by: Marisa Ybarra
It seemed like any other day. I woke up and my brother wasn’t home like usual. I thought he just went to work early that day.
I went to the living room to watch TV and as I sat there something in the air felt wrong. I couldn’t really put my finger on it but I just didn’t feel right about something.
I got up and went to my brother’s room to make sure everything was alright. On his TV were two envelopes. One was labeled Mom and Dad. The other had my name on it.
As soon as I saw my name I bolted out of the room and went back to the TV, hoping I had strayed into a dream or it was just my vivid imagination. It wasn’t.
At some point, I finally did open the letter.
I never kept it and I don’t remember what it said any more. It wasn’t until my mom got home that I realized the gravity of the situation. It was one of those moments as a kid that you know you have to stay out of your parents’ way, and so I hid in my room. I peeked out once when my dad came home to tell him my brother left the letter and mom was napping. She wasn’t napping. My dad was consoling her as she cried into the pillow. I still had no real idea of what was going on.
Dad eventually called me into the kitchen to talk. The first thing he asked me was: “Do you know what being gay is?” I was at least thirteen or fourteen so I had heard the word thrown around a lot in a more profane manner, but the idea that it might apply to my brother was unthinkable. They said my brother decided to run away because he thought my parents were ashamed of him because he is gay. They couldn’t even say the whole sentence without bursting into tears.
I knew he was wrong.
Over the next few days, we didn’t do anything but sit around the house wondering where he went — and if he would be back. When the time came to interact with people, I was told to tell people that he was sick. I played my part well. A lot of those years I’ve blocked out. I don’t know what day it was or what time of year it was. I don’t even know what my real age was. I barely even remember it anymore.
What I remember was the pain. Nothing eats away at you more than seeing someone you love hurt, and you don’t know what to do to help.
What hurts even more is you find yourself resenting them for the pain they are putting you through.
I hated my brother so long that all my friends in high school thought I was an only child — until about my senior year. I never hated him for being gay (or for all those times he used to sit on me and fart in my face). I hated that he caused me pain, that he caused my parents so much pain. After the first time he ran away, my brother came and left for years. It took me a long time to understand why my parents were so willing to let him back in the house every time — and usually scot-free.
It wasn’t until last year that I understood why.
When the wave of gay suicides started happening last year, I knew that any one of those kids could have been my brother. Had my parents not been so compassionate, I could be here without my best friend. I still held so much resentment toward my brother, but what I hated even more were was lacking unconditional love. I hated it in myself. I finally started to ease of my brother and tried to be more understanding; I started to talk to him more about what he was going through. I couldn’t image a world without him.
Our relationship started get better, but it was still not perfect. I was glad to have him back into my life, but I still felt that at any moment he would pick up and leave like he had in the past.
However, that didn’t happen, and about two years ago he met a wonderful man. Immediately, I could tell the difference in him. He was so happy that I thought something was seriously wrong with him. I kept wondering why he was coming around more often and hanging out with me and my parents all the time. It was really weird — nice, but weird.
Then, I finally met Chris. I really owe the world to him. Seeing the two of them together — and my brother happy and healthy — is nothing short of beautiful. Without him, I wouldn’t have my brother back, the one I used to spend December looking for presents with, when we accidently discovered the truth about Santa. I am eternally in debt to Chris for helping that brother come back to me, and I’m okay with that. There is absolutely no way to repay someone for finding someone who was lost and bringing them back from the dead. All I can say is thank you. For finally making my family complete.
Know that I will always love the both of you forever and unconditionally.
Marisa Ybarra is a senior Digital Cinema student at DePaul University. Ybarra work will one day be featured at a theatre or television near you. She is a lover of life and a fighter for a living wage. You can follow her on Twitter @mybarra 13 or on facebook.