My brother was as wild as the plains and as restless as their winds. The trodden earth could not root his soul, and the azure stretch of sky could not contain him. His moods changed with the seasons, eyes and hair altering color to justify his identity. Calloused and scarred, his hands held the brilliance of a kleptomaniac, but his mind fell short of wisdom. Hidden along the curve of his lips and the malice of his bone structure, our home was his playground. He came. He saw. He conquered everything.
The summer of Jack left me sunburned and scorching under the brewing breeze. Jack was wilder than my brother. Unlike him, manipulation was the spine of Jack's frame. Jack was dangerous, leaving tobacco stains in unwanted crevices of the house and burnt residues on the soft tissue of his fingers. Jack's heart was as black as his eyes, and he lured my brother into hallowing holes where he never should have wandered.
The smell of lingering broth lasted in our house for days while my brother vanished through kitchen cupboards creating stew that parched the tongue and hungered the senses. Those moments and the scent of my brother's fabric wasted my eyes with salty ocean tears. Tobacco, blue breezes, and motorcycle dust reminded me that he was gone, and I learned what choices could cause one to lose.
"You are a coward."
"I know, but you save me."
"You'll be my downfall one day."
Under the influence of Summer Jack, my brother laid packets of dusty white powder around the house and under the creaky wooden stairs. The presence of the drug only came to my mind when the stairs squeaked late at night. He prayed to the cross above the smoky gaslight and whispered to me in pleas of sorrow. I could not betray him for his maturity would never live up to it. I was born his martyr, and he wasn't smart enough to catch me swiping his cocaine as my purpose changed.
Jack lounged on the ruined leather and spoke of fearless infamous minds who dominated, turning gold over with a touch of their hand. My brother thought princes were noble and like children they argued over good versus evil while they were ignorant to bad and righteous right outside the bedroom window. Jack's finesse with words enamored my brother, but I had always hated the forked-tongue of snakes.
It was cold. Unusually cold, and it chilled my twitching muscles lined beneath icicle bones. Jack vanished with the white of the snow. Powdery and feather light, it was a beautiful recollection of the pleading snowflakes lying under the staircase. I believed that Jack was buried for the winter alongside the other snakes who were paralyzed by cold truth. His disappearance froze my brother and chilled his breath as he shook in my arms. It always took a great distraction to comfort my brother.
"Je t'aime. Vous êtes en sécurité. Vous êtes bien." My lips whispered to him in French and rocked him like a baby in hopes of calming him. The snakes were sleeping, and even through the shrill of the blue and red sirens, we were going to be alright. I couldn't lie for him, and I told him I wouldn't. He had made his bed, and I was forcing him to rest in it.
He left me with the bunnies under the couch for company and the permanent stain of gasoline exhaust in my hair. The vanishing soul of my brother etched broken goodbyes along my sickly white skin. He was a free spirit, and metal bars would have never held him. Cages would break me in an instant, and my humanity made the choice of self-preservation over a sacrifice that would become thicker than blood. Jack and I forced weights onto my brother's shoulders that begged him to grow up. Instead, he ran away from me and his maturity, and I chose to be weak and protect myself instead of being strong and loving my brother.