I was fifteen years old when I learned how to not feel. It was autumn. I remember that. The leaves were a speckled array of tender yellows, dark inky reds, and vibrant pulsing oranges. Even the air seemed to tremble with life, it was crisp and it swept the scent of spices wherever it went as it caressed the bright leaves from the browned branches. I also remember that fall used to be my favorite season. Used to, being the key part there.
My brother had just killed himself and actually had the audacity to leave a note behind. His name was Bryan and he wanted to be a doctor. Had wanted. And it was so very “Bryan” of him to write a bunch of pretty things down on a piece of paper so he could have closure while the rest of use were left wrenched in tumultuous mess, a punched out Bryan shaped hole knocked straight through our lungs.
“This isn’t your fault, its mine.”
Wrong Bryan. We are your family and we didn’t even see the signs, of course it’s our fault.
“Please don’t be sad Mom.”
Her firstborn child just did himself in, how the hell do you think she’s going to feel?
“This is the best thing for everyone.”
No. No it’s really not.
“I’m so sorry.
I’m sorry too.
“I love you Grace, please be happy.”
I hate you Bryan for doing this to us.
Pretty words don’t patch up ugly things. There is nothing remotely touching or beautiful about what happened to my brother. The confident brown eyed boy who’s teachers had smiled and said he had lots of promise, was supposed to pick up his little sister from school for an ice cream date and he never showed up. He just left the girl waiting there for him as the hours ticked by, sitting cross-legged at the battered bus stop. Actually, I think she’s still waiting there. I lost that girl the second I got the frantic phone call from my mother later on that day. And that was it.
That was the end of Bryan Brady Seacrest. His heart had pulsed and pounded for 6939.6 days in a marvelous intricate struggle to keep him alive, he’d endured thirteen years of schooling, an alcoholic father who never showed up for anything, and one day I guess that heart woke up and decided it couldn’t go on any further and gave up. I had always imagined it said something like this- “I the heart of Bryan Brady Seacrest hereby do give up on life, my sister Grace is simply not enough, so I might as well go out with an awe-inducing bang.”
Sometimes I try to remember the last thing I said to Bryan. I wish I could say it was something grand and sweeping like a resonating declaration about the power of love, or even a promise that it gets better.
Maybe that could have saved him.
I don’t know. Instead the last thing I ever said to him was in the form of a text message with the camel and banana emoji (*He hated both things). Just that. The two emoji’s plopped side by side awkwardly in a row. Of all of the things I could have said to Bryan, I didn’t actually even say anything, I just punched in two cartoonish symbols suspended on a glassy screen and now here I am left wondering could I have saved him with something else.
But back to the not feeling part. Bryan’s funeral was huge. So big in fact they had to open up the foyers and even then faces were piled up against one another in the back of the room. I know this because I spent the entire funeral staring determinedly at it. The thin spindly woman who ran the home came up to me after and said that “Never before has the state of Virginia Funeral Home seen such a large meeting of people gathered to honor the life of a single soul. Your brother must have been a very special person.”
Yes. Yes he was. I wanted to say, but the tears were stinging my eyes and my heart was pulsing heavy and painful in my chest again so I just nodded politely and looked at a black stain stretched across the wall over the woman’s bony shoulder. Wash your walls Virginia Funeral Home I thought bitterly and smiled sweetly through gritted teeth.
My mom and I piled into the dark blue land rover, a black hurse was too depressing, she had said a couple days earlier as the tears rolled down her significantly sallowed cheeks, and drove off towards the stretch of grass that my brothers corpse would soon decompose in. I remember the long train of cars stretched out behind us for miles, the thundering metal machinery was all blurred into one darkish smear, a stark contrast between the pinkish horizon and the pulsing colors of the leaves, and I remember that it all just hurt so damn much.
I hated feeling this way. I hated it. And I hated Bryan for doing this to us. And mostly I hated myself for doing this to Bryan. So as the ebony casket was lowered slowly into the dark chasm like earth, I didn’t cry. I stared forward stock straight and focused on something in the distance. I tuned out the shaky sobs, the mumbled pleas, and the frantic beating of my mother’s heart as she watched all traces of her son vanish forever. I am stone. I am stone. Impassive and immovable. And in that moment it clicked, I didn’t feel and it no longer hurt.
“Grace, don’t you want to say goodbye to your brother?” My mother’s voice had come out in strange high-pitched gasps that chipped away at my stone meticulously, but not enough to break through.
“No. He did that all on his own.” I kicked off my spindly heels and stalked away through the grass back to the safety of the car the second the ceremony ended. I looked over my shoulder later and saw her slender figure uncharacteristically heavy as she bowed over the chasm and knew I should feel horrible, but I didn't. I just felt sort of empty.
The next couple of years flew by in a similar fashion. I flung myself into an array of activities and kept myself busy. I navigated the halls of high school like a fighter in a ring, skirting the edges and plowing down anyone who dared to cross my path. I was pretty though. Small features, mysterious, careless blonde hair cascading around my face, damaged, but I was good, I spun it in an enticing tantalizing way. I broke boys hearts like other girls broke nails. There were no consequences though, because anytime someone would get frustrated and want to toss me out of their life for good they’d remember Bryan, because I was the girl with the brother who killed himself, I would always be that girl. So it became a sort of game to see how badly I could dance around and break people and break things and still escape unscathed. Grace – 23, rest of the world – 0. I was a champion of isolation and I reined my school with a frozen perfectly manicured fist.
I was 19 and alone in my dorm room on a cool rainy night when I realized I hadn’t talked to my Mom for the past month and I came to the conclusion that not feeling anything was a completely terrible way to live.
All of the emotions my stony wall had kept at bay for the past three and a half years flooded me suddenly and knocked me to my knees as the granite was shattered into hundreds of piercing shards. Suddenly I was fifteen again and I cried the rest of the night huddled under the blankets as the rain beat a torrential beat against the panes.
The next morning I drove all the way home and my Mom and I went and visited Bryan’s grave. The grass had covered the brown scar completely, and I could almost imagine my brother cheering the foliage on from somewhere nearby as the greenery healed the flaws of the earth. It was pretty and perfect, just the way he liked things.
I’m 23 now and it’s autumn. I always get especially sad during this time of the year. Every single day, I think about Bryan my brother, who wanted to be a doctor, who hated bananas and camels, who used to take me on ice cream dates, who yelled at me when I crept into his room and snuggled against his blankets and breathed in his comforting scent, my brother who violently yanked himself out of my life leaving everything in ruins, who taught me how to turn it all off when things get tough, who weathered my beautiful mother well beyond her years. You see, in the grand scheme of things I don’t know if Bryan was a good guy or a bad guy, but I do know that he was my brother. And I sure do miss him a lot.