Lately, we've been having some...uh...issues with my kid brother. That isn't fair, actually - I shouldn't say "lately" because we've been having issues with my kid brother since he was two, but this current incarnation of problems is going on a year now and my parents can't seem to get a handle on him. Every time someone mentions him, I find myself saying "when I was a teenager..." and the most disgusting part of that is that my teenage years weren't all that long ago.
Last summer, he ran away from home for about a week. It would have been a more impressive gesture if we didn't know precisely where he was the whole time he was gone and he hadn't run away with cologne, a laptop and his cell phone charger while omitting a change of socks and a toothbrush. The thing about it was that it changed my whole dynamic with my family. In the midst of a whole lot of my own misery, this grand move was met with utter complacency on my parents part. My parents. My parents. The people who, when I was eighteen felt the need to load up in their car at two o'clock in the morning because I went for a three block walk to the local park and sat on the swings talking to someone who I'd been friends with for five years - no, not about anything important, just to talk and they stormed that park in pajamas as if Adam Walsh were chasing them with a camera crew.
Most parents will tell you that different kids need different approaches and that the set of rules that worked for one won't necessarily work for the other and I believe in that wholeheartedly - some people can't handle things that others can but I think my brother and I are an excellent example of that. The phrase i've learned to use to cover my teen years is that I was fifteen when I got my shit together and crawled back out of the bottle, but in the years that led up to it - after all of the liver-pickling, I'd managed to pull great grades and stay the teachers pet. Yet again, I feel the need to qualify this by saying that I was by no means healthy or OK and it's certainly not something I advocate for others but the point I'm trying to make is that my brother is the opposite of making it. He is failing all of his classes, no job, no car, and he's even let his bands fall apart. He'll be eighteen in eight short months and he lacks the requisite skills to even be a pizza delivery guy.
I have these two nephews and this one brother and they're all roughly the same age. They were even in a band together for the longest (and most complicated) five minutes in recent history. My point is, that if you put these three kids in a room together and asked me to tell you what I think their respective futures will look like, I can tell you with no hesitation that Brian is going to join the military in a few months and, unless he gets slotted in with the engineers and mechanics, he's going to spend the rest of his life grappling with some pretty serious emotional issues because he is way too big of a (forgive me) pussy to handle death - let alone being the cause of it. Clayton will, I suspect, get into college on his drum corps scholarship, spend most of his five years smoking pot, drinking too much and barely scraping by with the GPA he needs to maintain said scholarship, but when he comes out, I think he'll be OK. Ask me where I think my brother is going to end up, and i'll tell you exactly where - in a pine box.
Call it the macabre prediction of someone with one too many dead friends, but when I look at who he is, where he's been and where he is right now, I can honestly say that I have no idea how he got there. With the exception of realizing at about ten that I was always going to make him look like the village idiot and the fact that his parents relationship has been rocky since my mother made her attraction to women, shall we say, known a couple of years ago he's dealt with no major tragedies, no losses and no really formative experiences. I was the one with the friends with cancer, I was the one getting phone calls about overdoses and suicides and trying to put myself back together after assaults and I spent a lot of years doing everything I could to prevent him from having to learn lessons the way that I did - trying to protect him from my parents ceaseless marital issues by playing the part of therapist. I didn't bring my morose ass friends around and, because my parents never knew what I was up to, it was never in the house. He didn't spend his summers and weekends and winters helping out with the family business. Instead, he spent his time being like any other kid. Was there always something off about him? Sure. (I'm pretty sure the fact that I vividly remember the look on his five year old face when he stood at the living room window weilding a chefs knife at one of my friends because he didn't like them clinches that deal...and if it doesn't, I still have the scars from tackling him during his many violent outbursts when he was seven and eight.)
There are exactly two ways I, realistically, see his tomorrows playing out. Either he'll slip and fall ass first into a big puddle of perspective, get his shit together and learn to push paper or he's going to continue imploding for the next five years until his passive aggressive, damaged, drenched in abandonment issued, crazy eyed girlfriend can't stand it anymore and tries to 'fix him' with a baby and he loses it. Either that, or I'll kill him myself - but one way or the other....
Exempting recent realizations - namely that that kid is fucking Colin's and if I'd have been able to laugh off what happened between Colin and I, he might never have turned to Lauren for that friendship and then he wouldn't have knocked her up and then maybe, just maybe, King wouldn't have killed himself - when King ate his gun, I didn't blame myself. I didn't blame Mike. Hell, at the time, I didn't even blame Lauren. King was one of those people on a collision course with death. He never expected to make it to twenty and every day we got to spend with him after that was a gift but to look at my brother and see some of King - that same manic paranoia, that paralyzing fear of trying and failing in front of the people he loves - to see it with the certainty I feel breaks my heart.
To be honest, I've spent the last six months somewhere between ignoring it and hoping it got better while I wasn't looking. I've hoped that, if I wasn't standing there shouting, they would have the opportunity to listen closely and maybe they would realize why I've spent the last few years screaming. Instead, they've gone deaf. He disappears for days at a time without warning and, when prompted to react, they simply say "he'll sink or he'll swim, there is nothing more we can do." What I want to say - what I wish I had the clarity for - is that, while there may be nothing they can do to help, that doesn't give them the right to stop trying but it's impossible to say "there wasn't a damn thing anyone of us could have done to save King either, but if you ask around a bit, we'll all tell you the one thing no one regrets is making the effort" without getting tagged as the girl who sees monsters everywhere. (For some reason, it never seems to help to point out that the reason I see monsters everywhere is fairly obvious if you look at my record on predicting suicide attempts in people.)
It's a kind of pain I can feel in my bones - a grief so strong it becomes a literal ache when i'm not looking. It's a destructive kind of sadness and one i'm not all together unfamiliar with but the truly stomach churning part is that I know I'm mourning him before he's gone, in the hope that when that time gets here, I'll be prepared, because I'm the only one who sees it coming and there's a responsibility in that. I feel responsible to stop it, and even though I know I can't, I feel responsible to prepare people - to protect them from the crushing weight of that guilt.