Something That Could Come Out of My Sister's Mouth

by Jon-Michael Frank

My complaint about my mother's death is my sister and I are different now. I got married. But that's just surface shit.

She thinks I am stoic. That's the exact word she uses whenever we talk about our dead mother. It began a week to the day after her death.

She said you are a stoic now.

I told her she had too much feeling, like how you become more aware of a limb that incurs a laceration or a bruise.

She asked me if I ever heard of phantom limbs.

I said no.

She said that's because you are stoic; stoics are people that never feel anything at all. I didn't care. I had to love my wife now. I couldn't think about things like phantom limbs, things that didn't even exist, things that you attempt to feel foolishly. My mother is dead. That's how things are. Not the existence of an existence that no longer exists. Complicated philosophical shit. My sister talked about this shit all the time now.

At the reception, she said that she was only beginning to know what life was.

I asked her what the hell that meant.

She said until now she never really knew much at all.

I asked her because of mom? Cause mom is dead everything is different now?

She said, yea, something like that.

I asked her how it was different. This is exactly what she said to me:

I never knew that all the things we don't feel are the exact opposite of the things we do.

I asked what she thought of my new wife.

She only said phantom limbs; but she repeated it like I was supposed to feel something from her insistence.

I didn't press her further. I had other conversations waiting for me. Different topics. Lighter topics. Celebratory topics. I had to talk to my new wife's parents. Her father; her undead mother. I shook their hands and I told them how much I loved their daughter. My wife was talking to some old high school friends of mine towards the back wall of the V.F.W. Her mouth was open wide and she kept dropping and raising a plate of cake. My buddy, Jim, put his hand on her waist. Her head dropped back. I imagined him telling her a good story about me from the past. Something that proved to my new wife that I'll never change. I hoped Jim had come up with something like that. A good story that never changes.

Then I saw my sister walk right in between my wife and Jim. She left through the back door. Didn't even say goodbye to anybody. My wife came over and asked me if everything was O.K. I told her yes, not to worry her. But to be honest, it wasn't. My sister was wrong. I felt things. When she walked out and my new wife came up, I felt empathetic. I felt like I was sharing some sort of grief with the world that went as far back as when anyone separated or came together with anyone else. A stoic wouldn't even dream up something like that. And when my sister and I visited our dead mother in a casket, I felt like the whole world was coming together, right on top of us, like we were a singularity of grief or something. I knew my sister didn't look at it that way though. She saw it the opposite. Like the world was coming apart, some Greek tragedy shit, where individual lives can squander existence for the whole human condition.

I think I understood what she meant with the whole opposite-feeling though. When the door closed and killed the natural light coming into the V.F.W. I felt like I no longer knew the person my sister talked to about our dead mother. Like that person is just a part of my sister now. That person is no longer me. Like she has to be two people now. And she can no longer have just one feeling: she has to feel the presence of something and also its absence simultaneously.

My sister was right about something though. I guess I didn't know much about what was going on now, but I knew there was nothing phantom about it. Maybe that's what my sister ought to see. She should see that there can't be a presence to something that really isn't there. That's the thing about phantoms though, they win either way; either they are not there, or they are and you just think they aren't.

BIO: Jon-Michael Frank has work appearing, or forthcoming in JMWW, Bubble Fiction Daily and elimae. He is also the Co-Editor of Mu: An International Haiku Journal @ Jon-Michael misses Philadelphia, and prefers these things: wabi-sabi, Philip Frank, The Lion King, Brittany Guie, "Christina's World" & love is all you need.