#SHEro: 13 years
I was about 6 or 7 when I tried to draw a portrait for the first time.
I was sittting on the stairs and you were telling me where to start: how to draw the lines just right, how to shade, how to make the eyes not look dead. I believed you. You were an art major, and most importantly, my older sister.
I remember painting your hair yellow. I remember getting frustrated because I couldn't quite get the lips right. You were always proud of your lips. And while we're at this, your nose. But you hated your toes, hated your legs, hated the scars that were there because of your carelessness. But you bruised easy, and there wasn't much you could do about that. You bruised easy and scarred just as fast.
I was around 11 when I started going through your diaries, the notebooks you painstakingly wrote a novel in. They were my introduction to sentiments. My introduction to boys, to friendships, to teenage rebellion, to getting my heart broken. I saw the world through your eyes and, my God, it was beautiful. Impressive. It was as colorful as your paintings. I wanted to see what you see.
The flood might have ruined all those notebooks, but I've kept all the feelings just the same. You have shitty penmanship, but your words embedded themselves in my subconscious. You made me want to write. Express my own sentiments, form my own friendships, and get my heart broken. I learned that, like you, I bruise easy and get scarred just as fast.
And it was you who told me my dreams will be my sanity anchors and I never should let them go. It was you who told me that it's absolutely okay to be insanely weird. It's what makes us extraordinary. You can call me extraordinary and lousy in the same statement.
You were the one who kept me in line. Woke me up and screamed at me to do my chores, the same one who slept beside me in her own home because she knew I don't like sleeping alone. You kept the light on when I had trouble quieting my demons. You knew how to deal with mine because you already had practice with yours. You never judged them. You were born 13 years too early, or maybe I was born 13 years too late, but the difference rarely matters when we coexist. You always made me feel like an equal, always believed I could take on the world.
Maybe what I'm saying is, "You're my person," and we don't even watch Grey's Anatomy together, but sometimes lines like these make our heart stop. So I'll speak in a way we'd both get, we're like JJ and Prentiss, or maybe Hotch and Rossi. Or Morgan and Garcia. You are my Annalise. We can both be Lightman and Foster, we just can't lie to each other. And I know, you're the only person who completely gets my dark humor. I mean who else would I get it from? You taught me realness, taught me power, taught me how it was to fail and get back up. And get back up much taller than before the fall. My spine will never know how it is to be straight if you didn't teach me how to make them so. My hands would have never learned creative if you didn't get yours stained with ink first. If you didn't learn how to cope when you couldn't buy linseed oil, I never would have learned what resourcefulness meant. Never would have learned the word fulfillment. I never would have learned what coping meant for the second time or what sacrifice meant. I learned patience and losing our cool. I learned contradiction and consistency. I learned hard work, wisdom, and acceptance.
You are not perfect. In fact, I will be the first one to point out your flaws. And you would expect that from me. You told me truth and brutal honesty. But then you also taught me about being human - how it is to love those who cannot love themselves. Those who forgot what it meant.
And, if in the future, you ever forget what that means, if reality ever catches up to your tricks, I promise to tell you that I love you. I promise to bring illegally downloaded copies of Criminal Minds and Green Tea Lattes. And maybe spicy noodles. I'll bring photos that were preserved, remind you of your children, remind you of all the movies we have yet to watch. Try to remind you of Nick Carter's face. Sing you Buses and Trains and other 90s hits. Feed you dark chocolate and pour your coffee. I'll show you how you first taught me to create. And how you continue to inspire me everyday since. I will show you love the way you showed it: unrelenting, unapologetic, unconditional.
Michelle Manese is freelance makeup artist, body painter, face painter, and host. When not freelancing, she's really a spoken word artist and part of Words Anonymous, a group of spoken word advocates.
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