Goodbye, Brother

Hannah Clark, Editor

Blood.

As a small child, blood once deeply intrigued me. It fascinated me. How it pulsed in my veins, its rich crimson color, the metallic taste, and its vital purpose. But now, it scared me. It’s one thing to accidentally cut your finger and watch the syrupy fluid rush down the sink drain, but another to see your hands bathed in it. It created a morbid stain that would never be washed away, and a raging stench never to be forgotten.

I never expected to see and taste so much of it, until reality slowed, and I watched the shattered windshield shards flying towards me. It was delayed, but I remembered my blood roaring in my ears and the cold uncomfortable jolt of pure terror that exploded inside me, before the edges of the world blackened. Broken glass left a jagged, silver scar on my brow when I was young; I fell from a window and was bullied for it in school for years. Now I would have a
dozen scars.

The throbbing, white-hot agony dripped from my shredded cheek, leaked from my nose, and oozed out of my ravaged arms and palms— but not all of the blood was mine.

It flooded into a pool at my feet, in rapid rivers from beside me, from the passenger’s seat. From other veins, from mortal wounds, from my second self.

It came from my brother.

His was darker, thicker— gushing madly out of his arteries onto my hoodie and into my lap. I shivered, tasting bile in my teeth and wanting to vomit. I felt it all over me, drenching me, switching from scalding to freezing within milliseconds. My arms shot forward and supported my brother as he slumped heavily against me, his head falling lifelessly to my collarbone. My breath was stolen and my dreaded heart plummeted to the pit of my stomach. He was heavy.

Pure dead weight.

This was the closest we had been in months. I couldn’t remember the last time I had truly looked him in the face, or playfully ruffled his hair, told him thank you for scaring bullies away or helping me with my homework, apologized to him after a fight— or told him I loved him.

A lump in my throat grew like wildfire and suffocated me, forcing salty tears out of my eyes and down my numb face.

My brother.

We annoyed each other, teased each other, picked on each other, but God help anyone who dared to hurt one of us. We were each other’s fierce defenders, grounding anchors, and we loved each other. We were polar opposites sometimes, but at our core, we were identical. We shared the same flesh and shared the same blood; two halves of the same spirit. We shared a womb together, and came into the world together— We were practically the same person, my big brother and I.

Soul siblings.

But now that flesh was torn, and now that blood was spilled. Because of me. My protector, my teaser, my reflection in the other side of life’s mirror was slipping away from me.

If only I had put down my phone!
If only we had put on our seatbelts!
If only I had said no to that third drink!
If only I had a little bit of care in the world!
If only I had listened to my mother when she told us, “Be careful!”

What have I done?
What have I done?!
What fatal mistake have I made?

My phone rang under the broken steering wheel, buzzing and glitching, and I have never detested a sound so much before. I wanted to break it, smash it, chuck it over a cliff. I wanted to destroy it.

It was because of you!
It was because of that beer!
It was because of that party!
It was because of that stupid text!
It was because of that petty argument!
It was because of that other car!
It was because of that tree!

It was because of me!

My tiny body was afflicted with violent trembles and my aching lungs quivered, my grip on my mangled, bleeding brother tightening.

I could feel him grow cold. I could feel him hardy breathe. I could feel his heartbeat beneath my fingers. It was different. Faint, fast, and crooked. Not normal, not healthy.
Dying.
It was as if it was panting; trying too hard to pump life throughout the man I was holding— like it didn’t have enough fuel. It felt exhausted.
Tired and done with the world, ready to give up.

So it did.
And it was because of me.
My brother was dead.
And it was all my fault.
I lost my other half.

I hugged my brother like a lifeline, and along with the screaming, quickly approaching sirens, I threw my head back and wailed to the starless night until my throat was raw.

Goodbye, brother.