This is the first time I’ve thrown up a memoir chapter here. It’s a relatively short one. Enjoy. (Perhaps a little context is in order: my brother has attempted suicide in the past and has deep-rooted emotional issues. The fears expressed in this chapter are not completely unfounded, and the suicide attempt is discussed in more depth in another, earlier chapter.)
I call my brother on the phone, and he’s drunk.
He’s talking about a great movie he saw. 40 Year Old Virgin. Funniest movie ever. And have I seen Anchorman yet?
What? I haven’t? That’s unacceptable.
Eventually I tell him about Deidre and Ross.
I figured that he had known already. You see, Ross is my father and his step father. Deidre is his girlfriend. Deidre has some kids, apparently, and she used to live with Ross. In fact, there was a period where Justin was living on his own in California while my dad lived with Deidre. It was kind of fucked up.
What was more messed up was the fact that my dad had been giving money to Deidre for her kids, while not paying his child support. He had money to give to some stranger’s kids but not enough left over for his own progeny. This didn’t really bother me much – I’d grown up to expect nothing from him, each empty promise being easier to take than the last – but it enraged my brother.
This money he didn’t send, it was just like the car we never fixed together. It was just like the camping trip we never went on, the vacations we never took, the presents we never got, the allowance that never materialized, the road trips that didn’t happen, the time we never spent together. He never taught me how to fish. He never taught me how to swim. My brother had to teach me how to shave, how to ride my bike. Ross pretty much never did anything for me.
Justin starts yelling at Deidre in person while we’re still on the phone. Every now and again he speaks to me in a really sweet voice – then bites back at her in a completely different tone. Somebody’s a bitch, somebody’s an asshole, somebody’s not as good as his brother, somebody doesn’t know shit about “my” brother…and so on.
Then he says he’s got to go.
Days pass by. Lisa still asks if I’ve heard from my brother in a while. No, mom, no I haven’t. Why don’t you try calling him?
I have, she says.
I go to school. I don’t pay much attention in class. Nobody notices what seems obvious to me – I’m not in a good mood. Nobody notices or nobody cares – whatever. I don’t do any homework. I don’t turn anything in. My grades slip – nobody cares.
I can literally go for days without speaking to another human being, if I want to. Nobody says hello to me. People I know pass me by in the halls – people I’ve stayed up until two in the morning for, editing their essays. These people, they don’t like me. They just use me. I have all the answers for them – I can edit their essays because they have no fucking idea how to write coherently. Why the fuck do I help them?
I just want to talk to my brother anyway. Sara isn’t returning my calls. Who else can I talk to?
More days pass.
I call my brother on the phone, and he doesn’t pick up.
I’m starting to wonder – has he killed himself? Has he finally done it this time?
I’m starting to wonder – is it my fault?
I come to school wearing my hat with my hood up. I’m pretty sure it breaks some kind of school dress code – still don’t hear a peep from anyone. I wear my headphones as much as possible and zone out to the world. I listen to the same instrumental acoustic guitar song over, and over, and over, and over. It’s so beautiful – so relaxing. All I want to do is listen to the song forever.
I feel so helplessly alone in this place, teeming with others – drowning by myself in a sea of people. I stay home for a week, or longer, however long I can convince my mom to let me. When I come back, no one notices I had been gone. Nobody had been waiting for my return.
And my brother still won’t pick up his God-damned phone.
My brother is the only person in the world that I love. Is he really gone?
Everyday I wait for the call – your brother has killed himself. Or maybe the call will never come. He only keeps in touch with four people – me, my mom, his best friend Justin, and his girlfriend. Maybe I’ll never know what happened.
So many people in the world, and yet, I am so completely and helplessly alone. What has become of me? The people I was close to? Everything has come full circle and I’m right back where I started – I have only myself to rely upon, and my brother is the only person in the whole world I can trust.
Yet, I can’t trust him enough to tell him my true plans. I don’t trust him enough to really speak my mind.
Think of a Venn Diagram, but it only has one circle. The circle is labeled “everyone in the world.” Outside of this circle is written “John,” and that’s exactly how I feel.
Justin, answer your god damn phone.
Why did it come to this?