“Coffee Talk,” a personal narrative

Sandra is color — bright, eye-catching, vivid color. Her eyes and hair are coffee brown (she likes coffee), but her soul is flashy and rich. The first thing people notice about Sandra is her soul.

When she walks, her spirit radiates waves of serenity and peace — people can’t resist turning their heads.

Her angelic heart spreads throughout her soft skin, her prime health, her smile-creases (around the eyes and mouth), her giggle.

Sandra is strength, clarity, warmth, and movie-theater popcorn. Sandra is thirty-two, and she is my sister.

She and I go to France every summer; we wake up before our alarms ring and sneak out to the farthest boulangerie and buy warm, crunchy baguettes. Sandra won’t eat the ends because they hurt her teeth. I don’t eat the chewy insides; I like the crust. We are fluid and we connect and our likes and dislikes merge into one perfect being. We are unity, inseparable-ness.

Sandra is loved — oh man, she’s loved.

She is starting to getting bumps on her skin, many bumps, of many different sizes, so I think they are bumps of adoration — one bump for every person who loves her. Bumps of strength. She always tells me to have tough skin and to not let anyone hurt me without my permission.

She is getting tough skin herself, now. There are a lot of bumps.

She is smiling less frequently. She comes to visit my parents and me twice a week; she brings vanilla sugar cookies but doesn’t eat them, only offers.

Today is Sunday morning and I smell flowers, medicine, wet dogs, and breakfast. Mom, dad, and I are visiting Sandra in her new hospital room. She and her glowing, strong, bumpy skin are in 6870 and my mom, after worriedly talking to a nurse, tells me our France trip “isn’t possible anymore.” I feel confused, betrayed, angry, hopeless. I walk towards Sandra (towards Sandra’s hospital bed, which is covered with light-blue pills and iPhone cords) and she tells me her bumps are not a good thing. That I need to be ready. That I need to be strong and that I need to remember her always.

My head spins; my stomach tightens. My heart is about to burst and I flee the suffocating hospital room. What is going on, I think. Our trip is cancelled and Sandra’s bumps are bad and I won’t ever sneak out to buy baguettes or swim in the salty beach with her again. My toes shake with anger and my body bloats with frustration. I cannot — will not — accept this. I feel a heaviness on my shoulders, sinking me to the floor. Pause. Breathe.

Reality blurs and I become a spectator in the steamy battle between anger, vengeance and forgiveness. Two against one.

I decide to root for forgiveness; the negative team looks too heavy. I resolve to make Sandra and I’s hearts the happiest and purest they can be while they are both present, and to forgive her for leaving me alone in this world for however much longer I remain.

Everyday since that FIRST day I saw her at the hospital, I bring Sandra memories and love and good jokes and emotion because she says nothing tangible matters.

We play Uno and I try to let her win but doing so brings out the opposite effect.

We sit together on the small twin size mattress and say nothing; we appreciate each other’s presence and feel at ease — our toes relax.

I help her forget the tragedy she has been cursed with.

She smiles and I feel warm looking at the creases beside her watery eyes.

Her skin bumps have a competition with her soul for which can become the biggest; her soul wins by far.

I walk into room 6870, smell chocolate croissants and see Sandra curiously reading a magazine, drinking black coffee. Her goodness penetrates through her body and I am reminded of her heavenly soul.

The bumps have gotten worse; Sandra tells me there is one really super large bump on the side of her brain now. Sandra, my Sandra. My beloved, strong, glowing, invincible, movie- theater-popcorn-eating Sandra tells me she wants more than a life in pain. She says that living in pain and frustration is pointless, is not a life.

She doesn’t come with me to France this Summer (my mom says Sandra would still have wanted us to go). I still wake up at 5:30 and walk through the yellow sleepy morning until I reach the boulangerie. I buy two baguettes and eat four ends; I eat the fluffy insides as well.

The world is more colorful now. I close my eyes and see rainbows and see laughter and see sunlight and see memories and see angels.

There’s a stranger in 6870 now — Sandra moves into too big a room for it to be on Earth.

She walks a steep incline and traverses worlds lightly, humbly, gracefully; the other angels can’t help but turn their heads.