“Hey, ain’t you Jesse’s sister?” Jesse’s sister, that name should have been on my birth certificate. Not one of my brother’s friends ever called me by my first name. Did they know it? Even Kevin, who always found his way into my room when my brother was in the bathroom. Slobbering all over my face, in what I guess was his attempt at kissing. I was 10 or 11, I didn’t know how to kiss, and if I did, I didn’t want to kiss him. Only one of his friends knew my name and always used it. He wouldn’t try to kiss me then—later though—but when you’re married…
“Hey weren’t you Jesse’s sister?” This is what they called me after. Subtle name change. It was changed without my approval. I wanted to say, “I still am.” After all, he’s the one in the past tense. But I didn’t, instead, I put on a somber face and said, “Yeah.”
What was worse? The people I hadn’t seen in years. The ones who gave me that “Long time no see, how’s Jesse?” hug.
“He died 4, 5, 6 years ago,” I would say.
A shocked stream of oh shits and damns followed. I then gave them the sympathetic shoulder rub and perfunctory head tilt and said, “That’s OK.”
I used to get a lot of social media messages from his childhood friends, the ones who had memories. “I remember when Jesse did….” “I remember when Jesse said….” I remember when Jesse did and said too. Over twenty years of doing and saying.
I think everyone has gotten the memo. The grape-vine has been climbing.
Today, people know my name, though I no longer have real life experiences. Somber faces and head tilts are emojified. Most of my communication is six degrees, and only after one of our childhood acquaintances die.
It is mystifying to watch what people do when they learn someone from their past dies. It doesn’t matter how superficial the relationship, he or she will remember all the things that the departed had ever said or done. But, one day before they wouldn’t be able to pick them out of a crowd of two.
Guilty! When I’m in the thick of social media death talk, I think back to the last time I spoke to that person. The last time I thought about the person. The last time I realized that person was not already dead. Then I remember that one-minute we talked in 9th grade about...
Liz Kelso resides in New York City. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing from The College of New Rochelle. Her writing can be found in the Phoenix Literary & Arts Magazine. She is also an editor for The Canopy Review Literary Magazine.