(Note: This was written in April of last year. It still applies today.)
“I’m worried about him,” my mother says of my youngest brother, fourteen and taller than all of us, but so young for his age, innocent. She and I sit at the dining table, running the gamut of conversational topics like we do every day. We’ve discussed interior decoration, local showbiz, her friends, mine, the state of our extended family. As is always the case with us, the subject matter grows closer and closer to home until we get down to business: analyses of my brothers, of me.
Neither of us thinks my youngest brother is equipped for the real world, a place of which he and I have always had a more limited understanding because of our limited interaction with it. He attends a small school with a handful of equally oblivious classmates who are probably out of touch with reality. I am the only daughter. Sheltered as we have been all our lives, and sheltered as I still am even in my late twenties, our ignorance of human nature, of people and their darkness, comes up regularly in these conversations between my mother and I. He and I, we are too soft for this world.
“Maybe it will help if he reads more books. It helped me,” I tell her. And it’s true; what I lacked in real life experience, I made up for by living vicariously through people in pages, fictional and non-fictional alike, living less comfortable but more colorful lives than mine. I’ve always believed that reading teaches empathy. I lived hundreds of lives before I even began to live my own.
“I think it helped you too much,” replies my mother in Filipino. “You’ve always been so sad.”
She switches gears. “I got his grades today. They’re outstanding. His lowest grades are in English, but I can’t even complain about them because they’re still good,” she informs me. This is not a surprise; my youngest brother has always gravitated towards maths and sciences. “He has the vocabulary of a writer. He just isn’t one because he doesn’t use it to embellish. All he sees is what’s there, and he will use the barest minimum of words to tell you exactly what that is,” I explain.
In this family, the realm of seeing everything except what’s right in front of my face belongs to me.