It's been 20 years, but walking by a display of gallons of milk or orange juice-that's all it really takes to send me back.
Back to being six years old and my brother pulling me half-naked out of bed, telling me we were going on a little trip.
Back to that trip extending way past anything that could qualify as "little" in the time spectrum.
Back to the police questioning me, back to my brother bleeding out on the floor, back to never seeing my parents again. Back to therapy, foster parents, learning how to be normal.
Not that I'm crying about it or anything.
My brother was born something like 11 years and a day after me, so our relationship was always kind of annoying. You know, what I can remember of it. He was too old to be a playmate but not old enough for me to respect, so we just didn't talk. It got so that most of the time when people asked me if I had a sibling, I'd tell them no because most of the time I'd forget he existed.
So you can imagine my precious six year-old variety of surprise when he comes into my room this one night, shaking me real excited-like, telling me to wake my little ass up because we were leaving to set out on a trip and I had about five seconds to pack.
As if a six year-old even knows how to pack. I had seven dolls and one pair of underwear by the time my five seconds were up.
Walking by this cemetery, or this mental hospital, this prison, I remember how my brother and I, we drove for what felt like forever before he even said anything.
And the first thing he said to me was, "I'm God. From now on, call me God."
It's not like I argued with it. Our family was never very religious, he could have said to call him Joe or Richard or Bartholomew and it would have made about the same difference to me.
So he was God and I was his little six year old follower clutching this miniature backpack in my lap and shifting my ass around on this car seat that looked as if it'd been torn apart by a pit bull, uncomfortable and itching because my brother didn't seem to realize how hot it was, no matter how dramatically I wiped the sweat from my forehead or fanned my puffing face. We were the both of us just this two-person cult on wheels.
It doesn't take much more than accidentally nicking my finger on a steak knife to be taken back to how my brother told me that I wasn't ever going to see my parents again, and that it was for the better.
"I'm saving you," he said. "Just trust me."
I was six so I didn't ask why he suddenly decided he wanted to take an interest in my existence, let alone my well-being. I didn't remind him that he told us we were going on a trip and that I was being tricked into a lot more commitment that I had agreed to. I didn't know what the words "ever again" entailed, and I didn't really care. I just nodded dutifully and said Yes, God. Okay, God. I understand, God. Oh kind, merciful, gracious God, can we please, please, please stop so I can go pee?
It's not that I was scared. I was just stupid. Plus, we had just started this whole relationship thing, I wasn't really comfortable enough to question him yet.
I remember seeing a sign about entering the state of California and my brother noticing how big my smile was. Because he suddenly cared about me and everything.
"We're going to live here," he told me in some foreign sweet voice.
Every time I wax my hardwood floors I'm reminded of how I thought my life was suddenly getting very, very luxurious, that I was going to live among movie stars. Pushing my stupid little face against the glass of that ridiculously hot car window, looking for movie stars as if they'd just be walking along the interstate, I remember I felt like a modern-day Cinderella. That's how innocent I was.
It was dark by the time my brother pulled off the road and told me we were going to stay at a motel. I never traveled anywhere before that, so I thought the dirt and bugs and cracks and people moaning through the walls were all just part of the glamour of living the good life.
My brother threw a remote at my hand and told me to sit on the bed and watch TV and not talk to him for the rest of the night, that was he very busy getting our new life of luxury in order and couldn't be interrupted. Then he disappeared into the bathroom and all night I heard him saying "Sorry, wrong number."
"Wrong number, sorry."
"I think I have the wrong number."
Wrong number, wrong number, wrong number, wrong number, wrong number.
Over and over and over again.
Sometimes he said nothing and just slammed the phone down and made some irritated noise. I figured the people groaning so loud next door were having the same issue.
After a couple of hours I had gotten used to the weird screaming through the walls and my brother's incessant "wrong number"s and had fallen into a sort of half sleep. I wasn't thinking about my parents, even though I should have been. Being the selfish six year-old bitch I was, all I could think of was living around movie stars and having loads of cash, just because we were in California and because my brother suddenly decided he wanted to provide a better life than my parents ever cared to give me.
I remember he had said something in the car about my parents, that they "didn't manipulate their circumstances correctly in order to provide the sort of monetary rewards you desire", which of course I took to mean that they were the enemy, and as long as I was with him I didn't have to worry about being poor.
So I was just dreaming about having rooms and rooms and rooms of dolls and stuffed animals and pretty dress-up clothes, much prettier than my friend Ann-Marie could even think of, when my brother came rushing out of the bathroom jumping and screaming "YES!"
It doesn't take more than a blood drive advertisement to remind me of how he picked me up out of the bed with one hand and spun me around.
Waking me up in the middle of the night with exciting news was becoming a lifestyle.
"I hit the jackpot!" he was saying.
I asked him if he hurt it but he didn't really pay attention. I asked him what happened but he seemed to not really hear me. After a couple more minutes of what became more and more a personal celebration and me getting nauseous, he put me down, leaned on one knee like a real loving provider and said, "How would you like to see how the other half lives?"
And, "Your parents could never provide you with anything like this."
And, "Are you ready to get out of this shithole or what?"
I'm just looking out my living room window and accidentally see some high-schooler leading his struggling, sobbing, ungrateful little bastard brother down the sidewalk by one snotty hand when I remember how I thought, boy oh boy, if this is considered a shithole, I'm going to have the best life ever.
And, I can't believe my parents held me back from such a great future.
And, my brother, my God, he loves me very much.
Our neighbors must have just hit jackpot too, because they sound even happier than me.
When we went inside the first house, I thought that we must be really rich and my brother must be really important for our new house to have been so nicely decorated before we even got there.
Don't worry, I wasn't so fucking positive and annoying for too much longer after this.
It took me longer than I'm comfortable with to realize what was actually going on, but I did eventually.
After a month, I stopped being so damn dreamy and little clues started to reveal themselves, like how sometimes my brother would spend an hour looking under potted plants and so forth on the porches of our "new house", then at some point he'd throw up his arms and grab between his eyebrows like he always seemed to be doing, turn to me and say, "I don't think this house is good enough, what do you think? I think we need to find a better one."
Of course, being the obedient little idiot I was, I would agree with him completely even if I loved the house. Before I realized anything else I realized that my brother was never talking to me. He never wanted my opinion. He was God and I was expected to interpret what he meant and obey accordingly.
It took a little longer for me to realize that my brother wasn't inspecting the front porch, he was looking for keys.
I realized that about the same time I realized that he wasn't actually allergic to security systems, not in the traditional sense at least.
I realized that about the same time I realized that it wasn't that my brother had had some sudden awakening and decided he loved me and wanted to protect me, but that it was more like he couldn't afford to leave me behind that night we took off because I might go telling nosey cops about how crazy he was.
He was good at faking all of it at first, but eventually he got tired of me and went out of his way to be a prick. He'd pour entire boxes of cereal down the drain just so all I'd have left to eat would be that loser's dust at the bottom no one ever bothers with. The stuff that people actually get angry about if it slips into their bowl of whole Cheerio's. He'd buy me a large fry from McDonald's just so he could take ¾ of it and then leave me with the shriveled, crunchy, gross rejects that they always hide underneath the surface fries.
And while doing it, he'd act like he was just teaching me a lesson. He'd be shoving the perfectly fried golden creations in his mouth while I picked around black fryer droppings and say something like, "This just shows that nothing is ever what it seems."
Right. I'm sure that's really what McDonald's was going for, a societal lesson through every carton of 75% decent fries.
Or he'd say, "Anything that looks perfect is basically just pretty shitty if you bother to look deep enough."
Or, "Things that look good are always the biggest disappointment."
My brother, my God. He thought he was so philosophical.
And of course I never argued or rolled my eyes or begged for a regular bowl of Cheerio's. I just nodded as if I had learned a great lesson, no matter how many times he repeated the same annoying behavior or pithy saying.
The propaganda regarding my parents didn't ever cool down, but what I mistook for my brother, my God, my false savior, denouncing cruel mistreatment and using as a base to give me a better life was actually some weird form of brainwashing so I wouldn't ask too many questions. So I wouldn't miss them, my cruel, selfish, uninspired parents who made my first six years a living hell by not "manipulating their surroundings".
Because this was really a whole lot better.
By the time I turned seven I gave up on being rich or meeting movie stars. By the time I turned eight, I gave up on everything.
Eventually my brother had trained me to do his job for him while he went off and had existential crisis after existential crisis after existential crisis or whatever he was doing. I'd be going down the "S" section of the phone book, calling strangers' numbers with a strangers' phone and hoping that they didn't pick up, hoping that went on vacation and left an overly cheery message saying so.
It usually took about 250 hang-ups to get such a message, but you only needed one in order to ensure you had a home for the next week, or two weeks, or month or whatever it was. So you can imagine how relieving it was to finally get one.
It takes about the equivalent of seeing a shaving cream commercial to remember how I'd be on the phone listening to these two annoying voices say in unison "You've reached the Granvilles, but we're not here. We're in HAWAII for the next ten days, aloha!" and running to the bathroom my brother was closed in to tell him that good news when I'd find him, completely naked with his back towards the door, sitting on the toilet with about five plastic disposable razors spread on the floor, looking very ripped open and robbed.
I guess I was standing there trying to figure out why the razors looked so wrong when my brother turned around to face me. And he just looked so gross. There was blood everywhere, coming from his head, his neck, his arms, his legs. His nipples. His dick. It was just so much more than I ever wanted to see.
Not that I was concerned or anything, I was just embarrassed.
It was about 30 seconds before I was ready to throw up that he goes, "If you pry open the plastic covering on these things, you get a pretty good blade. Thin, flimsy, but it gets the job done."
And all I could do was be like, so I can see. And then I just turned, slammed the door, marched away and didn't think about it anymore.
I didn't ask why exactly he was cutting himself because I didn't really care. I was more concerned with the fact that he hadn't bothered to lock the door, why he hadn't spared me that sight when he knew I'd be coming to notify him of the location of our next house.
But when you're eight and you just saw your brother who you call God bleeding out all over a stranger's bathroom floor, you don't really ask these things. I may have not cared about him, but I wasn't rude.
By the time I turned nine, I started to get a little ballsy, and my brother got a little crazier. If that was even possible. I don't know which caused which, but at one point I remember asking him why he took me along in his new life if all it was going to consist of was assisting him in breaking and entering and never giving me good bowls of cereal and not letting me go to school.
And he'd fluff my hair with the hard bone of his palm and go, "Because even God need an angel."
Whatever that meant.
I knew what he really meant is that if he had left me behind then once the police got around to suspecting him, I'd probably blab about all the crazy shit he used to put my parents through back home, and that he really didn't care to be admitted or thrown in a maximum security prison whatever they'd do to him. Basically he didn't trust me to lie. I may have been a child, but when you go through three years of living in other peoples' houses and listening to your brother who calls himself God and won't let you eat any surface foods because it builds character tell you that those grieving are only projecting their jealousy of the dead, it's really not that hard to figure certain things out.
It got to the point where I was making all the phone calls and doing the address research and checking the houses to make sure they were safe because my brother was too busy hurting himself in stranger's bathrooms to worry about minor things like not sleeping on the street in December in Virginia and not going to jail. I'd be thoroughly investigating this beautiful 4,500 square foot monster for any signs of a housekeeper coming during the week and my brother, my God, would be in the laundry room looking for bleach, yelling at me that if you mix bleach and water, grab a sewing needle and dip it in the mixture, you can make your own chemical burn tattoo.
"But don't puncture the skin!" He'd scream as if this offer sounded so enticing, I was ripping open closet doors right then to find a needle. "It'll get in the vein."
Then he'd laugh.
"Not that that outcome sounds bad right now."
And I'd just roll my eyes at him. I'd roll my eyes so hard that I thought they were going to stay that way, and I'd have to stifle a laugh because I'd think about what a scare that'd give my brother, me with my eyes rolled back in my head like a zombie.
This pathetic moping piece of shit was the man I was calling God, he was the one that ripped me out of bed and told me that he was going to give me a better life.
At this point atheism didn't sound like such a bad idea.
Sometimes I'd ask why he's doing all that shit, because when your brother has severely mutilated himself by his own hand you're allowed to say things like shit, and he'd come grab me by the shoulders and be like, "I have to stop feeling pain!"
He'd be shaking me and shaking me and screaming like the crazy man he was, "I have to keep causing pain until pain causes nothing to me!"
He'd be foaming at the mouth and shaking me so hard that I thought my brain was going to come loose from my skull. I'd have bitten my tongue and sorely regretted my decision to question him at this point and he'd be rabid and saying:
"HOW CAN I BE GOD IF I FEEL PAIN?"
And after that he'd come out of steroid mode, then just shake his head at me and be like, "You can't erase something completely until you experience the full spectrum of it." Then he'd go off to stick knives in his eardrums or whatever the hell it was that he liked to do behind closed doors.
On the plus side, by then I was allowed to pour my own cereal. But when you're nine years old and spend the majority of your time trying to figure out which persons' house you can trespass in next, you just don't find cereal that interesting anymore.
It's not that I was concerned about my brother's well-being or anything boring, I just wanted him to stop whining so much.
So I guess that's why the night that I came back to our latest two-week residence from investigating a house down the street and saw about five billion police cars parked out front, my first thought was, Well, finally.
Stepping in a puddle will take me back to ducking under the police tape, climbing up the stairs to the front door and making it inside just in time to see my brother being wheeled out on a stretcher. Not the hospital-bound type though, this one was used for the more, you know, dead people.
I was trying to make my way further into the house when I felt myself step in something sticky and heavy. I didn't have to look down to know, but I did anyway. Kind of like when someone tells you that they like your shoes and you just look down at them automatically, even though you know exactly what your shoes look like.
I looked down despite myself and was reminded of my brother being all naked and bloody on the toilet that one day, and it was just so gross. There were puddles and puddles and puddles of blood all throughout this house, endless puddles like a cloud had cut itself and just rained blood all day long. Of course my stupid brother had to make a big deal about suiciding himself, he couldn't just do it. He whined about it for two years and now it looks like he danced the cha-cha while bleeding out all over whoever's house this was.
What a mess.
This poor family that owned this house, the puddles were turning into running trails of spilled life and they just kept spreading faster and none of the hundreds of people in black shirts would do anything about it. If you bleed on carpet, it'll soak through, but at least it won't keep running all over the place. If you bleed like this on hardwood floor, like my brother decided to do, not only will it soak through the surface layer, but you'll be finding dried blood in tiny cracks of the molding for years.
My brother was just so rude.
I remember this being my primary thought when these two identical cops each pulled me by an arm and took me away from gawking disgustedly at the mess my slob brother/God/pet peeve had made during his little episode.
"We're so sorry you had to see that," the one pulling at my right arm said.
The one at my left was like, "We were supposed to make sure that no one crossed the tape because of the…"
"…but we didn't even see you slip in."
It takes about as much as seeing the bald head of a goat at a cheap petting zoo, so often touch and rubbed and patted that the constant friction has rubbed the hair clean off, to remember how they were both huge and bald and smelled really intensively like grapefruit and talked in unison so often that it wasn't hard to forget that they were two different people.
But that relation doesn't happen very often.
As the two big bald officers drove me to the police station, one of them said again, "We're so sorry you had to see that."
The other one didn't have to say anything for you to see that he agreed.
And I was like, why? It wasn't that big of a deal.
Unless you're going to make me clean it up.
I wasn't joking but they started laughing pretty hard anyway.
Their laughter fizzled off and we didn't say anything else until they sat me down in a very accommodating room made of cinderblock and the color grey and tried to gain my friendship through soda and doughnuts.
Since my brother always told me that I wasn't allowed to drink soda because the initial rush it gave you was just as bad as fornicating, this ploy basically worked.
I always knew that the feeling he was talking about was just acid or carbonation or something basic, but it's just not worth the energy to argue with God over soda.
The two cops sat next to each other, their hands folded identically on a grey table, looking at little me stuffing doughnuts and soda down my gullet as fast as I could swallow, when I realized this was probably bad manners and slowed it down.
Between my bad table manners and my brother's obnoxious bleeding all over a stranger's gorgeous hardwood floor, these cops probably thought we were raised by dogs.
They kept clearing their throat back and forth at each other like they were speaking in another language, but even that couldn't make me stop. They had already seen my brother all bled out and dead in a stranger's house, so it's not like their opinion of me could get much worse.
One of the clones finally decided to break the silence by sputtering out something like, "Your brother was very disturbed."
As if that was some big revelation or something.
I wanted to say congratulations, what a discovery, you must be very proud, but the doughnuts spilling out of my mouth were kind of inhibiting any of my ever-prevalent nine year-old wit from manifesting itself to the big bad bald twins.
"Do you know anything about what he…did?"
They could have just hooked me up to an intravenous drip of soda, I wasn't tasting it anyway.
"It's important that you tell us if you know any details about his…behavior."
They were dancing around words as if I didn't know that he was a crazy fucker.
I had eaten a whole box of doughnuts and was waiting with open arms for more.
"Your brother was very disturbed," one of them said again.
I told them I knew that, no shit, thank you captain obvious, do you expect me to be surprised?
They coughed and looked at each other and were like, "Did you know that your brother was going to kill himself?"
Well damn, he had talked about it enough. I mean it's not like it was a big shocker or anything, this kid had been telling me that suicide was completion since my 7th birthday. He had scars that the ICU would cringe at, all by his own hand.
The twins presented me with a frayed looking book of some kind and were like, "Your brother left behind a sort of diary."
That doesn't seem like a word my brother, my God, my dead, dead, dead Jesus Christ, martyr for himself, would ever use.
"It's mainly a book of confessions and delusions."
"Did you know about any of these?"
There they went again with the intermittent talking.
I brought out that they'd have to tell me what they said first and they were more than happy to do so.
"He believed he was pregnant," was the first one.
I mean wow, they could have worked up to that one. I felt like I just sneaked a peak at the last page of a book and ruined the ending for myself.
I said, "Well, thank you for clearing that up, sir."
"He cut himself open because he believed the baby was a demon spirit put into him by your parents, whom he believed were a combined form of Satan. As in the devil Satan."
I couldn't help but laugh at that, really. My loving brother. My gracious God. My crazy-ass caregiver, completely schizoid provider, neurotic savior.
I remembered this night anyway, when he cut himself open and tore out his own guts. I remember my parents finding him and my mom just yelling and yelling and yelling for my dad and God (the real one, not my brother) and my brother going, "Don't put it back in me!" over and over, like my parents, the collaborative Devil, were trying to re-impregnate him with the demon baby when really they just wanted him to get to the ER and his guts all sewn back in before he died. Not that it would have been bad if they'd just let him, but they were good people.
By good I usually mean stupid.
Such an original bastard, my brother stole basically all his little stints of insanity from some sort of Bible story.
I kept giggling under my breath in that grey room because it was just so funny. So bizarre. I was in the same uterus as this thing, this weirdo, this freak. There was eleven years and a day between us, but I still couldn't believe his blood ran through my blood.
Which, in retrospect, is kind of an inappropriate term to use.
It takes a CAUTION: WET FLOOR sign in a grocery store to bring back how when my brother split himself open, my parents ran off without saying bye to me or leaving me money for pizza or anything courteous really. And of course, even though I knew something tragic had happened, I wasn't included enough to know to turn on the light before I went into the bathroom where my brother had self-performed his little operation.
Someone ignoring that sign makes me recall exactly how I slipped and fell all into my brother's blood and guts and organs that were spread all over the place. This was really shocking considering my parents hadn't left me a note like, Hey, sweetheart, your brother tried to expel his demon fetus by cutting himself open down the middle, so we kind of have to get him to the hospital. Don't go into the bathroom or anything, since you'll probably trip on his appendix or spleen or intestines.
It would have been nice. Instead I was just four and laying in a half-inch pool of my brother's blood with all sorts of other bloody lumps around me.
He was just so gross.
Even then I didn't throw up. I just got up carefully, took a shower, changed my clothes, and got into bed. I was still awake when my mother came home by herself to clean up the mess, sobbing like the drama queen she was.
I wanted to be like, hey lady, at least you didn't just take a bath in it.
But of course I didn't. And of course she didn't come in my room to check on me.
It takes as much as ignored tension to remember how when I woke up the next morning, the mess was gone and we never talked about it again, but I smelled like his blood for a month.
My brother came home six months after slicing himself open. I figured he was in a mental hospital or something, but I never really got an explanation.
Not until now with the big bad bald boys, that is.
As I was reminiscing about the good times they just kept going down the list, back and forth like this freak show duet of a man's greatest sins.
I was less than interested.
"He believed that the body was the primary site for self-discovery, and destroying himself piece by piece was the only way he'd reach enlightenment."
I really did not need to hear this.
"He believed that your parents were intent on killing him because they were the devil and he was God."
Thank you for sharing.
"He wanted to always be on the move because he believed that if he stayed in one place too long, the spirits of the dead would catch up with him and haunt him for eternity."
Where's the door.
"He believed that when he died, he needed to bleed out entirely because otherwise he would be buried with part of his soul still living, and he would know he was buried."
No seriously, get me out.
"He believed that demons talked to him through the toilet, so he always tried to do his...business in Cool Whip containers, chop it up, and burn it to ashes."
Oh, gag. That explained a lot.
It takes as much as spotting an ice cream sundae to remember that one.
"He believed that you were an angel, and he had to protect you from the Devil. Your parents."
"Not just an angel. The angel. Kind of like, like…"
"A young female Jesus."
I just laughed harder and harder. My lungs screamed obscenities at me because I just couldn't stop laughing.
"We understand this is hard for you…"
But it wasn't, it really wasn't, that was the whole thing. It wasn't hard, it was boring and gross and I was tired of his stupid personal drama clouding my life. I was tired of him being such a faulty excuse for God and trying to teach me a lesson by burning, scratching, cutting, slicing, breaking, eating, and stabbing himself. I was happy he was dead, and I didn't really care about the events leading up to it. I had been counting down to this unknown date.
When you get a really cool present for Christmas, are you really interested in the process that went behind it?
Hell no. You rip open that bitch like a horny teenager with a hot girl breathing on him rips open a condom.
This was basically the same thing.
But the two bald guys wanted me to be struggling, to be hurt and sad and vulnerable, so they took my laughter as some kind of adverse reaction. They frowned at each other and shook their heads at my poor damaged soul trying to protect itself right in front of them. At first.
Then, they ran out of sins, confessions, phobias, and delusions to share with me and just watched me laugh at my memories and their new stories forever. And they so hated it.
We sat there for like 10 minutes and I just kept laughing this big bubbly laugh, probably due to all of the Sprite they had seduced me with, hiccupping and burping and not caring.
"Your brother amputated his own leg. With a rusty saw."
And that was just so very B- horror movie of him.
"He bled over a gallon. A gallon."
I could just see him hacking away, going on about how amputation is usually something you try to avoid, how it's the ultimate pain and mutilation blah-blah-blah and that's why he had to do it.
I kept laughing.
"Have you ever dumped a gallon of milk? A full gallon? Just imagine that, but its blood, imagine all of that spreading from someone's body all over some stranger's floor."
And even though these words made it so that to this day I have to buy powdered milk, this mental image was the final push against the fragile balance that was my tact. Before I could even think about how gross it was, I was on the cement floor gyrating and suffocating and holding my stomach back from opening up like my brother's did on the bathroom. The twin cops were standing over me screaming and yelling more reasons why my brother was wrong and insane and a fuck-up, as if I even needed proof, just trying to get one tear out of me not originating from laughter.
"YOUR BROTHER WAS VERY DISTURBED."
"HE BELIEVED HE WAS GOD."
"HE BELONGED IN A STRAIGHT JACKET."
"YOU NEED TO STOP FUCKING LAUGHING AND TELL US IF YOU KNOW ANYTHING ABOUT YOUR FUCKING PSYCHOTIC BIG BROTHER."
"THIS ISN'T A JOKE."
"YOU'RE AS NUTS AS YOUR BROTHER."
"STOP LAUGHING YOU CRAZY LITTLE BITCH!"
And it went black.
I was told that the officers who were "so mean" to me were in "a lot of trouble", that everything was okay, that I blacked out because I was laughing so hard that I wasn't taking in enough oxygen to keep my brain working.
All of this was told by some pretty social worker slash therapist slash hired best friend of some kind, who was so fake nice that she literally made me wince. But of course she took this reaction as being the fault of her offer of a handshake. Because poor little me, my brother who was God just killed himself, and I am a female Jesus Christ and was just verbally assaulted by two identical officers who told me that my God killed my parents who were actually the devil. Of course physical contact would turn me off. I could see her mentally cursing herself she was so ashamed.
"We have a lot to discuss!" she said, just like that. Everything was with an exclamation point, like we were having a slumber party and we had just done each other's hair and were sitting down to have a very important conversation about pop stars. That's why she was so fake, there was nothing exciting or cute on either end. Her eyes were sad and I could see the tan line around her finger from a ring that had been on for years but was just removed recently. For whatever reason.
But we didn't talk about that, we were supposed to talk about my problems and my crazy brother and my dead parents. Not her failed marriage.
When you're nine years old and you had a brother that took self-righteous to a new level, who's now dead from amputating his leg all over the hardwood floor of a stranger's estate, you are supposed to notice these kinds of things. It's perfectly normal. They don't expect any less than the complete opposite of what's expected.
At least that's what she told me. Pretty much.
I guess I didn't have the heart to tell her that I didn't need her, because every time she got just a little too annoying I'd look at her eyes and robbed finger and I couldn't do it. We were together so much and she was so irritating but even my heart wasn't cold enough to make her stop using exclamation points.
I didn't know it until my next annoying therapist told me, but apparently that was me feeling compassion. Which apparently is rare in children who have been orphaned by their brother that they called God.
And it just went on like that, annoying counselors and annoying foster parents and why finding them annoying was incorrect thinking. Why I never wanted to be helped by anyone. Why I had jealousy issues. I had so many complexes that even the weirdest event can't remind me of all of them, but the counselors always had an answer for them. And the answers never involved cutting my arms open or pouring acid on my face, so I figured it was better than living with my brother.
So I obeyed.
So I listened.
So I vented.
I had no emotions on the subject, really, but I pretended I did and everyone was happy. I pretended to purge myself of pent-up anger and complexes. By ten, I had made a lot of progress. By thirteen, I was perfectly normal. By eighteen, I had a lot of potential and was on my way to Yale.
I was just a huge success in general. All of my eight of my counselors found their way to my graduation, even the poor one that started me off.
Now I'm 26, I went to Yale, and I still can't drink milk.
And. Lately, everything I do reminds me of my brother.
I have no idea why.
But I'm far too successful to get any solutions to whatever complex this may be from my state-issued counselors.
Sitting on a bench waiting for a bus to take me away from remembering, it doesn't take a lot more than seeing my brother come into view, wheeling himself along the sidewalk with his eyes pinpointed on me like the crosshair of a rifle, to make me remember how he is supposed to be dead.
Having my dead brother with one empty pant leg hanging over the seat of his wheelchair stroke my face and coo "My angel!" is all it takes to bring me back to how it's impossible for him to be here.
I'm reminded how no one comes back from losing a gallon of blood on a stranger's floor when he lifts himself out of his chair by the arms, sits on the bench next to horrified me, and says, "It's been a long time, and you've held onto so much for so long."
He holds my hand like being dead made him actually care and he says, "It's time for you to let go."
And finally, after so many years of therapy and false venting and lack of emotion, this is all it takes for me to finally break.
And I'm screaming.
And I'm screaming.