My parents are throwing a party. It’s for my fake brother, Johnny. He’s the son they should have had. You may think I’m exaggerating but no, they say it, we should have had a son. Every year they whip out the good china. They light candles and get the scrapbook and there he is. It’s like an emperor’s new clothes thing. You can only see him if you’re cool. I pretend, I say, there goes that amazing Johnny.
We oooo and ahhhh and then Mom draws Johnny’s mug shot. She beams. Oh honey, your first offense. She says it like it’s a good thing. It means he has imagination, he is creative enough to think outside the box. I, on the other hand, am not. I am not even creative enough to get detention. On my report card the teachers write: most likely to be a housewife.
I go to a special school. Here we are so original. We don’t even have a prom king. He’s fiction—he sits over by the bleachers, and sometimes the girls come and throw their underwear. They are all saving themselves for marriage, or for my brother. That’s right. You guessed it. My brother is the prom king.
Today he’s 15 and seven months. We celebrate these, too. His monthlies. They tend to synch up with my period. I get cramps and think, oh, there goes my amazing brother.
I write a poem about it. At least I try. I read it to my parents. They scratch their heads and smile, like I am a monkey, but a lame one. Dad says, next time try it without the rhymes. Mom says, do you remember Johnny’s? His first poem? He was five. They smile. Then they start to cry. I get a bowl. It’s to collect their tears. They like to save these, for posterity.
I want to get away but there’s nowhere to get away to. It’s Jersey. I go to the bleachers. It takes awhile. My bike still has its training wheels. This can be a good thing. It’s good for postponing the inevitable. On the other hand it gives me thinking time. Thinking is bad, generally. It causes clinical depression. This isn’t proven but it’s fact.
When I get there the stars are out. Mom is always going on about them. She says, they look just like your brother. I try to see it and then I do. There he is, dipping. He wants me to be strong. He wants me to be fierce and to take the training wheels off my bike. I try but I just bump into things. I don’t even get injured. I want something cataclysmic, like a sprained ankle, or death. I wonder about it. If my parents would make a scrapbook for me too, if it would say it, Sheryl’s death. There would be a picture of my bike and my brother, pushing me.
“My Fake Brother” first appeared in Sonora Review, 2019.
FEATURED IMAGE: Barbara Trachtenberg – “Hidden Figures” – 2020, acrylic on canvas, 24 x 24.
Barbara Trachtenberg is an abstract visual artist in painting, assemblage and photography. Narrative. Emotion. Color.