He has been gone a week already. The days pass by like molasses. I hate these absences. One more week and he'll be home, back where he belongs. I find things to occupy my time, hoping to make it move more swiftly. I pull tenacious weeds out from between the patio bricks, venting my frustration at this job of his that can call him away at the drop of a hat. I scrub at the mildew that darkens the grout between the bathroom tiles. I do anything to keep myself from dwelling on the fact that HE is not here. Of course it doesn't work. He pervades the atmosphere of our home.

I hear his voice when I dress for work in the mornings. "Take your time darlin". I roll the hose up slower, feeling his gaze upon me. He's not there, but I feel him just the same. When I can lay my hands on a computer, I see his grin in the emails we fire back and forth sporadically during the work day. Emails filled with innuendo and barely contained need sprinkled with "Quit playing around and get the damn thing fixed so you can come home". I wash the car and see his impish eyes in the face of our son before he turns the hose on me, just like his dad. And, I sense him when I tuck the kids into bed and read them their bedtime story. "No, read it like Daddy" So I read it slow, letting the words sink into the dramatic pauses, feeling his hand on my shoulder. Then, I kiss them once for me and once for him.

It is the nights that are the hardest. His worn clothes are still heaped on the floor by his side of the bed. I'm not ready to wash those yet. I undress in the moonlight then slip his Buffalo Bills T-shirt over my head, breathing him in deeply as the soft cotton laced with his lingering scent brushes past my nose. I slide his shorts up over my hips, feeling his hands resting there around my waist. I feel closer to him with his fabrics hugging me-snug, comforting, intimate and more. His scent envelops me, a connection between both our skins. It hums with his electricity.

I climb into bed and see his pillow empty beside me-again. This time I scoot over to his side, my head where his head usually lies, my body in the mattress indentation his frame should be occupying, filling the void with "us". Perhaps tonight I'll be able to sleep.

He was a water sign, I, a Fire.

We could not have been more different. He liked superhero comics, and I was a Disney kid. He was less than 2 years older than me, and he got to have all the fun. "If we were not brothers", I liked telling my friends, "we wouldn't even be friends". Same schools, same address, same parents, same room ... yet we were poles apart.

What started as a necessity and the obvious thing to happen started to hurt very soon. For school, he got the new books, and I got his used ones. He got the new clothes, and I got the ones he had outgrown. It was unfair, I always believed. Why can I not get new clothes too? New books? For school, for play ...? It felt just so unjust. I did get some new pairs on special occasions (Diwali, my birthdays) for wearing on special occasions but that didn't count of course.

He liked George Michael, I liked Prince (we were 80s kids both of us), he liked commercial action movies; I liked the indie cinema. He liked whiskey, I liked rum. And we didn't like each other. To me he was the reason I had almost nothing that wasn't handed down to me; he saw me as a reason he had to behave well - in school, in social gatherings. Coz I used to tell ... I was such a weasel. It was my way of getting even I guess.

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College was, to my disappointment, no different either. We ended up, despite our best efforts, in the same college, and due to my father's persistent insistence, with the same subjects. Only now, he had his own motor cycle, that I could use when he didn't need it (read 'never'), that I could get a ride on for college or places where he was going too. And there were still his used books that passed down to me ... and his older clothes.

We were almost the same dress size now and I was happy in anticipation of my own brand new clothes after all. But it didn't happen so much like that; my parents insisted that being the same size, we can (must) share our wardrobe now as it only makes sense ... in my mind - it was no different - every piece of new garment I got, he would wear too; and, mostly because of my frantic attention to them, damaged them one way or other. I would find missing buttons, and stains needing washing on my favorite shirts, just the days I would need them. Or they would smell awful from his sweat.

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My happy/lucky/breakthrough moment came when he moved to another city for work. I could finally get for myself the clothes I liked. Finally!! Within less than a year though I moved to US for work. And left behind all the footprints; all the unacknowledged love and care of family and my brother. First few months, almost a year was great. I had enough money and freedom to get what I wanted - new clothes, new car, new PDA, new watch, and everything was only for me. I didn't need to share anything with anyone anymore. I was free ... but then, the smallest of the things started to remind me of him ...

I missed my home, family, and also, surprisingly, my brother. How he beat up a guy once to help in a fight in school when we were kids. How he would cover for me when I lied at home for spending time and money with my girlfriend. We never talked about it or acknowledged that it happened ... but it did. All the rumpled shirts were rumpled by me now ... all the lost buttons were lost by me ... there was no one to blame anymore, no one to fall back on.

The first time I went back home, I took several shirts for him. He liked them, and in his usual style, damaged each in some or other way. I winced - but it was fine now because his clothes were finally, irreversibly, forever, for good his, and mine were only mine. The shared wardrobe was no more, nor the shared closets. We had walked our own ways. We had took roots where our destinies had taken us. The differences we had were still there, but there was so much familiarity in them, so much home. I brought back one of his shirts with me. The one he was tired of.

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Since then, every time I go back home, I bring at least one with me ... his old shirts ... it feels like home, it feels safe ... wearing his shirts now. He thinks I'm weird, I think he's too juvenile. We were never alike, my brother and me.


for Chras4: See! I didn't take 3 months ... :-)

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