Bonnie, Karen, and LuAnne

A box of nails. Rusty nails. That is what my sister and I fought each other over to possess. We stopped speaking for the rest of our lives. I was 53; she 57.

We had an older sister, Bonnie. Bonnie Diane. She succumbed three years before to lifestyle choices, at age 54.

[I was told she was mentally ill. That was a family label, I think. Or maybe just Karen’s first steps to marginalizing her. Nevertheless, she did finish her life in a certifiable state of confusion.] 

She liked to wear black. At night when everyone went to their own corners – the bedrooms – to nurse the wounds of the day, Bonnie would rise like a phoenix in black tights and a leotard flowing out to the larger rooms in our tiny house to dance. She believed she was graceful, Karen said, and maybe she was.

This off-center behavior was wrong. Just wrong. Never mind the peace one may find alone in the dark with a melody. No one survives in this world dancing in the dark to the music in their head.

This was the 1960s. No personal listening or entertainment devices then. It was not a child’s freedom to choose the music in the home. 

Dance, Bonnie Diane, in the darkness, with the music in your head. The one place we are all afraid to go. To choose to visit there? A sin. To dwell there? The demons workshop from which you may not return. 

You were made in a god’s image, but never dare express it. 

Mental illness is only in the head.