“Along for the Ride,” Creative Nonfiction, appears in Pithead Chapel

“I hand her the cigarette and she takes a drag, lets the smoke out through her nose. It rises like an injured cloud and smells like something mysterious. I can’t wait to do that.”

When a child has siblings a decade older, she gets a glimpse of what might come her way someday. In my family, a sibling that much older served not as a playmate but as an impromptu stand-in for inattentive parents. My family was large and our parents had lost their way, so I watched my older siblings for the clues to survival, saw them accept things as they were. My older siblings played various roles in my life but all of them had a sharper, less-compromising take on the troubles in our family. They couldn’t offer any escape but each had his own way of offering some small respite—a hidden candy, a hand-me-down blouse, a lame excuse for the promises not kept. My sister Alice was a master at finding ways to sidestep difficulties and never tired of helping the rest of us do the same. She expected no credit for being a safe harbor. Her help was instinctive. But she knew there were circumstances I had to accept, troubles that wouldn’t go away. We could look away, and she often did, but I had to find a way to cope. I still try to see obstacles the way she did: troubling but inevitably comical, scary but unlikely to last.    https://pitheadchapel.com/along-for-the-ride/