When Ivor comes over, he asks for Brittany. When Skyler and Hugh come over, they ask for Victoria. The people who come over and ask for me are generally those I ask to come, or my visiting teachers, who come because they have to report back to coordinators.
I’m sitting on my bed, beneath the brown quilt my mother and I tied two summers ago. I’m on my computer, checking Facebook for a new wall post or a new message, and I leave the internet window open as I write this, just in case someone wants to send an instant message. After I wash my face or run downstairs to change a load of laundry, I check my phone for a new text message or missed call.
Yesterday I had two missed calls and three text messages after class—it was my mother.
There’s something about this semester that feels utterly alone. I come home from early classes to make my bed and re-do my hair, then sit for a while and stare at the light brown knobs on my white dresser. Or I pick up my guitar and play the same song I’ve been playing for the past two months. Or I glaze over the necklaces I've collected through recent years and the ones my mother bought from Anthropologie last Christmas--one made with creme-colored ribbon and tiny glass balls, another with thick, navy-blue stones. They hang in long strands from the hooks I bought with my employee discount at Pier1. At least I have beautiful things, I think.
I have siblings—four of them. The last time I heard from Michelle was last week—she wrote on my Facebook wall and said, xoxoxoxox.... Miss you much!!! My news feed showed that she wrote the same thing on all of my siblings’ walls. “You should really give your sister a call to let her know what’s going on with your life,” my mom says. Yeah, I think, but if she really wanted to know what was going on with my life, she’d call instead of use the internet to send me virtual hugs and kisses. The last time I talked to Nathan, I called him for decision-making advice about my mission. The last time we talked on the phone before that, was a year ago. Jared never calls. And two weeks ago, Justin asked my mom if I would babysit Josh--while he goes to Florence on a complimentary business trip this April--instead of going on the British Literary Tour. "You know, Aly," my mom continues, "these relationships are two-way." But for some reason, I feel like, because I'm younger and unmarried and far away, they should be a little more concerned.
When my mom complains about ticket pricing for flying me to and from school, Justin says, “I didn’t tell her to go to that freaking school. I told her to go to UTSA,” which is an hour and a half away from home. It's not like I'm competent enough to choose my own school. When my sister’s husband trash-talked BYU-I as we drove down an Arizona highway one Thanksgiving break, she turned to me from the front seat, smiled through her lipstick, and said, “Oh, Gordon, she’s just having fun up there, huh.” Yeah, I thought, and my chest thumped hard, I don’t write 10 page single-spaced analyses on Germany’s economic and cultural progression, or stay up all night to paint acrylic color charts for Color and Design, or research Tess of the d’Ubervilles’ feminist criticism on JSTOR for six hours at a time. I just twiddle my thumbs with my mouth open and drool on myself all day. I've done that for the past four years. Sometimes I feel like my siblings understand absolutely nothing about me, yet I am sealed to them forever.
There have been times when they’ve tried. Like the times Michelle bought me pink Hello Kitty pencils and strawberry lip-gloss from the Orange County Main Place Mall, when I was six or seven. Or the times when Jared picked me up from Cedar Valley Middle School every day in his black Nissan truck, booming Eminem through his subwoofer. Or when Justin bought me a silver dolphin necklace in fifth grade that I’ve worn twice, which now lays tarnished in a ceramic cup on a book shelf back home.
Nathan tried during my Senior year of high school. With the money I made scooping ice cream, I bought two tickets to see The Shins play downtown at Stubbs. My mother suggested Nathan take me, and he did. It took us two hours to drive the usual-thirty-minute drive because of rush hour traffic and a rainstorm. We made it to Stubbs ten minutes after six, and because of the rain, the show was cancelled. Nathan looked at me with black-brown eyes and a one-sided frown.
“What should we do now, Aly?” I remember he wore a grey Old Navy shirt, which was darkly spotted with rain, and a white visor that dripped.
“Run through those puddles?” I turned my head to look across the street at an empty parking lot, bordered by vine-covered canals, and I pointed. Nathan smiled with his speckled, white teeth, and I remembered the gap in them before his braces. I nodded my head. “I really want to.”
That night, we ran through rain puddles and gulped long breaths of humid, summer air. We ate at The Spaghetti Factory, took pictures beneath the Frost bank tower, and delivered two Big Macs to a homeless man. The Early November played beneath the squeak-swish of the windshield wipers the entire way home, and Nathan let me rewind that one great guitar riff each time it would end.
I used to let myself ugly-cry in front of Nathan, but he’s married now, and I guess that means no more rained out concerts or long road trips through Arizona. I used to try on Michelle’s earrings and shoes, but she lives in another state, closer to her husband’s family. Justin used to ask me questions about volleyball and violin and art, but now questions the value of my education. Jared used to tease me when we'd play a jungle-themed memory game, but now he has two daughters and a son—all under five—to tease.
When I check my e-mail, my Facebook, my phone, I wonder where my siblings are. I wonder if they’re busy at all or always. I wonder if they’re missing anything. I wonder if they know they have a little sister somewhere in the world who feels alone. At least I have beautiful things, like necklaces.