Chronic Conditions

I was on the 66 headed westward home, when I found out about my brother’s suicide attempt. He had closed his eyes, spread his arms out wide like an angel, and walked briskly into traffic on a busy street in our home town. A police officer who was near by reached out and grabbed him, cars honking trying to dodge any participation in an already alarming scene.

He spent the following week in the mental ward at a local hospital when he called me. I know he’d been having issues. He’d been having issues most of our lives. We had been having issues most of our lives- a byproduct of growing up in a broken home. While we always went to school with clean clothes and food in our bellies, we never slept well and expected the roof over our heads to fall at any moment. I’ll spare you the details, as I could talk about it endlessly, but I’ll say that sometimes I feel like the fact that we were unable to off ourselves sooner is a sign that someone upstairs is looking out for us.

Our roads diverged though. I’d like to think that much of it had to deal with my natural resilience, but as his words get sharper and he hits every spot in my psyche that still hurts, I wonder if my hands had any part in this. Even if i didn’t do anything, did my lack of presence make it worse?

Truth is we never asked to be here, and the man and woman who brought us here didn’t protect us in even the slightest of ways. We entered adulthood starved for loved lacking understanding. We live like ghosts and speak like calloused hands. Our smiles sometimes feel sewed onto our faces. The only difference between he and I is that I was neglected a little less, and held with arms that were slightly more authentic. I chose to ignore his pain because I couldn’t handle his life and mine at the same time, and I wanted so badly to make it out-not through, just out.

When I make it back to my place I call him. His therapist told him that he should no longer talk to my father and and I. As I listen to his heartache, his voice cracking with the hopelessness of a little boy and not of a grown man, with a bottle of red wine cradled in my hands and the purple stain on my lips, I wonder if this is the sting before we both finally start healing, or if it will always feel like this. We will always be bursting at the seems with the problem never quite getting solved, and the world telling us we should be doing much better than this.


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