It's January. Again.
It's that time of year where most people go into preparations for spring, with the hopes and wishes of warm sunny weather on its way. Soon, there will be yard sales with things no one wants, 'gardens' with terrible ideas of what is beautiful or edible, and of course in my neighborhood, the ubiquitous Latino cowbell music blasting up and down the streets at 1 in the morning. I'll be forced to acknowledge the sunlight much earlier than I'd like, and inevitably, trips to beaches and water-and-sun themed places I'd really rather not go to. Happy new year! Depression starts early!
That's not really why I'm here though. As frustrating and nauseating as summer is to me, I can deal. I have been, for years now. Obviously.
But, January, in addition to being the herald of the upcoming year, is also kind of strange for me now. My brother's birthday is in a few days, and I'd like to go visit him. If I could only remember where he is. And go without baggage.
He's 10 years older than me, thereby making him always cooler than me and always one step ahead. When we were younger, he'd use this to his advantage in any way he could. 3 tennis balls for all of my Looney Tunes figurines? Sure! I'm only 8, what do I know? You lost at Street Fighter and it's my fault? I don't see how, but, will you please stop hitting my leg?! A new wrestling move? Cool! I....can't breathe though...
Yes, he was a jerk at times. Boys are very apt to be as such at certain times, and our family seemingly never mentally ages past a certain point. But, he was my friend. As strange and unusual as that is. I tended to look up to him in a way a daughter would to her father. Maybe one day I'll be good at karate. Maybe one day I'll wear all black and listen to metal. Maybe he might see me as an equal at some point and reciprocate the friendship.
After high school, he went to a community college in Bethlehem Pa. He had a dorm there, which meant I only got to see him on weekends when we would visit. It was dumb, but I actually looked forward to that. Even if I was generally ignored. He didn't last long, though. The party life became his major, and he dropped out after only a semester or two.
He went on from there, and actually moved out of the house when I was in my early teens. I cant remember the year exactly. I remember feeling lonely though. Like something was missing for weeks. True, I had my little sister to keep me company, but, it wasn't the same. I'm 6 years older than her, so she was just getting a grip on how, we, humans worked. Let alone want to pick up a Nintendo controller and mash out a few levels of Mario Bros. 3.
I'll say right here that I've never been a social butterfly of any kind. At any point in my life, I've only had a handful of friends. And half of them were either interested in whatever money my dad was dishing out or were just outright facetious. BFF forever! Until I find someone better. The trend, as you would imagine, hasn't gotten much better now that I'm older.
I say this not to gain votes of pity of any kind. Just merely highlighting how things work around me. I'm used to it, trust me.
Eventually, the apartment he had with his then-fiancee had fallen apart in many ways, so he came back home. I was happy, to be sure. But he was...different, though. His sharpness had dulled, and something had changed that made him not who he was when he left. I couldn't put my finger on what it was at the time. I think I was lost in the haze of memories I had and just didn't see past who I had remembered he was.
I was in high school at this point. My hair was greasy, my face was pocked, and I was awkward as hell. I had people I talked to, and people who I considered friends. One of the people I considered the latter was Jackie.
She was like me in many ways. We were both heavy, we both liked music class, and we both had an interest in the occult. Though, to be honest, my interest was more of an aesthetic at the time, and hers was more of a 'I have a pet dragon and talk to dead people and Satan is my dad' kind. I really could go on and on with that. Pages, in fact. I'm sure I still have her notes we used to pass around somewhere.
Jackie would do my homework sometimes. Because she was bored, she would say. And split the Jolly Rancher candy she would get from the vending machine, just because. On the surface, she seemed like a good person, once you got past the blatant, offensive 'witch' stereotype and the crazy, messed up things she would say in the name of 'being Pagan'.
And then, one day, another friend I had at the time came running up to me after class to tell me that Jackie and by brother were in front of the school. Kissing.
I can look back at that and shrug my shoulders now. It's disgusting, I know, but it's also years behind me. At the time though, I felt hurt and a little betrayed. Now I knew why she wanted to hang out all the time. Certainly, it wasn't for my company.
Thankfully, that didn't last long. I don't know who or what put the brakes on that whole thing, but they have my gratitude. Not just from the almost-pedophile relation, but for also showing me that I have to start being less than naive from now on.
He continued to change. The lights were dimming, and he started quoting TV. He would sit in his room for hours on end. Things he once cared about fell to the side, without so much as a second look. If it wasn't directly in front of him, or being handed to him, it didn't exist.
Dad would yell at him. I cant remember what was being screamed, but I remember it was angry. Angry enough that it would make me upset at times. Dad would on occasion get mad at me too, because I couldn't see what was doing it to him. Because I couldn't see what was going on. More than once, I'd shakily nod in agreement with whatever he said. Even if what he had told me lies, I'd parrot the information back at him, as if I understood.
I had never dealt with drug addiction before. At least, I thought I hadn't. As it turns out, he had been using a menagerie of things for years. With mom, too. They even had code names for their dealer so dad wouldn't find out. Jackie had connections, too.
I actually had known this whole time, and just never connected the dots. I remember visiting 'a friend' the two of them had, in the suburbs, in a fancy house for years. Never questioning, never thinking twice. Why did mom fall asleep driving? I guess she was just tired...
Dad made mom get help. Not so much with my brother. There were attempts later on, but it was useless at that point.
So, he never stopped.
And we all watched him decay, like a living corpse.
I guess I really don't have to tell you, he's six feet under now.
Happy 40th birthday, Timmy.