He was soft now, but he used to be wild.
Back before he moved to this new place, this new family, this new life. Back when he was just a six year-old, with energy as untamed as his hair and freckles that danced happily across his face; but never touched the stitches in his chin from falling off the back of a bike, and the ones by his lip, for falling off a chair, and ones on his head, where a crazy lady hit him with a broom for sneaking into her yard.
His smile ran wide and mischievous, dashing through the streets of Brooklyn, without boundaries. Because it was home. Because it was safe. Because his parents were in the middle of a divorce and we were barely out of the free-living 70’s.
He had grandparents who’d walk over with a banana and a hug, and a block that watched over him with a smile.
But now he was in the suburbs with two step-brothers who sandwiched him on both ends – one a year older and one, two years younger. His new brothers, just as lost and scared as he, with the infiltration of two new siblings and a new mom in their home, space, lives; tossed him out, instead of taking him in. They were so young. We all were.
At eleven, I was the oldest and the only girl, finding my way in a dark new maze at the worst time in a young girl’s growing life. Outside, was the jungle filled with mean girls and aggressive boys competing for dominance. Inside, where we lived, was the lion’s den.
The union was not good from the beginning. The husband and wife struggled in their new marriage. The children struggled in their new family. But the fighting was still there, a constant, familiar background noise, with a stronger male lead.
We four little heads often lined the top of the stairs, listening to the voices below, filled with anger, mistrust and disappointment. It was when we were closest, sharing in the uncertainty, waiting for the end of them, of us. When the voices came too close, we scattered in fear, afraid to be caught snooping, even if they could probably be heard from across the street. We knew, getting caught would bring more anger instead of less.
I did nothing to help my brother or ease his transition, because as difficult as mine, or our new brothers was, his was worse.
From every hand, fingers pointed at him.
So, he trudged through each day, slowly losing his spark.
This was not his home. Not a safe place.
The houses here were bigger and more spaced apart. The neighborhood kids, not so neighborly.
He gained some weight.
He lost his smile.
They called him Sloth.
He was soft now, but in a few years when he grew older, he would be wild again.