Barely Beneath This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This work has won the Teen Ink contest in its category.

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      Imagine that he lies barely beneath the soil. And the vibrations of businessmen’s brisk marches, or mothers’ dainty waltzes, or even children’s light skips on the street beside him, can tremble his heart into a weak rhythm. One night, when pedestrians were scarce, I had to jump up and down on the soil to keep his heart beating. I didn’t get home until six the next morning, and my mother slapped me when I was drinking my orange juice.

The strongest muscles in his body had always been those of his eyelids. They twitched and trembled and stretched like no other muscles he possessed. In fact, in his whole seven years of life, he barely moved past a three-foot circumference around his bed. Once, I shyly asked my mother why he never came down to her tea parties. She set her muffin down and told me to look at my brother. I conjured his face in my mind: brown eyes like small moths, lips thin as a crescent moon, wrinkles that creased like the ocean’s skin, and gray hair tipping off the roots - a beautiful face. I told my mother of his beauty, but the words were a quiet mumble lost in the chimes of porcelain.

Nearly every month my brother would get terribly ill. This was when my mother locked his door, and confined in his tiny chamber, I knew his heart felt like a droplet of spring rain. Unlike autumn storms, which create deafening attention, spring rain is so light and so clear that nobody notices when a droplet crumbles painfully upon a tidy backyard. And nobody realizes the quiet torture a spring droplet endures as it sinks slowly from the sky, lacking momentum to bury its fear and having too much time to contemplate its death. That is what I imagined his heart felt like: unnoticed, afraid, in pain. A heart that needed a comforting companion rather than the silent shadow that I was, leaning against his locked door.

There was a father across the street and he had orange hair. Sometimes, when I saw him mowing the grass, I would glimpse his feathery wings spreading out from the tips of his shoulder blades. I knew that he, like all fathers, was an angel. For my brother’s eighth birthday I took a butterfly net and decided to catch him that father across the street. This man would be my brother’s medicine and cure.

For months, I waited for the perfect moment to capture the father, but one day he disappeared. I told myself he had flown away to heaven and not divorced his wife, left his children, and happily moved to Texas as our father had done.

When my brother’s birthday arrived, all I could give him was an action figure wrapped in purple ribbons. He patted my head and said that he loved me. I tickled him and wished him a happy birthday.

On Halloween nights, afraid of being plunged into suffocating stories of fear, I would hide in my brother’s room rather than go trick-or-treating. Despite the early time, he would always be asleep with his hands folded across his chest and his toes wiggling beneath his blanket, as if catching fairies. And beneath the mellow glow of his lamp, I thought I could see his veins shudder with a coldness and emptiness that no sun could ever warm. I would hug him then - tightly, lovingly - the same way that I now hug the soil that buries him.

Tonight, it hits me afresh that my brother is gone, and regret overwhelms me like a stampede of wild horses. My mother indulged herself by blaming her divorce upon my brother’s disease, and she let that blame turn into a hatred that prevented her from loving my brother. I should have seen, through my mother’s example, that being locked to emotions would only blind a person, hindering one from acting, perceiving or loving the way they should.

Looking back, I wish I had overcome my fear of my mother to unlock my brother’s door when he needed care, and had the courage to tell her loudly of his beauty. Oh, and most of all, I wish I could pry open his lips and gently ease my beating heart down his throat, so that just for a moment, he could live again and hear me say, “I love you.”

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

This work has won the Teen Ink contest in its category. This piece won the April 2007 Teen Ink Fiction Contest.






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wishingtheskywasbluer This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Jun. 25, 2012 at 9:38 pm
this is wonderful! i really really like this.
 
miss.independent said...
May 6, 2009 at 11:43 pm
i loved it! very detailed and very captivating.
 
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