(A companion piece to this photograph by Leanne Cole)
The idea that I’d be one of those people who could show raw emotion in public and not even care who saw me – that was something I would have never believed could happen to me. I’d always heard not to be too quick to criticize how people act in situations, because you never know – you might do something just as ridiculous in the same circumstances. I’d HEARD it. But I didn’t BELIEVE it.
I’ve never liked being in the spotlight. For a long time, I colored my hair brown because red hair just brought too much attention. But when I lost my job last year, I couldn’t afford to keep it brown and so it’s back to red. I hate it, though, just as much as I ever did.
My sister – she LOVES being the center of everything and when there’s no drama, she sure will create some. Even being on the fringes of whatever she was up to was too much for me; I couldn’t deal with it. That, plus some other things, is why I moved all the way across the country. It was time for me to start over, to make myself into who I wanted to me – not a boring replica of my sister. Distance was what I needed; distance was what I got. No one understood, but a few people like my mom and my friend Darlene at least pretended to support what I was doing. My sister never talked about it; for a while I thought she was jealous that the spotlight wavered from her for just one quick second, but later I decided that she hadn’t even noticed my departure.
I never meant to cut myself off from the family, but it happened anyway. I don’t think any of them knew I lost my job, and I know they never found out about those couple of weeks when I was living in my car. No one knew about that – I could barely even admit it to myself!
That rough part didn’t last long, even though back then it seemed like it lasted forever. I found a new job, got a place to live, and was finally starting to relax. Sometimes I even felt happy. Or what I guessed happiness felt like.
About a week ago, my sister called. I didn’t answer; I didn’t figure I had anything to say to her, and didn’t want to get pulled back into her drama-filled life. She called the next day, too, a couple of times, but never left a message. I wondered about it, but not for long.
The next day after that, Darlene called; we hadn’t really talked since I’d moved, but I answered. That’s when I found out my mom had died.
And that’s when I walked outside, in the rain, and sat on the curb.
I didn’t know what else to do. And it didn’t matter who saw me, or what they thought.