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Gail Colleen

Castroville. My sister Gail was born fifteen years and one day before I was. I scarcely knew her when I was young; she was away in college at Centenary and then she got married to Sam and they lived in California, where he was from. Sam's folks ran a health food store in Castroville starting way back, I think in the 1930s. Very early hippies. There were two things we got from Sam's folks: alfacon and salve. Alfacon was compressed alfalfa pills; I suppose the con meant concentrated. You had to take a lot of them. They were supposed to improve everything about your health; alterative is the herbalist term. Salve was ground up aspirin mixed with petroleum jelly, and it was actually pretty good for minor skin irritations. Just a little gritty.

Forever. The fifteen year interval between our births fascinated me. I learned some math from it. One day I announced that when I turned fifteen I'd be exactly half her age. I was six at the time. After that every year we'd be closer. I'd be closer to her age than the year before. I said that without using words I didn't know, like proportionally. But I had the idea right. Birthdays became a connection between us. In Melbourne that connection got drugified. We celebrated our joint birthday with joints and endless toasts. After I left college and the Fishfarm, we drifted apart. Gail and Billy followed me to Boulder and joined a Self-Harmonizing group. They didn't stay very long. A few years after I migrated to Seattle they followed me out here but lived in Shelton. We all went on a big adventure in those days, our joint trip to Spain. In the late 1990s and early 2000s Gail and Billy were regular visitors at the house I bought with the help of my dad. Thanks Dad. That's when I saw Gail leave me, during those years. They'd drive over and we'd have a big fancy dinner with lots of wine and planked salmon or whatever I was into at the time. Gail and Billy would discreetly augment the wine by smoking dope. At some point Gail and I would go for a walk together alone to renew our old connection. I watched Gail get progressively vaguer and less present through those years. Finally, when I looked into her eyes, there was nobody there. Just a drunk stoned old woman looking at me vaguely, somebody I used to know. I held my own internal memorial service for Gail. My old friend had left me forever.