How many drinks could we have? I wonder that all the time. How many drinks would it take before you’d tell me what was wrong? Before you would sigh a little deeper and look off into nothing as you tell me it’s not worth it anymore?
And I, being as drunk as I would be at that moment, would sling my arm around your neck the way I did when I was small and you seemed impossibly bigger than me. I would pull your forehead to mine and tell you that was crazy. I would nudge you back, and tell you that you’re just simply not allowed to think that way.
Because if you left, you’d leave a million tiny shards behind. And everyday I, we, your family, friends, and children would have to step on them.
You never knew me as a drinker, but I think you would have found me to be a well- prepared partner in crime. Our hearts always hit at the same pitch. We knew that. We lived on the same frequency that left us oddly bonded and miles apart.
And so, if given the opportunity, and enough beer and tequila, I’m just sure of it. I’m just sure we would have one of those nights that no one else would understand. Because we’d reference things they don’t get and catch up on things they don’t care about. You would make disparaging remarks about the boys I’ve dated in the past. I would resent the teasing, but know you were right. Because you are. Brothers always are right about these sorts of things, although my ego will never admit to it.
But I would tell you, brother, this one. This one is different. You’d never like him, but you’d respect him. He counteracts me. The hyper tendency you always worked so patiently to quell in me on long afternoons in the woods. He makes things just a little quieter. I think you’d see that. You wouldn’t tease me about this one.
After the second shot of tequila, we’d talk about your boys. Your handsome, strong boys and the marks they leave on the world. You’d be worried about them. Endlessly. And I would tell you how fine they are going to be. One more drink and you’d admit that you know they will be.
As the speech gets more slurred, and the words are a little less connected, we’d still understand each other perfectly. But there would be something left just for you. Something that no amount of alcohol can pry from your heartbeats. But I imagine, I picture that moment were you take that long drink, let out that long sigh, and tell me. And somehow, with my arm around my neck, I know exactly how to help you.
But that’s not how the story goes. And it hurts too much to dwell on the details. So I imagine a different conversation. When the previously told fairy tale becomes too much, I rewind it and change the words. This time, you pull my head to yours. And you tell me that it’s fine. That I was always a scrappy little girl, and you have no concerns about my ability to navigate this world. You are well aware of what a klutz I am, and you’ve seen me scramble back to my feet every time, no matter how ungraceful of a fall. You used to read my stories. So you know that if reality ever gets too much for me, I’ll just step away and write myself a new one.
Then you’ll push me back a step. To create the distance we need. And you’ll go. The story will always end like that. I can’t write that out of existence. You’ll always leave. You’ll always be gone.
But I’ll have this. I’ll have those million little shards you left. The ones we have to walk on everyday. But I’ll always be looking for them. For the opportunity to pick them up and carefully examine their edges for the ability to hurt me. Then, I’ll set them down carefully and turn them into something more beautiful.
They say you have to write what you know. This is all I know. I know what it’s like to so badly want to help but have nothing to give. Nothing to make anything even a little bit better. So I have a million tiny stories. I have a million tiny fragments of you and how they each pull a different thread in me.
Soon this year is going to be over. It will no longer be the year you died. It will no longer be the year my family fell apart. I think, for me, it has to be the close of that particular fight. Because it just can’t be a fight anymore. It’s time to live with it. So I’ll do what I can for you, brother, for the pieces of you that are left here. And for me, I’ll turn you into something else. Maybe it will be stories. Maybe you’ll be the resilience I need to face the new challenges. Maybe you’ll be the patience I need to not lose the good things, the oh-so-good things, which have suddenly appeared in my life.
So, brother, we won’t ever really have that night of careless drinking, but as long as my overly active imagination still holds its ground, I’ll always save a drink for you. As this year comes to a close, I will certainly raise a glass to you, and listen closely to the words you tell me.
Even if I have to write them myself.