Photo By Petras Gagilas
I was sitting at the kitchen table. It used to sit in the kitchen in my house before the abrupt and quiet move to my brother’s new house. While it used to be cluttered with paper, magazine, and bills covering most of it, now it was covered in dried food and sticky spots from spilled drinks. The sudden slam of a hand against the glass of the table jolted me out of the haze of homework.
“This needs to stop,” my brother Robert snapped, his bald head and thick beard making him like a cartoon villain.
“What—” I started to say. I wasn’t really surprised that Robert had found a new thing to yell at me about. It was a gift he had. He could always find something that made him angry, and when Robert got angry, he yelled. That was just how he dealt with his anger.
“You know what! It’s so disrespectful that you just come home to work and hibernate in that room. You never do anything for anyone else. You only think about yourself. You’re the most selfish person I’ve ever met. You—”
“SHUT UP!” I screamed in his face.
“You don’t get to tell me to shut up! This is my house you’re in! You’re damn lucky I was willing to uproot my family for you and Dad to have a place to live! It’s your fault this even happened! You just had to go to an Ivy League college! Dad always just gives you what you want, even though he couldn’t afford it and it cost him the house!” he screamed back at me.
“No! I’ve listened to you screaming at me for four months! Now it’s my turn to talk, and your damn well gunna listen!”
Robert stared at me wide-eyed, and for the first time in his life he was speechless.
“Dad never tells me anything! He never told me that he was struggling financially. I would have dropped out or transferred to a community college. It’s not my fault! And uproot? You have to be kidding me!” A cruel, short laugh escaped me.
“Your two kids moved from a two-bedroom townhouse that you hated to a two-story, threebedroom house, and they still go to the same school. How, how, were they uprooted? I was the uprooted one. Out of nowhere I got a call from Dad at school telling me that we were moving in with you and that you and Dad had already gone through the house and thrown away all of the things I had left in my room. Everything I had left behind for safe keeping is just gone because you and Dad decided what was important without talking to me. The angel and me mini statue I got after Mom died is just gone now. The blanket I’d had since I was a baby is just gone. The memorial candle from Mom’s wake is just gone. Everything of mine is just gone.”
“Don’t you ever use Mom against me again!” Robert shouted so loudly that spit hit in me in the face.
“How can I use her against you? She died when I was six years old. I have exactly two memories of her. You got her for twenty-two years; she raised you. All I had of her is just gone now, thanks to you. How does that make me the selfish one? You got to keep everything of yours; nobody went through your things and decided what was valuable.” My voice cracked as my blue eyes filled with tears.
Robert narrowed his eyes and opened his mouth to, I’m sure, berate me about how this wasn’t true. For all his grapping about my not thinking about other people, he sure didn’t seem to think about how his words or actions affected other people. It had always been like that; you went along with whatever Robert wanted, you always had to work with his schedule because his time was the only time that mattered.
“You think I like this? Do you really think I wanna be here? You are such a hypocrite. If I take a few days off and don’t work, then I’m a lazy slob who’s just sitting around your house. If I work eleven-hour shifts every day, I’m avoiding you and being disrespectful for coming back late. You can’t have it both ways!” I gasp for breath as the tears begin to spill.
“You brat! You don’t appreciate everything I do for you!” Robert said with a snarl of his face.
“I’m not finished!” I snapped, my voice echoing off the countertops. “I work as much as I do so I can have money while I’m at college, so I never have to ask Dad for money. I’m not the spoiled burden you think I am. And if I only think about myself while I’m here it’s because if I don’t, nobody else will.”
“Oh, stop being such a drama queen. Everyone is always tiptoeing around you,” Robert said while rolling his blue eyes.
“Right, everyone tiptoes around me, the quiet girl, not the grown man who screams in people’s faces every five seconds for the smallest things. If everyone is always thinking about me, why did I sleep on the couch for three days without a blanket? Because when I first got back from school, I looked for the blanket you gave me to use on my first night I spent in this house. Do you know where I found it? On your bed, because it’s your house and your blanket. Why should I have expected it be there for me to use? So, I had to go out and buy a blanket with money I didn’t have because you never once thought about me. Nobody but me thinks about me. And if that makes me selfish then so be it. I’d rather be selfish than be like you!” I screamed at him. I stood so quickly that the chair crashed against the deck door. “And I swear I hate Dad for doing this to me!”
I started to stalk out of the kitchen. I made it to the stairs before turning around and looking back at him. Robert was still sat at the kitchen table. The light of the sunset coming in through the glass deck door was shining off of his bald head. The light was so bright that it was nearly blinding me, and for a second I thought I saw the silhouette of a woman with blonde hair standing by the door.
“I don’t even have anywhere to storm off to cuz this is your house and I sleep on the couch. I’m not entitled to anything, not even a safe place to sleep.”
I walked up the stairs with the intention of going to hide in my dad’s closet. There I would at least be left alone. Halfway to the top, I saw the family portrait that was hanging on the wall—Mom, Dad, and a sixteen-year-old Robert painted on the canvas. I stared at their smiling faces for a second until I was overcome with a mix of grief and anger that caused me to tear it off the wall and throw it down the stairs with a strangled cry. The sudden crash from the kitchen came just as I threw the canvas down. The loud shattering noise made me jump so high I had to grab the railing to keep my balance and not fall down the stairs. Running back down the stairs, I only poked my head around the wall; the confidence that had allowed me to yell at Robert had left me as I walked up the stairs.
Robert stood over the shattered pieces of the kitchen table. It looked like he had tipped it over in anger and shattered it. He stood there breathing heavily and shaking. One part of me thought I should go over there and make sure that he was okay. But the larger, more resentful part of me wanted to scream at him again. Instead, I shook my head and again walked up the stairs.
“Another thing from Mom gone.”