For as long as I can remember my brothers had a contentious relationship. They both loved sports which simultaneously connected them as well as fueled their feuding. As the one who was ambivalent about sports, I was often caught in the middle.
My brother Felix relished teasing my brother Allen, primarily because he was an easy target. Allen reacted, much to Felix’s amusement, by yelling and screaming and stamping his feet. They created a game together that somehow combined the rules of soccer and baseball. I remember watching them switch back and forth between feet and hands in a bid to score against each other. To this day, I have no idea how the game was played.
Being the larger one, Felix held the advantage in every way. His win was inevitable, and so was Allen’s vocal response. His tears of frustration caused Felix to jokingly call the game “Cry”. The name stuck, and despite his continual losses Allen would continue play–always with the same outcome. I think he was just desperate for that connection, even if it meant the game ending badly.
The competitive ire between them only expanded as they got older. I remember playing intense games of Trivial Pursuit and Monopoly with my brothers that built with a crescendo of fighting and climaxed with Allen clutching the game board in his hands and tossing it up toward the ceiling.
By high school, their relationship was strained to the limit. It seems like not a day went by without some sort of argument or fighting. Then one day, Allen had enough. Whatever it was that Felix said to him caused him to jump off of his place on the couch and smack him in the face. Felix bounded for his seat, and suddenly they were facing each other with fists held high like boxers in the ring. I remember shouting something like “Don’t! Stop!” but by then it was too late.
Allen, who had gained a lot of height and muscle, swung hard as Felix dodged the blow. When he came back up, Allen clipped him in the chin with his other hand to which Felix responded with a hard blow to Allen’s cheek. Allen spun back kicking at Felix as he nearly fell. Felix moved away giving Allen time to collect himself. He dove into Felix. Felix wrapped his arms around his neck and tossed him over an end table, knocking down and shattering a lamp.
And then it was over. They exchanged a few heated words through puffs for breath as Allen left the room.
If not the end of their battles, it would be their biggest fight. Looking back, I was in awe at the time that they could actually do something like that to each other, baffled that my parents stayed quietly in their room when it all went down, and spooked by the memory of their balled up hands–adult hands intent on causing adult damage and pain.
Then another memory flashes back of my own hand, the hand of a 10 year old jabbing a pencil into Allen’s knee. The lead breaks off and sticks into his skin. He screams, and I am jarred from whatever trance I was in. I know I have done something terribly wrong. I do what I can to fix it by removing the lead and cleaning the wound. All the while, I am dreading the moment my father walks in the door. It’s hard to think about this now, hard to imagine what drove me to such violence. It’s even harder to accept that the truth is I was a part of the brothers war.