by Lisa H


I paced the sidewalk in front of the small bodega, chain-smoking and staring through the night at the hospital across the street.

My brother was in there, looking like some kinda freak in a science fiction movie. Fuckin' tubes in his nose and mouth and arms, even one in his dick, wires comin' offa his head and chest, beeping machines and bottles and bags all around him.

The doctors told me he would probably have brain damage, if he ever woke up. I got in that fuckin' quack's face and told him he better never say 'if' to me again. Cyril would wake up, he had to, 'cause I couldn't live with the alternative.

I used the pay phone again - don't know what happened to my cell phone - calling to check on Cyril. The nurse told me there was no change, but that my Aunt Brenda had finally gone home, leaving a message to be notified if anything happened. Thank Christ she was gone. I could go back without having to worry about running into her.

She'd come in a few hours ago with her friend, Patty, the two hangin' on to each other like they would collapse if they had to go it alone.

She'd started right off with the guilt, asking me why I hadn't called, why she had to hear about it from a neighbor. I held my temper, for Cyril's sake - he liked Aunt Brenda. I told her it was because I wanted to wait until there's was something to tell, when Cyril woke up. The real reason I didn't call was because I didn't want her hangin' around, crying and fretting and praying, worrying those damn beads until I wanted to choke the life outta her with them.

But when she started in on how the old man should be there, how she'd tried everywhere to get a hold of him, that he should know what was going on, that's when I took the gloves off.

I told her he had no business bein' here. Cyril didn't need him, and he sure as fuck didn't care about Cyril. How many times had his own fists come down on Cyril's head? How many times had he told us we'd come to a bad end? I didn't want him here with his fucking "I told you so" attitude. I finally told Brenda if she really wanted to find him, she ought to check out the whore houses on Braxton Street.

I thought Patty was gonna keel over from that one. Brenda just got that 'poor Ryan, you're going to burn in hell' look she'd perfected over the years, and they left, muttering to each other about findin' the chapel and lighting a fucking candle. Yeah, that'll fuckin' help.

I went to see Cryil right after that. I sat next to his bed for a long time, talkin' whenever we were alone. The doctor had told me maybe he could hear us and that it was good for him to hear a familiar voice. Would our dad do this? The only thing he'd want to talk about was the hospital bill, make sure everyone knew he wasn't responsible. We didn't need him, or Brenda, or anyone.

I'd talked to a couple of the guys in the gang, told them to spread the word that I'd let everyone know what was going on. I didn't want anyone else hangin' around, wantin' to hear how it happened, telling me everything would be okay. I hate that meaningless bullshit.

Just me and Cryil, just like it's always been.

I kinda wished Shannen was here, though. She was in Ohio, visiting her sister. She was good in a crisis, fuckin' strong and level-headed. She'd be all over the nurses and doctors, even worse than me, making sure everything was being done for Cyril that could be. I'd call her soon.

After a couple hours, I had to leave. I couldn't look at him anymore without remembering how he'd felt this morning when I held him on the floor of the funeral parlor - dead weight in my arms. And the sound of that pedastal hitting him. It had been a dull, flat sound, but it had been so fuckin' loud. I had to go somewhere that wasn't so quiet so I couldn't hear that sound anymore.

I smoked a couple more cigarettes, then headed back to the hospital. It was past visiting hours, but I didn't really give a fuck.

I had a little fantasy goin' on while I walked. I'd get to his room, and Cryil would be sitting up, smilin' at me. He had a sweet smile, with just a little wicked showin' through - the chicks went crazy for that smile. Anyhow, he'd be smilin' at me, and askin' me when the hell he could get out of there. And then he'd have to give me shit when I told him I'd been too worried about him to take care of Pauly Lockead, the fucker who'd hit him.

The next day I'd sneak food in to him, and we'd hit on the cute nurses, and I'd tell him he sure went to a lot of trouble to get attention. And he'd give me more shit about foolin' around with Lauren in the john, especially when he warned me to stay away from her. And then...then the fantasy stopped. I was at his door, and he was still unconscious, and it was all my fucking fault 'cause I didn't listen to him and leave Lauren alone.

It should be me in that hospital bed, not Cyril. Not Cyril, who had plenty of smarts, but preferred to play the quiet man, letting me provide the brains while he provided the muscle. Not Cyril, who had proven time after time that he had my back, no matter how much in the wrong I might be. It was never a question of right or wrong for Cyril, only a matter of blood. And now it looked like maybe he had spilled his blood for me for the last time.

I rubbed at my eyes, stopping the tears. We don't fuckin' cry. Seamus had taught us that from the time we were babies. You only cry when it's time...and there is no time to cry. I wanted to say that I was sorry, but I kept quiet - I know there's no sorry. Cyril and I had taught that to each other. Whatever happens, happens. We'd joked around that it was like that line from that corny movie - "love means never having to say you're sorry". We'd laughed, but we knew it was true. We would forgive each other anything, no question asked. But if Cyril didn't make it, how could he forgive me? If he did make it, and was all fucked up, would he even know to forgive me?

I went to him and bent over to whisper in his ear for him to wake up. I told him we still had a lot of shit to do, and I couldn't do it without him. Then I sat in the chair next to his bed to wait.

Cyril woke up two days ago. The doctors had warned me, but fuck, I could barely handle it. He was all soft and confused-looking, and his eyes were wide like some fuckin' Disney rabbit or something, and when he said my name, it came out more like "Wyan".

I've spent as much time as I can with him, in between the tests, and brain x-rays, and more fuckin' tests. It's killin' me, to see him like this. I keep waitin' for him to get better, to be the brother I know.

But just a few minutes ago the doctor told me they were certain - Cyril would have the mind of a five-year-old the rest of his life. Fuck.

I'm lookin' at him now, while he sleeps. I know I should stay - one of the nurses told me he cries if I'm not there when he wakes up. That hit me like a fist to the gut, makin' me feel like I was gonna puke. I wanted to tell her my brother ain't no cry-baby, he ain't scared of anything. But that ain't the truth anymore.

So I should stay, but I can't. I'm feelin' sad like I never felt before, not even when our mother died. I can feel my inside's churnin' from the anger and guilt, and my head's pounding - somethin's gonna give pretty soon. I don't want Cyril to see me like this.

I bend over and kiss him, and wipe my tears from his face. "I'm sorry, little brother," I tell him. And I leave.


"Physics" -- Headstones

You rack and ruin
Your odds were thin
It's so hard to guage, when something left him I know there's no sorry
There's no time to cry
The thoughts that remain, I have rewired (Have been rewired) What could it have possibly meant?
Now I'm left here with the questions
And the sudden descent
And all the empty gestures
Calculate the damage
Divvy up my dirty share
Take away the promises
And the complicated stares
We talked of sainthood
And porno magazines
Now I'm missing the `H' on my typewriter keys

What could it have possibly meant?
Now I'm left here with the questions
And the sudden descent
And all the empty gestures
That's why we calculate the damage
Divvy up my dirty share
Take away the promises
And the complicated stares

Better now we never talk
Arguments are fewer
Better now we never talk
I'm done if you are

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