“I’m dying,” I told my brother.

 

Limping across the room, I rested my weight on the windowsill. The wooden frames, like the rest of the room, were worn from use, battered and scratched by years of youthful activity and exuberance. Resting on the outer railings were two dark specks, just large enough to be distinguished by the naked eye as two flies, upended on their backs, lifeless.

Out of the corner of my eye I could see my brother staring at me with a fabricated smile, his face crinkling from the effort. He was tentative, unsure of what to say. I could tell it from the way his feet shifted from side to side, as if he were balancing his weight on thin ice.

“What do you mean?” he asked.

I glanced out the window.  The storm was imminent, the wind picking up pace, blowing the fallen leaves into a whirl of sickly green and brown. Apart from the howling gale, I could hear my brother’s fingers tapping on the counter, waiting for a reply.

 

Tap      Tap      Tap

 

“Suppose I’m a loser then,” I muttered my thoughts aloud. They were cold, distant thoughts. Not akin to the encouraging or affirming ones that I regularly spouted. But at this moment in time, maybe just for once, I wanted to be on the receiving end.

“No, you’re a terrifically wonderful person,” my brother said.

The compliment echoed through the room before fading into an uncomfortable silence. I had never liked being complimented. I like your clothes or your haircut looks good always seemed superficial to me. Empty words only said out of seemingly mandatory courtesy. On the window pane I could make out my brother’s reflection ever so slightly, his form a blurry silhouette.

The truth is we had never been close, but perhaps even distant. In him, I usually found all the things I wasn’t. But most of all, I loathed the fact that I needed him. When I slipped and fell on the stairwell, it was his shoulder that I depended on as a crutch. When my legs were giving out after walking our labrador, it would be my brother’s name I called.

Such incidents left different kinds of scars: the wounds and cuts on my knees, the dents and scratches on the wooden floorboards, and the lesions to my pride. However, scabs on the surface healed quickly, the only traces left of such wounds were the memories of the pain. It was the latter of the three that I found hardest to alleviate as I had left it to fester, the plans for my future I had let infected, my dreams I had let contaminated. And in this very fragile moment, I couldn’t, or perhaps I wouldn’t let myself find justification in my brother’s words.

“Why?” I questioned him, my eyes fixed on the transpiring commotions out the window, the streets vendors now packing up, in hopes of not spoiling their goods to the rain. “Why would you think that? I’ve never come close to accomplishing the things you have, and as I waste away, I never will be able to.”

My words stung the air, making me feel sick. I had reflected upon this matter many times in my head, but saying it out loud? No. It felt different. It felt physical. Like a punch in the gut, except instead of wind getting knocked out of me, it was my confidence and sense of assurance that was wrung out. The room returned to an anxious silence once more as I waited for an answer.

“You may not believe me, but at times I envy you,” replied my brother. He took a deep breath before continuing: “There are times that I lay awake at night thinking. Thinking about what you go through. Thinking about what I would do if I were you, how I would feel, how I would survive. And the truth is, I wouldn’t be able to.”

“I don’t need your pity.”

“No. Not pity. Admiration.”

I blinked. There was something in his voice, a little crackle of melancholy that made me turn to face him. And I was caught off guard as our eyes met. I had never seen him cry. I mean yes, I’ve seen him tear up, that time when he hit a tree going down a ski slope, or loss control over his bike and somersaulted into the pavement, but not like this. I held my gaze as long as I could before the feeling of precipitation filled my eyes, beckoning me to turn back to face the sweating and rattling windows.

“Whatever it is you admire about me now, it’s going to change,” I muttered, wiping at my face with the sleeve of my shirt as the taste of salt reached my lips. “You already know this. It’s gonna get worse. Doctors say I’m going to need a wheelchair soon. Everything will change.”

“We’re brothers. That doesn’t change.”

“But not the one you would hope for,” I uttered, turning again to meet him, wet trails on my face, like the traces of a slug on a leaf. “And I’m sorry that I couldn’t be the brother that you probably had wanted. I won’t be able to do many of the things you had wished we could do together.”

I looked on at my brother as he walked to me, embracing me in his arms, saying, “Life’s not perfect. Not everything is going to be ok. But for me, that’s perfectly ok. And I am proud and privileged to be your brother.”

My brother smiled, genuine and warm. And as we stood there as one, with the shrilling song of the wind howling through the caverns of our home, and the walls shaking violently from the flurry of the gale, I wasn’t shaken. I was at peace.

Timothy Blair is a freshman majoring in Fine Arts at SVA. If not found in his studio painting, he can usually be spotted in the daylight hours browsing the dusty old bookshelves of corner bookshops, or roaming the half-lit streets of Lower Manhattan in quiet rumination at night.