I wasn’t there very long. What’s funny is, I’ve been here, a place I didn’t even want to go, for longer. I hated saying goodbye to everyone but it wasn’t up to me. It was just time to go. You can’t stay in one place forever, can you?
Sometimes I’m still right there with them. Like when I sent a black crow my little sister Jenny’s way. It was me perching on the branch in front of her bedroom window making all the fuss. I got Jenny her apartment downtown with the big oak tree two years ago. The listing came up and I made sure she saw it and the landlord chose her. She didn’t know it was me working it all out behind the scenes.
She lives on the first floor below the piano player. Every afternoon at two, the tenant above will practice and Jenny can’t help but think of me because that lady is endlessly playing two of my favorite songs. The ones that used to drive Jenny crazy as I practiced them day in and day out, until I got it right. Beethoven’s Bagatelle in A Minor, Für Elise, for one. Jenny is hearing those songs again in the same way. The stumbles, the repetition, the triumphant movements followed by the sudden wobble and pause. The do-over. And over! I laugh. This is me laughing.
Sometimes I cry. I miss everyone so much. I was given twenty-nine years. Twenty. Nine. Can you believe it? I was born into all the best things and it was all taken away. I was pretty, I was smart. And fun? Life of the party. I had it all so it was pretty unfair what happened to me. Just one thing can go wrong and change everything you’ve ever worked for, ever loved, ever hoped to become. One little thing.
I can tell you something about being here, though. It’s different for everyone depending on what you believe in, how you behave, how you got here to begin with. For me, it’s not too bad. There’s a piano in a room at the end of the hallway. Some days, an old friend will visit out of the blue. I’m always surprised the first time some show up. And others, I’m sort of expecting them. Dad came first on his own, then mom a few years later when she was finally ready. Now they visit together, more accepting of the whole thing.
I suppose I should tell you more of my story. Before I had to come here, that is, because I’m pretty different now. I was born into my family with four older brothers before my sisters came along. I was a tom-boy, too, because of them until I got to be a teenager and then I was the girliest girl you could ever meet. I had to share a room with my sisters which I hated at the time, but boy, what I wouldn’t do to be in that room with them now!
I made the rules. Like, I got to wear all of their clothes but they weren’t allowed to so much as breathe on mine. And I had the say on what went up on our walls. Bobby Sherman, no. James Taylor, yes. David Cassidy, no. Eric Clapton, yes. I decided when lights went out and what records rotated on the hi-fi. I decided how they should wear their hair, what shoes and eye shadow and perfume to buy.
Gosh, I miss them. But it’s just time and space between us, that’s all and if you haven’t figured it out yet, that stuff is not linear. It’s a circle. You’ll see. Eventually. It will feel like eternity if you believe otherwise.
Let me explain. It was on my twenty-eighth birthday when the sentence was handed down. I know, so young. So much life ahead of me, so much potential. I didn’t see it coming. Wrong place, wrong time.
Who goes to the doctor on their birthday and finds out something like that! At the time, I was so mad, I felt like I let everyone down. Later, I saw the light. No one was disappointed in me. They were disappointed in the crappy hand I was dealt. I try to stay connected, for example, one day when Jenny was sitting in the park, Mom, Dad and I appeared at her feet. Three crows doing our dance around her in a circle. She sat watching, even talked to us a little bit. Funny. The things she felt were important to say, we already knew.
I guess this is the ending of my story. Twenty-nine years is not a long time. I enjoyed my embodiment, even if it was brief and I missed out on so much. My last year was sad; visits to the hospital, losing my hair, losing so much weight from that pretty body of mine. Losing my way. Until I found the proper map and got myself ready to go.
Listen. It must be two o’clock! Jenny’s upstairs tenant is practicing her piano. Today it’s my other favorite. Moonlight Sonata, First Movement, Opus 27 No. 2. Jenny is listening and staring off into space, feeling my visit. Hi, Jenny! Remember it?
We’re all temporary residents. I was a brief visitor, but so are you, you just don’t really get it yet. I never did, get that I was just passing through. You might get to visit longer than I did, but it’s all the same. Some take the long way and others look for the shortcut. In the end, we’re all just walking each other home. You’ll see. Someone will be waiting for you. Jenny, I’ll be there for you. I’ll meet you on the corner and we’ll walk together hand in hand. Back home together.
Mary Corbin is a writer and artist based in the San Francisco Bay Area. Her approach is one from the heart, seeking honesty and connection to the global community. Whether in words on a page or paint on a canvas, she aims for strong narrative and relatable characters and experiences. Mary seeks common ground by capturing a simple moment, thought, or gesture of the ordinary, while suggesting the mysterious layers that lie beneath the surface. This contemplation is her constant source material.