Today it’s my brother’s birthday. Most people who know me don’t know about my brother, there are no pictures of us scattered around the house and I might be the only family member who still remembers him on his birthday. I am sure my mother thinks of him often because she was the one who, on this day, long ago, nearly lost her life and, shortly after, her son.
I had wanted a brother intensely and that might explain my attachment to a little baby I never met with whom I nonetheless shared physical traits or, at the very least, the same shock of intensely black hair we were both born with.
Had he arrived a bit before his time now, his death would have been prevented but that is neither here nor there. For decades now, he has been part of the family lore we don’t really talk about, the absent thoughts at holiday celebrations, just a little grave where flowers are not placed anymore. When I still believed in guardian angels, I fathomed him my personal one, watching over me, the invisible friend every child has and I could whisper to. Lying on the grass, under the immense blue vault, I imagined him up there, my little personal star, until it sank in that angels, guardian or otherwise, do not have wings and those shining stars are refracted light at best.
Still, every July 26, I like to honor his memory by inventing a life for him – I already know what he would have looked like: my big brown eyes, my dark hair, taller and just as thin. This year I chose for him a career in photojournalism, possibly in war-torn zones, because, as my doppelgänger, he would have taken my free spirit and sense of justice to the extreme. He would have been an inveterate single and the envy of my girlfriends in search of adventures. He wasn’t name after Marcello Mastroianni for nothing.
I have often longed for his company, and his advice because, in the perfection of death, he would never be annoying. I imagine him dropping by now and then, in LA, looking for the keys to my house and a place to crash for a few days, on the way to his next assignment. We’d never row, never disappoint.
This day we spend together, just once a year, has become another tradition in my otherwise faithless existence. A little phantasy movie all his own, wings and all.