OUR TALK talked turned to movies, those being made and those currently on show, for Ginny and I went to them every few weeks, it was one of our 'things'.
We talked of the upcoming summer and of Claire and Amber flying home from England, Hannah from Australia; of the Indigo family Christmas Ginny would host, for she was the keeper of our family traditions.
Small talk, the sort of talk we always had. Maybe half an hour or so.
And when we reached a lull, I began to silently frame the platitudes that would help ease my exit: Is there anything you need? I'll visit again tomorrow. I'm sure you'll feel better soon. But before I could, something new, different - desperate in Ginny's eyes.
And our conversation strayed to areas we never went.
"I'm tired, Izzy," Ginny said and looked it, enervated as if she treaded water in a sea full of sand.
Then she began to talk about her weight.
For nearly as long as I could remember Ginny had been overweight. A problem that started in her first year of high school when she'd been bullied because mum and dad couldn't afford to buy her the trendy type of P.E. shoes. Coming home to cry everyday, she'd sought comfort in food.
A problem that escalated as she got older, one she could never quite get to grips with. A problem with a name: obesity - a name we never used for fear of hurting her feelings. For Ginny was so much more than that to us.
Giving and sensitive, intelligent and creative and witty.
Sometimes Ginny and I would discuss the current diet her and mum were on, how she was progressing, how much weight she'd lost. But this was the first time Ginny ever opened up to me about how she felt.
As the night lengthened and I stayed hours longer than I intended, she talked to me about her periodic depression. "I can go for weeks pretending everything is all right. But then I see myself in a mirror and I can't pretend anymore.”
The mirrors were everywhere: shop windows and seats that were too small, the judging eyes of strangers. Having stared down the black hounds of hair loss I understood, as perhaps only I in the family could.
Ginny told me of her wish to get married, “He doesn’t need to be handsome, he just needs to be nice” - to have children, “Even one would be okay, just one perfect little boy or girl” - of how far away it seemed, how she thought it might never happen, “Sometimes at night when I’m laying there and I can’t sleep and I think about the future I get this sinking sensation, like something is crumbling, like I can actually feel something is slipping away . . .”
She was thirty-five years old and I'd never known her to have a boyfriend.
"I'm tired, Izz," she said at the end, "awfully tired. Just sick and tired of being trapped inside my body. Of being alone and not feeling well while the world passes by. And with every day that ends I think: that is another day closer to the day when it will all be too late, soon."
There was a hissing. Something in the room hissed. Or in my head. I didn’t know, pushed past, pushed positivity, said, "Gin, it's never too late, I promise” - and I believed that then, wanted the world to work that way - “but first you've got to get better, right?"
She struggled higher in her bed. "Yeah, I know. What I am trying to say is, when I do - ” she faltered, shy to share more.
I was quiet, encouraged.
“Well . . . I've made a decision. I’m going to take a year off. Sell my house and go live with Mum and Dad. Concentrate on getting healthy and losing the weight and nothing else, no work or anything like that. Really commit, you know?" She paused. A bashful smile. "A year just to be selfish. You don't think that's stupid, do you?"
I didn't. We talked it through. We were both excited by the idea. The way she spoke I knew she meant it, her dream burned brightly between us that night.
For all of my adult years I think I’d waited to hear her speak those words, or use that tone, or maybe both together. I told her I would help in any way I could and I meant it, and later when I left, it was with a feeling of great encouragement, of a renewed and revealed closeness with my sister.
For the first time in a long time I felt an eclipse had lifted. For the first time in a long time I felt Ginny would be all right.
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