Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Walking Home

Younger Sister looked up to make sure that Older Sister was still there. They walked together through the busy intersection, Younger Sister only half a step behind. She looked down at Older Sister’s sneakers, as they rhythmically flapped against the pavement, and made sure to follow closely. When they reached the sidewalk, she looked up once again and saw that Older Sister was veering to the left. Younger Sister followed closely as always and she veered to the left in precisely the same way. Older Sister never turned around. She knew that Younger Sister was following. There was no need to check. The main large intersection was behind them and they now turned into the park, away from the loud noise of motors and horns, away from the crowd and into a frail world of bent branches and singing pigeons. Younger Sister was always grateful for these brief spaces when the pavement fell behind them and the world was once again full of color and simple light. The cars were still close enough to be heard, and, in fact, some cars still rolled right by them, their wheels screeching lightly on the asphalt, as they walked on the narrow trail of dirt that made its way through the giant city park. But it was just enough quiet, just enough green, to make her imagine that they had traveled far, together, Older Sister and her, and maybe now they would be part of some great adventure, something out of the little illustrated books that she collected, and maybe the cars would eventually disappear and there would only be the two of them, walking through the woods, the deep dark forest that went on for miles and miles, a forest they had never encountered, a forest they had never known. Maybe in the sudden realization that the world had changed, maybe then Older Sister would finally turn around and look at her and check to see if she was still there.
Meanwhile Younger Sister followed, like she had followed coming out of their mother’s womb, just ten minutes behind, but in those ten minutes was a lifetime, and now Older Sister had the crowds of friends around her and the many suitors all eager for a moment of her attention, for a flash of her brilliant eyes, which were so much like hers, yet so different, and she had the ears and eyes of their teachers, and the power to decide when to walk through the park, when to take the bus, when to make their way up the stone steps that lead to the lake, and Younger Sister would follow quietly, always making sure that Older Sister’s sneakers were still ahead of her, always looking up to see where she would turn.
It would take no more than ten minutes to cross the park, ten minutes to make their way through the shadows of the trees, and up and down the gentle curves of the dirt path, and across the quiet inner road, and down the slope and along the little stream and then back up through another dirt path and, by that time, the houses would be just a block away and the illusion of an endless dark forest would be finished. But in those ten minutes, Younger Sister could imagine that the path would go forever and maybe soon Older Sister would say to her "Here, this is where we should sit. Let’s sit here and talk." But of course Older Sister was just quiet, stepping with clear decision across the obstacles on her way, the little roots, the pebbles, the empty beer cans fading in the sun, and Little Sister was quiet as well, her eyes tightly focused on Older Sister’s sneakers as they stepped away in front of her.
As they made their way around the dirt path, Younger Sister saw a man’s foot sticking out of a parked car and she thought that she had seen this before. She then saw a couple laying beside each other on a white sheet and she hoped that someday she would be here with a beautiful boy that would cradle her in his arms and talk to her and tell her all the things that Older Sister would not say. She looked up to see if Older Sister had noticed the couple but she only looked straight ahead, certain of her route, impervious to any distractions. To their left was a stone bridge with arches of red brick and a woman making strange scratches on a large yellow paper. Little Sister wondered if this woman was also imagining this strange world of possibilities that opened up to her when the shadows of the trees fell on her and the loud sound of traffic faded into the past. She tried to look at the drawing that the woman was making, but she was too far away, and Older Sister would not stop. She wondered then what would happen if she just walked over and looked at the strange drawing and didn’t say anything at all. Would Older Sister just keep on crossing the street and never turn towards her? Would she just keep on walking until she was completely out of Little Sister’s sight? Would she turn around then? She felt the touch of temptation come across her, a surge of innocent lust that grew from her crotch and traveled up to her chest. She even made an initial gesture, a physical move to the right, just to see if Older Sister reacted, just to see if Older Sister did anything at all. But Older Sister just kept on walking and so did Younger Sister. It had only been an impulse and it was already a thing left behind.
It was only ten minutes across the park. It was only ten minutes of difference. But in those ten minutes there was an entire life, and in this life Older Sister lead, and Younger Sister followed. She looked up at Older Sister once again as they crossed the street, making sure that she was still there, making sure that they were still together and they quietly made their way back home.

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