It's My Brother, Not Me

“He punched me in the face, Ma!” I shouted at Mom. “How can I let him go like that?”

Mom was crying. She must be distressed at the sight of her two sons fighting with each other. My elder brother, Kenny, is a hot-headed person. It must be because of him that Dad had a heart attack two years ago. I will never forgive him for that. He comes to the house – it’s just me and Mom living here now – as and when he likes. And when he returns home, he will rummage through Mom’s bedroom, looking for cash or jewelry. If he couldn’t find any, he would get angry and shout at Mom. If I happened to be at home, he would grab me and ask for money. But I’m not working. I’m still studying, in year 2 of a polytechnic course. And when he couldn’t get any money, he would punch me.

I had grown up getting used to Kenny’s behaviour. He is much stronger than me. We are four years apart. In my younger days, he would bully me often. Often, I would end up crying to Mom and Dad. But Kenny would laugh at me and even smack me on the head. I remember that Dad was so upset that he beat the hell out of Kenny. Kenny would run away from home momentarily. But when he returned home, I would be the target of his fury. Again and again.

Some people say that this is normal in sibling relationships. But I can’t remember any moment in my relationship with Kenny where he had acted kindly to me. What I remember are the constant bullying, beating and humiliation. Mom used to say that her eldest son probably had some mental issues. He dropped out of school in Primary 5 and had fallen into bad company. I don’t know much about his life outside the home. All I know is that I am his punching bag whenever he gets angry. Sadly, he had also begun to beat Mom. He did not dare to do so when Dad was alive. But now, he would slap and tug her hair when he is home, angry and does not get what he wants.

We tried various ways to stop Kenny from entering the house. Mom had even put a padlock to keep him out. But he would shout and scream until the neighbours peered out of their windows. To avoid embarrassment, Mom would relent and open the doors. To tell you the truth, both Mom and I are afraid of him. We dare not do anything to him. What more, he is big, burly and spots a fierce tattoo on his neck and chest. You may find it amusing but I am terrified at the sight of him.

I did talk to Mom about seeking help. Maybe we should report him to the police for his violent behaviour? But Mom would dissuade me. “He is your brother,” Mom said. “You both are my sons. I don’t have anyone else in this world. If he’s in jail, I will not be able to sleep in peace.” A mother’s love knows no bounds. She pins her hope on Kenny realising his errors and changing his ways. But that moment has never come. We continue to live in fear.

I don’t know how long more I will be able to tolerate his abuse and violent outbursts. At times, I feel like punching him back. But fear would overcome me. I could only grit my teeth and clench my fist. Then, tears would roll down my cheeks. “That’s right,” Kenny would say to me. “Cry, you baby! Or stand up and fight me, sissy!” I felt my whole body shaking each time he taunted me like that. But I dare not do anything. I would turn and look at Mom. Her eyes were pitful and almost telling me, don’t. Don’t fight back. Mom was afraid that I would be hurt. My small and skinny body will not be able to stand up to Kenny’s torrent of kicks and punches. And that’s how I ended up letting him do as he pleases. I learnt to use my arms to cover my head and face when he rained down his punches.

I hope that one day, I will be strong enough to stand up to my brother. But right now, I could only keep mum. When my teachers and friends in school ask me about the bruises on me, I would tell them I had a fight with friends. They thought of me as a rebellious teenager who got into fights and mixed with bad company. But it’s my brother, not me. I just can’t – or rather, I do not know how to tell them that.

Maybe, one day, I will.

Best regards,

Joseph

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