Try

“Question.”

“Shoot.”

“Which would you rather do, touch Anne Hathaway’s boob or be adopted by Oprah?”

“Oprah, obviously!”

“What? That’s lame.”

“No, think about it, she’d be the loving support system I so desperately need, and with her connections, I could end up ‘accidentally’ rubbing up against the Hath at a party and get both things—boom!”

“Ha, that’s actually a great point! So, what are you doing later?”

The pause is audible. I put down my beer and adjust my cap.

“Umm, sorry dude, wrong tree. Wrong bark.”

“Oh, I should’ve guessed from the hat, you’re a—”

“Actually, I’m nothing.”

“Wha–?” He looks confused.

I pull a quarter out from behind his ear and explain. “Right now, I am not one—”

“Huh?”

I flip the coin. “—or the other.”

“Juh?”

I place the coin on its side using the aid of a crack in the bar table.

“I am neither. Ta-DA!”

He walks away and I sip my drink passively. “Too easy,” I spout into the suds.

“I’m sure it is,” a voice says. “Scaring away frat dudes is like a sport to you, huh? The hand flourish was a little much though, you’re not Vanna White.”

“Baby sister! You didn’t keep me waiting all afternoon!” My arms fall around a younger, cuter, and more bohemian version of myself.

We have almost the same conversation I rehearsed in my head. She’s glad I’m back in the city but sad about why. “I mean it really sucks, I’ve never seen you fall like that for anyone and to have it all fall apart, just—what’s that?” She points to the wrinkled stationary paper sticking out of my wallet.

“Nothing!” I try to snatch my wallet from off the bar but she’s too quick.

“Oooh, it’s a note! ‘Coconut an warm ginger, the scent that best describes you. I’m not sure why but that’s how you make me feel. Safe. Warm. …Coconuty’? Ha! Coconuty! Wait, did you write this?”

I nod. She keeps reading but in low tones so no one else will penetrate our bubble.

“’I first noticed the comparison while hunting for hand soap in the tiny grocery store by my old apartment the day after our first date. I stumbled upon that scene and now it’s the only soap I will ever buy. When you’re not around it guides me through the darkness. Comforts me in a way that only touches the edge of explanation. Before you I was pounded, smashed over and over and poured into someone else’s mold. Then left out in the sun to rot. Occasionally picked at by vultures with fleeting interests. Nothing ever really reached me, a vague, displeasurable haze. I’d be pried open with crowbars.’ Are you saying what I think you’re saying?”

I turn away.

“You know that note really wasn’t for you.” I’d hoped I put enough venom into those words to get her to stop, but she keeps reading.

“’The claws leaving bruises on my inner thighs. Their jaws gnashing like hungry dogs. While they try to rip me apart, they want me to tell them. They want me to say it, to scream it. They say it feels better when I tell them. My mouth is wired shut. But for you, the words slip from my tongue, unable to be contained.’ Wow. That was kinda beau—”

I lose it in the bar. Little chuffs and muffled cries turn to full sobs and dry heaving. My sister wraps her skinny arms around me and growls at anyone who tries to approach. She says she’s sorry. That she didn’t mean it, didn’t know that it was such a big deal.

“You know it was all about me not being ‘open.’ That was the excuse, and I was going to—I said all the things, but I guess it was too late, and I mean, if someone else can—” I switch back from words into unintelligible sobs.

“Hey, with someone who really gets you, you won’t have to do all this work to change yourself and be ‘open.’ Hell”—she folds the note closed and places it into my palm—“this is the most open I have ever seen you and it’s beautiful. Don’t let the bad parts of this experience take this away from you.” She squeezes my hand and the note together. “And you did more than what most people do: at least you tried.”