Urenwa loved her solitude. As a child, I remember my parents and relatives trying to engage her in careless banter but she never seemed interested; she experienced life from within. I felt bad sometimes when people came and got a bad impression of her because they didn’t understand her difference and her need for lonely silence. I never understood my sister either but I accepted her because there was something subtle and simple with the way she expressed herself. The older we grew, the more quiet she became. She read a lot of books both the usual and unusual but I know she enjoyed fiction more. She loved putting her imagination to use; maybe she was developing the world in her mind. Sometimes I’d watch her lift her head from the pages of a book and stare out our lone bedroom window with a smile on her lips, I longed to know what she saw in those moments that made her beam. I longed to experience my sister’s other worldliness with her but it wasn’t possible. I was different from her, people came and enjoyed my presence. My friends would sometimes ask if my sister had problems socializing or if she was born “different” – they meant the offensive kind of different – unlike me.
I was in my final year of secondary school while Urenwa was in her second year in the University when I noticed something different about her. She never liked socializing so she opted not to stay in the hostel unlike her coursemates, so she came home everyday before 7. This was the norm until I noticed she began coming home after 7 and she always had a smile when she entered. I usually gave my sister her space but curiosity took the better of me so I asked her one night after my nightly shower. She was reading a book titled “A prayer for Owen Meany” by John Irving and I was applying Nixoderm on my face. She spoke slowly, her words drawing out like syrup with reverence on her face. She said his name was Dare, that he had such smooth dark skin and his raspy voice was perfection. She spoke about how the first time she stared into his eyes she felt at peace, and for the first time she longed to share her solitude with someone. I saw her glow daily when she got home until one night she came home with tears in her eyes. This time when my curiosity took the better of me she didn’t speak about his voice or his warmth; she spoke about the other girl. The one he unapologetically left her for.
I watched my sister wither and dry up more each day. She no longer loved her solitude. Some nights I’d wake up and find her hugging her knees and mumbling some words. I guess she couldn’t stand the thoughts in her head anymore, I’m sure she no longer dreamt in technicolor. Her lonely silence only brought thoughts of inadequacy to my sister’s once beautiful mind. She was never the same. I guess the fabric that made up her existence was fragile and her solitude was what maintained it. She was admitted in the psych ward the day I came home and found her sprawled on the floor laughing hysterically with tears streaming down her face; I’d never heard her laugh so loud before.
I rarely ever talk about my sister these days that the few times I do people get surprised about the fact that I have a sister. I show them her picture; one of those times when she was staring out the window with a smile on her face and the light was just right. Then they ask me what she was like, I don’t tell them about the books she used to read and what beautiful imagination I’m sure she had. Neither do I tell them about the dark skinned boy who stole my sister’s solitude and with it her sanity. I tell just tell them that my sister loved her solitude.