Yesterday was a beautiful day. No, scratch that, yesterday was an absolutely fantastic day.
After spending the whole week telling myself not to go because Sundays are my “me” days and I will need all the rest in the world to prepare for a new week, I finally went to my book club meeting.
I woke up, complained to my mother about how awful it felt to leave the house when the weather was so gloomy, and went to the meeting, hoping for a text to come in along the way with a “Sorry guys,the meeting has been cancelled,” so I could return to the warmth of my sheets; Between The Covers.
The day turned out better than I had imagined, and even scolded myself for wanting to skip the meeting. I walked home happy, bubbly and contended.
I was ready for bed after a long, warm shower, a fruit pudding, and a chapter of the book I had left unfinished. Except I was up until the wee hours of the morning, furiously typing on my laptop with tears clouding my vision.
I should have just eaten my fruit pudding and gone to bed, checking in on people in the morning, but I figured a quick ‘how are you?’ wouldn’t hurt. I texted JJ, simply asking how he was doing, and waited a long time for a response, despite the fact that I could see he had read it.
I had talked about him during the day and mom says talking about people in their absence can make them choke on water or bite their tongue.
I sat there waiting, hoping he had not choked on anything, my fingers itching to write, to ask if he was all right, if he was mad at me, or if it was just someone else using his phone like they always do.
We don’t talk much nowadays; there’s an unpacked silence between us that no one wants to reveal, a cloud of anxiety hanging over what lies underneath the silence.
“I’m fine, sis.” I read the text right before it reached my inbox.
I should’ve been happy. After playing all the what ifs in my head while waiting for his answer, I should have sighed with relief, knowing he was fine.
Instead, I slumped into my seat, heavy with grief, as if I’d just received death news. A lump in the back of my throat grew quickly to my throat, and my eyes welled up with tears.
I’ve been fighting the tears for a long time, and I couldn’t hold them back in yesterday. So I slid down the coach to make room for the river of tears that was about to flow.
I cried. I’m the long, ugly, muggy kind who only stops to take a breath and blow my nose.
I cried because, for a long time, my brother has not been fine. He hasn’t been himself. He probably has no idea who he was yesterday. I cried because of all the things he could have said to me, fine was not the word to throw at me as though I was a stranger to him.
I cried for the days when he was my younger brother but old enough to look after me, for the days when he was my voice and advocate when I was too afraid to speak for myself. Days Mom boasted about his vibrant personality in her ‘chama’ meetings for the rest of the day, and just said, “That’s a quiet one.” when it came to me.
My heart ached for my boarding school days, when the anticipation of seeing him during the holidays was the only thing that kept me going through the long school days.
To his huge dreams and his enthusiasm for following them. To his deep belly laugh, that came out as if he was laughing at the world for not preparing for the person he was, and his lively voice and energy that filled our home with life.
I cried for the days when we sat and talked about who we wanted to be, him trying to change the world and me wanting to hide from it. How determined he was about being free in a world full of chains and enslavement.
I cried for our love for books and art and how it echoes so loudly that it jolts me out of my solitude and into his vivid, colorful world.
Hell, I cried as I remembered the days when we would laugh at drunkards lying on the road side and wonder why their parents never took them to Sunday school. When he was too tired to lift his arm but squeezed my hand tightly when we prayed before bed.
I cried for the best friend I have had in JJ on days I didn’t know who to turn to in my circle and the brother he has been when I needed family.
Then I cried for the pain in his eyes, which clearly lingers and slows him down whenever he attempts to step forward.
For the chaos within him and the demons he battles alone.
For the days when mom weeps and asks me what happened to his son as if I have the answers hidden beneath my bed.
Days when my father calls to say, “I don’t know how to help your brother; please pray for him,” and his helplessness is so tangible that I want to take his hand in mine and dry his tears.
I wept for the days when my siblings look at me, scared, and ask if JJ was okay or if he’ll come home after he’s been gone for too long and the house aches for his hearty laughter.
For the nights when I have to say a prayer before picking up an unknown call because bad news is always lurking around the corner. Nights when I send him money, knowing full well that I could be digging his grave, but can’t resist the urge of wanting to save him.
I cried because of the sadness on his face when he speaks, the hopelessness on his neck when he walks, the loss in his eyes, and the weakness in his voice when he says, “I am trying.”
“Does it occur to you that you’re an alcoholic?” I asked to answer his text after I had calmed down from my sobs.
“I was, but I’m better now. I’ve quit. I haven’t had a drink in the last 6 months.”
“But you have had a drink in the last 7 days?”
“Not more than 5 times. I know yesterday was bad, but it’s under control sis”.
It makes me cry even harder because, if yesterday refers to the bubbly, sober boy he was before today, then he should see yesterday through my eyes, or perhaps through my glasses because yesterday was beautiful. No, yesterday was absolutely fantastic.