black and white

I think my brother's happy. I never get a clear picture of him, but when I do see him, it's like a cracked mirror: a fractured picture with shivers. I see his smile in one crack, but the one above it shows his brown brown eyes--just like mine--and every day there's a moment where I catch a hint of sadness and I wonder just how true that smile is. I also see his hands in a crack, smooth, long fingers with dirt under their fingers. Sometimes a pencil smudges his fingertips and knuckles, and it's like the pencil and his hands are like one living creature, breathing, emoting, and creating. Sometimes his hands show more truth in their emotions than his face does. Other times, his hands are filled with other hands: small, grubby fingers (multiple sets of these), a browner hand than his with rounded fingernails (sometimes painted blue, a ring on her ring finger), a wrinkly hand with shaky blue veins. Sometimes his hand claps firmly on a broad shoulder, or it hangs loosely by his thumb from his belt loops. He has strong hands, which makes me laugh, because when he was younger he had the hands of a girl. Colt never let him forget that, and even now, his red face stays in my memory.

My brother. It's ironic that I see him through a mirror, because looking at him is exactly like looking at a mirror. His eyes have the same creases, his nose curve upwards in the same way, his teeth had identical braces to mine. Even the tiny reddish-brown freckle just below my right eye is mirrored on him. People say we're eery; I say we're ingenious. The creation of two identical beings. I don't know how the creator thought it up, but I do think he's a darn genius for doing so.

I don't know why I'm looking so closely at him tonight. Maybe it's because what I see right now tells me it's Christmas where he is: the golden glow of candlelight, the green spikes of pine and evergreen, the cacophony of children's smiles and laughter. My brother was a confusing lot when it came to this season. As a kid, when mom still dressed us alike and our hair still curled when she let it grow too long, he fell in love with the lights and the rustle of papers and presents. He never stopped talking about it, once December 1st rolled by. But then, he got older. Some element of the shine disappeared, and his love for the holiday slowly vanished. Watching a child turn jaded far too young is one of the most heartbreaking things you'll ever see, and I witnessed that first hand, a child myself.

My brother. It's funny, but I don't miss him. As terrible as it is to say, I think me leaving made him a better person. He's strong now. He's independent. He has a job now--the brother I knew never talked of the future. The idea that the little boy who liked to build castles and ranches and airports out of his Lincoln Logs and blocks is now an architect achieving dreams and making money makes me proud. The three little munchkins I see in the mirror more often than not make me proud too. It's even weirder seeing my eyes in them than it is to see them in him. I'm impressed he managed all three without the burden of my name, although perhaps it's because that name is still a burden to him. Maybe he wants to keep it sacred. Still, seeing the way they crawl over him and hug him and give him all the affection he so proudly refused is gratifying to me. I never imagined him as a father, but he's a good one. I can see that in his smile, hands, and eyes. The girl he chose is also something I never thought he would actually find the guts to commit to. He never was that great of a people person, though he tried his hardest to fake it. Others probably never noticed, but I did. I kind of miss her fiery hair, but I think he likes the soft brown a little better. I see a lot of her in the mirror too--she smiles a lot, teases him unmercifully, and holds him tight on the darkest nights.

Yes, those still happen. Even though he's got a good job, a house full of kids, a loving wife...his shadows still hover over him like fallen angels. But isn't that the truth of life? You can have it all put together. You can have everything. But that doesn't mean you're invincible. It doesn't mean you can't have troubles, trials, or temptations. It just means you're human. And my brother's lucky to have a wife to hold him and a God to reassure him that everything will be alright. Not all do.

The dark nights are the hardest for me to watch, but I sit through every single one of them, because I feel it's like my duty to do so. Without me, would he have all these issues? Without me, would he struggle with his shadowy thoughts? If I was still there, I could be one of the ones to hold him and tell him he was going to be all-right.

But I'm not.

I'm here.

So I sit and watch, because it's my job.

For my brother.

I think my brother's happy. He's holding a kid on his lap, and his oldest child--a daughter with mousy brown hair and a crooked smile and slender fingers like his--leans against him and smiles. She says something that I'll never hear, and my brother throws his head back in a laugh. The most beautiful thing in the world is a person who's been broken, who knows what it is to hurt and to feel, who has preserved. And a potentially even more beautiful thing is that person laughing.

My brother.


  1. That was so so beautiful Ely.

  2. That was lovely. I sense underlying pain and sorrow which made it heart wrenching, in a beautiful way.


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