My baby sister is marrying the ghost of a pirate.
When it came to her imaginary friends, Anita always pushed the limits. Growing up she insisted our mother set a place at the table each night for her favorite, a nine-year-old cheerleader/math prodigy named Gaga who only ate orange food — carrots, mandarin oranges, butternut squash, Push-Ups, Nacho Cheese Doritos.
I haven’t seen my sister in over a decade, and now she’s about to tie the knot with her spiritual soulmate on a beach in Mexico. Besides the so-called minister, I am their sole witness. Anita drifts down the sandy path to her invisible groom. She is radiant in traditional wedding white; a single gardenia pinned in her dark hair.
Who am I to judge? My own marriage to a genuine living, breathing human being is a mirage, too. My wife’s the top-selling agent at Make Yourself at Home!, the leading firm in our Chicago suburb. Everything comes easy to her, the deals, the neighborly smalltalk, even what her real estate partner Rodney Handler winks at and calls her “killer assets.” For the record, her breasts are real, and she swears she and Rod aren’t having an affair.
Anita places a special ring over the neck of a half-melted crimson candle. Close enough, I guess. I can feel my tiny noose of a gold band squeezing, the result of me taking my happily ever after for granted. My wife says she prefers a man with extra to grab on to, but she pats my gut like it’s the spoiled child we’ve never so much as whispered having.
The air here is thick and alive with the smell of fish. I blot my forehead with a black bandana emblazoned with a skull and crossbones.
“Arr! Love be a shipwreck ‘tween two castaways,” I teased Mom and Dad. Closing in on their fiftieth anniversary, they sat miles apart on a turquoise designer couch. Dad clenched the arm on his side. Mom absently sipped green tea on her side. After my lame joke I reassured them with, “At least half of all marriages end in divorce anyway.” Anita had been a lifelong riddle, so what was the point in trying to save her from walking the plank to Casper The Peg-Legged Swashbuckling Ghost?
Last month she got fired for taking her job as a Jack Sparrow impersonator too seriously. Because sometimes maybe I overindulge in vodka sodas at lunch, I’m on the verge of losing my job in big pharma. Anita met her soon-to-be husband playing online Ouija. I met my wife at a personal development conference at the Ritz Carlton in Grand Cayman. Six and a half years before today I stammered “I do” in front of God and three-hundred or so other witnesses in an Orthodox Presbyterian Church. My sister declares a choked up “Aye do!” in front of me, Oldalf, a self-ordained Minster of Magic, and some freebooter who entered Davy Jones’ Locker three-hundred or so years ago.
I can’t stop my eyes from welling, and then I start laughing. It’s been forever since I’ve laughed this hard. It brings me back to chasing my sister and her make-believe bestie until we collapsed into a giggled out, breathless heap. The world our epic playground. Desire still locked inside a treasure chest at the bottom of the sea.
Anita the newlywed gathers her dress, pausing just long enough to screw up her face at me. I watch her legs and her bare feet painted in gold glitter carry her hell-bent for the open water, and fingers crossed, I hope with my whole heart her pirate follows.
Amie Heasley received an MFA in fiction from Western Michigan University. You can find some of her recent work online or in the pages of Stoneboat Literary Journal, Monkeybicycle, Belletrist Magazine, Juked and great weather for MEDIA. She blogs lovingly but not nearly enough at http://chopperchronicles.blogspot.com.