What Siblings Know
"The family is one of nature's masterpieces"
- George Santayana
When I was twelve and my brother David was seventeen, we were home one Halloween night watching a horror movie we'd rented. It was an entertaining but silly movie about a woman who becomes a witch. The woman who played the witch was young and looked like a model. Every time she cast a spell, her long red hair whipped around her face and her eyes got bright green. Once when this happened, my brother said, "Wow, she looks really hot."
I stared at him. I was astonished at what he'd said. I hadn't notice it before, but until that night I'd never, ever heard my brother voice an attraction to a women, even though he was a teenager and supposedly in the prime of his life.
This is what I remember when people ask me when I first knew my brother was gay. I didn't realize he was different until I heard him saying something that most guys his age would say without a second thought.
My brother tried to like girls. The thought of him trying-even by saying something as trivial as "She looks hot" about an actress on television-breaks my heart. Al that time he was trying, through middle school and high school and into college, he couldn't tell me or my parents how hard it was for him. He was all alone.
When I was twelve, David went out of the state for college. He came home for holidays and few weeks in the summer, and he called every week, but every year he seemed to pull farther away from me and my parents. When he was home, he was quiet and distant, and on the phone he was polite but tense, the way people get when they are hiding really big secrets.
My parents were slow, but they weren't stupid. A couple of years after David left for college, when they still hadn't heard mention of any girlfriends or even dates, they became suspicious. My mother started asking me questions, think that I must know something she didn't know, because siblings tell each other things they don't tell their parents. But David hadn't told me anything. He loved me, but he was more independent than the rest of us, and I never felt he needed me.
The next time David came home, I did a terrible thing. I wanted to borrow his leather backpack and I knew he wouldn’t let me if I asked him, so I just took it. But before I filled it with my things, I had to take out his things to make room. There were some schoolbooks and a fancy notebook bound with rubber band. I was curious. I pulled off the rubber band and started reading.
Immediately, I found myself immersed in a world of suppressed anger, self-loathing and tentative romances. I learned more about my brother in those pages than I ever could from him, at least back then. I learned that he’d known he was gay his entire life, but that not until he escaped to college did he admit it to another human being. That human being was his roommate, Rob. I remember him mentioning Rob had transferred dorm rooms in the middle of the semester, and when I read my brother’s journal I learned that Rob changed rooms because he didn’t want to live with someone who was gay.