January 24th, 2016
I agreed to meet my sister on her birthday. Since what happened at the movies I have been… more antisocial than usual.
“You remember the last time we were here and there were severed dicks in all the paintings?” She met me for lunch before walking to the Museum of Contemporary Art. “And when you took me back home and Mom asked what we had seen you drew a total blank?” I didn’t bother to check what the exhibit was. The museum was between exhibits and so we sat out in the sculpture garden looking out onto the ocean. “When she asked again, you just said ‘Dicks, Mom. Lots of dicks.’”
I smiled because she was laughing but I didn’t remember the moment as fondly. The exhibition we had seen that day was a collection from a lesbian artist, pieces she had done over decades. There was a period where she had a lot of violent imagery, red pastels of men being tied to be burned, their severed genitals being smashed by crowds of women. These pieces covered a massive wall, so even though they were only a fraction of the exhibit, they stood out.
In context, it was frightening. To me, anyway. My sister just laughed and laughed. And I could have said anything when my mother asked me what we had seen but was burned into my head, the image of being helpless and mutilated. And this was before any of this #EatADick stuff happened. But my mother, for whatever reason, told my step-father verbatim what I had said.
The unpleasant life I had led in that household became even more so.
My sister, whose name I have no plan to share for the sake of her safety, leaned against my shoulder. “You don’t seem like yourself.” She’s seven years younger than I am, smarter than her parents, smarter than me. But there’s no way to explain to her what I’ve been through. “How’s your dad?” she asked me.
I don’t want her to understand me. “Do you worry about my dad?” It’s my biggest fear.
“I worry about you. And I like your dad. Everything that makes you so cool, I see in him. So it’s like protecting an older, older brother.”
If she ever understands me, it will be too late for her.
“I called him a couple weeks ago because I needed a ride. He couldn’t even pick up his phone.”
“You can call me now.”
“It was the middle of the night.”
“I’ll still come and get you,” she said. For a moment I remembered what that night was like, bleeding, my chest swelling, like trying to breathe through a straw. There isn’t a great deal I remember, but I do remember getting in the car and seeing Tim in the driver’s seat.
“I don’t ever want you to come and get me.” I like Tim well enough, as much as I can considering the circumstances. But in that moment I was glad it was him and not someone I love. It was better that it was Tim who drove me out of that nightmare. “Are you looking at colleges yet?”
“I don’t want to talk about that,” she cut me off. “I want to know what we’re going to do for your birthday.”
“My birthday’s not-“
“I want to know if you’re going to be there. I want to know if you’re even going to be alive. I see your picture online. People at school talk about you-“
“Who does? Do they know-”
“They don’t say it too me. They don’t know you’re my brother. But I have to listen to people talk about what they will do when they catch you. I listen to people say you deserve to die.”
She was in tears at this point but it wasn’t in me to comfort her. I folded forward, elbows on my knees, face in my hands.
Below the sculpture gardens, the streets were filled with sight-seers, a bit strange considering it was early January, even on a Saturday. The sun had yet to make an appearance and the waves were hitting the rocks with building regularity. “I don’t know what I’m supposed to say to you right now. I can’t… I can’t even help myself.”
“How many other siblings do you have?” she asked me. “I just have you.”
“I’m not asking you to help me with any of this. I’m asking to let me help you.”
“I would just pull you down with me.”
“Then I’m asking you to give me that chance.”
I pulled my face up from my hands as a bird flew overhead. It crossed unseen above the throngs and over the violent surf. It flew into the cloudy sky, beyond the point where I was certain I could see it, farther than I could imagine ever going. “Thank you,” I stood. “I appreciate what you said about my father.”
I left my sister there and wandered on foot into the village. There was an inexpensive shop where I bought a bottle and drank alone in an alleyway until I fell asleep. The sun was setting by the time I woke and I wandered back out to the crashing waves where I sat on the rocks and gave life a lot of consideration.
There was so much I wanted to ask her.