Before

“When was the last time you spoke to your brother?”

            Interesting question. I couldn’t answer it, even if I wanted to. Talking wasn’t something we did. Might have been a week. Might have been two weeks. I asked him to pass Mom the asparagus on Easter, I know that for sure.

            “Did you speak to him that day?”

            I hold myself very still on my couch. Dr. Camry’s tone has changed. She thinks she’s got something.

            “The day he died, did you speak to him?”

            I glare at her, because I have already answered that question, but, of course, she couldn’t know that. She writes something on her tablet. I look away from her. She writes that down too.

            “Let’s go back a little further, Brooklyn.”

            By now, Dr. Camry knows that I am not like her other clients. The ones who walk in willingly – joyfully – brimming with secrets to reveal.

            “I’d like to sit on that one,” those clients say when they see the couch selection. “Suedespeaksto me.”

            Her job must normally be so easy. 

            This question seems pretty standard. It’s a stab in the dark for mental health professionals when they have nowhere else to go.

            If she knew what she was looking for, the story she would want is this one:

            We were seven years old the day we decided not to be friends. Exactly. It was our birthday. It was Milo who decided we shouldn’t like each other anymore. I was technically older, but he decided that one.  Our family had come over to celebrate and, after the party, Milo and I went out onto the deck in our backyard.

            “I don’t want us to be twins anymore,” he said as if we could turn off our genes like our affection. “I don’t want us to be friends either.”

            I know I watched him for a very long time. But that is all I can remember. I was young and it was a long time ago. I remember silently watching him but I don’t know what I thought I was doing, what I was allowing. I can’t remember why, but I nodded.

            Our mother was on the other side of the glass door, standing in the kitchen. It was autumn; the grass was a deep green and the trees were orange. I am sure we made a very pretty picture, standing on the deck. Mom was happy because it was her children’s birthday and children are happy on their birthdays. She didn’t know it — couldn’t have known it — but she was watching her twins break apart.

            Dr. Camry is squinting at me now, like she knows I have figured something out. But I don’t care because I have.

            No one ever said anything and I was never forced to confront it. As we grew, our parents thought we were just quiet, shy, introspective. We used to make our mom play music in the car every day. She picked us up from school and we would demand music. Not just any music, music that filled the car with voice and rhythm. It’s easier to not talk when someone else is singing. It was also easier for our mom not to notice that we weren’t talking. Ever.

            Every day after school like clockwork. We went through so many soundtracks, I can’t even remember. We weren’t really listening to them, I know that. Our mother did listen though. She always liked musicals.

            That was how we did it in the early years. We still interacted a lot with our parents then and it was harder to cover-up our lack of friendship. Distraction was our mission objective. Focus on Barbara. Focus on Tammi. If you focus on them, you don’t have to notice anything else. You don’t have to see the problem right in front of you.

            And so we got away with it. We got away with not being friends and I got away with never figuring out why.

            I don’t know why he did it. I never tried to understand. I can’t seem to remember if that’s because I was never curious or if I just never thought it mattered or because I couldn’t ask him about it since we weren’t friends.

            Maybe he had wanted it to be a joke and we let it go too far. Maybe it was a dare. Or maybe he knew someday he would leave me and he didn’t want it to hurt so badly. Because if he had died on me then, it would have been so much worse than it is now.

            Of course, maybe he just really hadn’t liked me. 

The End

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