I see my father doing his morning exercises, but they are not calisthenics in the usual sense of the word. He has black ballet slippers on and he is doing plies and ronde de jambes. He is there where the kitchen, the den, and the hall to the bedrooms come together. No one else is up. He has just cleaned the cat box – he has taken care of the cats, and now he is taking care of his body.
I have huge respect for him, the way he takes care of things. He takes care of people too. He takes care of me. I love these mornings when he and I have breakfast together. It is such a precious time. Before Mother wakes up. She always comes out of their room grumpy and rumpled. She doesn’t take care of her body. She doesn’t take care of her soul.
Father designed and built this house, high on a rock ledge in a woody suburb outside of Boston. It is nothing fancy – a long low rectangular structure with picture windows. I have chosen my room, at the far end of the house. I have chosen the colors of my room – blue and beige. Toni’s room is next to mine, a smaller room because she is going away to college. Her curtains are red. There is a closet between our two rooms and I have urged my father to put a door on both ends, to make a secret passage between our rooms. He does. So we can visit without telling them? So we can have a secret life together?
I feel myself pushing past her clothes and I smell the oil of her paintings which are stored in there, but I don’t remember ever hanging out with her in her room. I see her room empty, uninhabited. She has left for college. I go into her room, from the door in the hall, not through the closet, and I read everything there is there to read. I read her journals. I play her 45 records. I take them into my collection. For years she is angry about what I have stolen. I see it as borrowing. I see it as trying to get inside her, trying to know her better. But she is gone. I am home. Of course it doesn’t feel that way to her.
I am lonely that my sister has left, even though we are no longer close. When we lived in our former house we used to visit one another in her room, and we tickled each other’s backs. She used to draw letters on my back and ask me what letters they were. And put objects on – ooh cold objects, paperweights perhaps, or scissors – and the game was to guess what they were.
After she leaves I am all theirs. Mother tells me, much later, that I begin to talk after Toni leaves. Of course I literally talked before, but now I talk more. Am I all theirs? Or am I alone?
I wander in the woods behind our house, down a dirt road.