There was fierce competition between Leroy and me. He was more athletic whereas I was smart, but that didn't stop either of us from trying to outdo each other. We were vying desperately for Rachel's attention and would do anything to obtain it. The higher we raised the stakes, the more vicious we became. We fought more often, even when Rachel wasn't around to witness it, but it wasn't until we were in high school that things got out of control.
Leroy was a senior on the varsity football team. He came home from practice one afternoon in a particularly foul mood. He was was angry because he had gotten into trouble for one reason or another and the coach had benched him for the next two games. He threw his helmet on the sofa and demanded that our youngest brother, Russell, turn the TV off because he had a headache and wanted to sleep. Russell, who was only seven years old at the time, whined that he had just turned the TV on. "I want to watch cartoons." He pouted. "I promise I'll turn the sound down."
"Are you fucking deaf?" Leroy roared in response. "I told you I have a headache."
I was in the dining room doing my homework and though it irritated me that Leroy was being such an asshole, it wasn't until I heard a loud crash that I jumped up from the table.
"What was that?"
"None of your goddamn business." Leroy growled.
Entering into the living room, I saw that he had overturned the lamp stand and frightened Russell to tears. I narrowed my eyes at him.
"You didn't have to do that." I said.
Leroy dug his fingernails into his fists and counted down from ten. Then, unable to hold it together any longer, he ran across the room to where I stood. He came to a halt with his face was only inches from mine.
"Oh yeah?" He asked. "Who's going to stop me? You?"
The contempt in his voice was obvious. It aggravated me even more so and without thinking about it, I reached out and shoved Leroy as hard as I could. He stumbled backward. Before he could regain his balance, I shoved him again. He fell heavily against the floor and let out a startled cry. Russell's sobs grew even louder. We were both ignoring him at that point.
"I'm not afraid of you!" I screamed. "Do you want to fight? Is that it?"
Leroy's weight was entirely on his arms. He tried to propel himself forward, but I gave him another push and his body buckled. When he realized he was at a disadvantage, he backed down.
"I had a bad day." He explained.
I had no sympathy for him. With as much hate as I could muster, I told him, "Well, maybe the coach would like you better if you sucked his dick."
I never saw my brother look so hurt in his life. I thought he would retaliate, but he slouched down even further and didn't say anything in response. I knew then that I had taken things too far and tried apologizing, but Leroy would hear nothing of it.
"I just want to be left alone." He said finally. "Is that too much to ask for?"
It wasn't. The room wasn't big enough for the two of us. I scurried into the dining room, grabbed my homework, and disappeared upstairs. I was ashamed of myself for what I had done. Even though we didn't get along, it was rare for us to have such a heated exchange. It was even more rare for me to lash out at Leroy the way that I did. I tried to tell myself that he had it coming, but that didn't make me feel any better.
We were more alike than either of us was willing to admit. Leroy was as vulnerable as I was angry. We began to prey on each other's weaknesses. It wasn't a matter of who was afraid of who, rather who was angrier than the other.
To this day, I regret that we were driven so far apart.
I was embarrassed to admit to my family that I was seeing a therapist. It meant that I was no better than Leroy, who was diagnosed with a bipolar disorder at the age of fourteen. Even he wasn't consistent with treatment; Rachel was responsible for filling his prescriptions at the pharmacy, but often forgot to do so. Leroy insisted that he was better off without them and, determined that her son knew himself best, Rachael agreed that if he felt it wasn't necessary to take medication, he shouldn't have to. She sabotaged every step of his recovery.
By not telling them I was actually doing more than protecting my pride. I was willing myself to see it through. However, as the first appointment drew nearer, I became more and more convinced that this was a bad idea. Wouldn't I be betraying my family if I delved into our pasts? I couldn't do that to them. Though we didn't often get along, there were times when I depended on my brothers to help me through the day.
It was becoming more difficult to focus during class. I was scatterbrained. I was having nightmares regularly and, after awhile, they began haunting me even when I was awake. Some were of things that had happened to me throughout my childhood, but others were different than anything I ever experienced before. They weren't any less terrifying though.
I stopped sleeping. By the day of my appointment I was a wreck. Not only was I nauseous, but I was beginning to have tremors. It occurred to me that I probably looked a lot worse than I actually was and it was my own doing. I nearly jumped out of my skin when an older man with a white beard approached me.
"Hello." He said. "You must be Sebastian."
I ran my fingers through my hair and nodded. I was too tired to correct him. Nobody called me Sebastian.
"I'm Jake. If you want to follow me, we can head down to my office..."
My stomach lurched. I wanted to turn around and leave, but thought better of it and followed Jake to his office. It was cramped for room. There was a desk, an office chair, a table with a box of Kleenexes on it, and two other chairs. I opted to stand by the wall.
"Today we will be getting to know each other. We have a lot of paperwork to fill out, so it's going to go by really fast." Jake motioned for me to sit down, but I told him I felt more comfortable standing. He shrugged his shoulders and turned to the computer.
"So what brings you here today?"