March in Houston feels like May in Utah, except there is a softness in the air that is vaguely familiar to this desert dried skin I wear. This old flesh of mine remembers, somewhere under its wrinkly surface, that it was once bright and new and soft in the humid Pennsylvania air of my youth. Libby and I ventured out to the factory outlet stores together, in search of some items for Kate’s kitchen. We wore summer clothing, with sandals on our feet. Libby followed her good nose for directions and drove us to the mall with only one wrong turn. Houston, we have discovered, looks like the angels got out their heavenly Spirograph and made a massive collection of 3D designs everywhere. This is a concrete version of a tangled piece of fishing line. Roads everywhere crossing over, under and through each other. I was duly impressed with my sister’s skill in maneuvering them in Kate’s Hyundai.
The Texas wind pushed through this thick air, making all those Texas flags fling back and forth parallel to the buildings against a gentle blue sky. Since it’s spring break here the parking lot was stuffed. When we finally found a space we walked with the masses to the middle of the shopping center. We decided to spend a nibble of time in a couple clothing shops before we purchased the heavy kitchenware we were planning to buy. So I went to Ann Taylor while Lib moved further on down to the Columbia sportswear shop.
“I’ll have my cell on. Just call when you’re done.” I dipped my hand into my pants pocket, making sure I flipped the silencer to the right position.
Then I found a new pair of jeans and three new tops. I asked the clerk to hold them, since I wanted Libby’s opinion before buying them. I crossed the sidewalk to Banana Republic, where I looked for a yellow dress for the wedding Annie’s going to attend in May. No yellow dresses…at least no modest ones, but I did find a couple items to try on. I waited in line for the dressing room. Once I was finally in the teeny room with the long mirror, I pulled out my phone to text Sarah about something. That’s when I discovered this series of text messages from Libby:
If you do not have a sister who is also your best friend you may not fully appreciate this message. It may look to you like she is irritated. And you may be right. But the tone I get, because I hear her when I read her, is that she is rather amused by the unfortunate situation she found herself in as she waited for me. I had, by the way, made sure my ringer was in the on position, but I had not checked to see if the volume was up. And of course, it wasn’t.
There were something like 500,000 people in that outdoor shopping center we visited. And of all the people in that massive place, the one who got the bird poop on her head and her shoulder and her beige linen skirt was my sister. I have some relatives who would remark that being crapped on was their lot in life. But this is not that relative. She counts, instead the 364 other days in the year when birds only sing to her. At the end of the day she even remarked what a great day it was, when to the rest of the world it would have been described as…well…kind of crappy.