Hot tears streamed down my cheeks as I looked at the devastating scene before me. My hero. My best friend. My brother. Memories of the 21 years we’ve spent together flooded my brain as I tried to understand what the doctor was telling me. The few words I grasped through the chaos were “surgery”, “paralyzed”, and worst of all, death. My eyes had become puffed up slits that clouded the world around me and added to the dizziness I felt in my already pounding head. We barely even had enough money for food, let alone surgery. What would happen to him if I wasn’t able to get the money he needed to survive? What would I do if we had to say goodbye?
I lowered my head and I glanced over at the seemingly lifeless form that was laid on top of a white hospital bed. He looked so little - so weak, compared to his typical self. My legs felt overbearingly heavy as I made my way over to him and grabbed his hand, begging for a sign that it would all be okay, that this was all just a terrible dream and that life would be back to normal when I woke up the next morning. He must have sensed my worries because his fingers twitched in mine. His left eye slowly opened, but his right eye appeared in blotches of deep purple and green and was swollen shut.
“You are going to do so many great things in life. I wish I could’ve stayed in this world a little longer to see you reach your dreams, but I know you’ll do just fine without me sis. I love you.” He breathed out in a strained voice. I tried forming words, but despite my greatest efforts, I could only release sobs. My body trembled with fear and sorrow and my hands gripped his, pleading for his life.
“...goodbye.” These were the last words that left his lips, and I stared in horror as the life drained out of his once brilliantly vivid eyes. Goodbye. How could one word hold so much value? Why did this one little word have the ability to change my life in such a drastic way? Nurses came rushing into the room as my world fell apart around me. The doctor from earlier ushered me into the hallway, while explaining how my brother had suffered too many internal wounds by the time he was brought here. He paid his respects and left me to take care of what would come next. But the problem was: I had no idea. Left in my own world, with no one to struggle through the journey of life with, I wondered how I could possibly make it.
I lingered in the hospital that night, the dim night sky illuminated only by a small sliver of the moon when I finally dragged myself up from my slumped position on a cold, metal chair along the hospital wall. I waited at the bus stop, thinking how I could have prevented this whole mess. Thinking that if I had just gone out to get the groceries this time, it wouldn’t have to be him who suffered; but I was selfish, I didn’t want to walk the 2 miles to the store because I was tired of living this indigent life. If I had told him to go out earlier in the day, or even the next morning; how just a few hours of time could have saved him. If I had known that there would be a raging party just a few blocks away, a house brimming with staggering individuals who wouldn’t even remember this dire night. If only I had known.
The lofty city bus that approached me was vacant, besides the middle aged bus driver and a young woman who sat in the back, wearing a deep green work uniform and flipping through a hefty textbook. I took a seat in the middle, and shifted so that I could lean my head on the bare glass window that separated me from the world outside. I watched as the trees rushed past and wondered how they were able to tower over the land even as such tragic moments hit. I watched as the world went on as it normally did, not pausing even a second for my fallen brother.
Looking back at the brutal years we’ve endured together, I reminisce about the times that we went scavenging for scraps of food, walking for so long that our feet were rubbed red from the frays and tears in our shoes. Ironic, isn’t it? If I had known that I would be in this position at this very moment, I would have done so much more to really live through every experience.
My brother did so much for us over the years, and though I appreciated it back then, today has given me a chance to really consider my life with him. We never really knew where we would be going, but he pushed me to become the best version of myself that I truly could. Although we had very little, he taught me to be gracious for what we did possess. Though we had to work hard for everything we had, he taught me to be dedicated. Despite the fact that we didn’t have the comfort of a home or the support of other family members, he showed me that no matter what, we had each other.
My brother’s death was not his fault. He was killed by a driver that I can imagine came stumbling down the front stair steps and into the dark road cluttered by cars of all sorts, parked along the neatly cut grass in the neighborhood. His life was taken from him before he could really live. To live without having to worry about where we would get our next meal; without wondering how much longer we’d be able to live in an apartment before inevitably we got kicked out again and again; without having to work so hard every day and night.
I knew that a part of him would follow me wherever I went, but I felt so bare without him by my side. He was always my rock, grounding me to reality and keeping me tethered to a feeling of hope. Wherever I ended up, I knew it would all be for him.
I felt a tear roll down my cheek as I closed my eyes and I rode this empty city bus into the night, not knowing where life would take me next.