Once, when I was ten and she was twelve, I had a headache. I went to
see the school nurse, but her door was closed. She always did that. We used to
call her 'Nurse Not-In.' Finally, I gave up and went to Allie's class. I was
crying by then. She asked the teacher - didn't ask, exactly, but the words were
right - if she could be excused, then she got up and came outside.
As soon as I said what was the matter, she took me by the hand and
charged down to see the nurse. The door was still closed, but she just
kepthammering at it until Nurse Not-In stepped out. 'Why Allie,' she said,
'I'msurprised at you.' But Allie just drew herself up until she looked a head
taller than she was and said, 'Don't you give me that! You're always hiding in
there! People have to practically die before you'll open the damned door!' My
head was still hurting, but still it made me laugh, the way Nurse Not-In stepped
back. After that, she gave me my aspirin and she was nice as pie.
That's what Allie was like then. You wouldn't know it now. She's
still a spitfire sometimes, but mostly she's just given up. Daddy's death was
part of it. And all those lousy men. She just kept choosing the wrong ones to
take care of.
Suddenly, I don't know when, I became the strong one. I'm the one
with the good job, the nice place. The one thing that's the same is, she won't
ask for help. She's the one with the headaches now, and the one closing the
door, too. Don't even think about saying she drinks too much. When I'm home,
she always gives me a hug and screams how happy she is to see me. And then
she just wants to be left alone.
The funny thing is, she still intimidates me, even now. But one
daywhen I've gotten stronger, when I've really become as brave as I look, I'm
going to start knocking, good and loud, and I'm not stopping. I'm not stopping
until she comes out.
COPYRIGHT 1997, Jim Chevallier