When we were children, my younger brother and I never got along. "Like cats and dogs," everyone said, and it was true. It was mostly my fault, although I blame evolution. Older brothers, it seems, just like tormenting their younger siblings, and I was particularly talented at it.
One summer, our parents enrolled us at tennis lessons. Before going to the courts I told him that he's not allowed to speak with me, or be within two meters of my immediate vicinity. When he walked up to me sometime later, I told him to go away. He didn't talk to me for a week.
There are times when I can be particularly nasty. We were having dinner, and he said something I didn't like. I retorted, "at least I'm not gay," looked at him, then snickered. His face grew red. He stood up and walked out.
Even as a child everyone knew my younger brother was gay. What talent I had in hiding the little things that betray one's desire for the same sex, he seems to have missed out on. Our tutor was particularly cruel, telling me one time that I needed to look out for my brother, because he shouldn't be allowed to grow up like that. She stressed the last word in the same pinched tone she reserved for rats or cockroaches. You didn't need to be brilliant to know what she meant.
One night, I was perhaps 15, and my brother was 13, when he walked up to me, eyes teary and red. He told me he wanted to tell me something.
Even then, I knew what it was. And I waited for the expected confession.
"I am gay," he said. And just like that, he was out. He told me he wanted to tell our parents, and I answered, in that nonchalant way I find so necessary (because I assumed indifference meant strength), that I didn't care what he decided. It was all up to him.
But that was a lie. Because I did care, in that fundamental way people can care. "I wish I was him," I thought, but I shot the idea down as soon as it came. "I'm not gay, I'm just confused," I remind myself.
But I knew in my heart that I was envious of him. Because he was brave in that particular way I couldn't be at the time. He asked himself the hard questions, and found himself strong enough to tell the truth. I admired him in a way he has never known.
I love my little brother, though I have never told him that. It is just not said in our family. We love, but we do not speak of it.
So these words I write are a tribute, and a gift. To you, whom I admire, I wish you the best in life.
This is not my story, but sometimes I wish it was.
Photo taken here.