The Beginning of Remembrance
by kyle beachy
Sometimes I'll remember, for example, the period, which some might call a phase and which, speaking realistically, couldn't have lasted longer than two or three months because neither of us had yet developed the faculty for commitment. During this period or phase the primary objective of our days and nights was the secret, small-scale relocation of small and lightweight and otherwise negligible objects. I would slip into my brother's room and choose an object and take it away to some other part of the home, where I would then leave it, sometimes in plain view, other times hidden or partially obscured. Gradually this game of ours would claim more and more of a day until at some point, though neither of us would have admitted as much, it had effectively taken over our lives.
He had fallen, is what happened. In fact I remember him wanting to show me the footage of the fall, remember my view from the couch that afternoon, and the particular shape of my brother's head in front of me. These were the years of staticky rewind patterns stuttering across the warp of a screen. He played his fall then rewound and played it again and again and I sat there watching it and him and in some sense myself until eventually I stood and went down the narrow hall, the only hall, to my brother's bedroom and picked up a magazine that I found flayed on his bed, then headed to the kitchen to hide it up with the plates in the cupboard above the sink.
I want to tell you what it was like once this game really got going, but am not sure I can. It was like living in hotel staffed by workers who have recently decided, by cabal or secret meeting in the boiler room, that they would like you vacate. Our environment was turned against us -- I had a constant dreamy sense that something disappointing was just over the horizon. But there were good parts too. For example, the game was better when I knew he found the thing before he knew it was missing. And it was best on those two or three times when my sisterly instinct told me he had found the thing at that exact moment he realized the thing was missing. This was an alienation to peel back the skin from your head. He was taller than me by this point, and had his little scumstache coming in. And although we were not what anyone might call thoughtful young Americans, the game had the strange consequence of forcing our hands. How valuable, really, was a thing whose absence could go unnoticed?
Imagine the scrutiny our game triggered, the profusion of suspicion. We slept swaddled in doubt.
And it went on, over and over again, our little game of sibling brutality. When he managed to un-tacky my posters, leaving my bedroom walls bare but for a sad geometric storm of grease-slick, and rolled them into tubes he then leaned into a teepee formation in the backyard, waiting in a folding chair with lighter fluid and matches until I came looking for him, and then bending to light the thing and sitting back into the chair and staring lifelessly, watching not me, nor my reaction, but only the flames, this was when the game reached its end. My brother had built a kind of pyre for the guidelines of our system, and this was when I declared the game over by screaming in the helpless voice I had back then, beginning to cry, and going back inside.
Other times I remember him as a tiny little thing always squirming. I remember the day that I realized that my little brother was going to become bigger and stronger than me, and began to understand what power meant, and I remember pinching his soft skin to no avail, holding him two-handed in front of me with his puffy legs dangling and tiny fingers clenching at the very same air that I was breathing, and staring into a boy's face that would not change, no matter how hard I pressed my thumbs into his little chest.
Kyle Beachy is author of the novel The Slide (Dial Press, 2009) and an assistant professor in the MFA program at Roosevelt University, in Chicago.