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Sarai & Noah, November 2003. (Donald Earl Collins).

My post today will be short. Today marks a full decade since the Sunday morning my youngest brother Eri called me, waking me up with the news that my only sister Sarai had died overnight at Mount Vernon Hospital. It was due to complications from sickle cell anemia, the disease that denies the body sufficient oxygen for carrying out it functions, ever debilitating and ever more painful as one grows older with it, as anyone with the disease can attest. Too many blood transfusions, too many invasive procedures, not enough healing. Sarai Adar Washington, who did live, and did try her damnedest to live her life her way, died at 27 years young.

Yes, I love her, and miss her still. There isn’t a week that goes by where I don’t think about her and the life that she didn’t get to have, the life that she did live, and how my life was affected by her existing. It causes me, Sarai’s older brother — one 13-plus-years older than her when my mother gave birth to her, one at one point argued for abortion to save us and her the anguish of the disease — to let out the occasional tear or feel a sense of loss. I can only imagine how much deeper the loss is for my mom, of course, and for my three younger brothers, who truly grew up with her. My only solace today is that Sarai isn’t here to try to survive the pandemic, because she most surely would not have made it if she had contracted COVID-19.

On the other end is the week that reminds me of one of the worst best decisions I have ever made. To take out the first $2,625 of what would be over $41,000 in loans between July 1987 and October 1996. I paid out the principal of my loans at least three years ago. But Sallie Mae (and PHEAA and Marine Midland Bank before that) set the interest rates back when those rates were much higher. Eight percent on a series of loans taken out between 24 and 33 years ago would be incalculable to a 17-year-old in July 1987. But as a 50-year-old, it translates to debt peonage, more than double the actual loans themselves. Except that I know that one way or another, this debt will go away, if only because I will stop living this life, eventually.

The proverbial “they” say the only two constants in life are death and taxes. No, there are at least three constants — death, debt, and taxes. Maybe in my death I can finally see my sister again, and see my debt and taxes burn in the fiery pit in the event horizon of a black hole.