Tuesday, August 23, 2011
One of my actual regrets and my brother...
We were in the car and it was nighttime. My mom and dad were talking and I heard my mother say, "It's your mother's fault that she has a weight problem."
"How is it her fault?" he asked.
"Because she used to just hand her the whole box of Nilla Wafers and let her eat as many as she wanted," she said.
They were talking about me. I was a size 6x. I hated that x and everything it implied. There were no husky sizes for girls. There was only an x. I glanced at my brother in the darkness of the cold back seat to make sure he wasn't laughing at me. He had big teeth and giant glasses. He would never laugh at anybody. He was sweet and sometimes kids made fun of him and I never stopped them. I had a weight problem. I wanted him to be Bucky the Beaver. I wanted him to feed bad about himself, because at least I was smart. If they were laughing at him, at least they weren't laughing at me.
Adam was defenseless. He was small and sensitive and a beautiful kind of person with blond hair who never made trouble for anybody and never truly did anything wrong. He didn't scheme under his covers at night about ways to get back at the neighbor boys for throwing rocks. He simply took whatever the world had to give him, and then he rolled over and held it all inside of himself. He was flimsy, like cloth and whatever he touched, he soaked into himself and it rotted and cemented itself there and reshaped him.
I was embarrassed for him. He was always breaking a light fixture or throwing a baseball too hard so that it smacked into the side of a car. He got spanked all the time. There was nothing he could do to avoid it. I supposed it was because he was a boy that he got into all that trouble. One time, my mom even broke the Lickin' Stick over his butt, she was so worked up at him over breaking something. He broke things or knocked things down, but he didn't have meanness inside of him, like I did.
He didn't deserve it, any of it. He didn't deserve to be made fun of, to be made to feel like he was less than he was. He was good and dear and quiet, and his goodness made him weaker than me. When somebody hurt him because he had big teeth and because we were poor and there were too many of us, when somebody called him a name and belittled him, he just disappeared right under them. His big teeth protruded over a quivering lip and his eyes went kind of far away and you could tell he was hurt, but he never cried and he never fought back. He didn't have it in him. He was beautiful and good, so he just took all the things people said to him and made those things a part of himself. Every time he got bullied, he became a little more invisible and buried under all the hurt. He became all of the mean things people taught him he was. He walked with his head down and I didn't help him.
I wasn't the kind of big sister that would stand up for anybody and help them to walk around in the world like a person. I had a weight problem, remember? The way I saw it, my entire life was a precarious balancing act where I was always one second away from stepping too far into the light where I'd be ridiculed and destroyed. At any second, somebody could point out that I was poor and that my pants didn't fit right because they'd been somebody else's and my hair was always tangled.
I've wondered lots of times; what if my brother had had a father, somebody to teach him things, to tell him how wonderful and rare he was? What if somebody had taken the time to remind him every day of how kind and sweet he was, to make him feel as important as he was, to make sure that he didn't disappear under all the meanness in the world? Maybe things could have been different for him. Maybe I should have been able to be that person, but I was trouble, remember? I was a fat little know-it-all and it was all I could do to get out of bed in the morning.