They Never Die – Alyssa Martin

‘They never die, you know.’ Jaime tells me one night.
I take a long swig of my beer. ‘Who?’
‘Artists. They never die.’ A beat later he says, ‘I’m going to be one someday.’
‘Yeah, sure.’
He throws himself on the floor of our double-wide, reaming his fists into the dank, dirty carpet. ‘YOU DON’T UNDERSTAND! YOU DON’T UNDERSTAND! YOU DON’T—’
‘Shhh, hey!’ I get down on the carpet with him. ‘You gotta understand, we’re not the only people who live here, okay?’
I’m too late, and Andy’s louder than hell tonight.
Someone’s knocking on the outside of the trailer house wall. ‘Shut that retard up, will ya?’
Andy’s lower lip pops out a little. He knows what that word means, but Jim’s a miserable old man who’s reported my brother as a ‘disturbance of the peace.’ I can’t tear him a new one. One more complaint, and we’re gone.
‘Sorry, Jim. Won’t happen again.’
He grunts, mumbles to himself, but doesn’t say anything else. I hear him shuffling away, his walker dragging the dirt outside with him.
I turn to look at Jaime sitting on the floor, aiming to throw one of his fits right against the wall. My eyes wander to the only piece of art we’ve ever owned. Ma bought it before she and dad passed. It’s a small, cheap reprint of Joan Mitchell’s ‘Strata,’ and I only know that because she couldn’t shut up about it.
‘I feel it, Tom.’ He says, looking where I am.
I glance at him, his sweating, red skin. Another tantrum’s coming, I know it. ‘What do you feel?’
‘I feel…everything.
I grin a little by accident. ‘What’s everything?’
He takes one hand and slaps it on his chest, shuffling towards me on his knees, ‘I feel like this,’ he beats his chest for a second time, ‘I-it just hurts. And that-that she, t-the artist lady, tells me why but I j-just can’t read the words, like they’re not like mine, like when I’m t-talking…’
I know that he’s going to cry soon. ‘Do you mean it’s in a foreign language or something?’
‘Yeah…’ Then he giggles a little, and soon after, he starts weeping, howling until his voice cracks in places.
I try not to look at him. I try not to tell him that it’s all going to be okay just yet, not because I don’t love him, but because this happens so many times. It’s exhausting, being the one to have to always try to lay out the tangled, lonely mess of your big brother into straight, neat lines.
‘Jaime, please be quiet!
He whimpers, fear calming him. His eyes dart around the room, and they can’t find a resting place.
He never means it.
Soon enough, I hold him, letting him drench my shirt collar with tears and snot.
‘It’s going to be okay.’
Clasping my free hand in his, he whispers, ‘Tom?’
He hiccups, ‘I wanna be like them. I don’t want to die.’
It hurts to smile. ‘Don’t be ridiculous. You’re gonna be fine.’

About aloudqmu

Aloud is a monthly poetry and spoken word open mic night, and literary magazine. We are based in Glasgow University's Queen Margaret Union, Glasgow, Scotland, UK. Here we wish to publish performance videos from our open mic nights, event updates, and the writing featured in our monthly Aloud Magazine, and some of the writing that didn't quite make the final cut.
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