When you did that thing we don't talk about, they made you write us letters. I can't remember if you wrote me one. You didn't give it to me, but I don't think I could have read it, even if you had.
I was the one who'd found out about what you did. Probably best it had been me, looking back. The others couldn't have coped, they loved you more than I did.
I shall never forget the words I heard spoken, they came out of nowhere, one ordinary day. That look. The way he cried then his body shook. The sickness that overwhelmed me. Deep in my stomach, rolling, vibrating, reverberating to my very core. I held him tight. I hated you.
At the time, I couldn't bring myself to speak your name, think about your face, acknowledge who you were. But I wasn't able to avoid you, like I could avoid stranger's conversations, questions, and stares. You were too close to ignore. I withdrew inside myself, had lost my shine. I felt like I couldn't smile. I was forced to watch you carry on your life as normal - as if nothing had happened - laughing with your friends at school and pissing around by the tuck shop like you always did.
Do y'know, I was taken to see a psychologist a few weeks later? How funny, I thought, to be seeing a psychologist. I used to think they were for crazy people. I wasn't crazy, I was numb. The hospital was grand - we'd got in quick on the health insurance - it had large grounds surrounding it and I can recall the way the gravel crunched under the tyres for what seemed like forever as Mum drove the car up the long drive. If I hadn't been so worried, I might have found it a peaceful place to be. Set out like a stately home, I sat on the edge of the chaise longue, my slightly muddy trainers tucked underneath. My sister took the armchair to my right. She hadn't stopped crying for days; and her eyes looked red and sore. I don't remember the face of the psychiatrist, whether they were male or female, or the manner of the voice as it asked us to come in. But I recall clearly the white airy room we both walked into, the plush green carpets and especially the wide windows, wedged slightly ajar, with white papery blinds slanted half open, allowing me peeks of the beautiful gardens beyond this room.
I want you to know how it was for us, because I don't think anyone's told you.
I think you should know how I told the whole story, from beginning to end, as if I was reading an autocue. How my worried eyes kept darting to my sister - a teary mess in the chair next to me - I didn't want my words to hurt her more. Even after what you did, I felt I was betraying you. Later they told Mum that I was coping fine - that it was my sister who needed the drugs. Part of me was hurt, but there was a part of me that felt pleased I hadn't given all of myself away.
Maybe I'm too proud.
Because I couldn't bring myself to tell you that it hurt to lose you. Do you remember the silly garden games we played when we were young? We loved digging up Mum's flower beds, searching for 'treasure' until it got too dark and we were muddy and cold, left with little piles of broken white china at our feet - fighting over the best bits. We used to lie on our bellies playing Monopoly for hours - you were the ship, and I was the boot. You'd always cheat - just like Gramps - and nick Park Lane whenever I ran to the bathroom and back again - either that, or a £500 note. Remember when we collected the smooth skimming pebbles on Bognor Regis beaches? Us two, pottering about in our jellies, sandy hands clasping red plastic buckets filled with super-smooth skimmers. I hurt because you'd so carelessly thrown it all away.
I have so many questions I need to ask you, even now, after time wrapped it's forgetful hands over and over those painful situations, until all the sharp edges became blurred. It's just like the sea's waves of repetition, when the days turn into years of tumbling jagged rocks in the tides, which in time, become our smooth skimmers. You cant tell by looking at a single pebble what it could have looked like, how rough those edges once might have been. I buried the hurt you caused deep down, so deep, I'm sometimes worried I'll forget. I often feel like I have to remind myself, skim over the details in my mind, just so you don't get away with it.
I could never walk, the way you walk into a room - cocky, like you own it. You make people feel as if they have to tiptoe around you. I don't like your arrogance and don't understand it. Sometimes I wonder if it's really who you are, or just a facade to protect yourself from what you've done. It's probably easier to be this way, than to care about what people think.
I watched you on Boxing Day, put your arm around my Mum. Her eyes went soft, and the colour flushed to her cheeks. She looked so happy. Just for that moment, it was as if you hadn't hurt her all those times, and I knew she was hoping you'd changed. I find it hard how you have crept back in. You lay sprawled on your belly on the living room floor, playing board games with the children (just like we used to). I thought how much space you took up now, how the room felt smaller, a little claustrophobic. I saw the years etched deeper on your face. Your eyes crinkled up whenever you smiled, but they didn't really sparkle.
I wasn't feeling that well, was I? Remember, I had that cold? You'd laughed at me glugging cough syrup straight from the bottle, and I'd given you a look. You reached out your arm and playfully grabbed me - caught me by surprise. You hugged me so tight, and wouldn't let me go, and I must have looked so small compared to you, because I only came up to your chest. You smelt of fags and other people's houses, a mixture of the familiar, and the not quite right.
I was frightened that once you let me go, we would return to just pretending. You'd once again turn into you - the brother that I'd lost. And I would go back to never forgetting.