Go Ahead, I Dare You This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

February 25, 2012
By , Burlington, VT
I remember the last time my brother ever hit me. We were in high school, certainly old enough to know better, and we were in one of our daily screaming matches. I was older than Darren by two years, and was much better than him at verbal beat-downs. However, at the age of fourteen, he had suddenly grown in both height and muscle, and was now hovering over me and threatening to punch me if I didn’t shut up. He wouldn’t have done it, I don’t think, had I not said these words:

“Go ahead, I dare you.”

And just like that, his fist was flying straight at me. Thankfully, Darren isn’t really a natural-born fighter. His awkward right hook to my temple had enough force to send me reeling towards the wall, and I had to grab the kitchen table to prevent myself from falling on the floor. Tears were flowing down my face before I could even try to will them not to, and when I had caught my breath and was able to gauge the situation, it made me cry even harder. It was no surprise that our argument had escalated to blows. However, there were two things that were very wrong with this situation. A) It was clear that any physical fight that occurred between us was not one that I could win, and B) I was crying like a little girl, right in front of him.

The thing is, I had always prided myself in my ability to handle my brother and his tantrums. When Darren was little, people just thought he was a particularly bratty child. Eventually, he was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome, and some of his behaviors made more sense. My parents became more educated on Asperger’s, and were able to use their knowledge to better relate to him. However, knowing about his condition didn’t make him any easier for me to deal with. Like all siblings, we fought, and we fought hard.

Sometimes when Darren was frustrated with my mom, he would resort to physical violence. When he was younger, it wasn’t really a problem. However, it seemed for awhile like he would never grow out of it. My mom was a petite woman who never reached five feet tall, and it was one thing for her to fend off a little boy, but eventually Darren weighed as much as she did, and his fits of rage became dangerous. Being the older sister, the peacemaker, the responsible one, I would come to my mother’s rescue and pull Darren away from her, then wrestle him into submission.

Between solving fights between Darren and my mom, and having my own fights with Darren, it seemed like my brother and I were always at odds. That’s the way that I grew up: beating the crap out of my little brother on a daily basis. The physical violence ended eventually, with that one fateful punch to the temple. However, we still fought constantly. He often had me so frustrated that I had to leave the house. I’d go outside and walk until I didn’t want to cry or punch something, or until the cold air of a New England night drove me back into my home. We each said that we hated one another, and although I knew that it wasn’t true, it sure was easy to believe sometimes.

There was never really a pivot point in our relationship. No epiphany to speak of, no distinct turn of events. I went off to college, and Darren and I only saw each other during school vacations. When I came home for the summer after my freshman year, it was almost relieving to hear his occasional complaints and snide remarks. However, most of our time together consisted of pleasant conversation. No punches were thrown, no tears fell, and not once did I feel like I needed to leave my home before I exploded.

It was the last day of summer vacation, and my Dad was going to drive me back to college. My goodbyes were teary-eyed and full of hugs and kisses, for the most part. When it came time to say goodbye to my brother, I realized that I couldn’t even remember the last physical contact I’d had with him that wasn’t violent, so I touched his arm and nonchalantly said, “See ya, man. Call me sometime.” I started to turn and grab my purse, and all of a sudden, I was being lifted off the ground.

“You forgot to give me my hug,” my brother told me as he held me a foot off of the floor.

I called home the next day and talked to my family. My conversation with Darren was pretty casual, with brief discussions of the weather and my new dorm room. When it seemed that we had run out of things to talk about, I told him to have a good weekend and that I would talk to him again soon.

“I love you,” he told me for the first time ever. I couldn’t help but smile as I hung up the phone.

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