An out of body experience is defined as a sensation of being outside one’s body, typically of floating and being able to observe oneself from a distance. This is the best way I can describe the feeling I had when my brother misbehaved. As if I was in obscurity, unattached to the world, an observer, unable to help him.
My earliest memory of this was when I was eight. It was the first day of school. I sat next to my brother at the back of class. I remember being very nervous, the room was so big, with so many people we didn’t know. The teacher was scary, his big bushy beard hiding his mouth. He didn’t act like the ones from our last school. He was loud and his accent made him hard to understand.
My brother began stabbing his pencil into the desk.
“Stop it,” I said, “you’ll get us into trouble.”
“Quiet,” the teacher shouted.
I went white with fear, and I felt myself lift out of my body, rising slowly to the ceiling like a carnival balloon. The teacher’s voice became muffled as did my senses. I looked down at the heads of all the other students I didn’t know, before glancing back to my brother. Seeing him violently stab his pencil into the desk again, I tried to call out again, but only silence touched my lips.
I watched the teacher pace between the small wooden desks, stopping in front of my brother. He slammed his fist down to get my brother’s attention. But he carried on jabbing, and in one last jab, sent the pencil piercing through the back of his hand. I gasped and flailed my arms, unable to return to my body. Blood trickled from his hand and down the wooden surface before dripping to the floor.
Children in the immediate vicinity rushed out of their seats. Dull sounds of their screams filled my head, but all I could do was watch. The teacher panicked, running out of the class. The next five minutes was a cacophony of shrieks, as the class coped the best they could at the horror unfolding.
The school nurse rushed in. My brother calmly gazed into the distance as she heaved at the pencil, retrieving it triumphantly like Excalibur from the stone. With it removed, anxious blood pumped freely. The nurse pressed a cloth to the wound and held it. One by one the children left the room, corralled out by our bearded teacher, leaving only my brother sitting calmly.
It was a couple of weeks before we returned to school. My mother said we were to be put into a special class. She said that my brother needed more attention. I threw a tantrum and asked why did I have to go to that class too. She said my brother needed me, that I was to stay strong for him.
Our new teacher was so much nicer, Mrs Harris. She smiled, was patient and never raised her voice. She reminded me of my aunt. She always favoured me over my brother. She said he was evil and that I was such a good boy; if my brother ever tried to do anything naughty, it was up to me to stop him.
My mother was very happy with my grades. She never spoke to me about my brother’s, only that I had to keep up the good work and to not get into trouble. We didn’t make any friends though. After what happened on the first day, the other children mostly kept away. Every now and then, one of the bigger kids would come up to us.
“Can I draw on your hand?” Stuart said to us once, pulling out a pencil from his pocket.
I began to panic, scared he was going to stab me. My brother stood his ground, his breathing increased and as before, I floated away. It was as if it was a defence mechanism, to take me away from the danger.
I looked down at the grass of the playing field. My brother’s arms straightened and he marched towards Stuart, his stoney gaze turning red with rage. It took nothing more threatening for Stuart’s own face to crumble and for the tears to rise up. He ran off and as my anxiety fell away, I gently drifted back to my body. My heart was now racing, adrenaline coursing through my veins. A large smile perched on my face and I scanned the crowd that now surrounded us. They all appeared scared and scattered as Mrs Harris pushed her way through.
“What’s happened?” she asked.
The shock that had took hold gave way, and I began to cry.
“Stuart asked to draw on our hands, we didn’t do anything, I promise.”
She took a moment to study our faces.
“I believe you,” she replied, “lets go back inside, lunch is almost over.”
And the bell rang.
Looking back on this time, Mrs Harris was our guardian angel. She treated us like little adults, not the tearaway children our councillors said we were. In her class we thrived. But it was the other kids, they didn’t accept us and you could see they viewed us as strange and abnormal, something to mock and deride.
The last time we both went to school together was when we were nine. We had no friends, but we’d made it through a year of school. And as before, it was the first day of term. We were both upset when we found out Mrs Harris had passed. I didn’t know what it meant at the time, that she had died. We thought she had moved to another school. The headmistress said it was a good time to join in with the normal classes. We didn’t like this at all.
Mr Giles took the class. We’d seen him around the year before, and he was nice; he obviously knew about us. We both liked math, and were very happy that we already understood what he was teaching.
We put up our hands, and answered questions correctly. The rest of the class glancing back at us with confusion and disdain.
The weather was surprisingly warm. We decided to have our lunch next to the small river on the edge of the playing field. The thump to the back of my head was unexpected. I fell forward, landing awkwardly on my lunchbox. I wanted to cry out in pain, but I didn’t. A pleasant calm came over me and as before, I floated up into the air, hearing the wind rustle through the trees.
I saw Stuart. My brother stood up, and without a second thought grabbed his hand and pulled, sending Stuart off balance. He stumbled, not expecting it. My brother watched as our nemesis tripped and fell into the rushing water. It wasn’t obvious at first. The red tinge to the turbulent water made it clear that he was hurt.
I can’t remember returning to my body, and my brother didn’t do anything to help Stuart. That was the last day we went to that school. Our mother didn’t talk to us on the way home. She didn’t present as angry, she was scared. She sat me down with my step-father that evening.
“Your brother has to go,” she said through tears.
“What do you mean?” I asked confused.
“We can’t look after him any longer.”
“No!” I pleaded, “Please don’t take him away from me.”
“That is enough!” my step-father shouted at me.
“Dan! Don’t yell at our son.”
“He’s not my son!”
My mother slapped him.
“You’re sick!” he replied, “If you’re going to continue to indulge in this behaviour then I’m not going to be a part of it.”
The door slammed and my mother cried. I’d never seen her like this before, so vulnerable, like a child herself.
“Honey, please let your brother go. I don’t know how much more of this I can take.”
Shocked at her unabashed pleas, I agreed.
“Okay, you can take him away.”
We both cried that evening, and I never felt so close to her.
My mother told me I needed to go to a different school, for a new start. I was very nervous, but it wasn’t like before. I made friends so easily, and my grades were very impressive. I pined for my brother, but mum said I was doing so well, that perhaps in time I could see him again.
I’m twenty-two now. I think of my brother a lot. My mother changes the subject when I ask about him. She says I am better off without him.
As a quirk of fate, I ran into my step-father today. I was drunk, having spent the night clubbing with friends. I did my best to request an Uber, and waited the five minutes for it to arrive. When it did, I recognised him immediately, and so did he.
“Oh hi,” I said, slurring my words and reaching for the handle.
“No, you’re not getting in here,” he insisted.
“Come on dad, let me have a ride home.”
“Fuck me?” I said kicking his door.
“You owe me this, you left us and sent my brother away.”
“I didn’t send your brother away, you little prick.”
“What do you mean?”
“Look at your hand!”
The tyres screeched as he drove off into the night.
I peered at the back of my hand, and at the scar that radiated out from the centre. For the first time in my life everything made sense.