“Hermanos” is the Spanish word for brothers and was the first Spanish word I learned. On a trip to the Yucatán, I visited a cenote, or underground pool. The water was freezing cold as the only sunlight entered through a small opening at the top of the cave about fifty feet from the turquoise blue water. Inside the cave young boys would dive into the water to retrieve coins tossed in by the tourists. As I sat on the side, a young Mexican boy came over and sat beside me. “Hermanos,” he said in a shivering voice as he placed his brown skin arm next to my brown skin arm. “Hermanos,” he said again. “Si, hermanos,” I replied, and he smiled. I gave him my remaining coins and left. In that brief moment I had the greatest feeling of brotherhood I have ever had in my then forty-five year life.
My older brother and I were never close and now that mom has passed the boundary between us has become wider. She was the glue which held everything together. I know this is not the way mom would have wanted us to be and yet it is this way.
My brother has always been an angry person. His anger grew greater during his tours in Viet Nam. As children, he bullied me relentlessly until I learned to protect myself. He is this way, I think, because of our father who was the same. He, my brother, was the first born. Because of his blazing the trail, things were easier for me and I believe he always resented that fact. I was closer to and more like our mom. He was closer to and more like our dad.
I do not believe anger is an emotion that can be easily outgrown. If we permit it, anger grows and festers inside the person until they become blinded by it to the point where they no longer see it as the core part of who they have become. It is so with my brother. His anger metastasized like a cancer cell inside his body. My brother still denies that he is an angry man, but his actions say otherwise.
He still believes I had an easier life than he and for that reason I should pay. He still treats me like his little brother who, as a child, did anything and everything my big brother demanded of me. I did it out of fear, as with our father, not out of love. Through the course of our childhood, he shot me in the head with a bow and arrow and in the foot with a gas powered pellet gun. Of course after each of these incidences, he promised mom he would never do it again, but those promises were empty. An angry person is like an alcoholic. He will always have angry issues unless he learns how to deal with them in a healthy manner.
During our last incident when I returned home to be with mom as she died, he pointed a .38 at me and threatened to “blow my fucking head off.” It was not the stress of the situation. It was the way he has been my entire life. This moment was my prime meridian. I could not change the before, and I knew there would not be an after. I could no longer be around him. I packed my bags and left as soon as I could after mom passed without attending our mother’s memorial service. She had already been cremated so there was nothing else to be done. I did not sleep that last might I spent in our childhood home. I no longer knew that person sleeping in the other room. I was afraid of him for the last time. I take any threats to my life seriously.
How do I disown and end a relationship with the only person left on this planet who has known me my entire life? I do not know, I have made the decision to have no further contact. We have never been hermanos like me and the young boy at the cenote. As far as I am concerned, we are no longer brothers.