I’m not supposed to talk about my brother. No ranting about him to my husband. No skewering him with my friends. Especially no writing about him in public. Most of you didn’t even know I had a brother, did you? That’s how well I’ve followed an old directive.

Well. Screw that. Here’s to making up for lost time.

My brother is four years younger than me. In pictures, he’s a forty-ish version of our father. Photos tell the story of what he looks like these days. MTM has probably seen my brother five times in the twelve years we’ve been together. It’s been more than five years since I’ve seen my brother in person.

Our last encounter was around the dinner table when Mom organized another installment of “Fucked Up Fantasy Family.”

You know FUFF, right? Where everyone gets together and tries to act normal, only certain people don’t speak or make eye contact, while others use the appetizer course to loudly proclaim, “We don’t like you, and we don’t like where you live.” One or two people make oblivious small talk while the remaining victims saw into their food and send “I hope you choke on it” vibes to someone else at the table. Laughter is strange, strained and shrill, and silence crawls along the skin and digs under fingernails.

In some families, maybe people shout and come to blows, but that’s never been my experience with FUFF. We’re civilized when we carve into each other.

The filaments of decisions build the molecular structure of our lives. In our twenties, we seldom understand how two simple words – I do – can impact the cells that prosper and the ones that die. Or how a few cells can mutate and become a Cancer, one that grows to feed on everything it encounters in its bitter, hateful path. I gave up on radiation, on chemotherapy, on the whole medical establishment, long ago, and I left the Cancer to wreak its havoc.

Because Cancer doesn’t share, I wrote off my relationship with my brother.

I still haven’t seen him since the Cancer left and took his family with it. He’s grieving, because Cancers are part of us. It hurts to divorce them. There’s a bloody hole where the Cancer was. In time, healthy cells may crowd in to fill it, but that’s not how it seems at the beginning. In the early days, a void is a void is a void.

I hope to be part of filling that void, because the Cancer left.

Dear Reader, have you been through the agony of divorce? If you have, please leave some kind words for my brother today. Think of him in the coming days and weeks. Send him strength whenever you think of me.

It had to be the appearance of the gun that sent her to the divorce attorney, because, let’s face it, guns were never her kind of thing. Even though he waved it in her face, pointed it at her, touched the muzzle to her chest, and threatened to shoot himself with it, too, she survived that night.

It’s just as likely he killed her anyway.

How does one ever recover from knowing she could’ve died? From seeing fleeting television images of those scary crimes of passion, the ones where multiple black body bags are carried from some bland ranch structure or ritzy mansion while the reporter drones on in the foreground, wondering how it all happened, pointing the camera in stricken faces and asking the extended family how they feel? She knew how it happened, in a freak series of rash actions and shouted words that culminated in something final.

For a while, she forgot to feel anything.

Marriage was supposed to be…..what exactly? The ultimate state of bliss? The natural order of things? The rest of one’s life with a good, caring person? The best path to have children? The thing she was expected to do next? She was still too young to really define it for herself, but her little-girl fantasies and teenage dreams never included hell on earth.

Hell wasn’t what graced her eyes the first time she saw him. The One. He was everything – EVERYTHING – she had been trained to seek in a mate. She still had her list, the one she made when she was sixteen or seventeen, taped between the pages of her Bible. When she pulled out the worn paper and held it up next to him, she thought she’d drawn his picture. Marrying him was the most natural thing she’d ever done.

The natural things were the things she tried to remember when he called her a tumbling fury of Very Bad Words, when maybe all she said was I don’t want to have that for supper or  I’m not ready to have people over or it’s too soon to have children. She never knew what might unleash the barrage of words she never really knew before she said I do. Through the haze of comment boxes that poured forth, obscuring his face, she tried to imagine the natural things, the secret smiles, the thrill of falling in love. Those comment boxes were pointy, though. They had gouging tips and sharp edges, could hack away pieces of her spirit until she recognized nothing but smoke and air, fog and mist, all things with no form, no surface, no shape of self to which to cling.

Sometimes, she thought it might be better if he just hit her. Shoving and screaming and driving the car really fast while pulling her hair didn’t seem to give him the release he craved. She locked herself in the bathroom, stared at herself in the mirror, made empty deals with herself. He said that was the last time. He promised not to do it again. Who are you? How did you ever wind up here?

A child was the ultimate weapon, the thing he knew would irrevocably control her, filaments that would snake from the tips of its fingers and toes. Those invisible fibers would wrap around her, consume her, while he watched from above, holding the wooden paddles attached to the strings. Succumbing would’ve been so easy, especially since she couldn’t remember all the little pieces of herself he’d already sheared away, scattered rubble that no longer fit together.

Guns and children. Children and guns. An explosive combination she recalled just in the knick of time. Tick. Tick. Tick…..

.  .  .  .

This is a work of fiction. The story is based on some true events, however, has been fictionalized and all persons appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real people, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

This post is part of a series. If the catchy title brought you here today, please follow the link to this post and read forward. And, stick around. There’s more to come.