Sir Isaac Newton’s third law states that, “for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction” and I like to believe that it works for people, too. For example: presidential candidates; Action: Bernie Sanders. Reaction: Donald Trump. And this works for almost everyone. However, most people don’t know the second person in my action-reaction analogy. My brother was the equal and opposite reaction for my every action. Whatever I liked, he hated, and whatever he liked, I hated. But it always seemed to work out.
Through our lives we were always asked if we were twins. Blonde, blue eyed, almost everything was similar, but he was nearly 2 years older than me. Being the older, and therefore ‘superior’ sibling, it made him mad to be compared to me.
It wasn’t until 3 years ago that we realized how similar we actually were. Art, music, and video games, pulled us together more than ever before. But as it often does, the universe had other plans. At the same time we had this giant awakening, my brother was diagnosed with cancer, and we found ourselves spending a lot more time together. We played music and made art from the time I got to the hospital after school, to the time I left around midnight. Every. Single. Day. I got him into new bands and he got me into new bands and it got us through countless surgeries, blood tests, and the worst of the worst: chemo. My brother took it all in, and I’m sure it sucked, but he never complained, not once.
One of the hardest parts about having my brother in a hospital was doing things without him. Normal things like getting ready for school felt weird without fighting over the sink or yelling about who got to sit in the front seat of the car. I spent as much time with him as I could, and time without him felt like time I had wasted.
In the 9 months that followed, everything that could’ve gone wrong did. Whether it was mutant cells, rare forms, spreading cancer, or, the bone marrow that I donated didn’t take. But through all of this he stayed positive somehow. I still don’t know how he did it. If I was in his place, I wouldn’t be nearly as level-headed. Every time I went to the hospital when things got bad, he would tell me about a new way of doing art and we would test it out. One time we painted with nothing but syringes. Another time, we used pill cups to make flowers. After 8 months of torture, they took him off chemo. And he spent the last month of his life home with us. We got through it the way we got through everything, we listened to his favorite songs, stayed with friends, we laughed, cried, and yelled, when it was necessary. But I guess what this all is, is a thank you. To my brother, because if it wasn’t for him, art wouldn’t be a part of my life.
You may be asking yourself what happens when your equal and opposite reaction is removed from the situation, and the answer can be found in Newtons second and first laws. The first explains that mass will not change its motion unless acted on by a force, and the second is a formula, force equals mass times acceleration, or, the amount that something moves is dictated by the mass of the object, and the impact of the mass that hits it. Picture me, 13 years old, tall for my age but not big by any means, even smaller in personality. Then comes this huge, immovable force, the death of my only sibling, sending me flying, changing my direction, rerouting my life. You become a contradiction and everything you knew to be true about yourself has changed and you have become someone you don’t recognize. We both always had ADHD, but he couldn’t focus on anything, especially not homework, and I constantly got good grades and a high GPA, but after he was gone, my grades dropped, and I did my work but never turned it in, and I slowly became someone I thought I would never be. My parents were given the responsibility of figuring out how to take care of a child who changes personality more than they change clothes and a person who resembles both children they used to have, but also resembling neither, while grieving the loss of a child that could never be replaced. I was unable to be be punished, because after I lost my brother I had absolutely nothing to lose, so I got away with everything, with little consequences other than horrible grades that forced me to reevaluate all the plans I had for my future. I went on a rampage of bad grades, bad choices, and bad friends that I thought would lead me to a place where I would feel better without my brother, but when I came out of this haze I realized I felt the same as I did when he first died. I completely changed my life once more, destroyed everything that made me me, and lost everything that made me my brother. I became a person that I was proud of, but had to deal with the truth that my brother’s memory was lost in the process.
The moment my brother died, I found myself, which is a horrible thing to realize. I found out so many amazing things about who I was, which came along with my growing age, and I noticed that now I was a person that, mentally and physically, my brother would not recognize. This, more than anything else, made me want to revert to the person that I was at the age of eleven, because at least I know that my brother liked who I made myself out to be, and I have no idea if he would like me anymore. I began to think too much about what he would say about his gay, transgender, artist sibling, when he didn’t have the chance to decide any of those things for himself. I am older than he ever got to be, with more experiences than he’ll ever have. Between the ages of 13 and 19, I have gotten my drivers license, moved to a new state, gotten engaged, begun gender therapy, decided the trajectory of my life, and thrown all caution to the wind, and my brother never got a chance to do any of these things, dying at just 15, not even old enough to get his learner’s permit.
I find myself lost for full days imagining what his life would be like. Who would he be, would we still like each other, would he go to college, would he have kids, or a family. Would I have moved away? Would I have the same career? Before he died, I hadn’t even started choir, and I can’t help but wonder if I would have if he was still there.
Newton’s laws of motion lay out what it looks like to be thirteen, already going through more changes than should be legal, and then having your whole life hit by a tornado, destroying what little sanity you have, until all thats left is you, picking up the pieces, trying to rebuild yourself with anything resembling what you had before.