There was nothing wrong with my brother.
8lbs, strong lungs; not unlike what the doctor had said.
This was the one special day that he had that was unequal to mine and never have I written anything truer than that.
But here’s a shameful memory—a confession I’ll call it.
I never wanted a brother; I never wanted Luther.
I remember glowering out the window of the little white room overwhelmed with ‘it’s a boy’ balloons; interrogating the universe about why my luck had been taken from me…
I used to be an only child. Pampered and spoiled. It was no wonder I heard my relatives whisper to each other ‘only child equals the devil’s child…’ one too many times. But I know how I was.
I didn’t want to lose my parent’s attention.
Despite Aunt V’s smile as she carried my brother, my scowl didn’t budge when I glanced away from the glass window. She trekked over to me.
“You’ll be grateful for this day.” she whispered.
Suddenly, she rested the newborn in my arms, slowly and carefully, the soft fabric pricking my skin. I grimaced at her in an instant before forcing myself to look at him.
Even if I live until 70, I don’t think I’ll ever figure out what made my hatred for him disappear that day.
His peaceful face or—maybe his radiance of innocence. I just…
Warmth consumed me when his small hands, fragile and soft, encircled my ring finger and for some reason, it read to me that if vulnerable, I’d care for him. Call it dramatic, but I know what I felt. I broke down in tears after that because that’s when I realized I’d been so so selfish.
Dad and Luther also formed a connection. But it wasn’t warm.
The way he scrutinized Luther as though deciding if he was worth keeping… it must’ve been how he’d chosen his favorite child.
Ever since Luther was brought home, all he did was cry. I was a calmer infant, so already his differences must’ve disappointed, especially Dad.
Bags hung from mom’s eyes every morning and before going to work she called Aunt V to babysit (she could easily tolerate him). If not Aunt V, though, Dad was always the alternative, and I hated that.
He always neglected him. Always.
“Dad, are you gonna check on Luther?” I asked one night during one of Luther’s ‘episodes,’ his wails puncturing every bit of air beneath the roof of the house.
Dad’s brows dipped into a frown. “Later.” He mumbled.
Then an hour went by—and Luther’s screams hadn’t stopped.
Not a minute passed when I finally forced myself off my bed and stormed to my parent’s room, steaming. An isolated crib was all I saw. No Dad.
I marched over, unfortunately attempting to mimic Dad’s frown, but instinct intervened. I gazed down at Luther’s chubby hands, suddenly remembering what happened between us in that little white room. My anger wavered.
“Luey,” I said, my tone softer than what I intended. After a moment’s hesitation, I brought myself to curl my hand around his. “Stop crying.”
I didn’t leave his crib after that.
Was it awe? Or the same warmth I’d felt at the hospital as I continued holding his hand.
I felt—so thoughtless when I realized I needed this déjà vu to stop me from resenting my brother again.
My parents cared for me the most. I was 11 when I realized that was the growth of their favoritism.
Luther was 6 when it resurfaced.
Because I helped him survive his first day of school—‘he was too weak’
Because he refused to socialize-‘He was too cold.’
Already he wasn’t perfect—and he was only 6.
I was old enough to take initiative everytime this unfairness abused him, but I didn’t. Confronting my parents seemed crazy to me, and I didn’t want to experience that confrontation. Not ever.
But that was before he forgot his snow-gear.
Luther was only 6, but it didn’t matter. Despite begging Dad on the phone to bring his gear, he refused—said he’d rather have him locked in class reflecting on his mistake than to have him escape the consequences.
Then he hung up on me.
I tried helping Luther afterward by giving him my stuff during lunch.
I tried helping him—and I thought I did when he gave me this suffocating hug.
“Thank-you!!! Thank-you!! Thank you!!!” he cheered, and the light in his voice summoned the biggest grin from me.
I didn’t hesitate to let him wear my winter stuff on our walk home. I thought it was better than him having to rely on his pockets and his thin sweater hood. He was only 6 afterall, and unlike him, I could easily tolerate the cold wind.
But when I witnessed his frustrated eyes go bloodshot as Dad scolded him for having me suffer instead, I knew I made things worse.
“Dad, I let him borrow them, it’s not his fault!!!!” I jumped in, whereupon I crumpled under Dad’s disappointed grey eyes.
“Now he’ll never learn,” he growled.
If I cared enough to speak up for him earlier, I wouldn’t have capitulated; I would’ve adjusted to the consequences for defending him. I would’ve been the good brother I’d promised to be—if only I’d been more caring.
Luther was an artist and a daydreamer. That made him even more imperfect.
I thank the complaints from his 1st-grade teachers.
The scoldings Luther received were more unbearable than his infant cries.
“Can’t you behave?!!!!” Dad would bellow.
“Even Alias was better than this.” Mom would sigh.
They’d barely let him defend himself.
It was one day when I finally walked in on him struggling for words…
“I-I’m sorry… I just n-never get time to finish my pictures in Art, so while Miss C-Claire is talking in homeroom, I w-work on them.”
Before him, were his drawings of the family.
My eyes bulged as I took in the streaks of color and partially shaded hearts adorning the pictures.
“Luey!” I gasped as I took ahold of a sketch. “These are…amazing!”
He blinked at me in disbelief. “Y-You think so?”
I grabbed another picture from the table— “Yeah!! Just-uh try not to make my head too big next time okay?”
A small smile curved his lips, a bright glint emerging from his glazed eyes. “I prom-”
We froze when Dad clasped my wrist as I attempted to wipe away Luther’s tears. The strength of it frightened me more than the hardness in his eyes. A warning.
“If only you’d focus just as much as you drew Luther.” I gawked at Mom.
“I thought y-you’d like it?”
“Yes, if you’d saved them for Art.” Dad snapped. “Class is for learning Luther! Not for coloring, daydreaming and humiliating this family. Alias knew this at your age!” I looked away, unable to meet his widened eyes. He was only 7.
If I hadn’t been trying to act like the ‘better’ son while mom was pregnant with Luey—he wouldn’t have been exposed to something so toxic.
When I finally took initiative, my brother was sick with the flu.
I won’t lie.
My parents, especially mom, cared for him, but dear God.
The irony…it still makes me laugh.
Days later, I overheard them telling Aunt V that they lost the time for him, so they needed her.
He was only 8.
That’s when I knew.
I had to be there for him, or no-one else will. So I visited him. I started making him soup and telling him stories…
“And that’s how the baboon got a red butt!” I finished one night.
Luther’s raspy laugh was a lullaby to me. “Is not!!!”
“How would you know Rudolph!?”
I snickered “Santa called! He said he wanted his reindeer back!”
“You’re a bully, Al!”
“For saying you’re Rudolph?”
He’d whacked my shoulder.
“No dummy, for calling me a reindeer! Rudolph is cool cause he’s special!”
My eyes softened and I lightly tweaked his warm nose.
“Well guess what, you’re just as special as him you dum-dum.”
His eyes twinkled. “I’m not a dum-dum.”
Brotherly instinct told me he liked it anyways.
Nothing stopped me from visiting him. Even when I eventually caught his flu. Rather, I gave him the large soup portions my parents spoiled me with. I also made us string-rings to symbolize our bonding at the hospital.
I still took initiative.
But imagine what could’ve been avoided if I was compassionate enough to lecture my parents about giving him the attention he deserved.
Since my brother recuperated we’d gotten closer… but I’d be lying if I said it was fully out of affection.
I was…too inconsiderate to confront my parents about how they treated him… so I also bonded with him to distract him. I first took him to Willow Creek Park. We’d either color on the fields or stargazed on the hills. We also played his favorite game: Knights & Kings. The real fun in it began during battle scenes when we tackled each other; I usually let him win.
After K&K was ‘Barber Shop.’ That was my favorite game.
Dad had taught me how to cut my hair, but I knew he wouldn’t do the same with Luther. So I became his barber and soon it became our tradition.
Aunt V was another outlet for distraction, especially since her and Luther were close.
“Perfect.” she said one night.
Luther and I gawked at the ceiling at Aunt V’s finished work. A brown dream-catcher hung above Luther’s bed.
She lowered Luther’s hand when he tried reaching for the strings.
“This catcher shouldn’t be messed with.”
“I wasn’t gonna ruin it!”
Her brown eyes grew warm.
“This has family history Luther. Apparently, my great great grandfather never woke up after he touched the catcher. It even turned white when he did.”
I frowned. “Like Sleeping Beauty?’”
“My grandmother said it’s because he had a burdened heart.” -she smirked- “Your father doesn’t believe it though.”
“Annnndddd what does that mean?” I asked.
Her only answer was a shrug.
Luther has always been perceptive, but after that day, I knew he was noticing the favoritism. He was only 10.
He was telling our parents about his artwork entering this prestigious showcase at school, his eyes enlarged and congested with that gleaming twinkle of his.
But something always ruined everything for him—and it was always my fault.
Dad’s grave look dimmed his excitement.
“Wait when is it?”
“May 8th at…5:30. ”
“That’s when Alias’s soccer game is.” he remarked. “It can’t work.”
My brother’s smile shattered.
“But we’ve been to my tournaments before!” I jumped in. “This is Luther’s first art show. Can’t we miss just one game!?”
“How about we split up.” Mom suggested. “I go with Alias and Luther with your Dad, then you guys can meet us at the game. Sound good?”
That twinkle revived in Luther’s grey eyes and it made me smile in relief.
“Yes!!! There’ll be paintings by the older kids and fancy decorations, Dad you’ll love it!!!!!”
Dad’s nod was stiff and subtle. “I’m sure I will,” he said.
Then halftime came.
During my coach’s lecture to the team, Dad and Luther arrived. My parents were cheering me on but Luther—he looked like he had his heart ripped apart.
I couldn’t take my eyes off him, even during the cheers of our victory and my parent’s praises.
A week later, when I entered Luther’s room to call him for ‘Barber Shop,’ his picture from the showcase was in his garbage-bin, crumpled. Imagine; if I’d realized how special Luther was, his drawing would’ve been hung up on the living-room wall.
I was 17 when I got my license and if I hadn’t gotten it, I probably would’ve lost every way to distract him.
He was getting older, 12 now.
Road trips replaced ‘pretend’ and it became our new escape route from arguments between our parents, triggered by favoritism.
Stopping at a red light during one trip, I said: “I thought you were gonna turn into the Incredible-hulk.”
He scoffed “And I thought you were gonna beat up dad,”
“Why else do I drag us out?”
A giant grin replaced Luther’s scowl, but it lasted a moment too short. Suddenly he shrieked “ALIAS!”
Instinct took over.
I tried swerving out of the way, but the car bolting towards us still managed to plow against the front of the van. Luther and I lurched sideways as we spun left, the tires screeching. Glass-shards snowed outward, nearly grazing my skin. Then everything stopped, reality clarifying when I felt a hand clasp my wrist. Despite his alarmed face, Luther was okay. Thank God.
The paramedics and our parents came an hour later.
“Thank the lord!!” They cried. “I swear if you’d left us!”
They never acknowledged Luther.
I remember him gaping with clenched-fists as I was dragged to the car, and a nudge into the backseat was all the love he got. His bloodshot eyes shut when I placed my hand on his shoulder, silently begging me to remove it. I did…because I lacked the courage to continue supporting him, even if he was going to push me away.
The truth of my brother’s ‘worthlessness’ started changing him.
I wish it was a phase.
He started letting his hair grow, even when Dad tried forcing him to trim it.
He locked himself away from everyone.
His cheerful twinkle faded.
He barely showed emotion.
Luther was 14 when I finally took initiative and knocked at his door.
“Lue. It’s me, open up,” I said.
I inhaled. “Luther-”
It cracked open.
If not for his new bangs I would’ve thought it was Dad because of the hardness they now shared in their grey eyes. God, it was scary.
“Mind letting me in?”
He scanned me, silently questioning if I was even worth his time.
“Why?” he finally said.
“You know why.”
“Actually I don’t.”
“Luther. You’re . . . changing.”
His response shook me.
His blank face altered, twisting into a scowl. “Spare me.”
I stepped forward. “Don’t Luther. I know you more than I know myself! I swear, I’ve watched you grow since-!”
“What do you want a medal?”
“What I want! Is to know why—?”
“Try living somewhere you’re unwanted. Then you’ll know.”
I jumped between the crack when he tried shutting the door. He scoffed.
“After everything they’ve done!” I bellowed, “they don’t deserve you!”
He scanned me again, his glower faltering.
“Aunt V cares about you! I care about you. You’re my brother! I care about you!”
He looked away, hiding a pained look that suddenly appeared on his face.
“Spare me,” he whispered.
I couldn’t recall the tears slipping down my face after he slammed his door; I was too busy realizing how blind I’d been to the effect of this curse.
He was 17 when that dark change completed sculpting him, and all I could do was watch. During those 5 years, I automatically chose to attend college in-state. The idea of abandoning him with my parents was a crazy idea. After everything they’d done to him . . .
I needed to connect with Luther again. I could barely read him.
So I slipped silly-drawings under his door or tackled him with tickles or punches. Everytime, Luther tried pushing me away, but I wasn’t weak-minded like my parents, especially when I was desperate.
Unfortunately, the results of my efforts didn’t come until I got sick with the flu. Again.
I was 22, not 13, yet my parents still managed to pamper me when they should’ve been focusing on Luther. So, I ignored their knocks and calls, and one night I nearly shouted when there was another knock at my door . . . until I heard Luther’s voice.
I didn’t believe it was him until I opened it.
His first ‘get-well’ gift to me was a voluntary-smile, then came reverse déjà-vu. He made me soup and told me stories, he even spent the night.
At first, my success was just a feeling, until he gave me another string ring he made on the night of our argument. Moisture clogged my eyes by the time he finished tying it around my finger.
“Stop being such a cry-baby, Alias.” he joked, a smile lifting his lips. “You’re my brother, right?”
I was. But if I’d been a better brother—if I’d done more for him, that wouldn’t have been his last smile.
After that year, his blank demeanor finally shattered during the banquet of Aunt V’s fundraising gala for her store. The horror on his face was unchanging even when we got to the car. By that time, worry devoured me completely. The last time I saw that much emotion on his face was when he was 12.
“Luther?” I whispered. He stayed as unmoving as the emotions in his eyes. I dared to place my hand on his shoulder just like I did 5 years ago on the day of the accident.
“It’s true isn’t it?”
His quivering voice shook me.
He glowered at Dad through the rearview-mirror.
“At the food-table, I overheard Aunt Villetta’s conversation with her friend,” he explained, his voice low.
“Apparently, if it wasn’t for her, I would’ve been given up.”
The car pulled into a stop that sent us all jerking forward at the sudden red-light.
The tension that struck after…I nearly choked on my breath.
His scoff was quiet. “Amazing, and how can I not believe it?” he muttered. “After everything.”
Mom winced, “Luther you don’t under-”
“Actually I do!!!” he snapped. “You think I haven’t noticed this…favoritism!?”
They both stiffened.
“Don’t Dad!!” he cut off. “You…” he whispered “After so long of trying to convince myself th-that you both still could’ve loved me, I find out this!! And you Dad… you’d already wanted adoption!!! Already, my presence had been eating you alive when you hadn’t even held me yet! Already, you’d alienated me like I was some…contagious-disease!! ALREADY-!!!”
“I-feed-you!” he asserted. “Clothe you and cared for you because it’s…my job!!! I only love you because I have to Luther!”
I still refuse to believe what I heard was real.
Mom…she could’ve been a mannequin.
Then it happened.
He bolted out of the car just before the red-light became green.
Never before, have I screamed so much.
I can’t recall my parents reactions but easily I remember shrieking his name and attempting to chase after him. But Luther’s door swung closed and Dad mashed his foot onto the gas pedal.
Everything from there was a blur until we got to the house.
I remember bolting passed the front door and instinctively sprinting into his room. I remember swinging open his door only to find myself gawking at the unexpected destruction; the punch-marks on his walls, the torn-up photos of us…
A packed duffle-bag was on his bed already stuffed with half his wardrobe…
I remember thinking to myself ‘this isn’t my brother’s room.’
Then I saw him.
I remember collapsing as I took in Luther lying unconscious on the ground. I remember pulling him into my arms; thinking he committed suicide, even as we drove to the hospital—until I started writing this.
I remembered Aunt V’s grandfather, and I remembered finding Luther with the dreamcatcher in his hands; it was white.
I was the Favored child and I thought I got everything.
But when he fell into a coma and had his machine turned off 3 years later in that little white room overwhelmed with ‘get-well’ balloons, I realized…my brother was…he became my everything.
So Dad, Mom…I hope you liked this letter.
I hope…you liked this eulogy.
Lum Chi is a high school senior who’s twice been awarded a Gold Key and American Voices Nomination for her fiction pieces in the Scholastic writing awards. Her work has also been published by the Minnesota Writing Project, by the K’in literary journal, Blue Marble, and a Body without Organs. Currently, she is busy traditionally publishing a three-part young adult novel. When she’s not writing, she’s either locked in her bedroom curled up with a good book or binge watching anime.