It was weird, one day I was an only child, the next I had an older brother. My parents didn’t even warn me. Just one day he arrived and took my room and I had to sleep in the basement.
He arrived in a large waxed raincoat. I remember the water droplets that hung to its surface as he leaned over me and offered his hand. I ran behind my mother’s legs and stayed there. He smiled back. My mother apologised for me and that was that.
It was obvious after a few days that he was their favourite. I had a lot of issues and I knew I was a disappointment to them. I visited a therapist twice a week, though I didn’t talk much. I never did. I think that was my main problem. I was fine. My parents thought otherwise.
One day, my new brother came downstairs and handed me a used painting set and canvases. I ignored him, upset he’d usurped me. He didn’t say anything, instead, set up the easel and began to paint. He was incredible. I watched in awe as within minutes he had painted things I couldn’t imagine were possible from a paint brush. He finished with a painting of a door. It looked familiar but I wasn’t sure. He set down the paints and walked back upstairs. I stared at it for weeks. Then one day, I decided to try for myself.
At first I was terrible, but as the months rolled on I got better and better. I still didn’t have the confidence to speak to my brother, but every now and then he’d make his way into the basement and look at what I’d painted. He’d stare at them with nostalgia in his eyes. He would cry. I though, hid behind the sofa, watching him mentally critique my work.
“Keep it up,” he said in a hushed tone. The hairs on my neck stood up and I felt a warm glow around me, something I’d not felt before. So I continued to paint.
By the time I was a teenager, my brother was around less and less, but my painting was as good as what his was when he first showed me. I really wanted him to see what I’d created. It was all because of him after all.
I waited one day, in the living room. I stole glances out of the window, waiting for him to come home. When he did, I jumped out of my chair and ran to the door to greet him. He stepped back, as if not wanting to embrace me.
“Look at what I painted,” I said to him.
My parents appeared surprised. Even though I was sixteen, I rarely spoke.
I ran to the basement door.
“I think you should follow him,” my mother said to my brother.
I waited for what seemed like hours, until my brother walked down the stairs. I could barely see his face under the hood of his waxed jacket.
“What do you think?” I offered.
He stepped into the light, examining the painting.
Tears rolled down his cheeks. I put my hand to my mouth.
“It’s beautiful,” he said quietly, and he began to cry.
Upset I raced over to him and hugged him.
“Thank you for teaching me,” I said.
I then felt his body sway, I tried to hold onto him, but my grasp wasn’t strong enough. He collapsed, hitting his head on the side of my desk and onto the floor.
The following months were the worst of my life. My brother was dead. With my mental history, I was sent to a psychiatric hospital. They said I had an episode and tried to kill my brother. I didn’t. I swear. He fell.
They said it may have been a side effect of the medication I was on or my psychosis in general.
After many sessions with the in house psychiatrist, I was allowed access to painting material. To be honest, it wasn’t that bad. I saw my parents once a week and I was able to paint. I thought about my brother a lot. I thought about that painting he did for me, the one of the door. I tried my best to remember it, and over and over I tried to paint it. Each time, I stood back and looked at it. Something wasn’t right and I never knew what. Until one day, I got it spot on.
That’s when I realised what it was of. It was the front door of our house. Seeing it in front of me, it was so obvious.
I peered at it from different angles. I remembered it all. I started to paint in all the little details. The room began to get cold, so I put on my jacket.
I placed the paints in my pocket when I was done and gazed in awe.
It was almost real.
I stared and cried. I wasn’t going to see this front door for a long time, if ever. That frightened me. The longer I gazed, the more I wished I could just be standing outside it. Knocking on it. Waiting for my parents to answer.
I pretended I was standing outside. For the first time in months I felt free. I imagined the wind blowing as the rains fell. I imagined reaching out to turn the handle.
I closed my eyes and reached.
I could feel the rain on my forehead. I could feel the cool air. I could hear the water slap against my jacket.
I opened my eyes.
I was there. Outside my parent’s house.
I panicked briefly before, almost on autopilot, walking towards the door.
I felt I must be dreaming.
Then the door opened. My mother stood there.
“Can I help you?” she asked.
“Mum, it’s your son.”
She tried to close the door. I placed my foot in the way.
“Please, just listen to me.”
She looked into my eyes. There was a recognition in them, she knew I was truthful.
“Come on in,” she said, confused.
I saw a little boy in the living room. I knelt down to talk to him. He ran behind his mother’s legs. I smiled, remembering myself doing that.
I tapped my pocket, feeling the painting set in there. I knew what I needed to do.