My brother had an illness that flooded his adolescent body. His blood had morphed into bad blood– too young to know the problem, only that his bruises were amplifying in shades of chartreuse and hues of blue. He was the kind of sick that made my mom start praying to a God she didn’t believe in, the kind of sick that gripped my dad (of muscle and liquor and a proud poker face) by the throat– to make a loud man start crying. I do not remember these years I lived through.
I live in a haunted house. It is full of pictures of us in different hospital rooms and him, our baby boy blowing out birthday candles– the ghosts in this room making wishes on an exhale of breath over mushy icing. The bones of this house are molded by the nights I’ve spent staring at corners. Time is the blood that runs through these walls; it is the heartbeat that thumps as if to say remember, remember, remember.
And sometimes it comes to me in dreams. This trauma is the spoon that slowly digs itself into my core. A slow death, a gravitational pull. I get these memories in butterfly flutters. Our parents out, and I, the easy babysitter. The way as soon as they left he filled an entire cup with his own blood. This haunting nosebleed. The way my mind reluctantly owns this moment as if it’s asking me to relive the terror of being alone in a house with walls that seem to close in on us, with a brother who is sick and a mind that is not yet ready to process the feeling of grief. An ambiguous loss of our childhood. He, who is seen as the kid with cancer and I, the older sister. This supposed growing young woman who is so strong to have endured such tragedy.
But I, the imposter. The girl who puts on a facade in order to comfort her brother who is bleeding fast and without end. Who is praying to someone somewhere for her mom to get home soon– to fix the uncomfortable, neverending drip of cancer. Forever calling for her parents, as if they have the power to stop this sickness from infecting our laughter.
Time does not stop for our sadness.
I have forgotten how to exhale without making wishes and I know nothing of running from tragedy. I live inside of loss and make myself a bed for grief as if to say welcome home, please, take some time to be.