There was nothing particularly interesting about my brother. He was a plain looking kid, with brown hair and brown eyes and he was a little too scrawny looking. He had glasses too- those big, black, round ones that always reminded me of Harry Potter. He was the average height and weight for our age and he never spoke above a small murmur. Most people didn’t even know he was my brother.
They couldn’t figure out how the popular, outgoing varsity football star could be related to this tiny nerd who always carried around at least three books and wore oversized sweaters.
We were twins, identical in every way except personality.
Our mother used to compare us to the Sun and the Moon. I the Sun, he the Moon.
My brother had liked that story and after Mother died I had told him it every day until he stopped crawling into my bed in the middle of the night after nightmares chased him from sleep.
“Tell me the story,” he would sob. “Tell me the story of how the Sun loved the Moon so much he died everyday just to let him breathe.”
And I did. Every night without fail I did. And he would cry and cry and cry and cry until he ran out of tears or fell asleep from sheer exhaustion.
When our mother died we moved out of our house and across the country. The move had been hard for all of us, my brother the most affected. He had attempted to pack all of Mother’s old jewelry and sweatshirts.
Father had ripped the suitcase containing her things out of his hands and thrown them into the middle of the front lawn. As my brother and I watched from inside the car, he burned them.
My brother and father didn’t speak for twenty seven days after that.
The house had been brand new, cheerful flowers in the front, but without Mother inside cooking or singing it looked desolate and alone. Father looked at it for a long time and I had wondered if he had contemplated setting fire to it too.
But he just got in the car and drove away.
My mother had been his happy ending, and now she was gone.
And because of him, we had nothing left of her.
The new school was different in all the wrong ways but I forced myself to be the same as I had been. I pushed my way to the varsity team and into various clubs and ultimately, friendships. My brother watched me do all of that from the sidelines, his plain hair blending into the background. He was never the center of attention in anything unless I was there to force people to look at him, to see and hear him.
“The moon only shines because it’s reflecting the sun’s light.” He told me. “I only shine when you are around.”
Perhaps he had believed that, and perhaps father did too, but I never did.
He was special in all the ways I wasn’t.
But he wasn’t happy.
I blamed his mind for that- he thought too much, he created scenarios in his head of how he thought it should have been, he compulsively wished he could get away from his boring life.
I blamed mother too, for dying and leaving him all alone.
Of course, father was there, and I was there, but no one had truly understood him like she had. I tried every day to pick apart his brain, but every time I thought I had made progress I hit a wall. And then we turned eighteen and a whole new world of possibility was available, right at our fingertips.
And that’s when my brother discovered how it felt to feel utterly and totally alive, and when he realized he deserved his happy ending along with everyone else.
It started with a bottle of alcohol, a series of bad decisions, and a brownie.
I got invited to parties all the time, and everyone knew that I always extended the invite to my twin brother.
He always declined. Until one night he didn’t.
That was bad decision number one.
I, of course, had been ecstatic my brother was coming with me, so while I drove to the party, I ran a list through my head of things to tell him, and things to make him do.
Number 1 on the list?
Get him drunk.
Which led to bad decision number two.
When we got there drinks in red solo cups had been thrusted into our hands, and I watched him get drunk for the first time. I also watched him drink more and more until he couldn’t even talk. He went to a couch and fell asleep and I drove him home.
The next night he came home late and was staggering all over the room we shared. His eyes were red and bloodshot.
I asked him what he had done, and he told me he had gone to a party. He hadn’t had anything to drink, but he had been hungry.
So he ate a brownie.
A pot brownie, to be more specific.
I stayed up all night to make sure he didn’t die in his sleep.
Worry was gnawing at my mind and my hands had been shaking so badly I couldn’t finish my homework.
He had gone to the party because of me, because I had shown him what it was like.
My brother was many things, but he wasn’t stupid. After the brownie incident he stayed away from parties and returned to his books. He studied at the library a lot, often staying there until three am.
It took me seven months to realize how stupid I had been.
It also took a call from the hospital saying my brother had been rushed to the ER from overdosing on drugs.
He cried when he woke up to see me sitting next to the hospital bed.
During the months where they tried to help him recover, he cried a lot.
Addicted to cocaine, an alcoholic.
Never words I thought would describe my brother.
“It’s my happy ending.” He told me. His voice had cracked in the middle of the sentence.
“I’m your happy ending.” I told him. “And you’re mine.”
He cried again, his tiny frame shaking. He had lost so much weight, you could see his ribs.
I was afraid he would just disappear.
After nine months of being clean, he was getting a lot better. I started making plans to move to the city and looked for apartments and jobs. Then our father died.
Emotionally, he had died when Mother did. His body just decided to join him.
What little mental stability my brother had that was holding him together broke.
He relapsed, and then jumped off a bridge.
For the second time in my life I got a call from the hospital telling me my brother was there.
He broke a leg from the jump, and he was battered and a mess but he was alive.
He asked me to forgive him. I asked him why he jumped. His answer had been the opposite of what I thought.
People jump because they don’t want to live anymore. Because their lives were so miserable for them, because they didn’t feel like they fit into life.
My brother jumped because he wanted to feel alive. Because for the seven seconds he was in mid air, he felt totally and utterly free. The feeling was exhilarating, the fact that you could die made it even more so. The feeling of total calm, even when in the brink of destruction, of confidence, craziness, relief, fear. It had made my brother feel alive.
Words can not describe what feeling truly alive feels like. My brother couldn’t describe it either.
He didn’t even try.
After his leg healed I placed him on house arrest, never taking my eyes off him.
But that was hard to do when one works a 9-5 job at an office every day.
He jumped off thirteen more bridges after that.
I had never fought with my brother before that. We fought and fought over his actions and each time he would say the same thing: It was his happy ending.
‘It’ being jumping off bridges, drinking, and drugs, and other actions and bad decisions he deemed would almost kill him so he could feel alive.
“I deserve my happy ending!” He yelled at me one night.
“So do I!” I yelled right back.
“I’m not your happy ending. I’m nothing but a breathing, walking tragedy.” He hissed.
A tragedy. If there was a word to describe my life, it would be that.
How had I gone from the star football player, destined to get a full ride to college, to an orphan at 18, doomed to pick up jobs that paid anything so I could keep my apartment and pay for my brother’s hospital visits?
I deserved my happy ending. And I was going to get it.
I got a promotion at work, and living got a little bit easier.
For the first time in three years I took my brother to a movie.
He smiled for the first time in two years. It was like watching the moon peek out of a cluster of stars on a cloudy night, a comforting sight to see.
The moon had different phases, changing its appearance all the time, but it was still the moon.
My brother could have phases too; granted, his were damaging to both of us but he was still my brother.
Eventually he would be back to normal. It would just take time.
I took him to therapy and rehab and he was getting better, slowly. Bits and pieces of his personality came back after being hidden by drugs.
With each day he got better and I grew more hopeful.
My happy ending was right around the corner, I could feel it. Life was finally looking up.
My brother came home one day and showed me a paycheck.
Finally, he had recovered enough to get a job. We were finally together again, the Sun and the Moon.
And for a moment, everything was perfect. All was golden in the sky when the day met the night. I was right on the brink of my happy ending.
And then I received a call asking me to come identify my brother’s body.
My brother was twenty three years old when he died.
His life had been dark and twisted, ravaged and shattered by bad decisions and the poison he called his happy ending.
My parents’ funerals had been warm events, family and friends coming together to bear the loss together.
My brother’s funeral was a cold and lonely affair.
No one seemed to want to bear the loss of an alcoholic who was addicted to cocaine.
My brother had deserved his happy ending just as much as I did, as anyone did. He had just looked for it in all the wrong places, and I had been so desperate to hold on to him, to my happy ending, that I refused to acknowledge all his cries for help.
It was only after the funeral when I realized my brother didn’t jump off bridges to feel alive. He had jumped off bridges because he wanted to die.
Dying, for him, had been his happy ending. It was ironic in the most cruel way.
The Sun had always died, every night, to allow the Moon to breathe.
The Sun can die to save the Moon.
The Moon can die to kill the Sun.
We all deserve happy endings.
That doesn’t mean we get one.