You want to hear a story? You in the mood for a bedtime story? You know what I should be writing about…What I never have. My brother.
I have a brother who is 21 months younger than I am. I can’t even do it now, as I’m thinking the words, make it a coherent thought.
My brother is perfectly alive and well. This isn’t one of those stories. It’s uncomplicated but strange.
I have several siblings, but one full brother. Rodney. Rodney and I were besties from day one. We did everything together. Everything was the same for us. As we got older, people teased us that we were twins, even though he has always had a darker complexion and is now much taller. He was my guy growing up. I did everything for him. Escorted him to and from first grade, waited on him, drove him to school, led him around airports, talked to him about girls and drugs and rock n roll.
We would complete each other’s sentences, literally. He would say aloud what I was thinking. As toddlers, I spoke for him before he could talk. His translator, his ambassador.
But I failed him when he needed me the most. And now we don’t speak at all. We haven’t spoken in 7 years. For a long time it was heart breaking, but now it’s just become another detail of my life. The bone has reset.
I went to community college for two years, which meant by the time I was escaping that hell hole, my brother was also graduating from high school. My brother is the only person I’ve ever felt 100% comfortable around. The one person I’ve never had to explain myself to because he had seen it all. But I pissed him off that year. Spring of 2007. What’s the beginning? Where do I start? I don’t even know. I spent most of that year with him and his friends. My brother and I spent our entire lives being separated from other people, but we had never been separated from one another. We were scared. Even though we never spoke of it. Hindsight is 20/20. I fell for my brother’s best friend then. It made sense to me and the friend. Why wouldn’t we like each other? As similar as my brother and I were…it would make sense for us to hit it off when he and my brother did as well. But my brother was not okay with this. My little brother suddenly turned into an older brother, threatening me and his friend. I stopped. I stopped answering the guy’s phone calls, his texts, and I told my brother everything. I’m sorry. I knew we weren’t healed, but I had no idea the crack I’d caused in our foundation. That fight was only the beginning.
I moved my brother to college that fall. We did a bad job being apart. We didn’t talk, and when we did it was not genuine, full of insults and bragging and “my life is cooler than yours” bullshit. Morales full force. He didn’t have a car, so every break I went to get him. My mom was pretty much checked out by this point, she had been dealing with her own shit for the past 2 years. I had always been the mom in understudy anyway, so it really wasn’t a big deal, but it didn’t help the situation.
My brother began drinking and using drugs to excess his freshman year of college. My brother is brilliant. His brains were the one thing about his life he could always rely on. They had never let him down, not in 18 years. But suddenly, on campus, his brains seemed inadequate. He wasn’t used to doing more than enough. He wasn’t used to being challenged and questioned. It was hard for him to be 18, far away from home, on his own for the first time ever. As it is for all college freshman. But my brother’s foundation was shaky at best, due to all the shit he had absorbed as a child, and he was incredibly unprepared to be on his own. Meanwhile, 2 hours south, I was experiencing the same turmoil. What was I doing at a university. I was too stupid, too sheltered, too inexperienced to be there. But I was used to being on my own, to struggling alone. No one had picked me up everyday in first grade and walked me to the bus. No one had sat me down the summer before freshman year and given me the heads up on high school. No one had directed me to baggage claims in the massive strange airports every summer. I did it because I had to. Because no one else would. Because the world is as dangerous as you allow. (First world problems, but these are the things that consume us.)
I brought my brother to my campus for fall break. He got drunk and belligerent and had to be picked up and forced from a party. My brother tried to pick fights with strangers, with my best friends, with the family I was making, even after I explicitly asked him not to, even after he promised to be on his best behavior. My brother, whom I had saved numerous times from drowning and climbed trees with and shared beds and food with. I used to wake him up from his night terrors. I used to tell him stories when he couldn’t sleep. I always protected him on the bus when he was small and still had that lisp. I lied for him again and again, year after year. My brother let me down when I was at my weakest. I didn’t realize he was also at his weakest, not even when he broke down crying in the back of Bertha, not even when he jumped out of a two story window, not even when he tried to tell me how broken he was. I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t hear. I knew my only chance of self-preservation was to keep my focus on myself, and if I shifted to him at all, I would lose. Just this once, I needed him to pull through without me, just this once, I needed him to model after me and do it himself. I knew if not, I would fail. I had never been so scared of failing in all my life. I realize now I could have done it differently, but when I was 20, my perspective was vastly limited.
I miss him, my brother. When I imagine the life we should have led together, it makes my heart hurt. We should have ended up at the same campus, we should have hung out at the other’s apartment, gone on double dates, been beer pong champions at every party, drove home for winter break together, maybe gone on one spring break together, studied together, celebrated graduations together. We should have created this massive excellent family in Chambana. So many things we should have done. The people we should be.
We should be traveling around Europe together and texting everyday and talking once a week, but instead, I hear second-hand versions of his life from my mother, or my older sister, who pretends not to care.
I didn’t want to be my brother’s keeper forever, but I didn’t expect it to end up like this. Not at all.