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My Selfish Wish This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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I remember you sitting with that courteous smile in the room full of adults, talking and laughing in complete contentment. Your laugh was always light and airy, it was such a delicate, polite laugh. And it always came at just the right spots, a lapse in someone's story, inviting them to continue. Yes, you'd sit there like the smart, charming, gracious boy you were. Everyone said that you were such a polite young man. “What a fine young gentleman,” they'd say. “Whoever would have thought that an adolescent could be so well behaved,” they all agreed. And I watched. I watched all the time, seeing you smile and laugh and talk.

I hated it.

I hated seeing you like that. It was unnatural. It wasn't you. I never understood why no one else saw it. But I saw. Your smile was plastic. That lovely, airy laugh was practiced, pitched perfectly like a recorded tape. I couldn't stand it. Why did you have to humor people so much? Why couldn't you just be yourself? I couldn't explain it, but it was painful, seeing you trying so hard to please those adults. I wanted to scream, “This isn't my brother!” But I couldn't. Of course I couldn't. I had to sit there, watching that plastic smile and hearing those recorded tapes whirring. I hated it.

I remember the times when you'd protect me. It was always something small, but that didn't matter. Things like offering to play “Mario Kart” with me when you could see I was getting stressed about homework, or biking all the way to the coffee shop because I stayed longer than you thought I would and you wanted to make sure I was all right. You thought I didn't notice. I let you think that. You were happier that way. But I did notice.

I loved it.

I loved it when you'd stand tall and act like an older brother. It made me feel so calm and safe, which I didn't feel very often. It was your way of saying I love you, even if you couldn't say it out loud. Don't worry. I still heard. And I loved it.

I remember you giving something all the effort you could muster. I saw you straining and straining, harder than you had to, for something or someone other than yourself. You always put out your absolute best, even if it left nothing for you. And then, if even the tiniest thing went wrong, you felt like a failure. Blaming yourself endlessly, you'd close up and feel useless, as though you'd let everyone down. But your pride forbade you to show it, so you'd shut yourself in your room and pretend to be angry. But really, you were hurting. You never let me see that. But I saw it anyway.

And I hated it.

I hated the way you tore yourself apart with needless blame, the way you gave away all of your strength. You shouldn't have to shoulder other people's needs like that. No one should. But especially not you. I'm sure you don't realize it, but you are a really kind person. Too kind for your own good. And you shouldn't have to try so hard. You don't deserve that. You deserve to live a happy life, free from your own blame. So stop. Breathe. Be selfish for once. I'm begging you, don't keep stretching and stretching until you break. I've seen you break too many times. I hate it.

But I also remember the moments when you seemed like a child. You looked so innocent and cute, using all your concentration to slice a banana, bent intently over the fruit with a knife you were unaccustomed to holding in your large hands. Or the way you put on a tie, moving slowly, step by step.

I loved it.

Maybe it was childish of me, but I loved seeing you like that. It made me feel, for just a moment, like I was the older sibling. Like I was the one who needed to take care of you. Like I was your mother. I wouldn't tell you this for anything, but I loved the parental feeling I got from watching you perform those simple tasks. Maybe that's why I love to cook for you, why I'm so worried on the rare occasions that you're sick. Or maybe I just want you to rely on me as much as I rely on you.

But most of all, I remember the times when neither of us seemed older or younger, the times when we were together as equals, friends. We'd laugh our heads off watching at some nerdy spoof of a video game on YouTube, or make grotesquely large ice cream sundaes before watching “Pirates of the Caribbean.” Sometimes we'd actually talk about something meaningful, and sometimes you'd inadvertently give me incredible words of wisdom. Sometimes I'd cry and you'd listen. But you never cried.

In a way, I wish you had. I wish that you'd been able to open up to me, and that I could have listened to you for a change. After all you've given me, it wouldn't be fair if I didn't give you something in return. There, I've said it. Now we can go back to watching the movie and eating ice cream like we always do, and if you ever read this, we will just laugh it off and you will tease me about writing something so sappy. But before we go back to the way things are, let me tell you my shamefully selfish wish.

Cry. Please, cry with me when you feel like crying. Show me how you feel, even if it hurts me. You know my tears so well, but I've never seen yours. So cry. Cry until there's nothing left. And then maybe, just maybe, I'll feel like I've repaid you a bit. I want you to come crying to me twice as often as I've come crying to you. I want to make you laugh twice as often as you've made me smile. I want you to be proud of me twice as many times as I've been a burden.

I guess my wish amounts to this: I want to be your sister. Instead of constantly leaning on you and weighing you down, I want us to lean on each other and be stronger because of it. I want to believe that your life is at least a little better because I'm in it. And someday, I want to be the kind of girl who feels worthy of saying, “This is my brother.”

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




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This article has 4 comments. Post your own!

Skelley said...
Sept. 6, 2011 at 7:56 pm:
I don't believe that was a very selfish wish. If you want someone to be able to open up, it isn't selfish. It shows how much you care about him, and feel like you want to be there for him like he was for you.
 
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PassionHoldsMySoul said...
Feb. 4, 2011 at 5:48 pm:

One of my favorites you've read!!!!!! Love!!

Do you think you'll ever share this with him?

 
Ichigo This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. replied...
Feb. 4, 2011 at 8:02 pm :
Um... not sure yet. I don't think I'm ready at this point. I hope I'll be brave enough sometime in the future. 
 
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MysteryHeart said...
Nov. 5, 2010 at 4:04 pm:
That was deep! and very very good! I liked the technique of you going from hating to loving.
 
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