HAVE YOU SEEN MY RISA?
Ten years have passed since Risa disappeared from our lives.
The way those pillows were placed just so, made the policemen write it off as just another runaway case. For us, the mystery continues.
I have seen my parents sway in their resolve to find her and despair as they slowly lose hope. They haven’t forgotten, but they talk less and less about her. Something like that can break down a family; I’m glad that hasn’t happened to us.
Out in town, I catch my mother taking a long, unabashed look at the faces of strangers who come to visit our town. She is looking for her. She is looking for her in those strangers. Have you seen my Risa, my mother’s eyes inquire from them, do you have a message from her? Sometimes I have even seen her caress girls who smile back at her.
Risa, we are waiting for your return. We will not ask questions, we just want you to come back home.
I am older now than Risa was then. I miss her still. Only now I feel like the big sister.
Never a day goes by without me thinking of Risa. What is my sister doing today? I feel her near mostly when I hear thunder and lightning. Where before I would run to my mother or hide under my covers when I heard thunder, now I run to a window in my room expecting to see her. In my mind’s eye I see her wet, shoeless and exhausted from walking, waving at me and coaxing me to let her in. I will not need coaxing if I see her; I will let her in when she comes to me. I will let her in and I will let her sleep in my bed, and I will sing her the lullaby I hear in my head.
Sleep little Risa,
sleep my little one.
The horse is in the stable,
the cat and dog are entwined.
Sleep my little Risa,
Everything’s gonna be alright.
Sleep my precious Risa,
No more wandering –
Home is where you belong.
The morning when we found Risa was missing, the police came in to question me.
…when was the last time you saw her …what did you guys talk about …did she give you any hints that she was unhappy here …did she keep a journal …did she have a boyfriend …who was her best friend …did she have a hobby …did you guys have a fight…
To the eight year old that I was then nothing made sense. All the questions the policemen asked, were answered with a continuous shake of my head as my lips repeated silent I don’t knows. I didn’t know the answers.
For me, my sister was the taller of the two girls who lived in my house.
She was the one who learned her school lessons well; the one who worked odd jobs and bought me colorful writing paper to send to my pen pal in America. She never told me that she was unhappy or that she was planning to leave. We never fought or argued; though I wish we had.
Risa never talked much, but neither did she ever ask me to leave her alone. She hardly ever turned up her lips in a smile when we got our pictures taken but when we were together she would always look me in the eye when I spoke to her. She would nod and open her eyes wide when something pleased her and with dancing eyes that smiled she would clap her hands instead of a lips-upturned smile.
Did it hurt her to smile? Did it hurt her to talk? What made her so?
She went to school and had many friends but she seldom ever hung out with anyone. She made the students’ list often though she never seemed to care. And at the restaurant where she worked, she washed the dishes, emptied the trash and mopped the floor without complaining. The restaurant manager said so.
Did she have a boyfriend? Did she have a best friend? Did she keep a journal? What thoughts crossed her head?
After that frightful night, I came to sleep in my own bedroom next to my parents’. As I got older I came to like the quiet in the attic. I kept it ventilated and lived-in and I made some adjustments. I had dad install a brighter light and added a sensor light in the enclosed staircase. The window blinds still rattle but the ribbons are gone. I have renamed it my hobbit hole and I burrow in there sometimes when I feel my creative juices flowing. I have desks where beds used to be and big posters decorate the walls. I got a timer and I have the lights turn on every evening in hopes that if Risa were to return she would know that the attic was waiting for her. It was her attic.
I look around the attic and say my silent goodbyes to the windows, the walls, the low ceiling and to the silence. When tomorrow comes I will be moving out of town to go to college. The spiders will come and take residence in the attic. The mice will come in to gnaw on my posters and stalks of paper. But in the summer when I return I will open up the windows to let the sun walk in and to allow the wind to blow fresh air into the room once again. And if Risa returns while the lights are turned on she will know that I have readied the attic for her. It is her attic.
This is the second part of ‘The Attic’ published a week ago. If you’d like to read that (But there was no Risa…), please click on the link:
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