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They never flat-out say it. They circle around the topic, like a dog around a fire hydrant, until they slip it in. Their method is never as clever as they think it is.
“What was having him as a brother like?” What they mean is, was he always this way? I hate how they think of him like some sort of great anomaly. As if he was some great mystery. As if they hadn’t known him since third grade. They all seem to believe that I know all about his “deeply tortured soul”.
Truthfully, my brother was the type that would lift you up when you were down. He was the one who would stand up for you and take the blame. The thing about people is that they care more about the Bad than the Good. Why do newspaper headlines always have stories of war, drugs, and death? If only people cared as much about what the Peace Corps are doing as who has just been assassinated. If the world were like that, I would tell people about all of the Good my brother accomplished. But the world isn’t like that and nobody wants to hear about his kindness. If I didn’t tell them stories of his long depression and inner struggles, they would worry. After all, if it could happen to my sibling, what about theirs? If I told them that he was perfectly normal, how would they face their brothers? their fathers?
So, I wear a sad, weak smile as I pretend to choke back tears while speaking of his Heathcliffian tendencies. I leave out the important things. I keep our special, happy moments to myself. Truthfully, withholding our stories is done more out of selfishness than caring about their fragile sensibilities. Why would these judgmental people deserve to know anything about him?
If it was anyone’s fault, I’d blame the weather. When you picture the middle of July, sunshine and Capri-sun come to mind. But, Nature fooled everyone the day when it unleashed upon us the storm of the century. The electricity in the air was enough to make anyone go mad. My brother was simply more vulnerable than anyone else.
When I woke up that morning, I instantly knew that something terrible would happen. The universe seemed particularly irritable and unmerciful that day. Anticipating an accident, I tiptoed around that day, jumping at every creak of the floorboards or rumble of thunder. I made it until midnight without anything going terribly wrong.
A sound woke me up in the night. I recognized the tinkling of the wind chimes that hung from our side door. When I looked out the window, I recognized something else.
I watched a dark form as it glided away from our house, not unlike the clouds that had already passed. Even though it was pitch black I could still see my brother as he sneaked away, riding the bike that had accompanied us on many adventures, back when things were good. His late night escapades had already become customary, even normal. His slow disappearance from my life occurred at an unnoticeable pace. I only realized our lack of communication when it was too late. Besides the occasional “pass the peas,” during the few family dinners he chose to attend, we would go days without talking to each other.
I watched as my brother became a small dot at the end of our street, feeling the loss of our connection with every foot farther he traveled. When he finally disappeared, I went back to bed with a heavy heart. I believed it to be simple annoyance, but the pangs in my heart gave away to something deeper. Looking back, I realize that I was already semi-aware of his troubles. I was simply in denial, content being clueless.
My denial lasted until the next morning, when the police showed up at our front door. When the funeral took place days later, I wore my bright-green dress. I remember when he bought me the dress for my birthday last year, a few months before we became distant. When I called the dress pretty but unnecessary, he winked and told me that I would find a purpose for it. While other funeral-goers frown at the lime dress and my lack of “reverence for the departed soul,” I smile, knowing that we share something they can’t understand.



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