Grammar.

Today, I am 28 years 7 months and 23 days old.

Today, my sister would have been 23 years 10 months and 23 days old.

Instead, she will always be 23 years 5 months and 5 days old.

*

Tonight, at a party, I met someone from my sister’s universe.

When a mutual friend interrupted our conversation, I introduced him as some one who had taught my sister, as some one who had known my sister. Some one else who overheard us asked how old my sister is; I said she would have been 24 this year.

And then I felt so ashamed of myself.

*

Until today I spoke of my sister in present tense.

I meet up with her friends over coffee to share our grief and convey comfort and cry in public spaces and learn about their coping mechanisms. They tell me she is amazing. I tell them she is precious.

I write to her. I speak to her. I dream of her. I feel her. To me, she is here.

Yet, when I convey this verbally, morosely, sobbingly, prayerfully, hopefully, comfortingly, I say that she is still here, I say it feels like she is here, I say I wish she was here.

My grammar acrobatics have become tacit, unmediated, unprovoked, unthinking.

How did I get here?

*

Growing up, we often spoke in future tense.

We will get through the night. We will emerge unscathed. We will get up in the morning and head to school. We will be okay.

I will get the house. She will get the musical instruments. I will make the children. She will get the pets.

I will work hard and save for our travel fund. She will plan the amazeballs trip to Iceland. I will hunt down Sigur Ros for us. She will catalogue our adventures with her camera.

I will make a home for us. She will get well. I will guard her resting space. She will get well. I will protect her agency. She will get well. I will respect her decisions. She will get well.

And then she went away.

*

I expend a lot of labour and effort to get through my day, each day, all days.

I give a kickass conference paper to a room full of experts, and I am still my sister’s sister. I sing harmonies on stage to a congregation of a thousand people, and I am still my sister’s sister. I weep in the arms of my person while desperately struggling to let go of all this pain, and I am still my sister’s sister. I sit alone in a dark room spewing confessions in this space to faceless strangers, and I am still my sister’s sister.

Some times, I have a hard time computing that all these layers are the same person, the same body, the same me. But I believe I am resilient, and I want to continue to do my life. Other times, the agony of these efforts take over and I become conscious again of how difficult all of this is. But I don’t know how else to make the sad go away besides coming here to make sense of this grief in text on screen.

What would happen if I stopped trying? Would the sad engulf me? Would my sister be disappointed in me?

*

I spend a lot of my grief time resisting the urge to go to my sister’s Facebook page, her blogs, her recordings. I always end up reading with my eyes and listening with my ears and feeling with my heart and then wanting to die.

I often wish I was her and she was me.

Today, I am 28 years 7 months and 23 days old.

Today, my sister would have been 23 years 10 months and 23 days old.

Instead, she will always be 23 years 5 months and 5 days old.

I think a lot about what she would have done with an extra 5 years 2 months and 18 days.

I often wish I was her and she was me.

How do the living go on without the dead? How do you process this pain and do life again? How do you transit from future to present to past tense? How do I go to sleep?

I often wish I was her and she was me.

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