By: Tejasvi Dantu
A small bedside candle moves smoothly in the breeze, highlighting small areas of the dark, cold room at a time. The air is full of tension, the atmosphere very dark and gloomy. His breathing is heavy and continuous as it follows the loud ticking sound of the clock on the right side wall. As the trees strike the windows of the room, the thunderstorm eliminates the silence. The clock ticking slowly fades, trees swaying now softly in the heavy wind, causing me to notice his face – which is now fully in focus due to the candle light. Straight black hair covers his light brown eyes, his hand shaking forceful as he cuts the almost completely shredded pillow with a kitchen knife. Though it may seem surprising, I am not concerned by his actions, instead I look to the other parts of his room – or as much as is visible through the small keyhole. I think of my mother’s conversation with our estranged father: “Our son is going crazy. He’s mentally unstable and you are just as responsible for him as I am. Please!”, she begged.
A lot has happened before this stage was reached. Looking back now, it seems preventable from the beginning, but my mother and I were too blind to notice. Although only a year older, my brother is my greatest protector. We were very close, shared everything with each other, but I never appreciated him enough. Our dad left for another woman when we were very young, our mom cared about us but was never around. So honestly, we grew up on our own; but by his 14th birthday, things had changed. We would not talk as much, he was aggressive, and spent his time creating graphic and bloody drawings. It was as if he disassociated himself with the world around him. After several intimidating visits to various doctors, he was diagnosed with NCOR (no comprehension of reality) syndrome. A condition in which he is unable to process reality and lives without clarity between what he was imagining and what was actually happening. Lucas would repeat things to me several times before understanding that he had already told me. At first I didn’t pay much attention to his syndrome, and pretended like it did not exist.
Over the next few months, Lucas’ condition became worse. He started getting complaints from school, got into fights, punched another kid in the face causing him to bleed, and spent more time surrounded by the dark walls of his box-shaped room. It was confusing for my mother and I to truly understand what was happening, because we were told he would only be impacted internally. However, the worst was yet to come. By the beginning of his junior year of high school, Lucas was a completely different person. He would constantly make weird noises, act psycho, and use knives to tear up his pillows. He would only talk about guns and drowned himself in everything related to violence. It was hard to get answers from him no matter how much we tried. Ever since our dad left us, mom has always said money is tight, and we couldn’t afford medical treatment for Lucas, therefore leaving him alone to deal with his situation.
Thinking about the past 2 years pushed me into a wave of emotions once again. After a long sigh I walked away from his bedroom door towards the other side of our apartment. The darkness outside the windows still released a gloomy mood, but the decorations – flowers, vibrant colored artifacts, and several of my mother’s paintings, much different from the bloody characters in Lucas’- in the living room comforted my heavy heart. I took a seat on the sofa and began to think about my life in the past few years; too young to remember our father, mother was not around enough for me to build memories with her, and through it all I only had my brother. I picked up the newspaper, immediately noticing the headlines about the death of another teen girl. This had been the 3rd teen murder in the past 4 months and all of town was frightened. All of these students attended my high school, though I was not close with any of them. People were on the hunt for the killer, except they had no evidence to collect and use.
A few nights later, as I was putting Lucas’ laundry in his room I noticed a thick brown book. It was not in great condition: several pages were falling out, the spine was beaten, and it was clear the book had been used. I opened the first page to see the words “Lucas diary, don’t open” written in my brother’s curved small handwriting. In the next few pages he retold his favorite days of 7th and 8th grade, filled with colorful designs of his best friends and teachers but this section was short-lived. After 3 blank pages came a series of dark and sad notes, in which Lucas spoke about his life, people he thought were his friends, students that made fun of him, teachers who always assumed he needed extra help with his work. He described feeling “…isolated as if everyone else in the world stood on one side and left me in one corner of the room”. I felt helpless. Here was my older brother who felt so alone and I did nothing to help him. As I kept turning the pages, Lucas transitioned to no longer being the victim. “I’m going to make them pay for this”, he wrote on one page (them being his “friends”). I wiped my steady flowing tears, reading each and every word on the page, when suddenly he spoke of murderous revenge. My heart started beating much faster than before and some unknown tension filled my heart. He had sketched pictures of his “victims” – the people who had hurt his feelings and contributed to his “isolation”.
I quickly dug through the newspapers to find the one I had been reading a few nights ago. I prayed that the teenagers murdered had no match to the ones I encountered in Lucas’ diary but there was no use, the damage had been done. My brother was being labeled a psycho killer by the media and he didn’t even know because of his syndrome. Feeling miserable and completely responsible for what happened I threw the book on the floor and began sobbing uncontrollably. Sadness flowed throughout my body and I observed my legs shaking. The warm room had suddenly turned freezing cold, my skin felt bare, and I experienced sharp pains that felt as though my soul was being ripped away.
Unexpectedly Lucas had walked in and as he looked into my eyes and noticed the book on the floor, he knew his secret was out. Upon his entry into the room, my sadness had somehow been replaced with anger. I wanted him to explain himself, I want everything to be over and none of this to have happened. I began marching towards him violently and within seconds we were on the floor, punching and kicking each other causing several bruises on my knees and elbows. Disgusted and not wanting to be in his presence I screamed at him, called him names, told him that everyone would be better off if he was dead and ran into my room.
I sat there for several hours unaware of what to do next. Could I tell the police? But he was my brother. Should I remain silent and pretend like I don’t know anything? I felt lost not knowing who to go to, and what to do with the thoughts that consumed my mind.
I had fallen asleep when suddenly I awoke to a loud banging on my door, followed by the screams of my mother. I was convinced that she had read the diary and found no way to process the fact that her son was a murderer. As I gathered myself out of bed and walked to the door, I felt the same way I did after reading Lucas’ diary: sad, in pain, and bare. The banging resumed and I opened the door to see my mother holding his body in her arms with tears filled in her eyes, sweat trickling down her face. She came home to find his door wide open, his feet hanging from the ceiling, a stool knocked over by his bedside. The rest is understandable. As she was narrating the events of the past hour I was in disbelief; I had just spoken to him a little while ago, no he was not gone I told myself. If only I had talked to him more, if only we had paid more attention to his feelings, if only I hadn’t treated him like he was stupid, if only this, if only that. If only I had given him the same love and care he gave me, this would not have happened. I felt the combination of several painful emotions, each one striking my heart sharply, hindering my breathing.
Knowing that he is no longer with me, makes me regret the fact that I hadn’t appreciated him enough. I could have fixed things. Laid my hand on him and said “I will be with you forever”, when he felt alone. Even if the other people in the world stood on the other side, I should have joined him in the one corner of the room.
Moral: Never take things for granted. Always show people you love and care about them.