I remember when we were kids; secret pacts with our pinkies intertwined. “We’ll be friends forever. No, brother and sister.” We sealed our pact with a trip to the candy store. I bought for you, and you held my hand. Two innocent kids having fun. You clung to me. Exaggerated swinging hands, and skip walk, until we reached your house. A story building across from my primary school, where your mother was my teacher. From afar, I could see your parents watching us, leaning on the ornamental rail on their balcony. My third trip escorting you home that evening. A frown on your father’s face was not menacing enough for me to overlook your mother’s exuberance. It was overtly evident with her smile. Candid expressions, as they watched our summer evening ritual.
“They’re back!” your mom said. Sheer enthusiasm. In the backdrop, I heard her whisper to your father, “I wish he was our son.” I smiled. It felt good to be wanted by your parents. An option for me, in case my parents waved their rights. I knew it could never happen, but it felt good. Conceit.
When I decided to go home, you sobbed. Tears, and a look of disappointment in your eyes. “I want to live with you,” you said. You were eight. An innocent proposal. I smiled. “I’ll ask my mom,” you added.
“I’ll be back in the morning,” I said. You hugged me, and held on. Toffee breath wisped through my face. Your penchant to blow your breath on my face whenever we hugged. My spoiled little sister.
Now, years have passed, and you may have forgotten our final pact in July of 1977. At six pm, the church bell rang. We stood at the entrance to the sacristy. Only one of us could go in. It was my last time at the altar. The letter from the Dominican seminary fell from my hand. You picked it up, and read it against my will. My pastoral wish granted, but medical school had flirted with me when I was vulnerable. I saw myself in a different white robe. Not for Sunday mass, but for a daily healing. I acquiesced.
When I entered the sacristy, you chose the side door to the front pew. I watched you as the single pew by the altar welcomed my knees. My head bowed in total submission to God. I asked for forgiveness with my eyes closed. It was the end of my Dominican priesthood fantasy, and my last day with you. You were there, my little sister, to support my final decision.
When we emerged from the church, you left me standing by the door. No hugs, or intertwined fingers. From a distance, you said, “don’t let any girl break your heart, and please, come home in one piece, someday.” I watched you disappear as the setting sun blinded me.
Fidelis O Mkparu, July 17, 2016.