Phantom Sister by Linda Simoni-Wastila

Marlena comes to me on the cusp of sleep and wakefulness, when the world blurs grey. She soars through yellow-tinted waves, her bald shining skull pushing through water. Although she never speaks, she makes a gurgling sound, high-pitched like the bottle-nosed dolphins at the Aquarium. I look but never see her face. When I wake up, the bottoms of my feet sting as though I scissor-kicked through 100 laps. Those mornings I call in sick and sleep in the boat’s hold. The gentle rocking hugs me.

My twin sister Maria lives halfway around the world in the Catoctin Mountains. She paints and writes poems about trees. We rarely see each other but the internet tethers us. Maria has the same dreams about Marlena — we think of them as visitations – but she feels the ache in her chest, the left side, a sharp pain like someone has plunged in an icy hand and wrested out her heart. Afterwards she also feels an uncommon, exhausting peace. We wonder if this is how we tangled in our mother’s womb: hands to feet to heart.

I find an old photo of the two of us, a college road trip to Baltimore. Our smiling faces squeezed together, the Washington monument towers behind us. I scan the picture, push send and the image zips to Maria’s mountaintop. Seconds later, she writes back. “There’s a hole between us.” I look closer at the photograph and my soles burn.


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15 responses to “Phantom Sister by Linda Simoni-Wastila

  1. Wow. Beautifully written, so moving.

  2. Maggie

    Another stunner. I loved, “Our smiling faces squeezed together, the Washington monument towers behind us. ” Evocative. Thanks, Linda. Really nice.

  3. len kuntz

    great language. full of colors and imagery and yearning. love it all from “bottle-nosed dolphins” to “there’s a hole between us.”

  4. Michelle

    This brings tears to my eyes, Linda. I feel the loss here. It is hard to write something beautiful and full which speaks so well of emptiness. I will miss your words after this year, but I will seek them out elsewhere.

    • Thank you Michelle. You inspire me, and I will also miss your words and your guidance. I hope we bump into each other in other venues — a lot. I think you know which part of the story honors you :^)

  5. they say sisters bond in ways others cannot understand – i long for that filial closeness though only taste it in pieces like this – thx

    • i have a sister — and i long for that bond, too! no, seriously, i think multiples feel something even more akin to closenss than ‘regular’ siblings. thanks for reading, friend. peace…

  6. guy

    I don’t have anything particularly witty or insightful this time around, just a data point: I got more of a sense of connection than loss.

    I enjoyed your writing here, and like Michelle, i will look for it elsewhere. Don’t let me forget.


  7. Wow, Linda this is just beautiful. I love this: “We wonder if this is how we tangled in our mother’s womb: hands to feet to heart.” For me the loss is palpable. Peace…

  8. Really, your final image – as they always should – makes it here. Thank you.

  9. My jaw dropped literally open both at Fictionaut when I first read this, and now. It is just gorgeous. I feel lucky that our paths cross in more than one place. And yet, this space still feels special to me. We met here. I won’t ever forget that. Or your lovely , evocative work.

  10. Pingback: Week #52 – Threesome | 52|250 A Year of Flash

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