Cricket still seems like a stranger. I don’t know how to explain this. I love her, and I miss her if I’m away from her for a few hours, and I’m jealous of all the time she spends with Mom instead of with me. But when I’m sad or angry or lonely, I don’t see an echo of it in her face. I feel like when I look into her eyes, we are not really seeing past the surfaces of each other. We are not soul mates.
When Cricket first came home, I was addicted to the digital camera, trying to capture every different look on her face, so that I could get to know her: the way her lower teeth jut out so she looks like a fighter, the places where her hair is curly and where it is straight, and the wide variety of her different chirps and growls.
I know which foods she likes, and how small the first piece of a new food needs to be in order for her to try it. I know how often eating a small piece of cheese will remind her that she has dinner in her bowl.
I know that she will wait for Grandma on the second step from the top, and cry to be picked up when Grandma comes home, and then scrabble to be put down just as quickly. I know where she hides her treasures: under the second pillow on my bed, in the corner of my couch, under Grandma’s bed, behind the cushion on Grandma’s chair.
I know that the sound of the treadmill puts her to sleep. And unzipping the guitar bag makes her angry.
But we haven’t started to look more like each other over time, or developed similar mannerisms. We are nothing alike, and that makes me feel like I’m the stranger, and I’m the one who doesn’t belong.
But I still love her. And whenever I forget that I love her this much, she sparks again. Like when she waits for me at the front door, with her face peeking through the curtain. Or when she runs upstairs in the morning and jumps on my chest to wake me up so we can spend the day together.
I wonder if Cricket keeps a list in her head too, of all of the wacky things she knows about me: the way I smell in the morning, the careful way I pluck goop from the corner of her eye, the look on my face when I see her at the front door.
I am nothing like her, but she loves me anyway. I think I’m okay with that.