Everyone has a sad story, if you dig deep enough, like scratching a scab. You can dig and dig, and eventually everybody, invariably, opens and bleeds.
Luisa was great at that, finding everyone’s sore spot, knowing just the right way to make it hurt. It could be an innocent sounding comment, a raise of an eyebrow, a gaze too long at a scar or some other secret imperfection. Whatever your Achilles heel was, she could find it, use it. Then she would parade it around like a war totem, a symbol of her strength, another battle won.
I used to admire it, her skill of reading people. Luisa was not reckless with it. Instead she wielded it with practiced precision. She used her weapons only on people who deserved it, people who were already broken anyway, people so irredeemably damaged that their only destiny was to destroy other people on their path to self-annihilation.
As Luisa always said, there was no shortage of evil in the downtrodden. She never had sympathy for the bully who was bullied, the abuser who was abused. There was a point of no return, Luisa told me, when someone no longer deserved forgiveness.
Of course, this also made me afraid of her. She terrified me, my sister.
“You are a terrible person.” I remember saying to her, when I was the naive age of thirteen, young and foolish enough to think that I could stand my ground, thinking I had it all figured out, my sister, the villain.
At first I thought she would get angry, and I was prepared for her to scream or yell or hurt, but instead she laughed. She laughed and laughed.
“Oh Andrea. Of course I am.” Her eyes dimmed. Her beautiful face etched with unexplained sadness. I remember thinking that in a certain shadow she looked decades older than her years. It was the only time she looked at me with rare tenderness. “But you... you'll be okay, Andrea. You're not like me. Promise you'll never be like me.”
Of course, it wasn't until much later that I learned what broke my sister. She had protected me from an unspeakable evil in our own house. In doing so she sacrificed her own innocence, something she would never get back. A bully who was bullied. An abuser who was abused.
Luisa, my sister.