Lois Greene Stone, writer and poet, has been syndicated worldwide. Poetry and personal essays have been included in hard & softcover book anthologies. Collections of her personal items/ photos/ memorabilia are in major museums including twelve different divisions of The Smithsonian.
My older sister and I had not seen one another for a decade, had little contact during that time because of family conflict, and we were reuniting inside a hotel shaped like a pyramid. Seemed appropriate as, when children, we once posed for a picture sitting atop a perisphere replica of a World's Fair logo with its trylon stretching upwards beside us. Trylon and perisphere. Flushing Meadow Park. Las Vegas. We were meeting in a trylon-shaped building.
From the air, as the plane was landing, that hotel looked like a geometrical piece from a child's game. The brown desert only made its black glass triangle all the more striking.
Tired from my trip of 2000+ miles, I slowly turned my neck from side to side to stretch muscles, then pushed sides of my limp blonde hair behind my ears. I moved the locket, dangling from around my neck where it pressed against my skin, to the outside of my blouse; I opened it, as I waited for my luggage to circle the conveyor belt, and looked at the tiny snapshots of my parents. The locket was an amulet and I never traveled without it...not since I was eighteen and got it as a birthday gift.
In less than a half hour, under a replica of the sphinx, a bellman took my bag and I went to check in. A water ride, on the 'Nile', was inside the building. Wonder if my sister would like to take that? Was walking too painful since she said she was now disabled from spinal problems? Could she stand on the long line, physically get into the boat? Would she look old, stooped, deformed?
My parents had once said that time was a most precious commodity, and is irreplaceable. But time had a way of passing without a relationship with my sister; we'd had only time for our differences and hostility. Might we now find anything at all to 'connect' then replace emptiness with sharing? I fondled my locket; the smooth gold surface felt nice between my fingers.
Was the elevator cable about to break? The ride, at an angle, moved the hoist from side-to-side as it went up to the 22nd floor. I wondered why the architect didn't put elevators in the center of the pyramid so guests could ride up the usual way rather than on the severe sides of the building. Glad to get into my Egyptian-motif room, I looked out at the view of the airport and hoped my sister's plane from Los Angeles would get in on time.
Time again. We can't make it up. I was three hours earlier than my usual biological clock and mused about the gain; I knew I'd be sleepy sooner than my sister, however.
Would I recognize someone I haven't seen in a decade? I talked to my image as I secured plastic combs into my hair. Do we have anything at all in common? Our lifestyles have been different: I'm with the same man I wed decades ago and she's been divorced twice. We didn't look alike as children, or adults, so, middle-aged, what features, if any, might show we've come from the same gene pool? Did she also inherit the staying-natural-without-greying hair of our parents? Would she make me self-conscious since I'm still skinny, and call me the childhood taunt Skinny Marink? Should the conversation merely be polite or can we speak of sensitive things? Would old rivalries surface? I spoke to the bathroom mirror then washed my hands with the only soap provided; it was perfumed and I sneezed.
Glitz city. Unreal. Perfect for this meeting which seemed unreal, too. I went down to the level which had restaurants and virtual-reality games.
The restaurant area was made into a city: New York. My childhood. I was seated in a section that was a replica in color, furnishings, awnings of my youth and a mural on the wall was of Manhattan's docks. Wooden Venetian blinds with fabric tape reminded me of my girlhood bedroom. Well, the restaurant sure had some pieces of past for me, although I still doubted my sister and I had any personal connection. Was this unreal, as a movie set ... as the entire town of Vegas, as my meeting her in such a place?
My watch indicated it was time. Time again. Feeling excited yet anxious, I went to the check-in area to search faces and forms to find my sister. Should I run up to her and embrace her or approach with caution?
I scanned the line, and my eyes stopped on a woman with a cane. Her beauty-shop colored hair was pushed into a glamourous style. Was it her? No one else on line had a cane. I quickly walked over, crossed the barrier's velvet ropes, and approached. I looked at aqua eyes framed by perfectly applied eye make up and knew those aqua eyes belonged to my sister. I hugged her with disbelief, then felt self-conscious when my plastic comb slipped from my straight, fine strands.
She looked into my grey-blue eyes whose lashes were without mascara, as usual, and said "Is it really you. Oh. I'm so happy! You're the same."
"Except for jowls and a wiggly neck, uh, huh."
She smelled fragrant, and I didn't sneeze from the scent. This was not the image of an infirm, aging woman with a crippling disability. This was not the stature of someone hoping for sympathy for her physical plight.
Her nails were polished. I hadn't done mine with polish since my wedding...I think about it, but typing, playing the piano, painting on canvas, golfing, doing domestic chores just don't go with painted nails. She bit hers as a girl; I suddenly remembered. Now she had glamourous ones.
Memory. We do have that. As a child, I loved her, I hated her, I giggled with her, I went out of my way to walk to school along a completely different avenue just to not have to talk to her. No. These memories should stay where time put them.
Time was a most precious commodity, and is irreplaceable. Did she, too, know we didn't understand that?
She moved toward the check-in when space opened; she limped. Would we discuss her future operations, limitations? Might we talk about the many years our parents have been dead? Would we try to find something in common or just ... She opened her wallet to show a credit card.
I stood next to this stranger whose genetic markers were also in my body although nothing on the surface indicated that, and saw, in the open wallet something that we two had that tied us forever. I felt startled, for a second, as it was so unexpected. I'd thought about so many differences, and wondered about anything shared. I reached at my blouse for my locket, blinked as if I could halt tears, opened the clasp to expose the contents. In her wallet's plastic picture inserts were photos we had in common: our parents.
©1996 Palo Alto Review [LOIS GREENE STONE owns the rights]
reprinted: July 2010 in Senior Beacon, New Hampshire
reprinted: March 9, 2011 The Jewish Press
reprinted: December 2015 Eunoia Review