cut deep enough for the blood and the pain to come and hope family wouldn”t – or would – interrupt you? Was I the singing bird that distracted our parents from you? Did they miss the real danger here and focus on the wrong cry for help?

I was only in the room next door, little sister. How did I not hear this? I was only in my own head. I didn’t see your pain through my own. How did I let my head get so full of darkness and self pity that I didn’t see you drowning just next door? I think about how many nights I must have sat alone in my room, staring at the wall, wishing I felt anything other than despair, while you were less than three steps from me, behind that wall I was concentrating on, cutting into your own flesh because you wanted to feel something, too.

You’re such a beautiful person and I’m so proud of you. Beyond words. I look at you – a grown woman now, and I still see that precious little girl who I wasn’t there for when she really needed it. Despite those physical and, no doubt, psychological scars that you carry around with you, you’re so self assured and loving. Your personal strength has always been an inspiration to me. In a whole lot of ways, you’ve been the big sister who’s been strong for me and put me together when I’ve fallen apart. You’re still my precious girl, you’re just as fragile. How are you all of these things but still fill me with such strength and conviction of character?

You inspire me, little sister. You’re the best person I’ve ever known. I’ll never let you down again. You’ve never let me down.