velvet sheets and cancerous smoke
It's been a week, and he's still up late thinking of me.
It's his fault that I'm in critical condition in the hospital. It's all his fault, and he hates knowing that. But it is. There is nothing he can do about that anymore. He can't turn back the clock and have me be okay because life doesn't work that way. Life is unfair, but it goes on. And that's that.
He can't sleep. The guilt is chewing him up ALIVE. He hasn't visited me since I entered the hospital because he refuses to. He doesn't want to see me like that: to see me all bandaged up and stabbed with IVs and IN PAIN. In his dreams – when he can – he dreams of when me and he are safe and are happy and are children again… He dreams of a life where I am okay and without fucking tubes sticking me in places that make him shiver at the thought.
He's in my bed. A long time ago, when everything was normal, I would let him sleep in my room if he had a nightmare. But now his nightmare has come alive, and he needs this more than ever. He needs reassurance to know I'm going to be okay, but that's impossible because I'm dying, and the chances of me being okay is slim to none.
But he can hope, can't he?
He sits up in my bed and wraps himself in my velvet sheets, his grip unnaturally tight, and he stares around my room blankly. He sees my glass case of sports trophies, my television, my bookshelf… He was always the mediocre student, at best. I had such an amazing life ahead of me, but I won't be able to live it. It's all his fault, It's all his fault, It's all his fault, It's all his fault, IT'S ALL HIS FUCKING FAULT – The mantra is haunting him over and over because it's so damn true. All of this is his fault.
Pretty soon, he's quickly finding it hard to breathe, through the tears that are causing a lump in his throat. The same stuffed-up, cotton-like feeling in the pit of his stomach is back. And suddenly, he's in the bathroom, puking out his dinner, his lunch, and his breakfast in my toilet. He collapses there and just cries. He cries BECAUSE IT'S ALL HIS FUCKING FAULT. He curls up on the bathroom floor and screams back at the haunting voices in his head.
He's not sure when this sickness has become so prevalent because now – as he's clawing at his skin himself – blood is being drawn. But it doesn't matter. He wants to die because his life won't matter if I'm not in it.
It's been difficult for me to move for a while now.
All of the gunk they've been pumping into me sends my mind into a whirlwind. It's clear and comes from a plastic bag, the type I see in TV hospital dramas; and the situation is just so stupid and makes me feel weak. The nurses continually ask me if I'm okay with a plastic, sympathetic smile on their face, and I want to do anything to wipe it off. I know that they don't give a flying fuck if I'm dead, they'll still get paid.
I miss him, the same person who placed me in this mess. And suddenly, a heavy feeling overcomes me and I have a headache still.
Fucking drugs that don't fucking work.
I don't know how the hell I'm supposed to sleep in this godforsaken place. The pediatrics ward is right down the hall, and it's the corridor reserved for the – I hate this phrase – terminally ill. It's for the cancer children that ghost by in wheelchairs.
I've tried to do things to get my mind off being in the hospital. I'm reading magazines, playing board games, TALKING TO MYSELF... But the slightest hint of effort wears me out, and it reminds me of the blooming pain in my chest and my heart and that I'm practically a mummy with being wrapped tight in bandages. I should be healing, right? Funny thing is, I'm not. I've been told that there is no getting well soon, whatever the Hallmark cards on my bedside table may say.
It has been difficult to think, indeed, but that actually may be a blessing. When my head clears for even a moment (it's usually when the drugs are wearing off, and that's as bad as remembering), it's filled with images of him: my brother. The one I loved unconditionally. And his face is flashing in my mind now, causing me to wince visibly. I close my eyes, but the pictures are inside, not out, so what good will that do?
The most alarming thing about all of this fucking shit is my own willingness to forgive and move on. And something that is more frightening and disturbing in that than the entire catastrophe itself – it's something far more dangerous – the image of him in my mind starts to make the pain throbbing through my body start to disappear, even if only for a second, even only if it's my imagination.
Even if in the end, this is all his fault. That's undeniable.
When I'm feeling well enough, a nurse helps me into a stiff wooden chair, and I look out of the window. I haven't really been able to do so, but when I can, I'm able to sit around until as long as I can. And he, my fucking brother, is always in the parking lot - without fail - and I watch as he just ambles around for about an hour or so, obviously trying to get enough courage to enter. He's starting to look disheveled and sickly, and I know he's not taking care of himself.
Does he come every day? Why is he here when he should be at school? Does he agonize about what he's done?
And why does he never come in so I can forgive him properly?
I'm his brother, and he has everything, but in the end it's all nothing if he can't have me; it's pathetic, really, I'm the only thing that would have made everything worth it all. But I'm his BROTHER, and we're BLOODRELATED, and that's just horribly, morally wrong. There's always going to be a line that I can't cross, and he's crossed it. And he can't turn back. The doors have locked on him, and he can't escape. Loving me this way, in the way he shouldn't, is like drinking poison and expecting nothing will happen.
It's pure mockery now because he wants to tell me how much he just loves me. But he can't. It screams at him, and he throws caution to the wind. He's going insane at this point, but he loves me so much that he's WILLING to be insane just to love me as much as he does. The wind is enveloping him in a tornado, and he can't do anything.
Sometimes he tries to convince himself that he's okay. I'M OKAY, he would scream to no one but himself, I'M OKAY, and yet it doesn't help because he knows it's all a lie. He's not okay. He's fucking insane and crazy. He's disgusted by himself, and he knows he needs help and should just go to the damn therapist that both of our parents said he was supposed to. But he's not depressed, he's fucking INSANE.
He's seeing visions of me now. It's scaring him, and monsters are slowly creeping their way into his brain. The beast in his gut is unleashing fury on everyone who speaks to him. He's gotten more reclusive and never goes to school anymore. How could he? He's fucking angry with himself and the world around him.
I'M OKAY, he shouts at himself again, and he says it so much that he wonders why it isn't imprinted into his brain yet. Every morning he screams at himself, trying to believe that he's okay, that he's SANE, but it doesn't work. It never works.
Why should it?
He's stopped showing emotion, but then again, why should he? He's fucking empty now as he's separated from his brother.
He's trying to fill the void that I left behind, but he can't.
If only he could be the God of Lies and lie so well, that he could even fool his self as he screams, I DO NOT LOVE MY BROTHER, but he can't.
I DO NOT LOVE MY BROTHER, I CAN'T; he's telling himself frantically trying to grab from something to pull him out of this demented shell of who he once was. He's a madman reaching for angels' hands.
And yet he does love me, and he can't tell me and it's breaking him.
No, he's already broken.
One day, I watch him as he leave his car and walk outside into the parking lot. There is a cigarette dangles between his lips. He blows out a ring of smoke, and I shudder in disgust. What happened to him? He would never do that. It's completely and utterly strange for me to see that, but I don't comment. I glance down at his car and – imagination or not – I see his sunglasses and a half-empty bottle of Jack Daniels. I look away in disgust because HE'S DRUNK AND HE'S SMOKING AND THAT'S NOT THE BROTHER I ONCE KNEW.
What happened to him?
I continue to stare as he walks inside. And that moment makes the hair on my arms rise, my palms a little clammy, and the breath I was inhaling is caught in my chest like a wild thing caged. A fleeting memory of the life we shared before all this bullshit. But it quickly dissipates as recognition hits. He's coming to see me. FINALLY HE'S COMING, because fucking hell, I missed him dearly. Even if he DID put me here, we are brothers.
I'm waiting patiently for him, slightly. I can't wait to see him. I can't wait to see him, to FORGIVE him, and then wring his neck for his utter stupidity.
Eventually, a disheveled-looking brother is standing in front of me. He's – obviously – in a drunken haze, and I can SMELL the alcohol and smoke on him from all the way back to my seat.
He sort of tries to lighten up the situation with an emotionless, fake smile, and I'm rendered speechless and stricken with shock.
One of my nurses comes in, and the smile is gone and is replaced by cold, distant stare. It feels so unnatural and out of place, it makes me want to puke. The nurse says long, big words that I don't particularly understand, and I'm surprised that they don't choke on their words.
The nurse drops by with a tiny slice of bread, and I flash a false smile to make her leave. She does. I eventually come around to eating the food, and it's almost tasteless. Oh joy. He's staring at me with vacant eyes, and I swear my heart freezes. The bread in my stomach feels like it's turning into lead, and he's walking up to me now with this uncertain look on his face. I do my best to shrivel into my seat as far as humanly possible, to no avail. He's in front of me now, and my eyes are darting around the room trying to look anywhere but him. Seconds pass before he softly grabs my chin with his hand and tries to make it so I can't look away no matter how fucking hard I try. Things are getting too weird, way too fast. And everything is spiraling out of control, and he's too close to me now, and I want to shove him away, but my arms feel like steel. He leans forward and presses his lips against mine slowly, and I want to push away but I CAN'T. And it's wrong, but it doesn't feel like it is; soon, I even start to give in, but only a tiny bit.
THIS IS UNNATURAL; I scream at myself wildly, YOU DON'T LOVE HIM! WHAT ARE YOU DOING? THAT'S YOUR FUCKING BROTHER!
But I push the thoughts to the back of my head, and he has me caught in a web of feelings I can't interpret, and soon I"m questioning if this is all real or not. But things are going by too fast, and I pull back immediately, eyes wide as I realize what is actually going on, and he freezes, eyes wide as well.
He's suddenly a far distance from me now, expression shocked, before he sprints. He sprints out of there, and I'm left alone.
I'm barely eighteen years old, and the world – and my life – has officially ended. Goodbye school and goodbye friends — the thought of returning to that life makes me nauseous, physically sickened.
HOW and WHY did I let that happen?
Realization strikes, however as I notice the stupidest of things at definitely not the right time. He was wearing my jacket. The jacket I gave him years ago. Where did you both get lost on the road of nothingness and emptiness and stupidity and corruptness?
I AM NOT IN LOVE WITH HIM, he tells himself every day. I AM NOT IN LOVE WITH HIM, I AM NOT I SWEAR I AM NOT.
And yet, he knows that's the greatest lie he's ever told.
Coward, he hisses at himself through the mirror, and he's shaking. WHY DID I DO THAT? WHY DID I HAVE TO RUIN THE LAST BIT OF REDEMPTION I COULD HAVE HAD WITH MY BROTHER? WHY AM I SO STUPID? He's screaming at himself now, and as he looks into the mirror, all he can see is a broken boy staring back at him.
He wouldn't have been surprised if HE was the dying patient.
The thought is enough to send him running out of the bathroom and into the comfort of his room.
He pulls out a pack of Marlboro and a matchbox. He scratches a match against the surface of the matchbox, lighting it on fire. He stares at the match for a long time, watching the flames flicker and dance. He rips a cigarette from its pack with one hand and puts it in his mouth. He lights the cancer stick on fire and uses his fingers to put out the match. Puffing out a perfect ring of smoke – almost like a halo, he opens a bottle of hard liquor and chugs it.
He's really considering going to the psychiatrist like his parents told him to.
He walks over and sits down on the floor and turns on the television. It's the local news, and he is disturbed when he watches them make a tribute for me when I'm still ALIVE. It makes him want to pull out his hair and scream. And he does.
"HE'S NOT EVEN DEAD, ASSHOLES!" He shouts and throws the Marlboro pack next to him at the television, making a mess.
And then there's something that makes him get really mad: when he sees my girlfriend on screen – the girl I was going to propose to as soon as the two of us got out of high school – NOT EVEN FUCKING CRYING. It's enough to make him turn the television off and storm into his bathroom. Purposely, he takes the cancer stick out of his mouth and grinds it against his arm, hissing in painful satisfaction as it lights out but burns his wrist. He smirks at his handiwork before he takes a shower, brushes his teeth, does the basic routine of preparing for sleep and does so.
He slips into my room, though, and he's slightly surprised it still smells like me. It's an overwhelming feeling as he slips into MY bed, covering himself with MY velvet sheets, and resting his head against MY pillow. He remembers more recent things, like how I used to tell him stories for him to sleep and how I used to caress his cheek and wrap my arms around him when I thought he was sleeping.
It was always at midnight, though; and he vaguely remembers him asking, why I did that, and me responding, because midnight is when you start to question what's real or not.
He looks at the time blearily from across the room.
It's the day of the accident; he and I are on a camping trip with the family, for some quality bonding time with them. Everything's normal, and the two of you both wanted to go on a quick hike. And that's when I tell him. That's when I tell him my plan.
"You're going to propose to her?"
And I can easily picture that shocked – or was it, hurt? – expression on his face before it leaves. I nodded in response.
A stiff smile was on his face as he spoke, "I'm happy for you."
And then that's when things went horribly wrong.
Just as you both start to get off the mountain; he tripped me, causing me to teeter off the edge. And I'm reaching for his hand that wasn't there. And right when it comprehends in his brain that I'm falling off a cliff and will possibly die, only then does he reach for the hand that is too far away from his grasp.
It's honestly a complete surprise I didn't die.
I remember hearing voices and crying with the inability to wake up. I'm drowning in my own darkness, and the light at the end of the tunnel isn't there. For an eternity – or what the doctors said was four days, I finally woke up and are surrounded by doctors and unfamiliar faces.
Coming to the realization, only now: he wasn't there.
It's morning when I wake up the next day after dreaming the same dream.
Suddenly, I find myself wishing, for the who-knows-what-number time, that for at least a minute, I can live without pain. For the pain in my chest and the wracking in my brain to just leave me, but that isn't possible.
Mother and father are here, but – as fucking always – he's not here. Big surprise, but then again; I'm not sure if I even want him here to begin with. Not after what happened. It's too soon for that – even if it has been about two weeks, and I'm not exactly looking forward to it either. Mother looks like she hasn't been sleeping and has been crying for days without end; although that's probably true, it still shocks me because it's just not NATURAL for my usually regal mother to look like that. Father has a stern, normal expression on his face, and I'm appreciative of that because if he looked any less than such, I might just break.
"He'll be by soon," Father says to me, as always.
"I know." That is all I can say because I'm all too familiar with such. Besides, what am I supposed to say? "You told me that days ago."
Mother chokes back a sob, but it's still blatantly obvious she wants to cry.
Father simply coughs into his fist uncomfortably before speaking, "He's just not taking this well."
I remember the fall, and I shut my eyes closed, even though the image is in my head and it's making this worse.
My voice isn't mine, it's a different one: full of rasp and slight crackle.
"What?" Father asks, questioningly.
"Tell him to get his ass down here. So I can just fucking choke him to death before I die."
Mother is crying now, loudly and emotionally. Father is glaring and obviously angry with me. Oh, what a soap opera our lives have become.
"TELL HIM TO COME SEE ME! TELL HIM!" I begin to scream. I hear nurses telling my parents to please leave and not stress me out, but I'm still screaming at them to just TELL HIM.
He doesn't greet me with happiness or a hug or anything normal like that.
"Did you know that when you die, your brain releases endorphins?"
"Well, did you?"
And, suddenly, just nothing.
"You can see it on MRI scans. It's tragically beautiful."
I stare back at him, dazed and obviously shocked that he's here. He just smiles pleasantly in return, as if he didn't try to just kill me, as if I'm not on my death bed.
"Have you ever heard of a 'death rattle' before?"
I blink before slowly shaking my head, answering his questions not with words but with sluggish gesticulations.
"It's that sound people tend to make right before they die."
Choking out, I gesture him to sit in the chair beside me, "Brother..." He stares, still having that fucking 'pleasant' smile on his face.
He continues, rambling more to himself than anything, "It's kind of like choking, I suppose you could say. Saliva builds up in your mouth, and you can't swallow, and all that comes out is sputtering –"
"Then, you die."
Suddenly, I stop and gap at him, shocked.
He starts to panic, "Did you know that when a person dies, hearing is generally the last sense to go? The first one is usually sight. Or did you know that when you die, you lose about twenty-one grams? According to research, that's the weight of a human soul. Or did you know that -"
"BROTHER!" I shout at him.
He's taken aback and mumbles an apology. Thoughts are swarming through his brain, and OH GOD I MADE HIM MAD OH FUCK SHIT HELL DAMMIT –
I gesture at him to sit in the chair next to me. This time, he obeys almost immediately, in fear of getting me mad even further because HE'S SORRY HE'S SO FUCKING SORRY.
My skeletal fingers come up to fan against his cheekbone, stroking for a moment before stopping completely. The apologies that have poisoned his lips since the accident begin to bubble from his throat, and before he can even articulate the right words (there are not any) a bruising force - me - wraps itself tight around his throat.
He lets me as he hears me being to whisper, "Brother", as if the word was a devout chant and he starts to lose oxygen.
Lips slam roughly atop his own forces his stomach acid to make him feel sick, so utterly sick. He shouldn't kiss back, because the last fucking time he PROMISED himself he wouldn't, but he does. The tongue the plunders his mouth tastes of stale hospital food. He tries to push me away because everything is broken and wrong and -
I pull away, lifting your hands away from his neck, staring right through him.
"I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm SO FUCKING SORRY!" He shouts out before running out of the room, again for the second time since.
Cowardice has always been his forte.
What was that?
Everything happened too fast that I didn't understand a single thing. At first, I'm so happy that at least my brother had the balls to show his face here again, but then I'm fucking shocked when he comes in and starts talking about- about whatever, disturbing death shit, and I could have killed the little bastard because he would have let me. He would do anything for me. He would die at my hands just because he's him and how could I not forgive him, if he's willing to do that?
I'm surprised to find that I don't even feel guilty about this anymore. That we are brothers, and yet, we kissed. I'm so beyond guilt.
All the time, though, I keep my right hand under the comforting velvet sheets that remind me that he's probably sleeping in my room. His phone is in my palm. He had dropped it when he ran. I grip it tightly as if I'm convinced that it is the only thing keeping me alive, a better lifeline than the painkillers or the glucose flowing into my forearm.
At night, when all the lights are off and the mothers of one of the cancer children cry down the hall, I press 2 on speed dial. No doubt, I know that he's holding my phone just as close as I am his.
He answers on the first ring, "What –"
"I hate you for what you did to me. God, I hate you so fucking much. But I love you, more than that and more than I should, and I wish you'd act like that meant something to you."
"Brother..." His voice breaks and trails off and I can hear the static that is his breath on the other side.
I interrupt him before he has a chance, "You've been crying." It's a fact, not just a statement as I inhale.
"And if I have?" The tiny voice that is reminiscent of our younger years is back.
"You can't just stop crying."
"Yes, you can. You can. and you will because I hate seeing you – or hearing you – cry."
"Brother, I'm sorry."
"I know that already."
"It's late. You should be sleeping, not talking to your dumbass idiot of a –"
"Shut up, you may be a total asshole for what you did, but you are still my brother, and you will listen to me, alright?"
"... Of course."
"I want you to come in here," I start, "and say 'hello' to me. I want you to say, 'hello, brother,' like absolutely nothing is wrong – no shit about death rattles or loss of senses or releasing endorphins or losing grams or ANYTHING THAT HAS TO DO WITH DEATH – and then you will tell me how your life is and you will promise me you will stop all that unhealthy habits God knows where you picked up and you will go back to school because it is what I deserve."
A tiny click was at the other line, informing me that he hung up. As long as I can keep on breathing. I have to keep on breathing, even though it's blinding. I have to keep on breathing. I can stop when I see him.
The next day I wake up to see him smiling softly next to me. He's holding my hand, and everything's okay. I smile back weakly in return.
"Yes, I did."
"Brother, I'm –"
And he tells me. He obeys me for once, and he tells me about how his life is and he promises to me – he swears on his Golden Word – that he will stop. He stays with me a little longer though because I tell him how much I've missed him.
Softly, I reach over and caress his cheek and speak quietly, "I'm sleepy."
"I might not wake up."
"You've gone through enough suffering. Rest."
I stare up at him in protest before seeing the seriousness in his eyes. "I won't repeat myself again, brother." He says.
I nod and close my eyes to sleep, but not before I whisper, "I love you."
"I will always love you."
I close my eyes, and breathing stops. I'm very tired. This time? No, I don't dream.
The last thing I see is his face, and the last thing I hear is his voice before I'm surrounded by darkness and bliss.
"Nobody said it would be easy," he starts.
"I went back to school the same day, like you told me to."
"I stopped smoking and drinking."
"I've gone to the psychiatrist mother told me."
"You know, I still love you." He bites his lip, but he continues, "I still love you fucking much, and it hurts. And I know I won't love anyone else as much as I do with you."
He chokes back a sob.
"At first, I thought you were selfish for just dying right there in front of me."
He smiles through his tears.
"But it's okay. Because life goes on, and I know you would've wanted me to move on… Would you like to know how my day was?"
No answer, so he automatically just rambles on. He tells me about how it's the last day of senior year, and he's happy because he can visit me more often. He tells me how everyone else has been coping… He tells me about mother, and father, and our relatives.
"You know, I still miss you."
"Do you still love me?"
Nothing, for a while. Nothing happens for minutes, but he's waiting patiently for a sign. And then, he feels it: a tiny but completely noticeable breeze of wind, and he's laughing and smiling and HAPPY, because that's all the answer he needs. He has done this for months now, since I've been gone. And it's always the same result.
He becomes serious though, as he lays down rain lilies on the earthy soil and presses his lips against the marble-stone plaque. He wraps himself tighter in his jacket and smiles as more and more tears are falling now, and he's telling himself to stop crying because he needs to be strong for me, and he knows how much I hate seeing him cry.
His words catch in his throat as he whispers, "I'm so sorry."
His aquamarine eyes that I loved are dim and dull, and his blonde hair is still disheveled as it has always been now, and he's swaying from unstableness. His legs are shaky and wobbly as he stands up slowly. He needs to go now, he has to go to work and go home now, but he doesn't want to. He's visibly exhausted, though, and tired because he hasn't slept since I died. But that's okay. I do the sleeping now, and he does the living. He kisses his hand and places it on my tombstone. He smiles and starts to walk away.
"Happy ending were never meant for people like us, Vanitas."
Edit – 091412: Deleted song lyrics in the beginning and changed the second POV to first POV; as well as some changing and adding. Enjoy.