There are those whose entire existence is defined by grief. Such was the case with the little boy who lived three houses down from us in the impish rendition of the modern villas that lined the rest of the street. It was through no fault of his own that he grew up haunted by the shadowy absence of a brother he had never met. But one who’d been cited enough times with enough zeal for him to confirm had once occupied the same room as he. And if the glazed expression that forever filtered his mother’s view of the world was not enough to remind him of the hollowness left in the wake of his brother’s tragic and accidental passing, than the jaded crayon portraits of stick-figure people that still hung in the hallways was enough to keep catharsis at bay.
So it was that almost every landmark event in his life—be it his birthdays, his sports day medals, and various graduations—were inextricably tethered by the one thought that forever muted his achievements; ‘what if.’ And this what if, so blinding and so fierce, set the theme for the sort of adult he grew to be.
His walk was like that of a man wading through a viscous guilt, one that was as obscure as death, and as final as it too. He had trouble holding eye contact, finding comfort instead in patterns he’d discover while staring at the swirls of a marble floor, or the intricacies of a persian carpet. With wilting shoulders, disheveled hair, and a reluctant beard, his appearance seemed to mirror the inadequacy he felt for not amounting to something greater; something everyone accept those who mattered could tell, was made fantastically impossible before he was even born.