On our family trip to Colorado Springs, my brother and I rode in the back of the car. Each road bump we came across sent our slender bodies up into the air, where we hung—for just long enough to catch our breath—before crashing down and landing in a jumble of limbs.
I had woken up tired, my brain matter the consistency of soup. Alphabet soup, one might say, as my thoughts and words surfaced and bobbed in salty fragments before slipping away. My hands hung limply at my sides, bloated from the rising altitude like swollen dough.
I had no time to eat breakfast that morning and had forgotten to pack snacks for the road trip, so I begged my older brother for a bite of his food. He rolled his eyes and refused to share. He had grown tired of always sharing his things with me: his clothing, his food, our parents’ attention.
His rejection was for the better, anyway, I told myself. As, he was always prone to following the uncanny whims of his taste buds, often selecting an extreme sour over sweet, salty, or savory. Though, the grumblings of my stomach soon betrayed me, and my hunger grew as I watched him gorge. Meanwhile, our father, who drove our car, swerved and swung to avoid re-running over patches of roadkill, blissfully unaware of the sharp-beaked vulture among our company.
As we swirled along the mountain roads, he ate a good too many sour apple candies, flaunting his abundance by scattering wrappers across our shared seat. I tried to ignore him by imagining I was outside the car, on my own, treading across the thin, crunchy snow. I huddled against the AC, pretending the canned air was authentic.
Then, he stopped consuming all at once and told me he felt nauseous. Because I, the wiser, though younger of us, often looked out for him, I laid the back of my hand to his forehead and studied the pallor of his cheeks.
I looked him directly in his watery eyes and whispered, “It’s not easy to love you, but because you are my brother, I do.”
Earlier that morning, I had observed him with longing. But, in that moment, as his mouth began to twist, I hurriedly passed him a recycled paper bag and shielded my eyes as he exploded in sprays of neon slime.
Robin Bissett is a teaching artist and writer from Central Texas.