Today, you would have been 37, older than me on the timeline but how’s that really possible, little brother?
No one ever really adds a year or changes the number after a person is gone, though, do they?
The clock ticks to the end on some random, sunny September afternoon and the years, days, hours, and minutes all come to rest, frozen in place for the rest of our time here.
On birthdays people just say “would have” and wonder.
So I try to think about the you that you forgot or maybe never thought was possible, the future self you lost sight of or never saw when you glanced in the mirror.
He is 37 today.
Hundreds of days have passed since you left and each box on the calendar brings the same flat sense of sadness. Sometimes, though, that sadness rises up and bursts out of me.
I talk to someone at work and try not to lose my words and get derailed by the emotions, conscious of my voice trailing off into awkwardness. I talk about you when i interview people.
Your family is on my mind all the time, I wonder if I failed them by failing you, by not being the full-time, fully-aware friend you needed, the friend I knew you wanted me to be.
I see you in your father’s face and even in your grandfather’s lines and I feel the future you I’ll never know. You were there in a song or on the other side of the wrestling mat, your voice booming after the boys shook hands and locked up like us.
The ghosts I never believed in pay me visits, haunting the years we didn’t stay in touch as much as we could have. Decisions I made or didn’t make with ready excuses.
If I had asked the question, maybe two or three times, you would have answered me. Your eyes would have told the truth, like they did so many times in the past.
The promises you made me didn’t come true. It would be easy to let you go, you said. Life would feel lighter when I didn’t have your burden weighing on me. You were wrong about all of us, living here in a world without you in it.
It’s pointless to see-saw back and forth between the past and future, from the you I loved and the you I wanted you to love too. I know that. I feel bound to the belief that you could have beat this, though. If not, I could slip away too.
I would have rather slogged through the decades with you, even as old men, trying to help you find that man and paint a future he could live with. Something not just tolerable but filled with joy every now and then, highs and lows like any other life, but never so low, never so dark again, that you couldn’t see the light.
We would have come to learn what Camus was really saying, together, and how we misread his words when we were addicted to our impulses. Our burdens together, no worse than any other poor soul who keeps on climbing the mountain.
One must imagine Sisyphus happy. It’s etched into my bones now.
I didn’t think about this future when it was right there in front of me in the past. It was selfish, you said, for me to think that way anyway.
Everything I’ve just written is selfish, you’d probably say, because deep down, this is really just about me, maybe, how I’m struggling with the past, unable to settle into this lonelier future. These are my problems I’m going on and on about.
Selfishness follows me through all things probably: work, home, all my relationships, most of my spare time. I’ve built excuses to comfort myself and if part of me can see that, maybe I can fix it, before I’m staring at 40 or 50 candles, wondering why I haven’t done what I said I would do.
Thanks for that.
The most selfish thing I’ve been doing lately, though, something silly, is simply wishing you were here again, right now in the present, with one more candle illuminating the darkness around you and more to make it brighter, in the future.