My younger brother died this past February.
I should have known it was coming. As kids, we were really close, my brother and I. Spent all our time looking for toads in the backyard and chasing snakes. He was the creative type, ended up a writer. Kind of a hot-shot, too. We were still pretty close, even when the money came rolling in.
These last few months, though, things got a little different.
Phillip just sort of faded out of my life. It’s not that I didn’t try to keep in contact with him, it’s that he just shut down. He retreated into that big house he bought like a turtle crawling into its shell. He gradually stopped answering his phone, replying to my texts, replying to my emails.
I guessed it was just growing pains.
Actually, I was more than a little miffed by the whole experience. I’ve always been so proud of Phillip, you know? I was never anything special, sort of drifting through school and out of college with a useless degree and no real ambition for anything. But Phillip… he had real talent. When he put his pen to paper, stories poured out onto the page like golden honey. I always wondered how he could live with all those stories in his head. He told me once that he couldn’t, that’s why he had to let them out somehow… if he kept them locked up inside, they’d drive him crazy.
I really should have known.
I hadn’t heard from Phillip in two months when my phone lit up in the middle of the night. Through my mother’s tears I managed to gather what had happened. I jumped out of bed and drove to her side, the image of my brother swinging from his garage ceiling burned into my eyes. I was numb, thinking that was just like Phillip, to pick such a dramatic death. Funnily enough, it was a few days before I wondered why he would do it in the first place. Maybe that’s what denial really is: not denying the death itself, but denying its implications.
After Phillip died, there was the problem of his estate. He didn’t have a will, didn’t leave a note. What were we supposed to do with his belongings? More than that, what were we going to do with the house?