Dear Brother

Hello. I know we have grown apart so much in our adult lives. We have lived at different corners of the same country. We have both suffered tremendous pain, highs so great that we wanted to scream about our joy from mountaintops, and the end of our military careers. We have had children and lived crazy lives with not much time to talk. But it sucks that we aren’t close anymore.

You were my first friend. My best friend. The one who was always there. We jumped on beds together, pledged floors together and slid across entire rooms of our various houses. There is no one I would rather ride down the stairs with in a box. We spent hours outside, riding our bikes and catching toads and bugs. We played with our pet mice, hamster, cats, dog, and your chameleon. We played with your toys, my toys, and the few select things that we shared like the video gaming systems.

We were brothers. You seemed to understand how much I hated my pink bike. You never acted like I was below you, especially because I was taller. You never even blinked an eye when I told you my name was Timmy or Sam for our pretend games. You usually chose the one I didn’t want that day. You never acted like I was supposed to be doing something different. You never judged me. I think you are the reason I survived childhood. Without you, I had no one to accept or understand me. You always just sort of got me. You never thought anything of me wanting to do what you did. You let me pick out your clothes when you wanted to look nice because you knew I paid attention to what looked good for boys. I’m sure that if you had been closer to my size, you would’ve shared your clothes with me like you shared your toys. I want to cry when I think about how accepting and loving you were to me. We never really talked about what I felt, you always just knew we were brothers.

As brothers often do, we fought a lot. You got to be annoying sometimes and I would beat you up. I am so sorry for that. I was vicious to you when I got angry. I want you to know that it was never your fault. Never. I was just under so much pressure and I was in deep pain. You were part of so much of that trauma with me. When you were a little baby, I held you in your walker when I thought someone was going to hurt. I laid over top of you in your walker so that no one would pinch you or bite you. I kept you from going out onto the porch in your walker. You were SO FAST that I had to hold you when the babysitter opened the door to let her dogs out. You were the baby most likely to topple your walker over that threshold.

I remember when we had to move to another place for our father’s job. I was in 7th grade and my whole life was falling apart. I didn’t want to move away from the friends I had known my whole life. I didn’t want to start over with new kids in middle school. I was bullied, same as you were. I was happy to have you with me in the same house, though. It took me months to have real friends and I would’ve been so lonely without you. Some of the first friends we made were at the playground. We went over to their house to play basketball sometimes. I think I might’ve been mean to you in front of them. One day, at the playground, the brother of my friend grabbed you off the spinning thing and threw you into the gravel. I watched it happen from the other side of the spinning thing. When I was finally over there, I jumped off and landed right on his back. I knocked him down and kicked his ass. Hard. You got up slowly and turned around and saw me pounding the shit out of this kid. He was closer to my age than yours and I was not going to let him forget what would happen to him if he ever fucking touched you again. My friend was his older brother, who finally pulled me off his brother and told me to go home for now. I stood there for a minute with my arms crossed across my chest as he crawled away from me because he stood up in front of his brother. I wasn’t much bigger than him, but I was stronger. And he would never forget that. Other kids were laughing and making fun of him for getting beat up by a girl. I tuned all that out because all I wanted to do was glare at him until he understood who I was and what was between my legs had nothing to do with my strength. Boy on the inside, girl on the outside, whatever, I just kicked his ass for hurting my brother.

We walked away, me and you, with your little 8 year old body limping and your pants torn. Your face had a bunch of small cuts from the gravel. I would learn at school the next day that the boy who hurt you had many more injuries. You thanked me and told me you never wanted to go to the playground again. I told you not to worry, that we could go anywhere we wanted because I could beat up anyone who hurt you.

I got in trouble at home. Figures. I had been screamed at for years for not standing up for you at the bus stop but now that I actually beat someone up at the playground for you, I was in trouble. We weren’t able to go to the playground for awhile after that. Whatever. I have no regrets. That boy deserved every punch that I gave him. I stand by that all these years later. I wonder if he ever thinks about that day.

Every time that I was mean to you, it came from inside me. It came from my insecurities and from never getting to be who I was on the inside. I should not have taken that out on you. You weren’t the one causing me any pain, other than being a bit of a pest. You were the only one who accepted me as I was, with no regard from what everyone told you I was. You were happy for both of us when I got things we could play with together, like the race track I always wanted.

The truth is that I was jealous of you. You were everything I wasn’t. Kind and sweet. Naturally neat and orderly from birth. Not a picky eater. You cuddled instead of argued. I don’t think our mother ever pushed you away when you tried to hug her. You were never too much for her. Our father was all about you playing sports and being this boy’s boy. He poured all of his unrealized dreams into you, and all of his stupid romantic fantasies and movie-inspired drama moments into me. He was all about setting you on the world and shielding me from it. He didn’t understand that I wanted to be treated like you were, encouraged to be fierce and athletic, not restricted from life and protected like a blown out fragile eggshell with no yolk inside. I never felt like I impressed him or made him happy. But you did. Everything you did impressed him. He was always complimenting you. If I complained about how much more he loved you, I was called names and treated like I was just this jealous kid trying to jump on their brother’s coattails. I did everything first. My grades were better. I never did drugs like you did. I stayed away from real danger while taking managed risks. I did my homework and never had detention. I went to college. I did all the things he wanted for you and none of it impressed him. None of it.

Now if you tell him something, especially about the military, he will force that on me too. What you say is gospel and what I said is just wrong. He lectures me on the airplane I flew on and tells me things that you said that just aren’t true. Maybe what you knew made those things true, but those aren’t universally true to my experience. That makes me not want to talk to you now. The last time I talked to you, you were extremely condescending, just like he is to me. You have learned from him that I am the empty fragile eggshell that can’t do anything for itself and it must be protected and informed what to do. You don’t know me anymore. You were once the only person who did know me. I hope that one day we can find that again. That you will stop treating me like I am stupid.

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