Seems a backwards thing to have the fate of your older brother on your conscience. The truth is, my brother chose his own path. But the fact remains that I couldíve stopped it. I couldíve said something, told someone.
Perhaps it wouldnít have helped. Perhaps it would have made things worse. But itís sure it would have changed the course of events.
Thereís no use fretting over things that canít be changed. I know that, but still that night goes over in my head like a kid going over his part the night before a speech. I think of all the ways I could have changed things, and what that might have lead to. I follow the dominos and make up stories with happy endings, stories where things remain like they always had been, or get even better.
If youídíve asked me, I would have told you that my brother and I were best of friends, as tight knit as Mumís stitchery. In retrospect I realize it was one-sided. I adored Michael: he was the world to me. He was everything I wasnít allowed to be. Everything I didnít dare to be. He knew it, too--took full advantage of it.
I canít say that night was the first time I realized he wasnít so wonderful, that there were kinks in my brotherís armour. Certainly it was the first time it slapped me in the face, so I couldnít ignore it, couldnít make it into something else.
The moon was shining full, and maybe thatís what did it. At any rate, I could see them full on, my brother and his friends. I heard them too, their voices carrying on the breeze that came across the moor. The night was warm, but what I heard made me cold through to my gut. It was a cold that didnít thaw, left a sliver of icicle through to this day.
So I watched them that night, and didnít say a word as they carried Daís gasoline can out the gate. I didnít say a word the next morningí neither, when the newspapers were full of the story of the old factory burned down, right to the ground.
That was only the start of it. My brother was home less and less, and one night he didnít come home at all. My mum was crying when I got up that morning. This time the news of another fire held stronger consequences. Serious consequences.
A homeless man was in the hospital with severe burns.
Somehow Mum and Da knew. I saw it in their faces, in the way Mum pleaded with me when he still hadnít come home. ďIf ya know somethingí, Sean, you gotta tell me. Ya gotta understand, this is only gonna get worse. He--heíll do something worse. If you love him, you gotta help him.Ē
But this time I didnít know. I didnít know where he was or when heíd left. Or if he was ever coming back.
The weeks dragged on. My brother was gone. Yet he wasnít. He was always there as a nagging guilt in the back of my mind. As a gaping absence in my heart.
Then one day I saw him, across the town square with a group of his ever-present friends, if such a group could be called friends. For a moment I froze, torn between a desire to run to him, and to run from him.
He saw me and, with a nonchalance that surprised me, sauntered over and jabbed me in the shoulder as heíd always done. He chatted about nothing, as though nothing had happened, and I felt once more grasped in the power of a big brother.
As he turned to go, his eyes caught mine with a glint of steel. ďYouíll not tell ya saw me. Youíll do that for your bro?Ē
I saw something different in his eyes, a hardness that had grown over the last weeks. I saw also my mumís eyes, pleading and tearful.
I knew then what I would do for my bro. This time I would speak up. This time I would change the world.
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