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Dedicated to Eric
It was a common scene in the Garcia household, Jeremiah running from one room to another looking for a place to hide from his big brother Paul after having provoked him with a verbal strike that stung, the elder of the two now seeking to exact revenge that would almost always end in tears for the twerp of a little brother and half the time a punishment for Paul, of which he would use as an excuse for more pain to come.
Some twenty years later and such turmoil became part of a trip down memory lane, a nostalgic route of reminiscence.
“Sorry about those days, bro. I was such a bully and asshole to you,” Paul had said over their lunch at a fast food joint as he prepared to dump the tray he and Jeremiah had ate from. It had been their ritual since they first began to buy each other lunch, the one not paying being the one to clear off the table and serving tray.
“Don’t worry about it man, we were just being brothers. All part of growing up, right?” Jeremiah said.
“Yeah, but I was a real asshole. You forgive me, bro?”
“Sure, but to make up for it you take care of the next two lunches.” The two brothers laughed.
“Hey, remember when we would spend mom’s change when she sent us to the store to go buy something? Buy a nickel or dime candy and then claimed we had lost the money?” Paul asked.
More laughter, more remembering of more innocent times. As young adults they now seemed to be heading into life on two different paths, Paul’s rebellious nature having him live in a blur half the time with alcohol and whatever drug of choice crossed his path, while Jeremiah couldn’t have been further from the opposite, his goal-driven nature giving him all the potential in the world.
But soon thereafter life came head-on into Jeremiah in the form of an accident that nearly cost him his sight, leaving the young man with such a bright future clinging on to what vision he had left. Such a traumatic experience can dramatically shift one’s priorities, Jeremiah now focusing on finding his future wife while he still had the ability to actually see the person he would hopefully fall in love and spend the rest of his life with.
As fate would have it love came replying a half a world away in the form of what would start out as a penpal, eventually taking Jeremiah in his legal blindness away from his life in the greatest country in the world and off to a Third World where he would have to learn how to adapt to harsh conditions he had only ever seen on the evening news, for now that he was on disability he couldn’t even meet income requirements to acquire a visa for the woman who became his wife.
Some twenty years later and the full head of black hair Jeremiah had possessed the last time he saw his brother was now no more, as white as Gandalf’s for having survived the harshness of a Third World environment for so long. And there he remained, thanks to the dear big brother he once had who at one time had uttered, “I was an asshole.”
What did that make him now? For within the span of two decades Paul had went from criminal junkie to supposed born-again Christian, he crediting those now surrounding him as the only ones who had ever been there for him, clearly ignoring all of Jeremiah’s past attempts at trying to get big brother back on the straight and narrow. And now that Paul was at a position to where he could actually help give his brother a hand up, his response to their acquaintances came with the cold-blooded line, “He put himself in that situation, he’s going to have to get himself out.”
For just about everyone who had heard this tale of brotherly betrayal came complete perplexity on trying to understand Paul’s perspective. A supposed born-again Christian who was now an actual instructor in the institution of this religious group which claimed to be doing their god’s will, while ignoring his own blood for the simple yet discriminatory reason of the two not sharing in the same belief.
Although communication between the two brothers had been lost for the obvious reason it did not stop Jeremiah from going online and having a look on Facebook whenever his long-lost big brother’s birthday came around, just to see from a distance the person he had grown up with, the person he had once called his best friend. And it was there where he saw a post that was as mind-boggling as anything he had ever encountered before…
A post which confirmed what Jeremiah had known all along, that big brother was indeed a Hypocrite.
Some twenty years later and Jeremiah was back among the comforts of his home country after having clawed his way out of that Third World on his own.
Soon thereafter someone reached out to the man who was now beginning to reach the elderly age his hair and eyes had resembled for decades to let him know that a relative of his was asking to see him before it was too late. The relative; Paul. Why before it was too late? Because the eldest of the two brothers now had The Big C, the capital C. Cancer.
A few days later and Jeremiah was walking down the corridors of a convalescent home like a man who strode well for his age, a man who had endured more than his fair share of life’s obstacles and came out having preserved.
As soon as he had entered the room his eyes found Paul’s, the body which barely gave hm life so frail the bed sheets around him were like oversized bedspreads, the face so gaunt it was as if the ghost in waiting had already taken up residence. But within it Jeremiah could still see his big brother, within Paul’s eyes the extreme pain of having caused so much pain to his once best friend, tears now falling from them as if to show penance.
With such a sight little brother began to cry as well, closing the distance between them with a grasping of a hand and the consolation of a hug.
“I’m so sorry,” Paul gasped through a saturated face and heavy breath.
“Just take care of the next two lunches,” Jeremiah replied, the two sharing that joyous sound neither had heard for so very long, that sound of one another’s laughter taking them back to a more innocent time.