The Combat

My sister has come with me to yoga. And once we are done with our ohms, and invocation, and doing our bends, I see the unyielding of her limbs. Only now have I realized how she never complains. Above her left eye is a deep gash where her brain had to be pushed back. During the period of her meteoric rise to wealth, I was angry at her for setting up a business in competition with my husband and me. After a few poisonous emails, we had stopped talking to each other.

After texting her a terse message about my husband’s terminal diagnosis, we started a small flurry of cautious emails. He had wanted a divorce, and then with no one to take him in as his condition worsened, he came back, occupied my spare room in the first of my city rentals. After he left permanently, a relative of my husband came to help clear out his thingsā€”he was a hoarder, and between the packing of blankets and clothes to take to the Salvos, and over our cups of tea, she voiced something that had remained only in my head for all these years: that my husband’s family was toxic around money. Like we had all been splashed with a different shade of purple.

Some weeks ago, I said to my sister that we ought to hold hands. I said. When I reached over, it felt so odd. I couldn’t get over the texture of her fingers.

When we come out of yoga, the streets are dripping in neon and Friday night drinkers come to sudden stops to park. I shower and sit on the sofa eating smoked cashews and mulberries, reading a book past midnight; the latest literary phenomenon, said the boy at the bookstore. It has taken me a few chapters to fall in love with it but now I cannot not bear the narrator’s self-abuse, and the author holding pertinent events of childhood like a carrot. I skip to the end and felt more unsatisfied than ever.

I lack serotonin the next day, and potter around the house looking for things that do not wish to be found, and there are my late husband’s spectacles with their blindingly white frame on top of yet-to-be-unpacked boxes, and I am not sure what to do. From my eagle’s nest home, I see a jogger slow down and check a gadget hanging from her wrist. We are close to the river trail but she does not look like a tourist. I found a flyer on the windscreen of my car, from the local police, that asked if I had seen anyone suspicious in the area because of a burglary. A friend of mine said that I ought to put a wedge in the entry since single women are like beacons and everyone knows who they were.

My sister calls to say that she has gotten so angry at nothing, her blood sugar all over the place. Come over, I tell her, and I will fix us something to eat. Are you sure, she says.

From the living room, I watch her park the Toyota, hear the gate creak, even as the wind whips, She swings her right hip to get up my garden steps. I am so glad you got me to yoga, she says, but I could not have done that quiet stuff two years ago. I had forgotten those days of her head-on, and not expected to be alive, all my promises and prayers that I have since broken. While I am steaming the green beans, she texts her son who is winging through the clouds.

I cannot find the gelatin, and unable to make the recipe. My sister puts her phone down and turns off her mobile data.

She says, you are amazing. I admire how you have turned yourself around.

***

Girija Tropp’s fiction has been appearing in ELJ and New World Writing recently. Her work has also made its way into several Best Australian Short Stories editions, and has been published in The Boston Review, Agni, and various other journals. She has won or been short-listed for major awards. She lives in Australia.