My cousin Amanda and I have always been the weird ones in our family. Ever since we were little, I wanted to be a writer and she wanted to be an actress, and at family holidays we'd throw stories back and forth for hours in Grandma and Grandpa's backyard.
"I'm the Indian Princess," she cried once. "And you're the King of the Cowboys, come to rescue me!"
I screwed up my face in my best cowboy look. I'd never seen a John Wayne movie, but I tried to glower like a John Wayne as I moseyed over to her. My gun finger was drawn and ready. And then it dawned on me.
"Save you from what?" I asked.
In a flash, the Indian Princess disappeared, and my cousin pitched over with a nasty gleam in her eyes. "From the Evil Old Crone," she shrieked.
I stared at her, alarmed. Where had the Indian Princess gone? How many different people were inside this girl?
"Be the Princess again," I begged.
"No," she declared, delighted, and she gleefully tumbled onto the grass. "The Indian Princess is dead! The Crone killed her!"
Dead? No! I stared helplessly at her corpse lying dead and giggling in the sunlight, and found myself desperately wondering what I could have done. I'd failed the Indian Princess. I was a horrible Cowboy King.
We were 10. Looking back, I'd probably be significantly less neurotic today if we'd just played checkers instead.
Years have passed and lots of things have changed. We've both abandoned Ohio – I moved to Washington, D.C., and she headed off to Chicago to try and break into theater. We still talk for hours at family reunions, when we can tear ourselves away from our dates. We talk about the plays and television pilots and short films she's working on, and then about my stories and poems and web projects, even my ideas for scripts that she might be able to use someday.
We've both grown up. It happens. I remember the first time she asked me to cover for her while she slipped out back for a quick smoke, and the first time we talked about sex and really horrible relationships. Both times, some part of me felt deeply guilty for not being able to save the Indian Princess from those things.
But at the end of the day, there are certain things you can't do for your loved ones. They make their decisions, they lead their own lives, and you can't save them from that. All you can do is be waiting for them on the other side. These days, when we're talking, sometimes she'll seize one of my ideas and run with it, and the next thing you know we're bouncing stories back and forth again. That's when I know I didn't fail the Indian Princess after all.
What have you done for love?