I thought I’d write something in our birthday week.
We’re two years and a few June days apart,
It would be quirky and funny and sad.
Sad, but uplifting in the end.
I thought I’d write something
about growing up with a heroin addict brother.
It would be brutal of course. It would shock you.
But we are either side of 50 now, me and him.
I’d write something gracious about the long arc of time
— time to heal, resolve, rebuild,
I thought I’d write how certain you are the horror can’t last,
how a person in the fever grip of addiction must surely get better or die,
but wait! It turns out
they can just go on and on and on and on.
Not dying, but not living either.
I’d probably over-egg the Gemini ‘dual personality’ motif,
to be honest.
He the troubled, rule-breaking, charming but delinquent older brother.
Me the goody-two-shoes, girly swot.
School captain. Top in maths. Practising ‘Scheherazade’ on flute while he shoots up in the next room.
I’d write how despite it all —
the stealing, the lying
the sweating, the nodding
the bottomless pit of self-involvement —
I’d always been there. Never given up.
I wouldn’t say it straight out,
but you’d know I’d been a Good Sister.
Well, there were those years I wished he was dead.
I was relieved when a therapist told me I didn’t really mean it
(but how would she know?)
I thought I’d write that achievements come in many forms,
that my brother was a plucky survivor.
I’d use a photo of him as tiny Superman and say
‘not all heroes wear capes, but this one does’. Smiley face.
That being alive at 50 was a victory of courage and perseverance.
I thought I’d write something about love and endurance in our birthday week, sad, but uplifting in the end.
But staring at the screen, reliving the days,
the fear and shame and resentment,
all I can do is write
Junkies are cunts.