I just wanted to capture a few moments of a bleak childhood.
I could see his wallet sitting on the dresser behind him. I didn’t care, for even a moment, about him. He lay there, half on the bed and half off, out cold. Stoned out of his mind. I glanced at him to make sure he was breathing. My attention focused on his wallet and what might be in it. I stood there in the doorway several minutes debating if I should help myself to it.
It would be stealing, I thought, feeling guilty for thinking it. But, I knew my younger brother and I needed the money for food. Would it be stealing? Isn’t he supposed to see to it that we have food in the house?
Inside I hated him. Him and his disappearances, leaving us alone for weeks at a time. And with no mother, he knew he was leaving us to fend for ourselves. No matter, I thought, even when he was around, this was about as good as it got. I always had to cover up for him. Fearing some social worker somewhere would sniff out the many problems here, and separate my brother and I, ruining our lives, like he was.
At least this time he was lying on his bed. It was a lot easier than waking up and finding him lying face down on the living room floor or worse yet the driveway. Thoughts of me having to poke him with my foot as he lie, out cold, on the floor. Trying to see if he was still alive and then having to pick him up and put him in his bed, then closing his door, quickly and quietly. So my little brother wouldn’t see him and say something at school that would make some mean nosy social worker come around.
Really, I thought, I wish he’d just never come home. Except I needed the money, if any, that might be in his wallet. There was no food in the fridge and the canned food was almost gone. Yes, I decided I would have to steal the money from his wallet. And hopefully when he got up he wouldn’t notice anything and he would stumble on his merry way, back out to wherever he always disappeared to.
I hated him for all the things he made me do, including having to steal for food money. I hated him for not being who I wanted him to be. I hated him because I was only fourteen and responsible for everything. I hated him because he didn’t care. I hated him because I did.
I stood in the doorway with all my hate, and I got the courage. I just walked in, around his pathetic body, around the bed, to the dresser. Walked down the length of the dresser, past the needles, strap, small bottles of coke, and a bag of pot. And I thought about how I would like to flush this bag of pot, but I focused on better things, maybe later. I wanted to mess with his needles and coke but I was afraid too. I hated him for always leaving his stuff laying out like he was trying to get my bother and I to use it.
I picked the wallet up and took forty dollars then carefully put it down and crept back around everything. My heart was pounding and my mind racing, fear had turned to excitement, and my guilt had turned to victory, as I closed the door behind me.