I'm still protective of him. Part of it is probably my deep conviction in my reasonings, but something animal rises in me whenever somebody tries to reduce my brother to a ghost or a saint. When Mom softly speaks her spiritual realizations and lamentations, I feel ugly warmth bloom in my chest and throat—"Don't use my brother for your self-indulgent, performative plea for pity, he's not just something to cry about, he's my brother and he was more than how you're acting," hot and fast—and I choke on the words because I know they're unfair. I know they are. I'm full of anger these days. Pain directed outward, I guess.

I have to behave as I would if he were still alive. Which is to say, not thinking about him often, if at all. Before he went and fucking killed himself, our relationship was enjoying a new distance thanks to my graduation from high school. I didn't miss him. But no matter how hard I convince myself that this is the Good and Moral path, the ache doesn't go away. I think even the belief that I have to continue like it didn't happen might be a form of subconsciously amplifying my pain, out of guilt probably.

There are so many thoughts and beliefs and feelings swirling around in my world, and as important and immersive as they feel to me, I can't help but observe that their significance to me is completely arbitrary; they mean what I choose to let them mean. If I choose instead not to, then there isn't a point to any of it at all and I could die and it still wouldn't matter. Not unique.

Going through the motions and knowing I'm doing so and knowing I know and it goes on and on into nothingness, it never goes anywhere and someday I'll die. Maybe I'll get to see my brother again. Maybe there's just more nothing after this ends.

But hey—maybe I'll get better, too.