C/W: death, mentioning of depression
«А только воз и ныне там» - this Russian phrase from Krylov’s fable suggests that nothing changes and all the energy dedicated to moving something in opposite directions always fails. This perfectly describes my relationship with my siblings. As far back in time as I manage to remember, we have never been close, even as little kids. I, Izzy, is the middle one truly always happened to be the middle ground when it came to Ollie, the oldest, and Maria, the youngest, arguing. I don’t want to throw accusations around, however, I believe that my sexist brother was never keen on having this many sisters. Supposedly, he was fine with me as I could have only been an accident in terms of assigned at birth gender. Also, due to being left with him a lot as a toddler, I had a boy-like upbringing, so we got along quite well. Unfortunately for Ollie, Maria couldn’t have been a gender accident as she was the second girl in a row. This made my older brother consider himself accidental, which over time made him even angrier towards both of us girls. Mar was born when I was five and Oliver was 9, he was at this very sensitive age when the smallest factors could have had a massive impact on the development of his personality and attitude towards others, including members of his family. I think it did affect him much more than anyone would have thought at the time. Kids get jealous of brothers and sisters because it means they did not receive as much love and affection as before. In our case, there wasn’t much affection to split between the three, but the jealousy spark was still there. It lit up from time to time.
When she was brought home for the first time is when I had my first conscious memory. I remember asking myself then ‘This will never be the same ever again, will it?’, and it was never the same semi-peaceful environment, I was completely right. Oli was getting very jealous very easily when our parents would talk about Maria or ask him to hold her. They would always work, so I do not have many memories of them or with them. Maybe there were a few times we went on family trips, such as road trips to have picnics or to theme parks, but they never carved a place in my memory. However, our uncle Tommy, my mother’s brother, would sit with us many times, so he would take on the parental roles a lot of times. And, therefore, I have tons of memories of playing basketball in our backyard or going camping in the nearby park, where we would look at the stars. This is when I felt like I actually had a full happy family, the stable one I was yearning for so much time after Mar’s appearance changed my relationship with my brother.
I have one memory that carved its place into my long-term memory store. It was one of the usual trips of the three of us children and Tommy; that particular time we planned to go further than normal. My uncle had found a new park, so we made the decision to go there. Certainly, after some negotiating, because Mar didn’t want to go too far because she had her cartoons right after tea, which made her want to be back before that. Oli wasn’t keen on listening to Maria whining about her movies, tired feet and her constantly asking, ‘Are we there yet?’ But our uncle managed to convince them that we will play ball and order Maccies, so we all came to a consensus.
Surprisingly, it didn’t take us that long to arrive at our destination. We settled off, as well as I can remember, in the afternoon, when the sun was not too warm, but cozy enough to not wear a jacket. We walked for less than an hour and were exhausted when we finally had found a place under a tree. It had long beautiful branches coming down to the ground, which made it perfect for hiding from occasional cold wind blows. I can’t recall much of what exactly we did, but I felt absolutely happy then. Right before leaving to go back home, we carved our names in the tree one next to another with Tommy’s army knife, which she would usually hide from us. But bringing it that day was for a valid special reason. I have never felt closer to my siblings before.
Many years have passed after that walk to the park; I hardly see uncle Tommy anymore. We still live together under one roof with my brother and sister. Unfortunately, that might have been one of the last hangouts we all had together that have been this close and remarkable, at least for me. I always tear up looking back at those little childhood pieces of memories that remain. I miss the way it was before Mar; I miss being close to Oliver, even in that weird way where he wanted me to be his little brother. I don’t talk to him as much. When he had just become a teenager, he would stay up till late, but no one would really bother because parents would work until late hours too. A few years after that rebellious stage, he became private and drew into himself more and more with every single day.
I was going home one afternoon after my basketball lesson when I got a call from uncle Tommy, he had a very weird tone to his voice, he seemed on the verge of crying. He asked how I was, I said okay, told him a little about my success in basketball. He said that I should call my mum, she was supposed to come home that day from another business trip to Taiwan, so I was not sure why I would have to call her now. I told Tommy I would see her at home and I hung up. The last few minutes of the walk home were in a blur. I opened the front door to see my mother sitting crying on the floor with Mar wrapped around her. They looked up at me and mum hardly told me to sit down.
‘We need to go to identify a body,' she said. My heart dropped, something blocked my throat, I couldn’t breathe. My palms became sweaty and started shaking.
‘Oliver,’ she mumbled, trying to hold tears down.
I dropped to the ground, my backpack fell with me and every bit of it became scattered across the carpeted floor. I curled in a ball, couldn’t stop crying. Mum got up and helped me to assert myself.
‘What happened? Did he get hit by a car? Did he fall into the drain?’ I was whispering questions, desperately searching for answers, ‘Why?!’ I screamed with all power I had and tears shut me down again.
Mum went on her own to see him. She came back looking like death herself, I have never seen her this pale. Red heavy eyes were not something that could have described her, ever. She brought a note and sat me down at the kitchen table.
‘Do you remember that trip to the park with Uncle Tom, when you carved your names into the tree?’
‘Yeah,’ I made a long pause, my hands started shaking again, ‘Why?’
‘He hung himself there and left a note. This note,’ without a filter of consideration for my emotions she pronounced those sentences. ‘Should I read it or do you want to do it yourself?’
‘I will do it myself later.’ I went back to my room and spent the whole night in tears.
I didn’t go to school the next morning. The house was full of people – my dad had returned – but it was more lifeless than ever. I couldn’t bear with it. I couldn’t wrap my mind around what had happened. I kept asking myself why and how did I miss it. I was blaming myself and Mar, and mum, and dad. I wanted to blame the whole unfair world. Why did he have to leave so soon, he didn’t even finish high school?
The note, which my mum was given by the person, who had found him, said:
‘I’m sorry. For everything that I had ever put you through. For the things that you will find in my room and my phone. Ridiculous of them to let you look through phones, but it doesn’t matter any more. Don’t blame yourselves, this couldn’t have been avoided. Know that I tried, and I thought, but I lost my battle. I love you all, and I’m sorry I disappointed you all for the last time.
With all love I could have possibly given,
We all read the note, even Maria, it would be cruel to keep it away from her. This was the first time I saw my father cry. We scattered his ashes under the tree and planted a few flowers there. I hope this was not the last time our family gathered. I will visit that tree as much as I humanly am capable of. And I will try to take Mar and Tommy again at least once, so we maintain the bond.
I was hopeful about us paying more attention to each other, so what happened to Oliver would never occur again. But every single one of us is still grieving. I hope I will be able to cope soon. But for now, I am empty inside. I will miss him forever. I am sorry, brother.
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