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To everyone he seemed to be the perfect human being, but he did malfunction in some way. Everyone was too intimidated to speak with him so no one knew anything about him, except me. There was a twinkle in his emerald green eyes, he loved his worn Cubs baseball hat, and an elastic smile always played on cupid bow lips. He was my brother and I felt like I needed to protect him from the world.
During the past months he seemed to like slamming things, especially his locker door, emphasizing that he was having another bad day and wouldn’t tell anyone why. The metal grinded against metal as the door and the frame collided and the metallic lock clicked shut. Most people in the fluorescent, green hallway skidded to a stop leaving the vibrating of the locker to fill the silence.
He sulked toward the parking lot carrying a large beat up, brown box. He carelessly bumped into late students in the hall, including me. The collision flung my books to the floor. His chocolate brown hair swung in front of his tan, freckled face as he examined the mess he had made, the spark in his eye was gone and you could tell for the first time he actually did smell the stale nachos wafting from the cafeteria. For a brief moment I could see how mad he was; the black sweater, square glasses, fitted jeans, and “Live Strong” bracelet didn’t provide a cover to anyone watching.
He didn’t bend down to help; he just stood there watching, tapping his foot, like he was completely innocent and I was the problem.
As I finished picking up my textbooks, Packers sweatshirt, and pencils I eyed the box in his arms, “What’s that for?” I asked, barely hiding the ice in my voice.
“This?” he let out a nervous laugh, “I guess the people at school couldn’t handle me anymore,” he shrugged as he easily dismissed my question with a sniff. He said school like it was a disgusting bug he wanted to squish.
I caught his wrist as he was turned towards the parking lot. He twisted around and raised an eyebrow that said, Another question? and began fiddling with his hat.
“You can tell me,” I whispered.
He yanked open the flaps of the box and showed me the inside, textbooks, papers and binders lay on top of each other.
“I told you, you’re school couldn’t handle me anymore,” he said through clenched teeth, “The counselors couldn’t deal with a teen who is about to lose their mom.”
I was hit in the stomach then the heart, the “Live Strong” bracelet, my breast cancer awareness lanyard suddenly meant so much more.
His mom was being treated for cancer and that meant mine was too.