When you were young, and he picked on you incessantly–sucker-punched you and ran, tripped you on the way to the bathroom, blamed you for the shit that he broke–you wished you could have a better relationship with your brother. You mostly thought that if you could get him to like you, the torment would stop. You soothed yourself by admitting that it wasn't unusual for boys to pick on their siblings, even though you never understood how making another person miserable could be so entertaining.
You'd tell yourself that he'd grow out of this. You were sure that if he could see how miserable he made you ... Surely he’d see this next year or the next. He would be your best friend then. You ached for him to be your best friend. Your brother should be your best friend.
But even in your teens, you were still waiting for him to cover your back instead of shoving a shiv into it. You kept hoping, even after he asked you to go out with him and his friends, and you were duped into thinking he finally wanted a close relationship with you too. He proved you wrong that night, though, in his friend's basement rumpus room. He and his two friends hauled you off your feet and closed you up into a sofa bed then went back to their beers, laughing and calling you a pussy. You pushed your way out and left with a gale of laughter chasing you, your hand bloodied where it had been pinched in a hinge. Or maybe he didn’t do that, maybe he just laid your ass flat at football practice and joined in with the other guys in wondering why the coach gave you a spot on the team. Maybe that wasn’t it either. Maybe he got the girl you’d been crushing on since fifth grade drunk and had sex with her the summer after your junior year. Or maybe the asshole was just better at everything or worse at everything than you and never let you forget it. Whatever it was, the dick just couldn’t manage to be cool. He just couldn’t show you the smallest degree of respect. Like an idiot, you stayed hopeful anyway. A lot of guys are dicks in high school. He’d grow up and the two of you would move past this.
Then the college years came and he had to repeat failed classes because he partied too much. Or he had a drug problem and needed rehab repeatedly. Whatever it was, he took more of the family resources than were his share so that you had to take more loans or you ended up not finishing school at all. Or he slept with another one of your girlfriends. Or he got drunk every weekend and threw up on something you owned. Or he was big man on campus while you studied every weekend and still couldn’t cut it. Maybe it was a combo pack of these or many other offenses. But the thing that really set you off was that he was always wondering, “What the fuck is your problem, man?” Like he didn’t know.
Picture it. You’re twenty-something years in with this guy and he is still shit on your shoes every time he comes around, but that spring of hope is still pumping. You tell yourself that now that the two of you are finally grown up, it’s gonna be different. Maybe he isn’t the whole problem. You were young too. You had growing pains too. You decide that when you get the first paycheck from your first real job in the real world you’re going to take your brother out for dinner. But the prick disses you for the bastards from the sofa bed incident, telling you they’re like brothers to him. Or he shows and get’s stupid drunk and curses you out. Or he runs the tab up so high that you have to postpone moving from your parents' place for another two months. Or he says, “No I’m paying. You know damn well you can’t afford a pot to piss in and you’ll never be able to at this rate.”
In the years following this, he never calls unless he wants a favor. You stop calling him to go out because you can’t afford to pay every time, and he always sticks you with the bill. Or he gives a ton of unsolicited advice. Or he’s always shit-faced and angry. Or he's condescending as hell. Or he still calls you pussy. Or a hundred other things you don’t put up with from anyone else anymore.
When you get engaged you haven’t seen your brother in six months, because it’s just too hard. You’re working a fifty-hour week, trying to build your career and barely have enough time for your girl, who you’d much rather spend time with. Or you can’t seem to find your niche, while he’s tearing it up. Or you're finishing your doctorate while bartending half the night so you can afford not to sponge off your fiance. You don't need him drinking up half a week's pay. Whatever it is, it only matters that you’re tired of feeling bad. It’s just too exhausting. But your fiancé wants to meet him. She’s taking it personally that she’s never met him. She doesn’t understand that a seemingly normal person could have this kind of shitty relationship with their own flesh and blood. She has a family like a fifties-era TV show.
So you and your fiancé meet up with him and his wife, whore du jour, girlfriend, dominatrix, or any type of partner or no partner at all and he’s utterly fake, making you seem like the petty dick here. Or he’s rude to your fiancé. Or he’s drunk and mean again. Or he spends the whole night boring the both of you, bragging about himself and his many accomplishments that all combined don’t equate to the achievement of a rally good fart. Or he makes you look like the loser you’ve always known yourself to be by making himself incredibly interesting.
So you marry the girl and your brother makes a scene at the wedding. Or you overhear her parents talking about how their daughter married the wrong brother. Or he comes in late and drunk and knocks over the cake. Or he’s not invited, because a month before the wedding, you and your fiancé went to get a mortgage and found out your brother had stolen your identity and that the two of you would be renting for a few more years.
Many years later when both you and your brother have kids that the other doesn’t really know. When you don’t think about him because you’re both too busy with life. When friends “never knew you had a bother,” some big thing happens to him. He has a heart attack. Or he gets a divorce. Or the guys from the sofa bed incident swindle him out of his nest egg. Anyway, he finally grows up for whatever reason and calls you. His apology is the most sincere sounding thing he has ever said to you. It's accompanied by an explanation of why the realization that he’s been the dick of all dicks has finally dawned on him.
You know you should say he’s forgiven. You just know you're going to regret it if you don't. He's your brother. That's what your mom always said, He's your brother," but you’re not sure that you can give each other anything more than forgiveness at this point, even if you decide you still want to.
And that just makes you furious.