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The People in Romeo and Juliet

by Geetanjali Kapre


“I am limitless, if only in my agony!”


My eyes traced the mud she had tracked into my apartment.


Talia.


Oh, Talia, Talia, Talia. My beautiful, foolish sister.


She lurched forward, grasping my hand.


I stayed silent.


She leaned again, taking my other hand, pulling them both down to her knees, her jeans. Using my hands to comfort her, just like when we were kids.


Her grip tightened.


My eyes shut.



Talia was three years younger than me.


When she was four, Mom told us we’d be staying with my grandmother– for a bit. When she was five, I spoke to Mom for the last time ever. When she was nine, I got my first period at dance class. When I was fourteen, Talia got her first period at dance class.


When I was twenty, Mom emailed Talia.


When I was twenty, Mom emailed only Talia.


I was twenty-four now, watching tears and snot drip down Talia’s face, way past her cheeks and into her mouth and down her neck and onto her sweater. My hands helped calm her, I think. Her cheeks stopped trembling and her chest regained its confident rhythm. She dropped my hands, and I took them back. The sniffles stopped. Oh no. Time to say something. I had to say something, or she would think I resented her for coming here.


Say something. Anything. No, not anything. Something light, easy, genuine. You’ve known her since she was born. You surely have something to say. She's your sister. This is awful. Your window is closing. Tick-tick-tick-tick–


“Water-proof mascara really pulled through, huh?” I spitballed.


Damn it.


Our eyes met. The mascara was great. So pretty. Talia nodded.


“I used the one you gave me for my birthday. Thanks for that, by the way. I messaged you, but I don’t think you saw.”


I looked down at my hands. Cold, unheld hands. Of course I saw. Talia knew I saw.


I looked up to see her lips part, the words almost there. I wanted to reach across and grab her jaw and slam it back up. Physically stop words, time, everything. But no.


“I’ve just been having a tough time,” Talia sniffled.


I stared.


“I feel like all those people in Romeo and Juliet,” she continued.


“Which ones?”


“All of them, all at once.”


The poets would love her.


“Talia, can you please not speak cryptically–”


“Sorry. I just mean, I know there’s happiness out there. For me. I know it’s there. I can see it, but I can’t reach it. Because of things happening in my own head. I’m sharing my head with all these people. And–”


“What are you even saying?”


And so– she stopped talking. There it was again, that yucky radio silence. That intimate disconnect, like two mute ghosts at a sober sorority convention. I can’t stand these things.


So to fill space I offered her a sandwich, which she accepted, if only without cheese, because she had just started her new diet and didn’t want to break it already. I walked to the kitchen as quietly as I could. I had wanted to say that if she was on a diet, she should have said no to the sandwich and left my apartment. Gone elsewhere.


She could go to Mom’s house. She could go to her boyfriend’s dorm. She could go to her sweet-tempered pretty girlfriends. She was free, she was loved, she could go anywhere.


Why was she here?


I had nothing to offer. We hadn’t spoken in months. I sliced the bread and turned on the toaster.


“Tomatoes??” I yelled.


“Yeah!” she called back.


I heard her nails clacking against her phone. She was texting her boyfriend, probably. I’d never met him, but I’d seen pictures. She posted a lot of pictures of him. He seemed nice.


The bread slotted into the toaster. Lightly toasted, I decided.


Then, I heard a giggle. A stifled giggle. Like she didn’t want me to know what was making her happy, lest it made me happy. Her boyfriend was making her giggle, her boyfriend had cheered her up, whatever her problem was in the first place. Stupid idiot, why didn’t she just go to him?


I’ve often thought that Talia fakes these sad situations to see how I’d react. Like a lamb leading the way to its slaughter. I still remember, we must have been, like, 9 and 12, and Talia let her finger get caught in the door, turning immediately to see if I was watching. Like I’ve ever not been.


The toaster went off.


I now knew, indubitably, that Talia was lying to me. She pitied me. She thought I was lonely. She was looking for an excuse to come find me, to make herself feel better about me.


I rubbed too much butter onto the bread. So much for her diet.


Did Talia ever even ask Mom to talk to me, or was that a happiness reserved just for her, too? What if Talia died, would Mom email me then?


The sandwich was ready.


Would you, Mom?

If you had no one else to love, would you love me?


I was standing in the kitchen, so silent, holding, gripping, the sandwich knife. Would a sandwich knife be sharp enough to kill someone? I switched knives.


I remember killing Talia with exhilarating clarity. How her eyes widened, how she screamed and whimpered, how she took my hand for comfort as she died. How I held her hand for some time after she died.


Talia, Talia, Talia.


I had cleaned it all up then, throwing my sister into the garbage chute.


Non-recyclables, I remember rationalising.



That evening, for dinner, I ate the cold sandwich I had made Talia. No cheese. I was on the same diet as her.


I decided to reply you’re welcome to her mascara text.

 

Geet (she/her) is a 19 year old studying psychology at university. Typically an essayist, Geet is now looking to expand into fiction-writing. Other things you should know about her– one, Moby Dick enthusiast, two, SNL fanatic, and three, cannot cook! At all! She burnt instant ramen once.

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