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Some mornings I woke up to the sweet, intrusive murmuring of my mom’s voice. Other mornings I heard that same voice across the hall, in between the groans and the screams.
He made me an introvert. He gave me incentive to be real. He made me unusually light-hearted with a serious tinge to my stare and my logic.
When people ask me what I’m afraid of, I can’t say heights. I can’t say spiders. I can’t say old people. But I also can’t say I’m afraid my brother, my victim and my hero, will blow his brains out and I’ll have to find the soul-less body draped across the bed.
He was a truant. He spread the disease called fear into my head, which made me an almost truant. I assume it made him ashamed. That he was indirectly screwing my life over.
On a rare day when he went to school and I didn’t, I just watched TV in a sweater. I let the tears stand in my eyes when my mom asked me questions. My greasy hair hung in my face. I’m sure I ate chicken noodle soup that day. He came home sullen and depressed. It wasn’t unusual. He dropped his bag on the floor and stared at me.
“Why didn’t you go to school?” His voice was flat.
I couldn’t answer. I knew he couldn’t answer the same question on a different day. I knew he understood. I looked at the TV and didn’t turn around. Something hit my shoulder. He had thrown a bottle cap at me. I still didn’t answer. I threw the cap on the ground. Something hit my head. He had thrown something else, something off the floor of our cluttered house.
“Why didn’t you go to school?”
I stared straight ahead of me. I said Stop. Why are you doing this? What’s your problem?
He threw a shoe.
He continued his assault.
I began to cry. Please. Please stop.
Mom came in.
Andrew continued to stare at me. His hands hung at his sides.
I’ve been an atheist since I was thirteen years old.
He did that too.
I haven’t missed God. He was never what I needed.
I can count the number of times I have earnestly prayed on my hand. One was against my parent’s getting a divorce. I could say that God’s compromise was having Dad sleep on the couch, but I feel that’s pushing it. All the other ones were selfish except one. It was him. I simply asked for him to be happy. Maybe it’s worked. Things seem better.
He attempted to kill himself very young, maybe around nine or ten. I’m sure it was just a threat. Possibly he wanted attention as the middle child. I remember him throwing himself down the stairs repeatedly. Once he held a knife to his throat and cried and screamed at my mom. I looked on wide-eyed.
I once kept a rope in my drawers. I planned to use a pipe down in the basement. This was during my three-month absence from school.
The family therapist once said that this whole thing would affect all of us. He gestured at me and said it would change me the most, probably.
They used to carry him kicking and screaming out the front door. School was a seven-minute drive away. He kicked the glass out once. We still haven’t replaced it.
They drove me there in pajamas once. They were going to dress me in the car and send me on my way. I ran out the door and among the cars. Dad had to run me down and drag me back.
It was hard on Mom. She cried. She couldn’t sleep.
He was in the hospital for a short while. He came back with building blocks.
I remember just looking out the window one day with a deadpan face. Mom came in and loudly asked if I was going to throw myself out of it.
I think she spent all her sensitivity on him, and I just got the ‘handling it’ side of things.
We were eating at a restaurant. All of us. My sister was waitressing, my parents sat next to each other, across from my uncle. And he and I had the window seats. We were okay for a while. Everyone ate and talked. Then Mom mentioned a person. A person who is dead and was bipolar. They said it was his meds or something; I never got the details. Mom thought it was strange for me to go to the funeral, because my sister knew him better. She mentioned him at the table. She was using harsh language. Something like ‘dead as a door nail,’ or ‘history.’
He told her to stop, that it sounded terrible, but she didn’t. I was the only one who was noticing that my brother was crying. I put my hand on his arm and asked if he wanted to go to the bathroom or outside. He just shook his head.
They eventually noticed and Dad took him to the car. I had to tell Mom why he was upset, something I was used to doing. Evidently, he opened up to dad. And told him why he was acting like he was. I couldn’t help but be jealous.
We drove home in silence.
The next day, he hugged me from behind and thanked me for being so caring. I began to sob as soon as he left the room.
He walks around in converse shoes and shaggy hair. His girlfriend is an artist. I’m uncomfortably jealous. Because he found someone like himself.
I think I love him more than anybody. Selfish as he is.
When he tells me his life was like the others. Like the depressed and creative. Like the lonely youth. I become angry and silent. Because it was my life too.