The Crib and the Door


I am her big brother, after all. (PHOTO VIA FLICKR)


I hate him.

He sits there beside her on the couch, one arm around her shoulders. They are laughing, joking, touching, poking. When I am not looking she steals a kiss from him, and when I return my gaze they both jerk back into a position of neutrality, as if trying to convince me that nothing happened at all. I am not a fool.

I linger too long in the room. Though I am sitting in a chair separate from the couch in which the pair have situated themselves, Cassie still shoots me daggers through her eyes, silently demanding me to give them privacy. I pretend not to receive them and focus on the computer that sits upon my lap. Eventually it grows late and Max stands up to leave. He thanks my parents, and me, for our hospitality towards him and he leaves via the front door. When he does so, my parents retire upstairs for the evening and I am left alone with her.

I was four years old when she was born, and when I turned six I began to feel an incredible sense of pride and responsibility towards her. I don’t remember much from the early days of my childhood, but the memories I do have are always so vividly ingrained into my mind, and they always involve her.

Its morning and I have just woken up. My father has already left for work and my mother is still asleep. The first thing I see when I open my eyes is the headboard at the edge of my bed decorated with cartoon animals like a giraffe, a hippopotamus, a rhinoceros, and a gorilla. I can hear some noise coming from down the hall.

I get out of bed. I am still in my pajamas and I havent brushed my teeth yet, but the need to investigate the sound has overpowered all other desires for now. I tiptoe down the hall, making extra sure not to wake my mother, though I am probably being far more careful than I need to be. I enter the living room of our apartment and find that the noise I heard was coming from the television. My mother must have left it on. In the same room there is a crib, and inside the crib my little sister is moving about.

She has just started learning how to crawl. She likes crawling, but there is not enough space in the crib for her to do so. I lift a latch on the side of the crib and lower the wooden bars. Now I am able to reach in and pick her up. She giggles a little and she squirms a little in my arms, anxious to get free. But Im not quite done holding her just yet; I am her big brother after all. I bounce her up and down a little and she laughs louder.  

I set her down on the floor and sit cross-legged beside her. She crawls around me for a while, her eyes and mouth both locked in a permanent smile as she does so. I make sure she doesnt crawl out of the room, and if I need to I pick her up, carry her back, and set her down once again.  

After a while she gets tired. I set her upon my lap and wrap my arms around her and hold her close. Together we look upwards at the television screen and watch our favorite shows. When they are done, I pick her up, place her back in the crib, and raise the bars just as my mother comes in to make us breakfast.

I remember that my mother has told me that Cassie needs to sleep in a crib because it is too dangerous for her sleep in a regular bed; if she falls out she can get really hurt. The crib keeps her safe, she tells me. Maybe its true, but every morning when I let her out I always make sure that shes just as safe when she is with me.

I am her big brother, after all.

Max has been seeing Cassie for a few months now. In that time he has passed himself off as some sort of moral gentleman, but on one occasion he allowed a bout of irrational anger to overcome him, and so he senselessly directed it in Cassie’s direction.

There were many tears that day. Tears that he did not have to see. But I did.

I do not much care for the way he has spoken to her, but I am not allowed to express it. I have accused him of having a temper; she has accused me of treating him coldly. He feels unwelcome, and apparently that is my fault. She tells me that his outburst was a one-time occurrence, and demands that I offer him another chance to get back into the family’s good graces. We argue, she screams, she cries, and then she runs upstairs and shuts the door to her room. I can hear the little lock turn from the other side.

It is not a latch I can undo. And so I remain helplessly here while she is out of reach; unable to be protected. Unwilling to let me try.

That door’s default position these days is “closed,” and it has long stood as a barrier between us. It’s become increasingly clear that, with each passing day I am becoming less and less a part of her life. Perhaps what frightens me most is the possibility that this is precisely what she wants.

But I was there when the first boy broke her heart, and I was there when she did the same to the second. So I remain, and whether she likes it or not, whenever she decides to open that door again, I’ll still be standing there on the other side.