• Vol. 08
  • Chapter 12
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I laughed at him

‘Open the box!’
       We shouted that so often, my brother and I, shouted at the television. I remember the way that lanky man, the presenter, tried to seduce people, offering to buy the key back from them, geeing up the studio audience.
       ‘Open the box!’
       ‘Take the money!’
       ‘Open the box,’ my brother shouted, till he was hoarse, tumbling on the sofa like a puppy. I just copied him. He was the one who’d said, aged seven, that he didn’t want to be rich, people would just pester you for money. That he’d rather take a risk with the box. There would always be something in it. Always, always.
       ‘No, you’re wrong,’ I said. ‘Look how often people open the box and it’s empty. Look how disappointed they are.’
       But it was me that was wrong. My brother said that there was still air in the box. Air to breathe.
       I laughed at him, but something turned inside me when he said that. I shook it off, or thought I had. But it came back, time and again over the years, and I let it get between us. He’d visit me and I’d cook him a meal and we’d laugh together, carefree for maybe an hour. Then we’d sit down in front of the television and watch something, anything, because talk had died between us. Then it would happen. He’d fall asleep and I would shake with fear that he'd stop breathing.
       He must have felt hurt. After all, he had done nothing wrong. And he didn’t know. Didn’t know the future, anymore than I did. Didn’t know about that dread inside me. He took risks. Enjoyed his life. Visited places and brought me back presents. I always thanked him, but then I’d busy myself with something, say I’d open them later. But I never did; I was always too afraid to open the boxes.