She kissed his cold forehead just below the white shroud that enveloped his body. His eyes were closed as though he was asleep and she waited, hoping he would open them and complain about the yards of wound fabric about him; slightly freaking out due to his claustrophobia; one of his many neuroses. She watched as they lowered him into the earth, the cold dirt being shoveled into the hole. The mourners praying for him. The tears falling into the ground of the desolate graveyard, joining those of all the other mothers, brothers, sisters, and friends of loved ones who have returned to their Creator.
She watched the monitor beeping as he lay unconscious. She remembered the calls, her mother frantic, from the ICU after he overdosed time and again. Paramedics found him in a bathtub full of ice, once more behind the bushes of a shopping center where a bystander called 911 about a ‘dead body’ being dumped, and again after falling unconscious in the back of a cab.
Every time she felt was the last time. The final time. The time where his luck had run out. Where his choices would catch up to him.
Her heart in her throat, she would rush to the hospital, to find him asleep, to find him arguing with the nurses, to find him with short term memory loss leaving his family to relive the phone calls, the fear, and the stress over and over.
She imagined his death time and time again. With every call in the middle of the night, with every news report of a fatal shooting, accident, overdose, and with every gap in communication she was certain that he was gone, lost forever.
She began to reminisce about who he once was, as though he was already gone, memorializing him in her heart, eulogy on the tip of her tongue. Her childhood companion, partner, protector, friend, nuisance…her brother.
Like the time he cried the day he shot a bird. He was only ten or eleven years old. She begged him to stop shooting at the birds and squirrels in their yard with his pellet gun. But he never thought he would actually hit one. The plump robin fell to the earth with a sickening thud and he picked it up, frantic, his hands bloodied, eyes wide in disbelief. He yelled for their father who quickly took a knife to its throat.
Their father had so much compassion for that bird, quick to finish the job and end its life, while he let them linger, suffering day in and out, a bullet forever lodged in their hearts.
She remembered how her brother cried when Mufasa died in the Lion King. And during John Q. And when he read any book about people with cancer.
Her brother cried so often that their father would refer to it as “smoking a cigarette,” remarking that he could not complete a day without crying because he was addicted to it.
She never cried. As children, he cried enough for the both of them, letting his tears fall just as freely as he gave away his toothy grin, though the former was much more common.
While her brother sobbed over the death of their beloved cat, Tigger, she would gently pet her head, stoic, wondering where they would bury her, whether she suffered, and how she could ever replace her.
Her brothers’ tears rolled down his cheeks before he even made it down the stairs to stand in front of the man bellowing out his name. If you listened hard enough you could hear them as they gently splashed onto the wooden floor, leaving tiny puddles of his great sorrow behind. She held in the tears, each droplet slowly etching a cavern in her chest, creating a vast emptiness in the space that held her heart.
He would race to his mothers embrace, soul bared, wounds exposed, desperately soaking up their mothers’ warmth to soothe his grief. She needed nothing; arms limp at her sides, unable to wrap them back around their mother as she tried to console herself.
She watched her brother; watched him struggle to live a life. Feet torn and bloody, heart aching, and mind in turmoil, he was pushed and pounded down a path of self destruction by none other than Evil himself.
He was too kind for this life. Too gentle. This life was made for a cold, wretched, and hardened being like herself. He never stood a chance.
She pulled the white sheet up, to keep his body warm as he lay in the hospital. His eyes opened and he smiled that sheepish smile, apologized for the tenth time that night, and for the tenth time, asked for more food.
She would not bury him this time. Not today.