When I was Nine
It was in the spring of 1994, when I was nine that I experienced an event that would continue to haunt me to this day. It would leave a void that felt both cold and hot all at the same time, and as damp, dark and deep as the most insignificant cave. When I was nine, I lost my brother. You may think, at this point, that you already know my plot, that you figured this is to be another sob story about a sister losing her brother in death, instead of life.
When we were children together, I never imagined that his smile and expressions would invade me like a phantom; peering at me through terrified eyes even though he smiled at me adoringly. What few memories I have with him are always stunted by the realization of how different we are. He lives vicariously through me, my letters. He feels himself to be a failure, but to me, he’s my brother. I love him, as I always have, with a child-like perseverance. Part of me was frozen in time, and I haven’t been able to move past that. I was nine. He was nineteen.
My parents told me that my eldest brother had gone to jail.
“What does that mean?” I asked my Ma.
“It means that he won’t be coming to visit for awhile.”
“Why? What happened? What did he do?”
“He didn’t do anything; he lied about something, but they think he killed somebody.”
I cried because at nine, I understood that he was in trouble, and that I could not do anything to help him.
That day, my younger brother and I had been playing on the playground while my parents were parked, discussing how they were going to tell us. I was probably hanging upside down on the monkey bars when Ma came to gather us up.
Out of the corner of my eye, I had seen one of the boys making several downward stabbing motions. He and another boy would laugh and look in my direction. I had not realized what they were doing. I smiled. I looked in the other direction, towards the street and noticed a figure that was oddly familiar.
It was Ma! It was time to go home.
I yelled for my younger brother, as I jumped down and ran towards her.
I remember the sun shining especially brighter than it had in previous months; spring was coming and that would soon mean summer vacation and softball. It was so nice we flung our winter coats over our shoulder as we ran to the car in our sweat-shirts and boots. As we got to the car doors we noticed Pa was in the driver’s seat, which was highly unusual because he rarely got off of work before 4:00pm and it was only 3:00pm.
“PA!!! What are you doing here?!”
The three and three-quarter miles ride to the farm was noisy with the banter of two children; spurting reports of their days.
The car stopped and we ran into the house; not bothering to shut the front door. I grabbed snacks and we piled onto the living room couch. Smiling, we reached for the remote; asserting who was to choose the first program.
“I want to watch Power Rangers!!!” My younger brother insisted.
“I want to watch Little House on the Prairie! You watched Power Rangers yesterday, it’s my turn!” I replied as I pushed the giant red ‘ON’ button on the remote control and looked up, my Mom had been standing in front of the television, next to her was Pa.
They had grave expressions that resembled that of when they had told us that Grandpa Koskela had passed away.
In the days that followed, the situation would linger throughout every day…at school, at home. Kids taunted us, repeating their conspicuous downward stabbing motions as they continued to laugh. It wasn’t that the kids were cruel themselves, just naive to the situation; I understood although I cried. It wasn’t their fault.
When I was nine I felt a complete lack of control to do anything and fearful that the same may happen to me. I spent many nights awake, imagining what he may or may not be doing. He says nothing really changes there, that’s why he has a hard time writing frequently. His life is monotonous and comparable to purgatory, a holding place for the time being.
The other children had not understood what it really meant.
The trial came and the sentencing passed by without any difference to us. We were young and could not attend the proceedings due to our parent’s discretion. I am quite certain that we were swimming at the lake when my brother was told that he would serve life without possibility of parole, for a crime he did not commit.
As I developed, a continuous ceaseless burning in the pit of my stomach would make me envision him alone in his 5’ x 9’ cell. I wake up at night sometimes because my mind just won’t let it rest. But most importantly, I have never once doubted his innocence. I don’t ever remember feeling embarrassed, just sad. The feeling is similar to wanting so badly to be with them that you swear that you feel what they feel, the despair and agony. The frustration, of being forced into captivity; of wanting to stretch your legs, get some fresh air and deciding to go around the block.
Things that we take for granted, he only dreams of. Even life’s trivial things like dating problems, broken hearts and bill collectors; medial tasks of cleaning the bathroom because we haven’t in a month, and dreading the work week. All these experiences my brother will never know.
When I was nine, I began to realize the world and its unfairness. Now I am twenty-three years old and it feels as though it were yesterday when I lost my brother.