There was a loud crash in the hallway. I didn’t turn around.
The world could have been crashing down on top of me – in fact, it was – but I didn’t care. I stood still, leaning against the trembling wall of my room at the university, and stared out the window. I couldn’t tear my eyes away.
I wasn’t looking at anything in particular. Not anything that was there, anyway. I didn’t really see the looming gothic buildings, or the leaf-strew quad, or the soaring trees which belonged to another age. Everything was shaking and bending, but I wasn’t paying attention.
I was staring at that far-off place on the horizon you look to when you’re lost in thought.
By the time the news of my sister’s death had reached me, I already knew. I had just been waiting for the confirmation.
We hadn’t spoken in years, not since we had had a falling out over something I couldn’t quite recall anymore. It must have been important at the time, but it was now only a lingering blackness.
Although we had never been close and had barely spoken in a decade, I could feel it when she breathed her last. I could feel the absence of her existence and the disintegration of all that had stood between us.
It happened during the night – my night, not hers. I was sleeping and when I awoke, I awoke to the certainty of her ceased existence.
It took almost a week for the news to reach me, and when it did, it came by telegram. The earthquakes that had been rebounding almost incessantly across the Earth for the past two months had interfered with the usual effective communication methods, even here in the US.
I had spent the intervening week looking out the window over the grounds, waiting for confirmation of what I knew to be true. As I stared off into the distance, I was re-living the early childhood experiences my sister and I had shared.
We spent less time together as we grew up and grew apart. But, on the day the news finally arrived, my mind had come to rest on a trip we had taken together to Thailand in our early twenties.
What had possessed us to travel together? I think, now, that it was some misplaced, vain hope that by experiencing something outside our comfort zones together, we might find some common ground.
What a mistake it had been.
As I stood reliving the trip, I realized that whatever had finished us forever happened in Thailand. I must have buried my memory of the argument, but I remember the aftermath. When you’re in a foreign country, you can’t just stalk off home when you have a blow-up with your travel companion. And so, despite the row, we were stuck together, forced to stare bleakly at the otherwise breathtaking scenery, hearts hardened and backs turned.
As we floated along in a boat on a shallow river with only a guide to turn to, there was one fleeting second in which we both forgot the argument and looked at each other in amazement. Lush, green mountains rose up on either side of the river, the sky overhead was a soft grey and the water was black and smooth as glass. Those were the only colours for miles, until out of the corner of our eyes, we saw a single, pink hibiscus flower floating at the edge of the river.
There were no flowers growing anywhere that we could see, yet there was the blossom, unmistakable in its delicate hues of pink and yellow, alone and out of place, caught tenuously on some rocks in the middle of nowhere. Just like the two of us.
It’s astounding when simple, natural beauty strikes you. It can take your breath away and knock down barriers, however briefly.
We looked at each other and the angst and hate seemed to dissolve. For a moment. I grabbed my camera and took a picture of the flower. When I looked back at my sister, her hardened expression had returned. The moment had passed.
We went our separate ways after Thailand and never really spoke again.
I had had the photo enlarged and copied. I framed mine and sent my sister the other.
The picture now hung in the hallway outside my room.
As I turned to look at it, I realized what had caused the loud crash in the hallway.
Written for The Speakeasy at Yeah Write #143
Word count: 746