I recall the images, faint now, of the reasons we are here. I remember my brother’s face, laughing and hearty. He was the better politician, the better speaker and friend. As a child, I worshipped him. I cannot think of him long, though, before seeing his still white face, hanging from the rafters of his bedroom. I didn’t even scream, or cry. I only thought he was playing a game, one I was too young to understand. I stared at his face, ready for him to spring up and laugh at me, to scare me a little before patting my shoulder. The stillness was only an illusion until I touched his freezing face, fingered the rope around his neck. A vast hollowness filled the space where his Gift should have been playing around my fingers, and the realization of this emptiness made me cry out.
Mom was not the first to arrive; the woman who came through the door was our housekeeper, intruding on the lonely terror of a child. I stared at her, unseeing, saying over and over, “Momma, momma.”
All the air went out of her, and she took my hand, pulling me away. We ran to my parents’ room, for the first time banging open the door without knocking. My father sat straight up in bed, and seeing the ghost faces of us two at the door, shook mom awake. They hurried down behind us, our housekeeper weeping, weeping. I slipped away from her and held my mom’s hand instead.
There in his room, suspended and dead, hung regal Ithan. Momma choked, and moaned in a way more tragic than my brother’s stillness itself. She had never been wilder than in her grief, and seemed to collapse inward on herself. She held me too tight to her, like a little buoy to a drowning woman.
My father did not cry, he never cried. Instead, he checked Ithan’s pulse, proclaimed him dead, and sighed deeply, like one who had lost an important political race.
In that moment, mom lost her eyes for my father. She did not have room in her heart to consider him then, but I am sure that she later hated him for his dismissal.
Ithan’s hollow eyes are haunting me now. He was the first to die. Curse you, brother, for leaving us in the dark. You never even let us know whether you took your own life or whether it was stolen by another.
Many of my other memories of him have been lost, dissolved after sixteen years apart. I can no longer fully recall his features or his movements. Koso says we look everything alike, that I have grown into his face if not his mannerisms. Little Koso, eight years my senior and three years my brother’s junior, tailed Ithan like a puppy throughout our childhood. By their teenage years, the gap ceased to matter and they became great friends, the kind that never leave one another alone for anything. The gap never lessened between us brothers, though, it was too wide to cross.