You Killed Him

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You killed my brother.

You told him he was nothing and he believed you.

That’s what you do. You kill people. The very people you were given the responsibility to protect.

You terrorized your child who depended on you for love and survival and starved him of that love. You convinced him that he will hunger for love for the rest of his life because he is undeserving of it.

You beat him at the drop of a hat. You berated him. You humiliated him. You taught him to hate himself.

You instilled fear in him as you tortured and broke the dog he loved so dearly.

You made his mind sick with the chronic trauma you inflicted on him in his childhood years.

You were glad that he was locked up for murder as a child because you were free. Now you could play the role of the victim and the saint.

YOU KILLED HIM. YOU KILLED HIM. YOU killed him.

You haven’t killed me.

Letter To My Brother, A Murderer

8655428106_1f26bf2ccb_zToday is your 17th birthday. I can’t believe it. Looking back at old pictures of you as a little boy, your face is just the same. Only now, your eyes are sadder.

I’m sorry I haven’t written you back. I’ve been desperately searching for the right words, but I don’t think they exist. Please forgive me if I say something stupid.

I too wish that we could go back to the day of my wedding and the dance we shared. It is one of my favorite photos. It reminds me of how much fun we used to have when we were younger. Do you remember the songs and poems you used to write and recite for us? Or when you used to try and break dance? You were such a goof, always making us laugh. Your eyes sparkled, your smile beautiful.

I love you so much. I’ve always cared about you so much, worried about you, wanted to help you. Did you know? Did you know that I loved you all this time? It used to hurt me to see your social media posts about how absolutely no one cared about you. Because I did. And I thought I had made that clear. But it always felt like you just wanted to push me away. I felt like I would stick my neck out for you, or try to help you or love you and you didn’t care. Or it didn’t matter. And I wonder now if you even knew. Or if I went about it the wrong way.

I wish you had trusted me enough to let me in. I wish we knew each other better.

I won’t lie to you: I’m angry. I’m beyond angry with you for what you did, what has happened. I’m angry with our parents too, for both what they did and what they didn’t do. I’m mad at myself for not having had the answers to everything, for not knowing how to help or make things better, and for not being a better sister. I won’t be angry at you forever. But I am now.

I wonder if you can have any idea of the ripple effects of the decisions you’ve made. I wonder if you’ll ever fully know. How you affected her family and friends and friends of her family, how you’ve impacted our family and friends. How it’s affected me, my relationship with my husband, my work, how I relate to people in general.

But mostly I wonder why. WHY? Maybe you don’t even know the answer yourself. Maybe why doesn’t even matter. But the question haunts me.

What do you think lead you up to this point? I could certainly make some guesses, but I want to hear what you think. What were the things that lead you here?

No matter what, I am your sister. And I will love you. I hope you know that your life is not over. The life you knew is over, yes. But your life still has purpose, even if most or all of it is lived in prison. So don’t give up.

Happy birthday, baby brother. You’re not alone.

I hope to hear from you.

Degrees of Responsibility

Whose ultimate responsibility is it when a child commits murder? Is it solely their own? The parents’? The teachers’? The community?

My brother, a minor, was charged with first degree murder. And these are only some of the questions that keep me awake at night.

Prior to this charge, I would look into his broken, tortured eyes and remember his younger self. Images of his sweet, happy face would haunt my mind. I could see him, aged somewhere between 5 and 8, gleefully trying his hardest to break dance in the middle of the living room. I remember the poems he wrote, beautiful. The songs he would write. The laughter. His smile. His face so innocent. So earnest. I, a child myself, was his primary caregiver until about 8. Life was difficult, but he hadn’t been completely broken yet.

Fast forward to his early teen years and the difference in his countenance was extreme. He’d continued to go through years of abuse and neglect even after I’d left. Our father was physically, verbally, and psychologically abusive to us all. Our mother was seemingly indifferent and asleep. It took me a couple of excruciating years to get my younger siblings removed from that place, placing them in my mother’s care. Then, in a devastating blow, my mother gave up on him and told him to go back and live with our father because she didn’t care anymore.

My brother lived with our father from then on, knowing that neither of his parents wanted him around. He felt so alone. His older brothers went off and developed drug addictions and criminal records and struggled with mental illness. As for me, his older sister, I struggled to cope with years of trauma and withdrew from everyone, in a sense, abandoning him as well.

At school, he was constantly in trouble or suspended or expelled. Teachers hated him. He lived to be accepted by his peers, a “rough” crowd. The more trouble he got in, the cooler he seemed to be with this crowd. He saw their acceptance as his only opportunity for a sense of belonging. Teachers and counselors should see these behaviors as cries for help. Yet, no one bothered. He failed classes. He got into drugs. He became addicted. He began stealing things for cash because his parents didn’t provide for him and the cash also helped his addiction.

There was a period of time where there were a slew of suicide attempts. Still, he received no help from anyone. More and more unimaginable trauma continued to stack up.

I begged our parents to get out of their own asses and do something. For the love of God. I researched programs. I called child protective services. I pleaded with them without success. I pleaded with my brother. He would just look at me with those sad, broken eyes. He would say something like “Why even try? What’s the point? I’m just worthless. And I don’t give a shit.” He’d say this with tears in his eyes, red-faced, but with a small, fake (defeated) smile.

So I don’t know if he committed the crime or not. I have no idea. There is no conviction at this time. I find myself going round-and-round in my mind trying to make sense of it all. The sweet, tender-hearted boy I know would not be capable. But he wasn’t that boy anymore. He was broken. Drug addicted. Beat down. Out of his mind and hopeless. Lost.

I know that none of that is an acceptable reason to take someone else’s life. And I am so completely horrified that this person is gone. That this family has suffered such a terrible loss. And that my brother could have had something to do with it. I am simply in such shock that I cannot even process the implications of this.

I’m just wondering aloud about the responsibility. This child, my brother, was raised under such horrendous circumstances. For the most part, without love and without guidance. Only beaten and broken, physically and psychologically. Is the blame solely his? What about the father who beat him? What about the mother who neglected his needs? What about the teacher that felt he wasn’t worth teaching? The brothers that left him in the dust and set terrible examples? The community that saw signs of abuse but didn’t report it? What about me? I knew he was on a destructive path, but I didn’t do everything in my power to intervene. Are we all responsible?

I Wish I Could Ctrl + Alt + Delete You?

Ctrl Alt Del

Clusterfuck

/ˈkləstərˌfək/

noun

A disastrously mishandled situation or undertaking.

As in: I recently visited my prison brother, and the experience was quite the clusterfuck. Let me set the scene…

On the night before the visit, my husband and I attended a concert at the state fair. My husband was terribly bored, leading us to leave early, and somehow turned into an incredibly stupid fight. We both anger-walked out to the car, hardly speaking, and then were pulled over shortly after leaving the parking lot, making the evening even sweeter.

The next day, I left work early for the visit. I pull into the lot much earlier than required and for a split second, I was feeling peaceful, happy to see my brother, and glad to be early to something for a change. I was ready to jam out to some music and collect my thoughts. Then, I realized – SHIT. I don’t have my FREAKING driver license. I had put it in my pocket for the fair and it was left on my nightstand. So I immediately enter panic mode and race home like a maniac, sprint inside, grab my I.D. and drive like a mad idiot all the way back. I’m late, but the visit time hasn’t begun yet so I may be in luck.

I run to the prison doors and enter. A very strange lady prison guard is standing by the metal detector, and continues to have random abrupt fits of laughter. I get through and head to the visitation room. The woman in charge sees me and exclaims, “Oh, no. You can’t do visitation in that.” WHAT ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT, LADY? She responds, “Don’t you know our dress code? Nothing see-through is allowed”, referring to my (new) blouse I wore to work. See-through?? “It’s just my arms!” I say. It’s my freaking brother, for crying out loud. She says it’s not allowed, but fortunately is feeling generous so she also mentions that there is a dollar store around the corner if I hurry.

I have minutes until visitation starts. So I whip around, power walk out to my car and remember that my husband’s jacket is in the trunk. I don’t know if it will work, but I throw it on and run back inside. The aggressive laugher wiggles her finger at me and says jackets aren’t allowed either. EFF. Now I have less than minutes to get to this stupid dollar store. I run back to my car, and pull out my phone to GPS to wherever-the-hell it is. I take off. I’m raging out in my car now, yelling profanities, angry at myself for not knowing the damn dress code, trying not to murder pedestrians with my driving, and fly into the dollar store parking lot.

There are a strange amount of people loitering, having full, pleasant-looking conversations in the parking lot. They all freeze and stare at this maniac that just screeched in. I run into the store and find the clothing section. I grab the first shirt I see, run to checkout and there’s a line. When it’s my turn, I start to swipe my card and freeze. I realize that this freaking shirt is see-through too! I ask the checkout lady to wait and run back to the clothing. ALL THE SHIRTS ARE SEE-THOUGH – WHAT THE HELL IS THIS WORLD COMING TO?! Finally, I see a crappy blue t-shirt that seems solid enough, grab a large, and check out with the sweet little lady as she tries to make polite conversation.

She looks at my shirt, squeals delightfully, and exclaims, “Well isn’t this just the cutest shirt EV-ER! Is this what you do to people on the Facebook that you don’t want to be friends with anymore?” I realize then that the shirt says “I Wish I Could CTRL ALT DEL You” in ridiculous glittery lettering. Dear God. There’s no time. As politely as possible, I snatch the shirt from her and run out the door. I screech all the way back to prison, rip off my nice blouse, throw on this stupid shirt. That’s when I realize that I had grabbed a CHILD’S large. It was stupidly tight and short, making me look even more insane as I sprint past the Giggle Box to visitation, with only 5 minutes left – I made it. The officers try not to smirk at my appearance.

Finally, I’m able to see my brother via video chat. YES, it’s video chat. I get there just in time to pay for the 15 minutes I missed, and add an additional 15 minutes, totaling a $20.88 charge to visit my brother on a computer screen. Absolute robbery. It also costs $10.44 just for one 15-minute phone call. He looked happy to see me as I tried to focus and collect my thoughts after the clusterfuck that just occurred. He asks me how I am and what I’ve been doing, and I reply something IDIOTIC like “Well, not too much, it’s been pretty BORING and uneventful lately – tell me about what’s been going on with you!” Yes, I told my locked up brother (potentially 45 years to life) that I was bored with my freedom. Because I’m an asshole. He actually found it funny, and pointed out the stupidity, which I appreciated.

He then proceeded to tell me the most interesting prison stories. He and his roommates have been making trash bag “hooch” with oranges, sugar packets, bread, water, and other stuff. Apparently, the oranges bring the yeast out of the bread, and when it ferments, it tastes like total shit but lets them get crunk. He also filled a trash bag with loads of water and uses it to work out with, which I thought was very creative of him. He’s thinking of getting some prison tats, and promised me he’d make sure the needles are clean – so that’s nice…

Most interestingly, he told me that he’s been doing a little dating. A couple of floors above him is where the women stay. He and his roommates have been communicating with them via toilet pipes… Yes. Toilet dating. He said if you stand on the toilet, and talk loudly into the pipes, that you can have actual conversations with the ladies up there. He said that you can actually write them as well. How you ask? Well, he said he wrote a little bio of himself, put it in a plastic bag, and flushed it in the toilet. He refers to this process as “sending a kite”, which I feel is a real missed opportunity (why wouldn’t you call it “flying a kite”??). He said if you hold the flusher, that the message goes up a couple of floors and the girls pass it around until someone is interested in him. Then, they begin their courtship. Sounds magical.

And yes, my brother does have schizophrenia, so this story may not be real. But I’d like to think that it is. It seemed real when he was explaining it. My husband suggested that maybe the pipes are full of water, and when he puts the message in the plastic bag, the air carries it upward to the women’s floor. Who knows. It’s prison romance.

And too soon, my visitation time runs out. I’m in my stupid-ass-too-small shirt, and do the walk of shame back out to my car feeling the eyes of many onlookers. I had another engagement to attend after this visit, so I take off my shirt to put my blouse back on and see that when I ripped it off, I also ripped a huge hole in the delicate fabric.

So I decide to call it a day.

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