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Grade
8

He was really a brilliant man.  He was talented and kind. He knew just what to say to make you content, how to bring you back up from the dark.  This man was an older brother, a father figure to so many, someone half the world, it seemed, looked up to. He had an air of power and authority but he used it in exactly the right way.  He had the sweetest voice, gave compliments to anyone he saw. He would always give you the most gentle hug and wrap you up in his big, soft, black fur jacket. It didn’t matter if you had known him for eighteen years or for eight minutes, he loved you for who you were.   

His name, the way he dressed, even the guitar he played, commanded respect and admiration.  When he pulled up to an old bar in his midnight blue Rolls Royce from the 80’s you knew he was special.  He would get out of the car and walk in with some aura of reverence, his scarf trailing in the wind behind him, velvet suit jacket glowing in the streetlight.  It didn’t matter where he was, a royal palace or a shady dive in the middle of Las Vegas, he looked and dressed like a man of some great importance, and that he seemed to be.  

But this elegant man had a life behind your view.  A life only his little brothers would encounter. A life with a shadow of pain, intoxicating him every moment.  It would empty his mind spiraling down further and further and further into a deep void. A void he would fill with alcohol, slowly drifting away into a gin-induced life of destruction.  He turned into a nasty drunk. Drinking day and night and waking up hungover and destroyed, only to go and start all over again.

He had a beautiful girlfriend who loved him.  He had a best friend who cared about him. He had two little brothers who had always been there for him.  But it was not ever enough. He had a deep, dark, hole in his life and no amount of love would fill it. It was a common misconception that because this man had money, a girlfriend, a life out in the world, he was perfectly happy.  A misconception that only poor, sad people without a family self-medicate and complain. But that’s just not how the world works. A perfect man with everything to live for is killing himself with alcohol and no one will recognize the addiction for what it is.  No one sees how dark he is getting. No one notices the grim truth of a dying man, drowning in his own thoughts and abuse. No one recognizes the effect it has on his brothers, on the kids who idolize him. No one cares that a perfect man has a problem.

One night the drunk man snapped.  He started yelling at his brother in the tight, back hallway of a bar.  He came down the stairs to the back door and screamed in his face, ripping his scarf off.  Brothers fight, but this was different. This was a grown man shattering under the weight of his own dependance.  His middle brother was exhausted, but he fought back like he always did, defending himself and the youngest brother, but now sensing that something had changed.  The drunk man was bigger, louder, scarier than he had ever been before. He acted like some murderess specter was controlling his every shout and punch. He broke a mirror with his bare hands, watching the bloody glass fall to the floor at his feet.  The brother hit him, hard, in the arm, wondering what the heck had happened to this man he thought he knew.

The possessed man just turned and walked away down the road behind the building, cursing, bottle of gin in hand and his pain fresh in his mind.  Completely ignoring the mess behind him, he didn’t flinch when his brother ripped a banister clean of the wall and swore at him. Didn't notice him cursing and clawing at his own shirtless torso in terror, never expecting this.  Kicking in the wall and yelling, mad at himself for not protecting the man who had for so long taken care of him. But the man didn’t care about the mess he left behind. He didn't care about his brother.

The man felt less enraged once he was back here in a dank alley that was coated in layers of graffiti.  It was quiet, and comforting. Rain water from the night before slowly dripped down into a puddle in the center of the alley, making a soft rhythm.  The air was cool and damp. It smelled of rain and spray paint, not the usual stink of a city. The man sat down against one of the brick walls and smashed his head back against it, letting the pain clear his mind.  He closed his eyes and tried to black out his thoughts. He didn't want to think about the world right now. The world was a terrible place.

His darkened thoughts were interrupted by footsteps echoing against the tight walls.  A younger man was silhouetted against the flickering streetlight near the end of the alley.  He came and wrapped a big, black fur coat around the man. Then sat down next to him.

He told the man that the middle brother was destroyed.  That he was sitting on the steps in the hallway with the shattered glass holding his broken hand, blood pouring out of his knuckles.  He said he wasn’t crying, just staring at the bolts in the wall where the banister had been ripped out. He didn’t seem to notice the kicked-in dents in the walls, or the shards of glass sticking out of his hands.  He didn’t raise his head when someone came to find him. The youngest brother told the oldest all this. Much like the other, he just sat, unresponsive, and stared at the dark blue spray paint on the opposite brick wall.  

The little brother was getting more than slightly upset.  He was tired of the fighting, tired of the damage, tired of the alcohol.  He was sick of bandaging up peoples’ knuckles and cleaning blood off the floor.  Tired of taking care of his brothers who had always taken care of him. He grabbed the bottle of gin out of the man's hand and threw it across the alley, crashing into the wall.  The glass and clear liquid splattering across the cracked, asphalt floor and filled the inclosed space with the sharp smell of liquor. The older man jumped up in rage and kicked the remaining chunks of glass on the ground, splashing gin all over his dark purple velvet boots.  He punched the wall above the other man’s head with his fist again and again and then sat back down on the ground, holding his hand in pain.

The man leaned over, resting his head on his little brother, and started crying.  Showing a rare expression of some emotion that was neither pride nor anger. The tears ran down his face and onto the fur coat draped around the two men.  The younger one put his arms around the man and softly kissed him on the forehead. Then he got up and helped the older brother to his feet. He put his arm around the man’s shoulders, even though he was much taller, and slowly walked with him down the alley toward the building.  

By the time they reached the entrance to the back hallway all the broken glass had been cleaned up but the banister was still laying on the stairs where it had been ripped off.  The middle brother was sitting on the bottom step, his left hand now wrapped in a bandage. He looked up and the men as they approached and then turned away to hide his face. He didn’t want anyone to see him weak and broken, sitting in a stairwell bloody and hurt, physically and mentally.  

The little brother went over and sat next to him and put his arm around his shoulders, letting him lean into his chest and cry.  The older brother sat on the floor opposite the pair, feeling guilty and like he didn’t belong there. Like he was a monster, hurting the ones he was closest to.  He felt like he had just killed a man. Maybe he had, only not in the physical sense. He had just destroyed three people's minds.

 

One would like to think that night changed the man.  That he fixed his ways and he and his brothers went on living a perfect and happy life.  That no one was seriously injured in the mental or physical state. That the world was okay and the man came back out of the void.  But that's not how the world works. Everything is not magically okay after something traumatic. One day doesn't always change the world for the better.

The man is sober now.  His brothers are safe. The banister is back up on the wall and the blood and glass are gone from the stairway.  But their life isn’t perfect. People need to realize that life has flaws, that it is not always soft and smooth.  That unpleasant and destructive things happen and we learn from them but we don’t learn everything, we make improvement but cannot reach perfection.  We cannot fix the world.

All is not well, but all is better.  

State
MI
Zip Code
48103