birds in a barrel's mission is to release creative nonfiction into the wild.

40 Days & 40 Writes is its first project.


I wish my sister and I could be close, the way other sisters are. The way my sister and I are in my sister fantasies.

I have told her as much. Part of the problem is that she is icy and unresponsive, especially when she is denying that she is icy and unresponsive. We went to a therapist! We started weekly sessions a few weeks ago. The therapist observed that when we spoke heatedly about upsetting things, I tended to roll up my sleeves and lean into the agitation. That’s why I’m here, I nodded, as she said this. Meanwhile, Sarah, she said, “panned out” at the same intersection, grew cooler and detached.

It’s not just for the sake of our surrounding family, who all happens—amen!—to be alive, well, and geographically near right now. My dad and dotty stepmom are an easy Sunday morning drive away in San Diego. Our tropical storm of a mom lives in NoHo, and she has never been as even and calm as she is now*, in the role of her lifetime as grandmother to my two young daughters, Sarah’s nieces. Our older brother Jeff is just up the way in northern California, Thanksgiving bound in a couple weeks when we will all be at the same dinner table. And of course, the kids. How can Sarah bear to opt out while they’re little and growing up this fast? She was there for both their births, and when I almost died but instead I lived. It’s devastating. It echoes when I try to get to the bottom of it and get the slip. Her evasive blankness. The stone in her eyes and her heart.

I feel like a hypocrite making my daughters work out their sibling squabbles when I can’t even get along with my own sister. I feel like a hypocrite when I love up my girlfriends, many of whom I’ve known over half my life, like my sisters. I feel like a hypocrite preaching “sisterhood” as a doctrine, the sisterhood of motherhood, the sisterhood of being women who support one another and aren’t divisive. None of that is bullshit. But yet not being able to be tight with my actual sister feels like a giant backyard full of bullshit.

I wish for our warm alliance so much and am so discouraged that it will never happen that I can only describe the yearning I feel as heartsick.

*My mom might love those little girls more than all of us combined, and it has visibly changed her. I can never remember a time that she and I have been in a groove like this. Perhaps our being so content and copacetic is part of Sarah’s unexamined problem?


Hometown Blues