Copyright 2008 by Stacey Small
I should have had a brother. An older brother—maybe by eight or nine years. A brother who, whether he liked it or not, would become the object of my parents’ affection for many moons before the thought of conceiving me (whilst surrounded by the croons of Bob Marley and the Whalers) had even crossed into their heads. This brother of mine would be the apple of their eyes, the spring in their steps, and other bullshit phrases alike. My brother would grow big and my brother would grow strong. He would burst out of his baby clothes with skyrocketing measurements, proving that he would be the All-American Child (despite such handicaps as my father being 5’5 and having ‘Small’ for a last name).
Ah, yes, to have a big brother would be lovely.
But then my brother would reach adolescence. His stature is now gangly and awkward, and he struggles to retain every wisp of disgusting facial hair in hopes of grooming it into a goatee…the ultimate symbol of coolness in junior high. His voice, once soft and playful, singing along to Oldies 103.3, begins to battle itself…yearning to decrease in octave while forfeiting to the occasional crackle and squeak. And don’t even get me started on his wardrobe. The bigger the better. His baggy pants, which he spends hours relearning how to walk in, sag so low it continuously looks as if he has just dropped a fresh load and is trying to avoid getting it all over himself. Brutal. My mother, being the understanding woman that she is, reassures herself that this is merely a ‘stage’, and that all kids should have the right to creatively express themselves, so long as they are not hurting anyone (or more importantly, any animal). My father, on the other hand, interprets this gangster attire as a metaphor for all Hell breaking loose, and he soon confines my brother to the four walls of his bedroom, releasing him only for the occasional meal.
I should have had a brother.
High School. For some, it’s a dreaded place, where mockery and judgment spew from the mouths of one’s peers, as they simply hover, waiting for you to screw up your locker combination or walk into the wrong classroom. For others, it’s just a place to learn, to take advantage of the privilege of free public education. (These people never forget their locker combinations, primarily because it’s their only ticket to freedom when they get stuffed in there.) And yet high school still brings students from all walks of life together in a setting that draws uncanny parallels to a hopping night club of pheromones. My brother ditches sex ed class to get his own real life demonstrations while I make colored macaroni necklaces under a babysitter’s supervision. My brother becomes the leader of the pack; the man (I could now call him this, with his newly shaven beard, slightly tighter pants, and stable vocal chords) all the girls swoon over as they prance by, burnished thongs of wedgie-inducing lycra jutting out from their ultra low-rise jeans. My brother gets scolded for making out in the hallway, detention for copping a feel on some young lady in the back row of anatomy class, and suspended for foreplay in his rundown Z28 Camaro during lunch hour. His licentious actions hoist the brows of every parent in town, and gossip soon begins to spread like mono at sleep-away camp. My mother is irked, reasonably so, but nevertheless open with other mothers about her son’s mishaps, in hopes of finding some common ground. My father scratches his head, wondering how the hell he manages to get into all of this trouble, especially with a curfew determined by the onset of the street lights. I sit back, eat a few of those pretty pieces of pasta (glue crust and all), and smile…if I had a brother.
Life would only get better if I had a brother. Before long, he enters college, where the school keeps my parents closely informed of his shenanigans. A letter from the dean arrives within three weeks of his enrollment, stating that he was caught drinking in a freshman dormitory. A girls’ freshman dormitory. Bare-assed. Three weeks later, another letter. But my parents already know that he was seen setting off the fire alarm in the bio lab at 3am. My brother is not smart enough to understand that they read the police blotter in the university paper each weekend. He does learn, however, to not leave a bag of weed in his pocket when he comes home for Thanksgiving—he learns the hard way.
If I had a brother, my mother would not have watched me cry after Mrs. McGrath’s first grade picnic, because I looked fat in my homemade dress.
No, instead she focuses on the never-ending stunts he pulls on a regular basis. Since he has moved back home—university housing doesn’t screw around—my brother is certainly the center of attention, alright. Countless times he mooches money from my parents for ‘gas’ (which he uses on 100rpm race fuel, also rumored to make chicks think you have a large penis) or food. My brother does not have a job upon barely graduating college.
Because of this, my parents would not have noticed my newly dyed jet black hair. Nor the word ‘DYKE’ in orange spray paint on a rock outside of our home. Nor the raisins stuffed in my bathrobe sleeve, the turkey sandwich wedged in my sock, the scale steadily decreasing each time I stepped on it—my victory platform.
My brother eventually finds a job. But betting on street fights does not end up being the lucrative business he had envisioned. To add to it all, the police are always be watching him—watching our house—hoping to catch him in the act of gambling. My brother does not come to understand the complexities of the internet until he is shown firsthand. By a detective. He then realizes it is also illegal to sexually chat with underage girls—‘CheerChick15’ in particular. My parents are so busy watching him, watching their house, watching their reputation.
My father would not have seen the packet of birth control pills in my purse on October 12, 2001. My father would not have been too affronted to look me in the eye for two months of my life.
If I had a brother.
Soon enough, my elder sibling decides to move out and get a place of his own, where he can shamelessly store all of Stormy Daniels’ adult films in his dvd tower—alphabetically. He finds an honest job delivering ice and coal in a large truck, and meets a group of seemingly decent guys. But my brother has an unexpected greeting from my parents one day, who open the door to find their son and his friends snorting the Adderall he was once prescribed for his insatiable horniness…or ADHD as they like to call it. My brother has a lemon Jello-mold stain on his carpet for months.
My mother would never have dropped the pot roast on the kitchen floor the day I ingested my father’s diabetes medication in a desperate (but terribly clichéd) cry for help.
Because I would have a brother.
After a decent stint in rehab and a swift, fatherly kick in the ass, my brother moves back to his apartment, uses three whole Tide bleach pens to get the lemon color out of the carpet, and finds a girl. Not a ‘girlfriend’, but a steady hookup partner he sees exclusively—apparently there’s a drastic difference between the two titles. She’s a nice gal, who works at a bank and loves animals. My father likes her a lot, until the day he catches a glimpse of her tattoo protruding from her blouse. After that, the neighbors think of us as a religious family—“Jesus Christ!” resonates from the confines of our living room with each phone conversation between father and son.
My father would never have called me sleazy the day I spent four and a half hours in pain, jaundice-hued, waiting for that (uncontaminated) needle to decelerate to a halt and reveal a slightly shaky-lined faerie on my back.
If I had a brother.
Life would go on—my brother comes to reach some sort of agreement between his heart and penis, and eventually settles down with his lady friend. Heck, he even marries her a few years down the road. My father comes to terms with her bodily adornments (so long as no ink protrudes on wedding day), and accepts her into the Small family. My mother becomes overly excited to pass down numerous household items: glassware from the seventies, mini collectible spoons that are too small to serve a purpose other than odd display, and a raven-tressed kitchen witch made of corn husks and yarn.
My mother would never have discovered her best china dish under my bed, chock-full of puke.
But the honeymoon phase ends quickly—my brother realizes he married a big spender, and his wife realizes she hadn’t; thus her eyes (and genitalia—tattooed, we would later learn) wander into the backseat of another man’s car. My brother recklessly drives to Mom and Dad’s, 91 Octane disgorging from his SLP twin pipes, and shows them the letter she had left him on the coffee table, too close to the lemon Jello mold ghost. My mother would have never ‘cleaned’ my old room on Labor Day, 2006 and discovered this:
Reasons I feel guilty:
For smoking pot once *and hating it* with my volunteer group
For discovering my dad’s stash of pot and hating him
Being a sweet girl to everyone but my family
Not going to church not wanting to go to church even though I believe in God
Being way too dependent on Mom
Rituals and counting, after years of therapy and Prozac
Hating and abusing food
College guys and their 3am drunk texts that I sometimes answer
Leaving the door unlocked the day we were robbed and not having the guts to tell anyone
Not wanting to go to business school the way my father had hoped
Thinking about girls. In that way. A lot. If I had a brother.
But the truth is, I never had a brother. Or a sister. (Unless you count Friskie, GreyBeBob, Chirpie and Cottontail.) And thus my family saw me screw up. A lot. They watched me battle obsessive thoughts, anxiety, two eating disorders—just to name a few things. They were there when I cried after a boy exposed himself to me for the first time (I was fifteen and not interested). They woke up the one and only night I came home drunk in high school. They watched me have a pseudo-nervous breakdown when I developed acne at age twenty.
My family saw a lot more than that. Mom sat with me as I tied my shoe for the first time, underneath the dining room table. Left-handed. Dad heard me excitedly utter a whole paragraph from “The Adventures of Old Mr. Toad”—the first book I ever read. My parents displayed my A+++ Thanksgiving diorama from Mrs. Westerlund’s class in their living room for (too many) years. They watched me tumble to top placements in gymnastics competitions, and cheered during my sarcastic yet nostalgic high school graduation speech. Mom and Dad could not hold back tears as they unloaded two SUVs full of unnecessary crap into my freshman dorm.
“Don’t you wish you had a sibling, an older brother maybe?”
This question appears to haunt me wherever I go. Others seem to think that by not having any siblings, I am perpetually doomed to suffer from an extensive array of social maladies.
But hey, in the end, I’m the only historian of the Small family. And thus, I could prevent others from believing I lived a lifetime of ‘only-ness’….
I could have had a brother.
in the subject line of the message.)