I've been asked that question too many times over the past month. The same inquest, every day. Sadly, I have no answer.
A variety of people ask me this. When asked a question I usually try to formulate an answer, but in this case no vindication is available. There is no answer for anyone, not even myself.
I know the solution is locked away in a memory that has become slightly blurred, off centered, and faded around the edges. It dims with every passing day. Yet no emotion fills me when I recall it. My only hope, the key, the key to my salvation, is also faded and slowly dying.
Tyler and I are standing around in the backyard. It's late October and the leaves are only just beginning to fall. The wind blows steadily as red and golden foliage slowly cascades around us. It's early morning and our parents are still asleep inside the house. We laugh at each other as we kick through small piles of leaves.
Tyler faces me and asks,
"So what should we do?"
I look at him, then at our dad's half-rotted shed. He nods, understanding, and we walk over together. He fidgets behind me as I pick the lock on the door.
We both know why the lock is kept on the shed's dull red door. Our father owns a few firearms and keeps them inside. Mom didn't want them in the house so they were banished to the creaky old shed.
I smile, satisfied as I hear the low click of the lock. I force my shoulder against the entrance., it groans, the hinges squeaking noisily.
Inside, the shed is musty and filthy. It acts more as a prison for the guns then as anything else. Tyler and I glance around, our eyes adjusting to the gloom. A small shaft of sunlight from a grimy window to our left, acts as our lighting.
We search for the wooden chest which holds the two nine millimeter guns, on our hands and knees. I find it first, and Tyler crawls over to join me. I pop it open and inside lay the shiny pistols. I grab one and hand it to my brother, then grab another taking it for myself.
We walk back outside toward a row of trees that has acted as our fort since we were young. Tyler stands at one end of the small clearing, while I stand opposite him.
We pretend to load our guns.
We point the pistols at one another.
In unison we yell,
We circle each other making shooting noises. Tyler ducks behind a tree, while I roll out-of-the-way. Our game progresses quickly and silently, but with each passing second, I become more and more aggressive.
For the duration of our pretend firefight I see Tyler smiling, but my own childish grin has long vanished from my face. Something inside me snaps near the end of our game when Tyler flops down on the ground.
He sighs and begins,
"Okay, that's enough, I'm tired. How about we go raid the fridge? Maybe mom's up, she might have made waffles."
His voice trails off as I walk over, the firearm still gripped tightly in my hand.
My expression is full of animosity as I harshly chastise him.
"Giving up Tyler? You would, your just a spoiled brat."
He raises his hands in the air as I press the barrel of the gun against his right temple. He shakes like a leaf. My own hand quivers as I release the safety catch.
Tyler's eyes grow wide with fear.
"What are you doing? We always keep the safety on, if you take it off, the gun can shoot for real."
He continues to protest, but I merely give him a grim smile. I let my pointer finger rest on the gun's trigger for a brief second, I squeeze. The sound of the gun shot echos through my head like a siren. Tyler slumps over, blood covers his shirt.
I hear foot steps and shouting, the slamming of doors. My vision blurs, but I can make out mom and dad pushing past me, cradling their lifeless son.
The last few seconds of the recollection are spotted and it hurts my head trying to pick everything apart. Although much of the memory is fading, the red that covered Tyler's shirt is still vivid and fresh.
Maybe I'm going insane. After all, I sit in my room on house arrest for twenty-four hours, day after day, after day. I do leave every once in a while, but mostly I just sit here, thinking.
If I know anything at all, I know that my brother is dead. Admitting it isn't hard, understanding why that came to be is the real challenge.
My mom and dad told me it was all an accident. That my finger must have slipped and the gun went off. They weren't even that mad when they found out we had been messing around with dad's pistols. They blew that away and focused all their attention on Tyler.
Every time I pass by them they look a little older. Mom's golden blonde hair is graying rapidly, Dad's has already turned white. Their faces are covered with permanent frown lines that have etched themselves deeply into their skin. The two of them, they remind me of ghosts.
Now, all they ever do is sit, kind of like me. They sit in the living room, they sit in the sofa room, they sit on the porch, but I know they aren't thinking like I am. Not that they don't think at all, they usually talk in soft whispers, worried over what's going to happen to me.
Twice a week, a shrink from Juvenal hall comes to visit me. We speak less and less now, she sorta just stares at me, like she's trying to read my mind.
So far it hasn't worked. She's nice and all, but she doesn't help much.
Over time, I've figured that I'm the one who has to realize why I did what I did, not somebody else. I've got to figure this thing out.
Right now, everything feels like one, giant puzzle. Unfortunately, I'm missing a lot of pieces. Putting clues together is difficult
Thinking of my therapist reminds me that she is coming over sometime around noon today. Her name is Dr. Hendrix. I wish she wouldn't come, it's a waste of time, nothing gets solved. I'm sure she has patients that need her more than I do. Watching each other for a half hour seems pretty pointless.
Dr. Hendrix takes a seat on the recliner opposite of me.
"Nice to see you again Sam, how's it going?" Her voice is soft, relaxing.
Silence follows as I avert my eyes from her gaze. I try to avoid talking to her.
The woman leans over, her elbows rest on her knees, her hands prop up her chin.
She cuts right to the chase.
"Do you miss Tyler?"
"I hate Tyler."
I blurt the answer without thinking. I stiffen as the words sink in. Dr. Hendrix scrutinizes me, her brows furrow.
"What did you say?"
I swallow nervously and hesitate, barley managing to mumble a reply.
"I said I loved him, didn't you hear me?"
The doctor's eyes widen, I can see the cogs turning in her head.
"Sam, you just said that you hated your brother."
My heart beat sky rockets.
"No-no, I said I loved my brother. I don't hate him, I love him, a lot."
"Sam I heard you-"
My voice rises with anger as I defend myself.
"NO! I didn't say that! I said I loved him. How could you say I hated him!? I don't hate him. He's my brother, I've never hated him!"
Dr. Hendrix grabs a notepad from her satchel which lies next to her. She jots something down in her spidery scrawl. She glances at the tiny silver watch that circles her wrist and says brusquely,
"I'm sorry I accused you Sam. Look, we are cutting this session short, I need to speak with you parents."
My temper dies down just as quickly as it arose. I smile and nod, happy to be released from this awkward ordeal. Dr. Hendrix quickly gathers her things that lay scattered across the sofa, while I head upstairs. I can hear my parents join her in the kitchen, their voices mix together like a blender
I hastily join Sam's parents in the kitchen as soon as he wanders back up to his own room. They are sitting at their kitchen table when I walk in.
"Hi there Mr. and Mrs. Wilson, I'd like to have a word with you if you don't mind."
They cast a glimpse at me. Mrs. Wilson tries for a smile, but it's a pretty sad sight. Mr. Wilson clears his throat and hoarsely replies,
"Of course, please, take a seat."
I pull out a chair and set my bag on the nearby stone counter top. The Wilsons sit up a bit straighter as I begin to speak.
"Well as you know, Sam and I have been working together for the past month. We hadn't really made much progress until today."
Mrs. Wilson's expression turns nervous.
"You see, I asked him if he missed Tyler and he immediately blurted out that he hated him."
The wife begins to wring her hands while her husband quietly asks,
"What does this mean Dr. Hendrix? Are you telling me that my sons hated each other?"
I hesitate for a moment, but resume calmly.
"I don't think they both hated one another, more like Sam hated Tyler. Now, I can't be positive of this until after I've had a few more therapy sessions with Sam."
"So Samuel hated Tyler, that's why he, er, did what he did?"
I nod at Mr. Wilson.
"You see the thing is, this isn't just any old hate. Not like you when you hate you boss for assigning you too much work, there is a specific name for this kind of anger. It's called Displaced Anger Disorder."
Mrs. Wilson suddenly stiffens, she glares at me aggressively.
"Are you saying that my son has anger issues? He was never angry or violent towards his brother. They used to get along very well."
I hold up my hands defensively and explain my thoughts with sure footed firmness.
"Please, you need to understand what I'm saying. It isn't easy pointing out these things or accepting them, but they are real and they wont go away.
I think the reason why Sam attacked Tyler, is because he has anger issues. Specifically the displacement disorder I just mentioned to you.
Basically it's when you take you anger out on the wrong things, hence the given name. If you don't take care of these displaced feelings, someone can get hurt with such suddenness and unexpectedness that you hardly have time to blink.
Mr. Wilson's mouth is drawn tightly, his eyes blaze like liquid fire.
"Now you listen Dr. Hendrix, I believed that you could help our son overcome the loss of his brother, that is his this silly made up isn't some mental case. I think it's best if you leave, we will find a more qualified therapist to handle Sam through this emotional time."
The couple is eyeballing me down. I wonder if over-aggressiveness runs in the family. I leave faster than usual just in case.
I sit at my desk carefully trying to listen to my parents and Dr. Hendrix's conversation. Their voices are cautious and on edge. I can't distinguish each one. It all jumbles together causing me a painful headache.
My thoughts travel back a few moments to when Dr. Hendrix and I sat in the living room. She had asked me if I missed Tyler. My temper had blown up. The feeling was all to familiar.
I lie in bed, it's late at night. My wife lies next to me. I watch the rising and falling of her chest out of the corner of my eye. I'm tempted to wake her and speak with her about what Dr. Hendrix had told us earlier this afternoon, but I push back the longing and stare up at the dark ceiling.
Memories of my two sons suddenly flash before me. Christmas, Easter, New year's. My body tingles with emotion as I struggle to swallow down a wave of tears. My own son, gone. My own son, the killer. I squeeze my eyes shut and try to clear my mind.
I keep my lids closed tightly, afraid to open them and arrive to see the ruins of my life, but three bleak words lurk in the depths of my conscience: Anger Displacement Disorder. It fits perfectly into the gaping hole of "why".
Morning arrives too rapidly. I feel its rays beaming in through my thin curtains. A pang of hunger claws at my insides. I blink my eyes open, stretch, and head down to the kitchen.
At the table, I see my mom. A handful of pictures are scattered across the surface. Tyler's face smiles up at me, bright and ambient. Mom gives me a sideways glance. Her eyes are watery, her cheeks red, her throat gummed up. I see her this way more and more often.
Growling, I walk over to the cabinet, yanking out a clean bowl. I toss it on the table. It clatters noisily. Then I head over to the fridge, again I throw open the door and reach inside for a gallon of milk.
I wrench off the top and pour the milk into the empty bowl. The milk gushes out freely. It spills over the edges of the ceramic.
"Hey, stop it, you're ruining the pictures!"
My mom cries out, clearly upset, and grabs the pictures hastily. They flutter around while a river of milk chases after them. I ignore her and continue to pour out the gallon, until it's empty. I push the hollow shell onto the floor.
I walk around the table ready for the cereal when I realize my mom is standing in my way. I shoot her a rebellious glare.
"I'm trying to get my cereal. Move."
She doesn't budge. I try being nice.
"What's wrong with you Sam? You woke up and came down here with an attitude. Couldn't you see that I was doing something? If you wanted me to move somewhere else you should have just asked. Now apologize."
My temper flares like the Sun shooting up over the horizon. I brush past my mother continuing my search for cereal.
"Samuel Ryan Wilson, I am not asking you to apologize, I am demanding. Quit the attitude and clean this mess up."
I try to hold onto the rage that is slowly building.
"No. Clean it up yourself." My voice shakes unevenly.
"What did you say? You want to run that by me again-"
My voice rings out, an eruption of resentment.
"SHUT UP! I know you always loved stupid Tyler more than me. You always bought him more gifts at Christmas, always made it to his games. Well guess what, now you have to pay attention to me! You wanna know why? 'Cause Tyler is dead!"
My mom suddenly looks tiny and weak. She cowers in the corner, sobbing. I can't take it. Everyone keeps crying for Tyler.
I spot the over-filled bowl of milk and grab it off the wet table. I throw it, it hits the wall just above my mom's head, her hands fly to her face.
My voice echoes off the walls like a flock of angry birds. I smash my fist into something hard. A satisfying crunch continues to drive my hate. I kick and thrash and yell like a wild animal.
I focus on the spot where my mom once stood. She's vanished. I hear sirens wailing in my head. Red and blue lights flash outside behind a pane of glass. I scream, terrified, and punch through the window. Shards of glass fall everywhere. I spin around and see my mom standing in the living room holding a telephone in her hand. I let loose another storm of fury.
I feel the ground shaking, the walls crumbling, the mountains roaring. Nails grab at my wrists, tugging me away. Eyes follow me with murderous stares before my whole world collapses, folding in on itself.
It's around six o'clock when I receive the phone call from Mr. Wilson himself.
The voice on the other end of the line sounds tired.
"Hi, Is this Dr. Hendrix?"
"Yes, this is Katherine Hendrix, who am I speaking with?"
I sigh, reclining into the layers of my sofa.
"Oh. Hello Mr. Wilson, can I help you with something?"
He responds hesitantly.
"Well I'm at the Juvenal hall right now. It's about Sam?"
"Well I wasn't there to witness anything, I was at work, but apparently my son had a break down. He 'snapped' like you said he would. My wife was home at the time and she said that he exploded and began breaking things and throwing things. She was scared, so she called the cops."
I pinch the bridge of my nose trying to keep the annoyance out of my voice.
"I see, well I'm a little unclear with why you called me."
"Look Katherine, can I call you that? I apologize for acting so shrewdly with you yesterday. I guess I just didn't want to admit that maybe my son has a mental disorder. For so long, I've always seen my family as perfect, and now when everything is falling apart..."
George Wilson's voice trails off, he sniffles loudly.
"We need your help...Sam needs your help. Please, you have to prove to the court that Sam really does have anger issues. If you don't, they might not be as forgiving."
I smile, satisfied to help.
"Okay, I'll help your family Mr. Wilson. Tell me though, when is the next court meeting? I'll need some time to work with Sam, just to be sure."
"It's tomorrow, at 9:30 A.M. The jury feel that by Sam's new acts of violence that he definitely should be placed in jail. They've fast forwarded everything"
I gasp out loud.
"Tomorrow! Are you kidding me!? I told you, I need sometime to be absolutely sure that Sam really does have Anger Displacement Disorder. It seems pretty obvious that he does, but the court doesn't want obviousness, they want facts. It'll be hard to get everything out of Sam in one sitting. It he doesn't want to let go...there is nothing I can do."
"Listen, I have to keep this short, you'll have to talk with Sam here downtown. I know this is short notice, his original court date wasn't until the end of this month, but it seems we have no choice now. This is our only chance to save him, please try."
The line goes dead. I set the phone back on its receiver and grab my purse and car keys from the coffee table in front of me. I hated being rushed, but like Mr. Wilson put it, 'we had no choice'.
I arrive at Juvenal hall about twenty minutes later. I walk in through the double doors. A police officer sits at the front desk. I walk up to him and firmly say,
"I'm here to see Samuel Wilson."
He huffs and gets out of his seat, pointing at something behind me. I turn and look at the opposite wall. A sign in bold black print reads:
Monday-Friday 8-5 P.M.
Saturday-Sunday 10-4 P.M.
I snarl, fully aware of the time, and turn my attention back on the officer.
"I am Sam Wilson's therapist. It's very crucial that I see him. If you don't let me in, I'll do it myself."
His jaw stiffens, but he finally waves me along. I hear the punching of the buzzer behind his desk, which unlocks the door that leads to the holding cells.
I pass through quickly only to be stopped by another officer.
"Hold on miss, these aren't visiting hours."
I cluck my tongue and say impatiently,
"I already know that, the guy out there let me through."
"Fine then, Who are you seeing?"
"Oh, the crazy kid."
He rolls his eyes at me. I narrow mine at him and state defensively,
"He is not crazy."
The young policeman blushes. He mutters something unintelligible as he ushers me through the sky blue halls. The first half of the building is made up of cramped offices full of papers and mugs. The southern half is made up of stone gray walls and clusters of empty rooms.
I didn't get a great look at the details, but from what I could see, the place looked pretty depressing. We stop in front of a desk where yet another guard sits. The younger police officer leaves me standing as he works his way back to the entrance of the building.
"Who are you seeing tonight?"
The guard's voice was plain and monotonous.
"I'm here to see Sam Wilson."
She types something into her computer. The scrolling of her mouse sets me on edge.
"Hmm, let me see. Aha, here he is. Another delinquent. He came in not to long ago either. Anyways, just go past the lobby then down the corridor, he should be in the last cell to your right."
I nod, thank her, and dash onwards until I arrive at the foot of Sam's cell door. He sits on a lumpy mattress, his face expressionless.
"Thank God you're here Dr. Hendrix!"
Sam's parents surprise attack me. They rush over to me from a nearby waiting room, enveloping me in a shower of gratitude.
"It's fine, look I need to get started with you son right away. We don't have much time before he's back in court tomorrow. I need to show them that he really has a problem, that's the only way Sam won't wind up back in here again."
"Of course." They reply, looking at me as if I will be able to solve all their problems. "You know where he is. We already set up some time for you to speak with him."
I smile with appreciation and walk back over to Sam's cell. I grab the door handle and slide it back, entering quietly.
"Hi there Sam. I heard what happened, do you want to talk?'
He shifts uncomfortably and for the first time, smiles at me. It's a weak smile, but I know he's been through a lot.
He opens his mouth and begins.
"Yeah, I'd like to talk."
I push back the pity that's begun to swell in my heart and put on a strong face for him.
"That's good. We never really talked much during your therapy sessions. I think it's time we start."
He shakes his head in approval.
I carefully choose my next words, they can either tip the scale in my favor or drastically make things harder.
"Sam, do you remember when I asked you if you hated your brother? You know I didn't really ask you that right, you told me that."
Sam nods again, allowing me to continue.
"We don't have a lot of time to hold our conversation, so let me get to the point. The next question that I am going to ask you, I need you to answer honestly. You may not want to, but it's the only way I can tell you why you did what you did."
His eyes burn with desire as he inquires further.
"I promise I'll answer truthfully, but please, I need to know why I did it, why I killed Tyler."
I set down my purse which I've been clutching with an iron grip and slowly ask,
"Sam, do you hate your brother."
Tears spring into the boy's eyes like unexpected rain drops.
"Yes-yes, I do."
I sigh with relief, but Sam isn't finished, he lets everything go.
"My parents always seemed to love him more. They did whatever he asked them to do. They got him all the things he wanted. They put all their hopes and dreams into him, and not an ounce into me. I hated Tyler for that, I hated my parents for that."
His cheeks are flushed as he finishes, he looks down at his feet, embarrassed. I watch as his shoulders shake with emotion.
I take a seat next to him, on the old mattress, and wrap my arm around him, doing my best to comfort him.
"It's okay Sam. Everything is going to be okay. You never knew why you shot Tyler, maybe you thought because you where just plain mean. It was never that. It's called displaced anger. You unconsciously hated you brother because he got all the attention while you felt like you got none. You aren't a bad person, you just have a problem. What you just told me, that's worth years of bottled up jealousy and anger. I know now, that you really do have anger issues, I'll be able to tell the judge tomorrow, and you won't wind up in jail. Things like this happen to a lot of people, luckily since you're young, the jury will let you off easier. You might have to do community service hours, but you aren't a cold-blooded murder. Remember that Sam. You didn't kill your brother for the heck of it. You couldn't help what you did. It wasn't right, but it happened. We can't change the past, but we can work on your future. You're going to get help, and we will work through this, together."
Sam stops shaking and clears his throat.
"Thanks Dr. Hendrix. I never really thought I killed Tyler for no reason, I had a feeling it was more than that. I miss him, but I'm glad I finally know why I did it."
As I pat him on the back, I hear tiny whimpering noises. I check to see if it's him, but I look up, realizing it's his parents. They are standing on the outside of the cell holding each other, crying. I get up as they make their way into the small prison.
"Sam, we are so sorry. Your right, it is true that we payed more attention to your brother, but we have always loved you. We always will. Tomorrow, we are going to fight for you. This wasn't your fault, not truly, it was us. Don't worry, things are going to turn out better."
Sam's parents give him a bear hug and exit out of the cell. I join them in the waiting room, speaking about the details of tomorrows case.
I sit on the lumpy mattress by myself. I can hear the soft whisperings of my mom and dad and Dr. Hendrix. An image of Tyler pops up into my head. He's smiling and giving me a thumbs up. The image fades.
I finally know why.