A story about the best older brother a kid could have
| My brother Austin is my best friend. I know that sounds kinda Brady Bunch, but it’s true. Sure, we weren’t that close when I was a little kid, always fighting about who got to watch their show or who had to wash the dishes after dinner, but siblings are supposed to fight when they’re that young. I feel bad for him sometimes, thinking about how annoying it must be for a teenage guy to have a sister five years younger- to be trapped at home on Saturday nights babysitting, playing rat slap with a girl in elementary school when he’d much rather be running around chasing girls his own age. I’m glad he didn’t hold that against me, and I’m glad that Austin gave me a chance to grow into the sister he’s deserved all along. Since I made it to middle school, that bane of tween existence, Austin and I have been about tight as brother and sister can be. Sure, he doesn’t live with us anymore, but he didn’t go far- at least, he’s close enough that I can hang out with him pretty often. We never do very much on those visits, but I can sit and talk to him for hours about pretty much anything.
I tell Austin a lot about how things are back home. After all, he’s the only other person who knows how rough it can be under our roof. I complain about how since he’s gone, Dad is on my case twenty-four/seven, reminding me of some way that I’m not good enough. I try to convince him that I do feel bad about my C in history and the fact that I sometimes forget to pick up my clothes off the floor- the truth is, I just forget things sometimes and I’m really not that smart. I let Austin know that Dad still drinks, that he’s started drinking more in the time since he left, but that he’s never gotten bad enough to come after me like he used to go after him. Meanwhile, Mom’s off in her own little world, trying to put a smiley face and a bow on everything, asking how school is or if I need a ride anywhere this weekend. She cries a lot, though, and I tell Austin that I’m starting to worry about her.
I always tell Mom that everything is fine, but I can be honest with Austin. I talk about how awful school is, how I spend all my time invisible or wishing I were. I share with him the details of the latest attempt by the popular girls to remind me that I could never be like them- sure, they’re vapid and pathetic and I really could care less about what they think, but being the subject of abuse still sucks, as does the fact that no one who notices ever cares enough about what they’re doing or cares enough about me to tell them to leave me alone. I confess that the reason I never need a ride anywhere on the weekends is because no one ever invites me to do anything on weekends. I don’t mind this as much, it leaves me free to wander and read and even write some. Austin is the only one I’ve ever shown one of my pieces, and he’s the only one I’ve ever told about maybe someday wanting to be a writer.
I tell Austin a lot that I could never tell anyone else, mostly because he’s the only person I know I can trust to hear me out and not to judge me. He never pries, never preaches, never talks down to me or tells me what to do in the guise of advice. Sometimes I wish he would give me advice, but I know he wants his little sister to be strong enough to figure out her own solutions and to come out stronger on the other side, and that I’m the only one who can really make that happen. Thinking about how he believes in me is usually what inspires me to keep fighting and trying to make things better for myself, so I guess Austin really does help me. I know it definitely helps to know that no matter what’s on my mind, I can always take the bus just outside of town, climb the hill to where he stays now and confide in someone who will honestly listen and care about what I have to say- I don’t think anyone else in my life could ever be there for me like Austin.
Sometimes I think about running away to stay with my older brother, just being with him and never having to deal with my parents or with school or all that- it would be such a nice escape, but I could never do it. Not because I’m particularly worried about how my mom and dad would take it or throwing away my future or anything, but because of Austin. I know he loves me, but I feel like he wouldn’t want me to be there with him like that. Maybe it’s because I’m worried about what my brother might think if he knew, but I never tell him about that plan.
I think I’ll go see Austin tomorrow- no reason in particular, just to spend time with him. If I can catch the cross-town bus at five and walk quickly enough from the stop where I get off, I should reach the place where my brother is buried around sunset. Then I’ll lay some flowers at his grave and tell him that I miss him everyday.