"After my father left us, my mother cried all her sad-sac tears into the meals she fed me and my brother. All those tears are no good for a boy -- they sit in his stomach like broken glass, eating away at his strength. .... All her fears leaked into my brother’s dreams, and his heart became like an attic full of trapped animals."
This is from a story my son wrote a few years back. It's about two brothers, one of whom dies. The narrator is the survivor, obviously. When I reread the story now it is so clear to me how he wanted to be the strong, cynical narrator, but was afraid he was the weak, sentimental brother - the dead one.
The portrait of the sad mother is damning to me, although I'm not divorced, nor had he ever seen me crying, except on his account. But I know he blamed me for being sad. Hell, he blamed me for bringing him into this world. Now we're even.
In the story, the brother dies at war and is given a hero's funeral, but the narrator knows he really died of his own weakness and stupidity and he can't bear his mother's exalted mourning of him.
"People never remember the dead for who they were, everyone’s life becomes the television biopic of itself."
I am guilty of some of that. I want people to remember the good in you. I know you do, too. You were all about the image. People actually think you lived life to the fullest and were always happy. I know better. I remember all of you. You are part of me. Sometimes I feel the best part.
I got a tattoo in your memory. I hate tattoos. Your father hates me for getting it. This morning I looked for it and stupidly missed seeing it for a moment and got scared. But it's there. It will always be there. I can always look at it. You didn't mark me in childbirth. I was too young - my body bounced right back. But you have marked my life. I know you had many fears, but you never accepted living in fear. Losing you was my all-consuming fear. Now I am fearless. But I have no life.