Photo: Murphy Ash

I’m finally breathing

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By Skyler Ash

“I’ll leave then,” he says. OK. “I’ll just go.” Then leave. “I don’t want to be here, anyway.” Then go. And in the morning, he does.

I haven’t seen him in two weeks, maybe more. And I’m the safest I’ve felt in years. I don’t hesitate to come home anymore. I don’t sit in the car for a few minutes before I walk in the house. I don’t lock my bedroom door at night. And I can finally breathe.

“Where is he?” my counsellor asks me. I don’t know. “And how do you feel?” I don’t care. “Why?” Because he isn’t who he used to be, I say. This isn’t my brother anymore. “What happened?”

How did we get here?

It’s mid-afternoon in the fall, and I’m alone in the house with him. “I want you to keep these safe for me. It means so much that you believe in me,” he says, placing a 30-day Alcoholics Anonymous chip in front of me. I say very little, because I don’t believe in him. There’s an empty bottle in his room and I don’t believe him at all. I leave the chip on the counter and in the morning it’s gone.

It’s late at night in early winter, and I’m in the living room on the phone with him. “I have a bottle of pills and alcohol. I’m going to kill myself.”  But you don’t have to do this. “If I do it, it’ll be your fault.” I’m screaming at him until I reach such hysterics that you can’t make out a word. He doesn’t do it. “But if I did, it would have been your fault.”

It’s late in the evening in early spring, and I’m in my parent’s room. “Call the police,” he says. “Just do it, go on, do it.” And I do. I get up off the ground from where he pushed me over, I ignore the pain in my knee, I navigate around the broken glass and floor covered in alcohol. “Just do it, I know you want to.” I want to. And I do. I always do, in the end.

It’s early in the morning in the summer, and I’m in court. “I can’t look at him,” my mom says. They bring him out in handcuffs. “Oh God, I can’t look at him, I can’t,” she says. But I can, I look right into his eyes. My mom cries. I don’t. I don’t cry because the night before he attacked my father, and if I’m crying for anyone it’s going to be for the person at home with the bruises, not the one behind glass in handcuffs.

It’s just before midnight in the winter, and I’m in the upstairs hallway. “You’ll be OK. It’s OK.” I can’t do this anymore. “But it’ll be alright. He won’t hurt you,” my mom says. I can’t live here. I can’t breathe. I can’t be here. I can’t. But I can, because I have to. I don’t get a say. But I can’t breathe.

It’s late at night, about two weeks ago, and we’re all in the kitchen. “I’m not a real alcoholic,” he says. Then what have you been masquerading as for the last 10 years? “Well I don’t drink like I used to.” But you still drink too much. “They said I’m getting better. They said they’re proud of me.” But you’re not better. “Yes I am, I am getting better.” But he’s drunk even now.

“I’ll leave then,” he says. OK. “I’ll just go.” Then leave. “I don’t want to be here, anyway.” Then go. And in the morning, he does. And I’m finally breathing.

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