The hardest word to say

Yesterday I found a piece of writing I did a couple of years ago, following the death of my younger brother.

I’m sorry for all the times I ate your lollies out of the fridge after scoffing my own.
I’m sorry for pushing you off the back of the boat on purpose.
I’m sorry for countless bruises, scratches, bumps and lost clumps of hair.
I’m especially sorry for the pencil lead that remained stuck in your knee for the rest of your life.
I’m sorry for not standing up for you in the playground because looking cool concerned me more than your welfare.
I’m sorry I laughed in your face when you were brave enough to ask me for advice on getting a girlfriend.
I’m sorry for all the times you copped the sharp end of my jealousy or temper.
I’m so, so sorry I was too cowardly to step in when I saw the boy I liked bullying you.
I’m sorry we didn’t talk more.
I’m sorry I wasn’t around more.
I’m sorry I was too self-absorbed to see your pain.
I’m sorry I was so naïve, always assuming I’d have the rest of our lives to make amends.
I’m sorry I wasn’t a better, kinder, more protective sister to you while I had the chance.
Who knows what sort of difference that might have made in the end.

I remember how raw it felt to write this, wracked with guilt for the awful callous acts that pop out of the page like zits. A lot of memories, a lot of regrets. My brother was one of the few constants in my life, who knew me in a way nobody else ever will.

Our relationship balanced on a knife edge between blood-sworn allies and mortal enemies. Love and jealousy. Kindness and anger. I always assumed once we grew up and transcended all the childish bullshit, that the balance would swing round for good.

It was just beginning to when he committed suicide.

And it’s taken until fairly recently for me to accept that although I’ll always be sorry for the unfair, cruel things I did to my brother as a child, were he alive today he’d be able to pen a remarkably similar memoir.

The time he hit me in the face with a shampoo bottle and I bit right through my lips. The time a couple of his mates held me down and practiced ‘Power Ranger’ kicks on me while he watched awkwardly. The times he made me cry by making fun of my ‘man calves’. The fact he couldn’t stay, and caused me so much agony and confusion as a result.

Wrongs and slights big and small, ancient and recent, so many I couldn’t hope to recount even half of them. And not a single one matters to the way I feel about my brother.

We live, we love, we build memories together, we protect each other, we know each other as well as ourselves. We hurt each other through anger or carelessness. And we forgive each other.

We may be partners in crime or bitter rivals in any given snapshot of time, but each of us will always be on the other’s side when it matters. That’s what it means to be brother and sister.

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