Write about a person you love. This apparently simple instruction may be much more difficult than you think. Your greatest challenge will be to make you reader love this person, too. Healthy love is one of the more rarely written about emotions in fiction, especially smart, literary fiction.
(from prompt #28 in The 3 AM Epiphany)
Read my response:
She has a thick bruise on her arm and both my dad and I just ask her what happened to the other guy. The other guy was a middle-aged woman, and Megs laughs when she tells us we don’t want to know. Her soccer team played against some corporate office team, and this older woman started aiming for my sister.
“I wasn’t gonna let her push me around,” and she shrugs. She gets red-carded all the time. Usually for being the aggressor, and usually in defense of a teammate getting picked on. She’s quicker to fight for someone than against someone, but she’s a fighter all the same.
She’s standing in the kitchen, drinking Gatorade like she’s advertising for them. Her hair sits knotted up on her head, stray strands everywhere, and she’s got her usual “I just ran 8 miles for fun” flush. Seven years younger and three inches taller. It’s unsettling to look up to the growing up version of someone I used to carry on my hip. She’s got hips of her own, which she denies out loud (“I’m straight down like a boy”) and without speaking, wearing her soccer shorts and baggy t-shirt and standing straight up like a man. She doesn’t slouch, or bend easily. Even as a baby, she wouldn’t let herself be held. She’ll hold you, she understands people and the idea of comfort, it’s just not anything she needs herself.
She skirts around being the girliest girl, by her habits, but just barely: with blue eyes that inspire comparisons to clear skies, birds of happiness, Frank Sinatra, at first glance she's called angelic. But she uses her eyes to see, rather than be seen, and I don’t that it’s ever occurred to her that it could be the other way around.
Her boyfriend, in his Manchester United jersey, holds up her arm and she flexes. He and my dad nod at each other, mutually acknowledging whatever it is dads and boyfriends mutually acknowledge, and it’s heartbreaking to see how much this kid loves her. She makes a menacing face, flexing her bicep, and she moves from mock punching him to putting her arms around him without relaxing her muscles. She cocks back her head to look at him, and says, “You saw, right? She was being a bully.”
“She didn’t expect you to do anything, that’s for sure.”
Our littlest brother, autistic and a little bit of a drama queen, comes running through, practically knocking her boyfriend down to get to her. “Joshie! Be nice to Charlie!” Joshie is throwing all of his weight into his sobs. He has this amazing way of crying so that it sounds like demons dying, but sort of tenderly; simultaneously frightening and vulnerable. How I imagine Grendel sounds.
Megs bends, puts her hands on his shoulders, soothing and steadying him without saying anything. Sometimes when she talks, she gets nervous and talks too fast. Her words get jumbled together, and sometimes she’ll say something bland as if it were exciting. It frustrates me, hearing a story told so clumsily, and our fights revolve around this difference: my instinct for words, and hers for action. She struggles to understand my slowness, my reluctance for movement, my cautiousness and my laziness. She is quick to shove me when I talk over her, when I interrupt her stutter for a smoother, more mature interpretation of whatever she’s attempting to express. We approach problems from opposite ends. As much as this results in pulling against each other, it allows for mutual support, too. Once what I needed was money, and I didn’t know how to get it: dumb with fear, all I could do was cry, complain, telling my mother and myself that I just didn’t know what to do. Megs overheard but didn’t say anything, just left, and returned suddenly with more than I needed, handed it to me with a hug, and left again. I tried to express some fraction of the complicated emotions this provoked, and she just said, because it was all that mattered, “Well, you’re my sister.”
I keep staring at the blackened fist-shaped mark on her arm, and she notices, and turns a deeper shade of flushed. We have such different arms, the two of us, and hers so far today have defended, fought, flexed, flirted, calmed, soothed and steadied. They’ve barely rested. How can anyone look at her and not expect her to do anything?