When I was ten I found my big brother crying on the stairs. I asked him what was wrong but he looked up at me in shock like I’d caught him masturbating and scrambled up the stairs, to the room I was never meant to enter. I told my Mum. She said that boys cry, too.
That wasn’t enough for me.
On the staircase leading up to his room there were cans of beer and some cups with fuzzy apples stuffed inside. A bowl of mouldy macaroni. It seemed weird to me that no-one had cleaned up. Everyone was quite content to leave the mess there. Sometimes my brother would cover the cans and plates and bowls with a blanket. To help him forget, I suppose.
I knocked on his door, and he said, what?
I said, why are you crying?
He came to the door and looked down on me. His room smelled sort of spicy. I’ll always remember that. That spicy smell, sort of sweet, maybe a little bit sour.
What? he said.
So I said, again, why are you crying?
He wasn’t crying anymore. He said, come in.
It was the first time I’d been into my brothers room, or at least, it’s the first time I can remember ever going in there. There was nothing special about it. My own room many years later looked a lot like it. Clothes on the floor, curtains closed, television on.
He told me to sit down.
I sat on his bed. The chair in the corner was broken.
Then he said, Dad called.
He wasn’t coming back.
That was it.
And it wasn’t long before we were both sat on the bed, crying, his arm around my shoulders, my head on his chest.