• The Game of Pretend

    It is a beautiful day outside.
    The leaves are strewn
    across the ground, all colors,
    the sun is shining brightly, the
    neighbors lawn is full of clover.

    I turn to ask you if you’d like
    to go and try to find a four
    leaf, but you say no,
    you’re too tired.

    Sighs. They have become
    a regular occurrence
    in the family lately.
    Sad, long sighs,
    worried about what is
    to come, but too afraid to say
    anything at all.

    Except for you, you do not sigh.
    You are different.
    You do not play the game of pretend.


    When you first started
    getting tired, no one
    seemed to
    notice. Then, when Mom and Dad did,
    they thought maybe
    it was because you
    were getting older,
    growing, you needed your rest.

    Now everything is changed,
    though we like to pretend it isn’t.
    Let’s go and do everything all the same.
    Like it used to be.
    No, like it is.
    But it is not that way.
    I can feel it clearly. Everyone can.

    Why do we hide feelings?
    We do not do it very well,
    thus the sighs.
    Thus the sobs in the night.
    Thus the loss of words,
    the fake smiles.

    “I wonder what it will be like when I die?”
    You ask me one night, splaying your
    fingers out in front of your face,
    lying in the bottom bunk,
    though the top bunk used to be yours.
    I pretend not to hear
    you. Pretending is the new
    motto in the family, after all.

    I am watching you, lying there,
    blending in with the white sheets.
    You never used to.
    You scare me,
    because you act so unafraid.
    You make these statements too often.
    It worries me.
    You do not play the game of pretend.


    “I don’t think there
    is a heaven.”
    It is one of your statements that you make.
    I am curious why you think
    this, but I am too afraid to speak.
    Please don’t scare me anymore.
    You are my big sister,
    you are supposed to
    protect me.

    You think you will
    just be non existent. You
    have told me this so often,
    and then laughed,
    laughed like you
    are crazy.

    You are sitting
    across from me now,
    staring at me, and then
    you reach over and pinch me.

    “Does it hurt?”

    It does,
    but I don’t say so.
    I am worried you will
    hurt yourself if I say anything.
    You have gotten so strange lately.

    The men in the white coats said
    you only have a little while left.
    And you laughed,
    and Mom and Dad, they stared at you.
    Because you are not playing the game of pretend.


    Do something fun, make
    her last days happy.
    That is what they told
    us. So we go, we go to the park,
    and we swing on the swings,
    we go and eat ice cream,
    ride on the carousel.

    And when Mom and Dad
    are talking to people
    they know,
    they do not say the truth.
    They lie to them.
    Everything is fine.
    Our daughters?
    Oh, they are doing well.

    A little child came up to us at the park
    while we were there,
    he noticed how pale you were,
    and asked you why.
    She is an albino.
    Haven’t you heard of them?

    But you smile at him,
    with that new crazed smile
    of yours, and say

    “I am going to die.”

    No. Please, please play the game
    of pretend.


    Before all of this,
    we were very happy.
    Before you got sick.
    Before you got strange.

    We both went to school
    together, played with our friends.
    Told stories and laughed sincerely,
    read books eagerly,
    smiled truthfully.

    Me and you,
    we were so happy together.
    We were sisters.
    We acted like sisters should.

    The world was full of
    truth before this.
    Not lies.
    There were no sighs,
    no tears,
    no insane laughter,
    or talk of death, of dying.

    You, you most of all.
    You are the one that seems to be
    changing. And no,
    not just physically.

    But are you really the one who is
    changing? Or is it us?
    Are we the ones who have changed?
    Is it because we lie,
    because we play the game
    of pretend?


    “Im dying.”
    No you’re not.
    “Im sick.”
    No, no.
    “Look at how weak I am,
    I can barely move anymore,
    I can hardly breath.”
    You’re just growing,
    that’s all.
    “You are lying.”

    Please don’t hate me.
    Don’t hate us.
    Because it is so
    much easier to
    play the game of pretend,
    than the one of reality.
    Don’t you realize this?
    Can’t you see?

    It hurts to lie,
    but it hurts so much worse
    when you tell the truth. Accept the truth.
    Please, don’t talk to me anymore
    about death.

    I want you to stay here with me,

    “But don’t you see?
    Lying to yourself will not make me stay.”


    I know.
    I know that I do not need to lie
    And I also know that I feel
    so empty right now.

    I hate this feeling more than anything else.
    This feeling that I have lost something,
    something that I cannot replace.
    And I understand now.
    I understand why you
    were the way you were.

    Because we lied.
    I lied up to the very end.
    Even when you were
    fading away from me,
    I smiled at you, and
    Tomorrow, let’s go to
    the park, and swing on
    the swings,
    and eat ice cream.

    Let’s tell jokes,
    and read books,
    and play
    and hide and seek,
    and tag.

    Help me with my math homework,
    because you’re so much better
    at it than me.
    Most of all,
    sing me to sleep.
    I love your voice, its so pretty.
    I love you.

    And what did you reply?

    “I’m sorry, I won’t be able to go to the park with you,
    and eat ice cream.
    I won’t be able to tell jokes, and play tag, and hide and seek.
    I won’t be able to
    help you with your homework.
    And I won’t be able to sing you a lullaby.
    You’ll have to do them
    It’s not that I don’t love you,
    because I do, very much. It’s only because
    I’ll be dead tomorrow.”

    You, who never once played the game of pretend, to the very end.