One of my professors once told me that normal is a matter of perspective. That we, as humans, derive our own definition of normalcy based on what we've experienced through the everyday processes of life we've encountered. And he was right.
To any other red-blooded American, the word normal implies nice house, 2.5 kids, and a good paying job, but somehow my brother and father missed that memo. I mean, normal is not in anyway defined by watching the man you've searched for the better part of seven months leave the second he is found battered and bloody. Normal isn't spending a childhood lost to that same man's obsession. One cause fixated in his mind that is followed by his soldiers unquestionably but never fully understood. It will never include watching the one you love encompassed in flames above you, silent screams piercing. Normal doesn't imply a state of constant worry, apprehension, guilt, and suspicion. A forever glance over the shoulder to insure a safety and innocence that is utterly non-existent and is but a lost hope.
A normal world exists in its purest raw form. It is not multiple identities assumed by the holder of a rectangular piece of plastic. Nor does it consist of a book of memorized and worn lies that are airtight, rarely fought over, just taken as truth. To be able to look into a man's face and know his thoughts is a luxury that I can no longer indulge. My face has become a mask, and the people I associate with wear the same. Emotion is weakness; we strive to hide it. I, not as well as my peers, but soon I will learn to become the machine that accompanies my job. My purpose. Normal isn't a lot of things. I learned that a long time ago. I've learned to embrace abnormality or at the very least tolerate it.
But there is one thing that can never be normal regardless of social changes and political structures. And that is watching your brother, the one who for lack of a better term raised you and spent the better, make that entire, part of his young life protecting you and saving you, die in your place.
A brief flicker in time, a mere moment, and the world shifts. You see your fate, black and evil. It speaks your name and you know your end. Your stars have been set, your destiny fulfilled in this instant, and you will yourself to embrace it. A claim, sealed in blood, in a time that is nothing but a pieced together memory, being called forth by the wicked one that had forged it so long ago.
I should've known he wouldn't, couldn't, accept the course the evil had crafted for me to take. The fear of loss and abandonment is something to which he was all too familiar. I have no one to blame but myself for that. I take that heavy burden of guilt up every morning and its weight rests strongly on my shoulders.
Meaningless words of comfort are spoken, all of which fall upon deaf ears because they hold nothing but the same message. You are not to blame. Like a single statement mentioned by people I have never met, never spent time with, only have seen briefly or heard of in some twisted passing tale of a successful hunt, will take away my grief and shame.
I don't need their words anymore than I need their comfort. What I need is my brother. What I want is to see that stupid idiotic smirk followed by some perverted sarcastic comment meeting my ears. What I crave is another cramped hotel room with the same comforting roommate who hogs the bathroom and uses all the hot water. What I covet is a long day spent sitting passenger for another drive down a worn black road spotted yellow, the pulsating beat of screaming metal ringing in my head.
The wishes are futile. Those things I long desperately for only survive in memory now. A shining beacon illuminating through the swallowing dark ones. Haunting images that seize hold in the wee morning hours, ravage my waking thoughts and bind me to my failure. And yes, it was a failure.
I didn't move fast enough. My feet frozen in the cold earth, latched into the deep mud and refusing to cover the growing distance between the last true family I have—had. I allowed myself to be pushed aside once again, and by doing so placed him at death's door. He claims it his duty, his job, to protect, to save. A mantra he'd been programmed to repeat even through his dying breathes, shallow, rough, and gasping.
A sacrifice, they lovingly refer to it. Sometimes I wonder if they even know what the word means. It's nothing but a petty excuse for a bloody end. A word meant to bring solace and reason to an act that screams against these very things. An innocent giving the most precious thing in their possession willingly for another. Sure, it sounds good in black and white, when it is but simple words aligned on a page.
It is when the eye is met with color that the mind's image is distorted, and the true meaning of that suffering word floods the senses. Bright red drenching ashen skin, caked brown-black mud adorning the sandy blonde hair, a tinge of blue darkening pale lips, the fading misted hazel that locks your eyes and holds your gaze, pleading but calm. No, sacrifice is not something to be glorified, it is something to be spoken against. It is neither selfless nor loving because at its very core it is the declaration of selfishness and betrayal.
Cynic, you may call me. I don't mind. But the harsh reality is that he left me. After he swore he wouldn't, he did. The very thing he tried so hard to protect me from, he brought upon me. I watched my brother fall, my hero crumble. He declared himself worthless in that moment, nothing more than willing flesh and bone. I blame myself for not making him see that he was more than that and because I didn't I am now left with nothing but the pain and agony of bitter loss.
Arms embrace me. The smell of leather and man encompasses me. The touch is familiar, yet forlorn. I've missed it that I can't deny. I find myself returning the action, the tremors from the sobbing man, once god-like, now mortal, radiating through me. Or are they my own?
I don't know how to do this. How to continue. I never want to come back here, to this green lawn marked with death. I refuse to gaze upon that marbled stone, and the words pressed upon it. They do not belong there, they never will. I convince myself that the pine is empty, that it does not hold the remains of the man I worshipped and longed to mimic from childhood.
The man releases his hold, and I watch as he steps back to look at me, take in my essence. I am no longer a child, but a man. His eyes see it for the first time. I am the last remnant of his beloved, the sole heir to his name. It is sadness I see—one I do not think he can drink his way back from. Neither can I.
I feel his hand rest on my shoulder, as he takes some of my laden burden. I will not carry it alone. The glint of familiar black beckons us, the tired wanderers, dredging onward to finish the task our fallen fought for. It is all I can do. To follow the footprints of the one before me, the imprints laid to guide me to finish what he started. The task he took up in pure allegiance, I will take up in mourning.
An older driver, a younger passenger. These things have not changed. He takes the wheel and I take my seat along side. The silence is crushing, and the worn box brimming with gray plastic clatters at my feet. One escapes it's protective case, and I feel my lips attempt a smile. Before I realize my actions, I have placed it in the deck. A deep sigh escapes us both, father and lone son, as the speakers play out the life of the man we have left behind.
I will never be normal by your standards. My life does not allow it, neither does the choices I have made that brought me here. I have chosen the path of my brother. And this is the normalcy I embrace. I am a proud hunter, and devoted son. A man who lives to avenge death, and protect the innocent. Mine is the definition of a Winchester, a hero, and a brother.