Bring You Home.

Scad Literary Magizine, 11/12/2017

Bring You Home


Sarah Bradley


I am 9, and you are god. I didn't know that the smoldering pine scent in your 1980s Lexus was weed. All I knew was that I liked it, because it reminded me of you: your car your basement, your clothes. I didn't know that you were failing all your classes on purpose. All I know is you teach me the words to ‘Do You Realize’ and ‘Yoshime Battles The Pink Robots’. That's all I need to know: because you are my brother, and you have everything under control.


I am 9, and I’m watching Dane Cook, which is hilarious (if you're nine).  Mom looks at the screen like she doesn't see it and talks about you. “Micheal could do that. If he wanted”. I wonder what made her so sad.


I am 9, and your nose is broken, and mom is crying, and dad keeps screaming over and over again “how could you be so stupid?” I step onto the patio, I drop my clarinet, and step into the snow. I lay down, and it's quiet, because snow swallows everything: Sound, feeling.  Snow will swalllow the whole world if you let it.


I wonder now if this is where it started.


I wonder if this is to blame.


I am 10, and your tinnitus is getting bad. You're curled up in the dining room, and mom is scurrying around you, trying and failing to make it better. Dad is in the corner, drinking because this is how he was taught to handle children. You keep screaming over and over “I can't live like this, I'm going to kill myself. I can't live this way”. I think about you gone, and I cry. I didn't want to live in a world without you. I still don't.


I am 10 and I see you drunk for the first time. You stole a jug of wine the Romanian neighbors gave us, and polished it off the preacher's son. You come out of your room and climb the stairs to the kitchen. You are positively shit housed. You sway, and you keep saying “I’m fine, I’m fine” over and over again. I think it’s funny, and it is funny: until you fall down the stairs.


That's why I narced when I found a stash of beer and weed in your room a few week later. I didn’t want you to get hurt again.


I am 12, and all my Christmas money is gone. 85 dollars. 85 dollars was a fortune, it’s all the money I had in the world: and more than this, it was mine.  


“Who else would have taken it?” I say


“I didn’t take it,” You say: red eyed, pale faced, and twitching.


“You lost it, now get the fuck out of my face.”


You're too skinny, too angry, and I'm too young to see what murder looks like when it's ten feet in front of me. It turns out murder looks just like amphetamines. I don't want to cry, so I scream:


“You give it back or I'm telling mom- y- you stupid asshole!”


You stand up, your hand cocked back. Rodger, always the good brother, steps between us, and puts his hand on your chest.

“Dude,” he says, eyes wide “chill”.

It doesn't register that someone was about to really hurt me. It registers less that that person would have been you


I am 13, and my days at school are numbing there so miserable. I go to school, and pretty girls with perfect lives, tell me my face is pink and ugly, that my hair is greasy and lank no matter how many times I wash it: that my stomach too flabby, my breast too flat, my body to objectionable, and not worth there time. I can’t even fight them, because all these things are true.


My life at thirteen, is numbingly miserable: but no more so than today. Today, I understand what dad means when he comes home to yell “do you think I want to work all day, and come home to this shit?”: because you have destroyed my room.


My radio is smashed face down on the floor, my speakers are busted, my bookshelf turned over. My Precious CD’s are broken and scattered. Everything that a bespectacled, chubby, 13 year old girl might need to forget she is chubby, bespectacled, and thirteen- is broken. I'm smart enough to realize that everything that can be sold, is already sold. Strangely enough, none of these things were the worst part.

The worst part wasn't mom telling me that I shouldn't be angry at you, because you're “a very sick person”, so “this wasn't your fault”. It wasn't her telling me what I had to forgive you, because you were my brother, and “that's what families do”. The worst part wasn't doing what mom asked me to do: becauseI have always known what it means to be a good daughter, I have always done what my family requires of me. No. None of these things were the worst part:


That worst part is that you did it.


I am 14, and you wish me happy birthday. I say nothing. Partially because I’m scared of you. Mostly because I’m scared of your ‘friends’.


I am 15, and you start rehab. I hug you, I’m proud.


I am 15 and you relapse. I do not hug you, and a long time passes before I can be proud of you again.


I am 16, and my black lipstick, teased hair and violent music, terrifies mother. I don’t do drugs, I am the kid at the party who will decline a joint, passing it to the next person like it’s a dead rat. I am the kind of girl who will wretch at the smell of alcohol, and who is teased for being straight edge. I am all of these things in the eyes of God: but I am none of these things in the eyes of my mother. I have your defiance, your taste for neglect, your inability to be normal: and in the eyes of mother, these things are the mark of the devil. So mom uses you as a scare tactic.


“Micheal does stuff like that-”

“You sound just like Micheal-”

“When Micheal was your age, he did the same thing-”

Every time she does this, I want to scream ‘well who raised us, lady?’, but I never do. That's not fair. You’re not moms fault, and neither am I.


I am 16, and mom tells me why you hate dad so much. I am so sorry, Micheal.


I am 16, I am 17, I am 18, you have jobs, you lose them: you're fine, you're falling apart: you're somewhere, you're nowhere. I call you twice a week, even though I’m scared: partially of you, mostly that each call, will be the last call. I wonder if today's the day you’ll stop. I wonder if you’ll get it together like they always do in movies, because that's my favorite part in movies. I wonder each day, if it’s day you’ll die, and what comes after.  


I'm 18, my mom says her godfather had met Micheal as a toddler, and when he saw how smart he was, he shook his head and said, “Poor bastard”.


“I think that's always been Micheal's Problem” she says “he's too smart for his own good. That's why he acts this way.”


I am 18, and mom tells me that she totaled a car when she was pregnant with you. I wonder if that's to blame.


I am 18, and you get sober for the final time. You tell me you've decided to make jewelry, and I get excited, and then I imagine you happy. I imagine how you're going to get into yoga, and you’re going to own a farm, and build a business, and find yourself, and help others, and meet a nice girl with a name like Jessie, and you’ll live in the mountains somewhere, together. I know your future will be pretty like that.  

You are my brother, and you're finally coming home.


I am 19.  You move to Portland.  


I am 20, and I start to get worried. Fuck Portland.


I am 21, I start to get scared. I start to see it's not just the drugs, like I always hoped it was just the drugs. You’re sober, and you're still broken. I spend my evenings answering questions I don't think you should be asking. We have conversations like-


“Of course, I love you, we all love you ...

Hey, I do love you, you know that…

That’s not…

No, dad didn’t say anything like that....

I was there I…

Micheal.  That did not happen...

We are not plotting against you, you’re not …

I am on your side, I have always been on your side, but jos”


“Whatever” say, screaming into the phone “it's not like you ever call me anyway, so” l

“Micheal,” I say, because I don't know what words will close the distance. I don’t know what to say because you’re right: I don’t call you anymore.

 “Micheal,” I say, “I love you”.


You hang up. Maybe those were the wrong words.


I am 22, and you live in a car. You spend all day making jewelry you will never sell. You bounce from unhappy job to unhappy job: but in your down time, there is nothing that leaves your hands that isn't beautiful. It’s Beautiful, but it’s not helping you.


I talk to dad about what’s to be done.

“He's mentally ill” dad says, drunk again, “he's just straight up mentally ill. I don't know how to change it”

I think this is obvious and unhelpful, at best. I talk to mom and her advice is much more practical.

“I think the thing is, when he's out there, he isolates. And when he isolates: and when he isolates he gets-” mom hesitates. She’s never been one to call the devil by his name.


“Well, you know how he gets”.


I know. I know that you're not going to stay in Portland. I know that you’re going to come home, where there are people who love you, where we can keep you safe. You're leaving Portland, and coming here if I have to drag you across the goddamn Rocky Mountain myself.


I go out I my car, and I start chiefing cigarettes. I listen to ‘It’ on tape, because that doesn’t scare me half as much. I scroll through Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook, YouTube, my cuticles, the ash tray, the seat cushions, Instagram.  


I sigh, and I call you.


I talk about little things, I ask you if you’re ok, your talk about work, I ask you if you’re ok, I talk about summer, I ask you if you’re ok, you talk about this podcast or that one, I ask if y-


“Why do you keep asking me that?” You say, suspicious.


I think about the Rocky Mountains.


“No reason. I just want to know you're alright, you know.”


“Yeah… hey I gotta go, I'm about to grab something to eat.”


“Ok. I love you”


“Love you to”


I start up the audio book, and I light another cigarette. I’m a coward, I know that. I cry, but not for long. Each heart break will not be the last, i know that too: but I won't stop pushing you towards what you deserve, trying to make you better. I will never stop showing you who you are, and I will never stop trying to bring you home.