This weekend, while I shopping for a dress, I realize my sister's best friend is dying in her bed. I push my arms into butterfly fringe sleeves and run my hands over silken fabrics and casual ribbons. She breathes raggedly--her family gathered from the four directions. I sigh in annoyance over the red silk skimming my hipbones--two sizes smaller than the last dress I bought--at least a size too large for me now. I stare at myself in the mirror...my river of dark hair needs washing, I'm a touch too pale, my feet are rough from walking without shoes. I imagine my calloused toes spreading out in my pretty little black shoes. I have the luxury of noticing my neglected feet.
Her hair is a downy blackish fuzz--she will never wash it again, singing in her off-key lilt in the shower, swaying her hips and lathering it up with the salon products she can afford to indulge in. She is a shade paler than I--not seeing the sun for weeks, her skin covering the ravaged body lost to disease. Her skin bears scars I cannot imagine--fans out over one small breast--the other she lost years ago. Her skin still divides cells...still sloughs off old ones--the brain hasn't said, "Don't bother, we're dying." Her feet curl up with the body's remembered pain--morphine her only sustenance now.
I walk in and out of stores all day, such a silly, girlish thing to do. I don't enjoy it much...even when I'm not thinking of her. I try on inappropriate dresses--the sluttish red one, the black lace, the gorgeous white too like a bridal gown to wear to a wedding. I turn from side to side, running my hands over my hips. None of these will work for me...but, they all fit me with the weight I've lost. Except for my favorites, these I am too small for now. I.AM.TOO.SMALL. Nothing works--I just want to walk in and see the dress I want. I want to slide into it and lose my breath. I want to feel heat rising from my skin right there in the dressing room--hot and cold all at once. I want to be vibrant and alive.
She will likely be dead by the time I wear it, of course. She is my sister's friend, not mine...but, I cannot shake her. I feel her everywhere. At night, I see her in my sleep in odd places she doesn't belong. She is a favorite of my sister's friends...how she loved her--she really did. She loved to shop--she'd have grabbed that sexy red dress from my hands and said, "This is the one; don't you dare try to blend into life now. Don't make yourself small." I can see her dancing on the dance floor, even if it's by herself. On her birthday--which one, I cannot remember now, I danced with her though I'm not a dancer. I am the one who sits it out--always. But, I danced because she insisted...because she said to, I moved my body.
I will never see her again--my big sister's "coolest" old friend. Next weekend, an old friend of mine will marry his soulmate...but first, let me get back out into the shops. I've got to find a dress she would have worn--a risky dress or an amazing dress. I am twice removed from the disaster of this impending death...but, I need to say how it sparks me to live...my hair, kindling--my spirit, fire--my body burning.