Growing up I never had a sister, but I did have my cousin Izzy. Her full name is Isabella Grace, but she says that sounds like the name of a classy Spanish princess, and she just can’t put that kind of pressure on herself. So it’s always been Izzy, sometimes Iz.
Grandma likes to call her “Dizzy Izzy,” because she always seems to be crashing into something in a constant swirl of motion. It’s true that she definitely knows how to make an entrance. Before she walks into a room, there’s usually this weird type of excited anticipation. No one knows what exactly is gonna happen, but with Izzy there it’s gonna be something extraordinary.
Izzy lives her life in varying degrees of extraordinary, just surfing along looking for the next Good Time. Luckily, Iz herself is pretty extraordinary, so she’s usually able to liven up even the most boring situations. Growing up with her was like growing up in a shadow of glitter, with her shine stretching just far enough to include me. Most of the time, it wasn’t too bad of a gig. It’s true that most of the time I was known as “Izzy’s cousin,” but I kinda liked the anonymity. I was able to fly under the radar occasionally, which is quite possibly something my cousin will never be able to experience in her whole life. She was made to be noticed.
But Izzy is a runner. As children, she’d try to run away anytime she got grounded. Later, in high school, she disappeared to the beach for two weeks because she didn’t want to have to deal with breaking up with her first boyfriend. When Grandma got sick, she ran away to the other side of the world. She chose backpacking through Europe over having to deal with the reality of our favorite human going through Chemo.
Whenever we go to the bar, Izzy likes to wear this old pair of ratty sneakers. She calls them her “lucky Chucks,” and says without them some of her magic would be gone. She claims that their power got her into bars at the age of 19, and that she knows a night is going to be special when she has them on. Like I said, Iz is only interested in the extraordinary. But I suspect her love for these sneakershas more to do with the fact that they’re already broken in, perfect for sprinting away if necessary.
When Grandma passed away, Izzy dragged herself back from The Netherlands for the funeral. She was visibly distressed the whole time and kept positioning herself closer to the door, looking for a way out. She knew where she belonged, but every instinct in her body was telling to go, to get out, to get as far away as possibly from the completely mundane experience of suffering.
This is the image I call to mind most often when I think about my Izzy: the frantic look in her eyes as she stood on the outside in a pair of old sneaks, poised and ready to run.