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A Sandcastle at High Tide This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

By , Simpsonville, SC
I was sixteen years into my existence when I realized I disliked my older brother. He was an impulsive, demanding human being with lack of personal hygiene. His nose was covered with shiny, oily pimples; his teeth were coated with a layer of plaque, giving them a yellow sheen. He didn’t smell bad, and he washed his clothes, but he was never taught how to take care of himself in such a way as to be attractive.

I don’t think it was his hygiene that bothered me all that much; it wasn’t contagious. It wasn’t his constantly stuffy nose or slightly overgrown eyebrows. It wasn’t even the musty smell his pillows emitted. It was his unattractive personality. He had much more social grace than he did with his family. A smile was never vacant from his face, and a jovial conversation was easy for him to start. However, at home he shed his mask of social eloquence and let his true colors shine through.

An irrational, depressive, dependant soul took over his body. He was no longer the brother that I loved to have around. He replaced himself with worries and doubts. They completely overshadowed his playful persona and made him a tasteless gray.

He pinned me as his personal psychologist; he didn’t care that I didn’t have a degree. He expected me to have all the answers to every single one of his problems. His blue feelings overwhelmed me with a tidal wave of blurry emotions. Nothing was clear in my life. The direction I was heading seemed to wash away like a sandcastle at high tide. It became simpler and less defined until it was nothing more than a pile of inseparable mush.
. . .

At the age of sixteen I wished for nothing more than prince charming to come sweep me off my feet. It seemed like a great idea at that point in time. I was expecting a tall, freckled, redheaded boy to come pluck me from my house in the middle of the night. We would lie in the back seat of his jeep, gazing at the stars. He would get me little bit drunk, and I would allow him to slide his hand under my shirt. That was a serious dream of mine until I realized that long, pale, and handsome was as dumb as dirt.

I sat in a Starbucks coffee shop on a rainy, cold spring day. Winter had overstayed its visit, and the sun had been shy for the past few weeks. My skin was as pale as the frothed milk coating the sides of my chai tea latte. The spicy liquid had cooled, and could now be qualified as an iced chai tea latte. The thought of putting coffee on ice disgusted me and seemingly defeated the purpose of a hot drink.

Across from me sat a zaftig young woman with shiny golden hair. A bandana was tied around her neck, and she sipped at an iced coffee. I attempted not to mention my distaste for iced coffee to her, but it had slipped out. She just laughed and pointed out that we had different opinions. Of course I agreed, but I believed my opinion was best.

“How’s Ashleigh?” I asked. Landry, the golden haired girl, had a younger sister named Ashleigh. Ashleigh was in fifth grade and was the very image of Landry. She was a foot shorter, and she was much less developed, but her face formed the same smile. Landry had suspicions of Ashleigh being anorexic. Her sister refused to eat, and her ten year old body resembled a toothpick.

“She’s doing okay,” Landry said. “She eats dinner, but she never wants to finish her food.”

“It makes me really sad to think that she’s so self-conscious at such a young age,” I said. I took a sip of my tepid latte and stared at Landry’s left eyebrow. It was a perfect arch of fine blonde hairs that was chronically raised in an expression of skepticism. My own brows were extremely thick and black, one trait that I shared with my brother.

“I suffer from the same things. I don’t even want to know how bad it will be when she’s our age,” Landry said.

“Have you talked to her about it yet?” I asked. Landry is leaning back into the cushions of the booth. Her feet are propped up on my bench; the toes of her tennis shoes are rubbed raw.

“No, I don’t know how to address the issue,” She said. I didn’t have an answer for her, so I remained silent. Thankfully, she didn’t press for suggestions.

“Keegan wanted me to go to lunch with him today,” I said. I quickly looked down guiltily. Landry slammed her drink cup down, the ice rattled like marbles.

“Why aren’t you at lunch with him?” She asked compulsively. Her tone had changed from serious to excited. An invisible seatbelt kept her seated, but she was itching to jump up and wring the details from me.

“He didn’t have any money,” I said.

“That’s a terrible reason,” she said. I shrugged and sipped carefully at my tea. “Now tell me, why aren’t you having lunch with your one true love?”

“He’s not my “one true love”,” I said. She raised her skeptic brow into an extreme arch and let out a short laugh of unbelief.

“You like him,” she said confidently. I shook my head and stared at the menu board above her head. Everything was extremely expensive, and I tried to remember how much money I had left on my gift card.

“I told you; I can’t like him,” I said.

“You can like him; you chose not to,” she said.

“Landry, it isn’t some kind of school-boy crush,” I said. Her eyebrows furrowed together to create a visage of confusion. “My brother has a medical condition that causes him to be dependent on others. I’m one of them, and Keegan is one of them. Only in Keegan’s case, it goes a lot farther than a shoulder to cry on. Landon is in love with Keegan, and he’s prepared to kill himself if Keegan doesn’t return the feelings.” She gently set down her drink and folded her hands in her lap.

“Well that complicates things,” she said quietly.

“Just a little bit,” I said as I choked on a sob. I wiped the stray tears from my eyes and took a deep breath. The air rattled in my lungs as a bird rattles in its cage. I had been waiting years to tell someone the truth. It wasn’t as hard as I had expected it to be, but the statement left a sour taste in my mouth. My brother way gay, and I was afraid to admit it.

I wasn’t necessarily ashamed of his homosexuality; I was infuriated by his choice of men. Keegan was a close family friend of ours, and I had known him for years. It was a given that we would go out, possibly even get married. My classmates teased me, my mother encouraged it, and my brother was afraid of it. He had suspicions of my penchant for Keegan Conway, but I assured him that my feeling for Keegan were nothing but friendly emotions. He would often ask me if any of the other girls were interested in Keegan. I would always respond negatively, and he would be relieved. He honestly believed that his feeling were mutual.

“Do you honestly like Keegan?” Landry asked. Her blue eyes were fixated on me with compassion.

“Yes,” I said. “I think I love him.”
. . .

Landry didn’t seem surprised at my sudden proclamation of love, but a smile crept onto her tan face. The mod lighting reflected off of the metal of her braces and made her grin sparkle. The awkwardness of the situation was reduced by her cheerfulness, and I managed to muster a grimace. There was a sinking feeling in my stomach, and no matter how much cold tea I slurped down, it wouldn’t go away.

“You should elope,” Landry stated. I spit a bit of frothy milk back into my cup. I was beginning to wonder if I had heard her correctly.

“Did you just suggest that I run away and marry Keegan?” I asked. She nodded and pressed the home button on her iPhone. She checked her text messages before locking the phone and turning her attention back to me, as if she hadn’t just suggested the most brilliant yet insane idea she had ever concocted.

“Don’t you have a rich grandma that lives somewhere in Alaska? You could get hitched and scurry off to live with your grandma and the moose,” she said, flipping her hair over her shoulder.

“First of all, it’s North Dakota,” I said. “Second, that’s the first place my mom would look, and then my brother would come after me with a butcher knife.”

“You can’t really think he’d kill you over Keegan, do you?” Landry asked. I nodded seriously, and her eyes grew wide. I honestly believed that Landon could kill me over Keegan. His obsession was too deep to be broken by me running away. He wouldn’t stop.

“He’s not sane,” I said. I scratched my arm awkwardly and glanced around the coffee shop. It was mostly empty, apart from a heavyset woman in yoga pants and a harried business man. He had papers spread all over the tabletop, and he was dabbing coffee out of his tie. “Enough about me; let’s talk about you.”

“What about me?” she asked. She leaned forward with her chin resting delicately on the back of her hand.

“We’ve talked about me too much today,” I said, “How’s your granddad?” Two weeks ago Landry’s granddad on her mother’s side suffered from a heart attack. He was in ICU for a week, and he was moved to private room a few days ago.

“He’s not doing very well,” she said. Her other hand was lying on the tabletop; her manicured fingernails were drumming on the polished wood. Her sudden burst of excitement had been deflated, and I metaphorically kicked myself in the head for bringing up such a depressing topic.

“I’m sorry to hear that,” I said remorsefully.

“The appropriate response is to say okay, and then move on,” she said, “I think you and I both know that I’m not in the mood to be appropriate.”

“Nor am I,” I added. Landry fixed her eyes on the painting behind my head and took a deep breath.

“I suppose I’ll be able to accept it when he dies, but I won’t be happy about it,” Landry said. She sighed with a sort of wistful breath, and continued, “I don’t really know him very well.”

“I’ve noticed that when you’re related to someone you feel obligated to love them, whether you know them or not.” I told her. She took my statement into consideration and pushed her thick hair behind her ears.

“I definitely agree with that,” she finally concluded. “I wish I knew my family.”

“I know mine too well,” I said.

“I don’t think you would mind if you actually wanted to hear about all of Landon’s problems,” Landry said.

“I would never want to hear about Landon’s problems,” I reply. “Anyone who wants listen to people complain for a profession is crazy.”

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SoulPoetry said...
Apr. 25, 2013 at 11:33 pm
So descriptive and deep..... I love it!
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