You won’t be reading this, and it honestly sucks that I never would have sent it if you could. I think the last proper fight we had happened summer of ’93, over a game of Pirates n’ Robbers or some such beautiful idiocy. The thing about growing up is that it teaches us to stop telling the truth. We learn that it’s not socially acceptable or welcome to speak our minds, even if doing so could save a life. “It’s hubris,” we tell ourselves. “Why should my opinion change the outcome of any event, let alone the course of a life?”
And so it is. Just like they said it would be. The meek shall inherit. Generation upon generation of up-and-coming innocents, thinking they’ll be different – a different kind of adult. The kind that speaks whole truths, even – especially – truths unwelcome and awkward. But then, somehow, we don’t. We don’t turn out any differently. I didn’t.
You see, if I knew it might save your life, I would’ve told you that I don’t like you very much. I don’t like the things about you that remind me of things I could slip and fall into myself. I would’ve told you that everything you worked so hard to hide were exactly the things I admired about you – those glimpses of generosity, of pensiveness, of depth and compassion. But you let all of that get warped by what you thought you were supposed to be. You’ve been a real asshole these last fifteen years, you know that? You let that fine mind of yours drown out a fine heart. And it killed me to see my cousin, my big brother, become his parents’ trophy son, rather than the incredible man I knew those times you put yourself in front of a moving car and a raging parent, for me. Remember? I do.
I suppose I could remember just that, only that. But that would be a lie, too. Because last summer, you said to me, “I don’t know if we should help homeless people. It just enables them to stay that way.” And you’re only kidding yourself if you think that’s the real reason you don’t help them. It’s not that you’re unkind. It’s that you want to be unkind, if only being so saves you from turning into a sentimental loser. God forbid. So I’m sorry to say, but I recall ugly moments with you, too. Even death can’t cheat a memory.
The deepest secret that no one knows (or perhaps only I think that no one knows) is that I’m scared of you. I’m terrified that your success means you did life the right way. Because it flies in the face of how I want to live my life. It says I’m supposed to trade passion for pocket money, compassion for self-interest, belly laughter for thin, toothless smirks. I’d hate to think life is exactly as base and predictable as playground bullies will have us believe. What I want to believe is that if you lived 29 more years, you’d unlock your soul and toss the key. You’d realize that the life your parents want for you isn’t always the life you ought to have, but that there’s always time to turn it around and sail in another direction. Against the current and face to the breeze this time. My brother, did you know? There’s always time.
You see, if I knew it might save your life, I would’ve told you that I love you very much. And it is because I love you, that I can’t like who you are right now. I miss fighting with you, learning from you. And even though your death teaches me more than you could ever imagine – more than I can foresee, in ways subtle and waiting to be discovered – I never wanted to learn this way. Never. Fuck you, man. Seriously. You’re such an asshole.
I don’t know if it will save his life, but I’m going to tell your brother these truths. I’m going to be a shoulder for him, even if all he ever does is ignore it. I promise.
Who do I send this to, now that I can’t and wouldn’t have sent it to you? Into the universe, I guess, where all unsent letters go…
All my sadness, all my anger. All my heart,
Irene (Your Pirate Cousin)