He would watch me read for as long as his restless mind would allow. He would sit with his signature grin, squinting with such intensity I almost believed that he too could see the words I read. Right on cue, he would accuse me of skim reading “No one reads that fast Darby, you’re pretending” and like a moth to the flame I would ask him to leave.
“Sis” – and now I know he’s been over thinking “do you believe in evolution?” I peek over my book ever so slightly, he’s spread over two library chairs with such entitlement you’d think we were in our family home. I tuck the corner of my page down, exhale a sigh that screams “Not now Junior” and begin my side of what becomes a fourty minute discussion.
I am fully aware that everyone is entitled to their own perception of a person. That we are all allowed to see others for what they reveal to us. I have no qualms in sharing my brother, nor did he seem to hesitate in giving himself to others so freely. It baffled me; his honesty, his ability to show his emotion without considering any outcome, his want to share his world with everyone and expecting nothing in return.
We were exactly alike in that we felt everything and so very deeply. What we did with those emotions; thats where we were different. I have made a purpose out of saving face and keeping my issues drawn. Junior however was a hurricane in the most beautiful sense of the word. Powerful and centered, fast, uncompromising, nothing left the same in his path.
As I said I’ve known of the need to share a presence as strong as his. I have been doing so for eighteen years. Others would come and go and see their version of events; belittling mine, questioning its authority. I didn’t mind though, it’s as if that were our little version of events. No need for loud jokes or bold moves, just Junior and his thoughts filling up the room.
He lingers by the door, feeling heavy beside the dainty antiques. Breathing in the stale air, he looks me straight in the eye, cocking his head toward the exit. I hand my money over in exchange for my books and leave with haste. “Have you read that before?” I explain that its my favourite book and that I collect copies of it.
“why would anyone need to own the same story more than once?”
“Because this story teaches me a new lesson every single time”
He places my books carefully beside him on the street bench, so not to further damage the frail lessons they hold- and cradles my newly purchased tea, holding it up to inspect it. “You are such an old lady in a young lady’s body” he squarks his exhausting laugh and runs to find our place in the library, kicking an imaginary ball and stepping no one in particular. He falls into a heap on his two adopted chairs “so what’s our plan, tell me how university is going to happen and where are we going to live in Sydney”
For the next hour I do exactly that. We plan every possible scenerio for the year to come, he prompts and pushes and thinks far too much for either of our good. We left the library with a sense of calm. I knew he wouldnt be with me during my degree, energy like that cant stay in the same place for too long. We travelled home with a certainty that we didn’t know everything, but what we did know was well thought out.
Its overwhelming how lonely the absence of one person can make you feel. How easily regret can take over your entire existence. The thought of him is ever present; he is in my little brother’s giggle, my niece’s smile, my mother’s strength. He’s in the smallest of sighs and the loudest of screams. The reason I get up in the morning and the same reason I can’t quite face the day ahead.
Goodbyes take a great deal of courage, and ill admit I’m not quite there yet. I am however beginning to realise that the people in our lives contain galaxies within them. Junior was not an individual loss, we lost an entire world. As small and insignificant as your brother watching you read – As large and looming as plans made for the year ahead.
That last good day may mean nothing to anyone but us, the tea, the books and discussions were not the first we had. They weren’t even the very last. For me, that was the last time I saw my brothers light, felt his passion and heard his thoughts without any outside distraction. For that last good day I am forever grateful.