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I look down at my brother. His skin is almost transparent with a yellow, sickly tint. His cheeks are drained of the blush that he had always maintained. His eyes, slits of death, remain closed while his lips part open with sleep and internal rest. He sinks further into the ground, one hand shaped lifelessly over his other, chocked by my mother’s favorite tie. And I watch him fall. I look down at my brother. It’s something I’ve grown accustomed to over the years.
“Bury me.” I can hear my brother’s voice, small and child-like. I can see him lying on the ground with shrunken arms and legs, smiling up at my playfully. “Tommy.” He calls my name. “Bury me under the leaves.” His cheeks are full, his eyes clear with baby blue rings consisting of youth and innocence. His jaw line, not yet warped into that of a growing man’s. I remember picking up leaves from the ground around him, crisp and freshly discarded from the trees overhead. I faintly remember sprinkling them over his body as he laughed and said, “Bury me until you can’t see me anymore.” I did. I buried him until he was nothing more than a pile of multi-colored leaves.
I was young then, my brother being my only friend. He was flesh and blood; he was a part of me and I a part of him. I admired him. Then.
Standing to my right is a girl. She has blonde hair that travels down to the middle of her back that is painted with a black satin. She cries black tears while clutching a tissue in each shaky hand. Anger floods through me as I remember…
I swung open the door and walked into his room. He jumps up from his couch with wide eyes. “What are you doing in here?” He asked harshly. “Get out!”
It was then that I saw her with a taunting smile that danced around her tarnished lips. She raised a perfectly plucked eyebrow. “Yea, little brother…” She said with a seductive voice. “Get out.”
I raised my right arm, showing a baseball mitt. “You promised to play catch today.” My voice was shaking.
“You heard her, Tommy.” He exhaled, avoiding my gaze. He pressed his fingertips to his temple, “Get out.”
I came back to reality to stare at her, wondering if my brother ever saw past her looks. Her taunting smile is now wiped away, replaced with a form of grief and agony. She drops a tissue and reaches for the silver heart that dangles helplessly around her neck. My brother had bought it for her their three year. He told her that it would have to do until he could afford to buy her a ring. My brother was in love. And for that, he was fool, blinded by a heart who has made various false commitments to so many others. I hated her. I always had.
Standing beside her, now with an arm draped mournfully around her shoulder, is a boy my brothers age. He has on his Letterman’s jacket over a black dress shirt. The look is tacky and distasteful. I’m sure my brother would say the same. In his free hand, the one that dangles at his side, is a football. Even more tacky. My brother called this guy his best friend. And unlike everyone else, I blame him for my brother’s death.
I remember the first night my brother came home reeking of liquor and pronouncing slurry words. He stumbled past me, not even bothering to acknowledge my existence though I had waited up for him all night. I wanted to be the first to tell him that the Red Sox had succeeded in victory against Massachusetts, but he didn’t care. He had stopped caring a long time ago.
He stepped up, placing both hands on his precious football and walked over to the grave. He stood there for a while, got to his knees and carefully dropped the ball into the ground. I was enraged. My brother didn’t even like football! He said it was a useless sport, a vile and repulsive one at that! He played for one year hating the time and energy it drained from him! This boy- this girl even- did not know my brother! They don’t know that he preferred baseball over football. They don’t know that he prefers leaves!
I move instantly, the feeling is unrealistic and strange. “No.” I say calmly though my jerky movements speak otherwise. “He wants leaves!” I scream in the face of his best friend. He flinches along with everyone else, stepping away in shock and horror. “Leaves!” I scream in anger. I grab a handful at my feet and throw them frantically into the ground. I do this quickly. I do this frantically and silently. I do this until the coffin is invisible. I didn’t notice I had been crying until I felt the collar of my shirt, soaked with useless tears and misery. I look to everyone, all wearing black, all watery eyed, all searching for a reason why.
The loudest scream I can manage escapes from within me symbolizing pain and resentment that has been bottled up within me for so long now. Nearby, a flock of birds protest the noise and they fly away in unison into the afternoon sky.
I count them. One.. Two.. Three.. Four...
And I think of him and the last time we spoke. I had smelled smoke so I tracked it own, rushing into his room to find the source. It was him, lying on his coach with his guitar in his lap and a cigarette in his hand. He smiled at me, beckoning me to come closer. I did, for this was the only invitation I received from my brother in a while. He patted the cushion beside him so that’s where I sat.
“How have you been?” He asked genuinely I don’t know what possessed me to do this, but as soon as I heard his voice I began to cry.
“Hey.” He said softly, placing his guitar beside his dresser. “What’s wrong baby bro?”
I sighed angrily and told him why I was unhappy. He nudged me with his fish and said, “I’m still you’re –brother. I’m still here.” But he wasn’t. Not really.
He went on smoking; inhaling, exhaling… “When I leave here,” He said softly in a tone that reminded me of who he used to be, “I’m gonna fly on eagle’s wings. All the way home.” I watched as the smoke left his lips and evaporate into the air. “Up, up, and away Tommy. Up, up and away.”
Five. There are five birds in the sky.
And none of them are eagles.