I used to have a life, I promise. But since last winter it’s just turned into giant loads of crap. The detectives and police who still come by to our house to give us false hope, the hundreds of empty, meaningless Facebook posts about how Graham was a beautiful person with a beautiful soul. Ugh, it makes me want to barf. The worst part is Mom and Dad. After Graham disappeared, it was like they transformed into grey, half-versions of themselves. Like the ghosts of who they used to be, floating from room to room stuffed with memories of their son. I can’t blame them though, I guess I’ve become a ghost too.

Me and Graham weren’t ever like normal brothers. He was my friend. My best friend right before Donald and Mindy. I remember so many little things I had always taken for granted. His smile, too wide and too friendly. His jokes and his lumpy pancakes that he would fry and stack with cascading butter, golden and warm, fresh, tart jam melting into rich syrup. His stupid obsession with the cat videos on the internet and his bubbling enthusiasm that could drown you if you weren’t careful. All of it is gone.

And I keep clinging. Clinging clinging clinging. To the fact that they haven’t found a body. To Graham’s messy, empty room. To Donald and Mindy – excuse me, Elle – even though ever since that night we’ve been drifting farther and farther away. To the past. My walls have transformed into maps, newspaper clippings, photos. Because Graham’s gone – with all the hope we had that we would find him. But I can’t give up. Not for some BS noble reason, just because I have to find him. He’s my baby brother. I – I can’t give up.

These words, these thoughts, flow and fly through my frazzled mind. I’ve stopped eating, stopped sleeping, stopped caring about anything else.  My shirts hang loosely around my frame and my eyes are perpetually lined with black and purple rings. My grades plummeted. I’ll probably fail my sophomore year. The only thing I haven’t given up on is the basketball team, and only because Coach Bennett refused to let me “choke on my sappy stupidity.” It was his way of trying to do what everyone else was trying to do – put my pieces back together. I can still win games with ease, but my heart isn’t in it anymore. My heart isn’t in anything anymore. And it’s all because of that night.

He shouldn’t have been there – he was only in eighth grade. But he’s always been tall and who knows who would’ve mistaken him for another freshman, I should have realized that. Idiot, idiot, idiot. It was just supposed to be me, Donald, and Mindy. It was our first party, our first real party. It had all the stereotypes: drunk kids making out in the coat closet, the smell of chips and cigarette smoke wafting into the air, and the bits of weed sophomores bullied us into trying. Man, I got wasted, so wasted – I had never smoked anything before – and everything just blurred together. Mindy, in her grey cardigan looking out of place and alone. Candy Evans kissing Donald while the guys wolf-whistled, and the girls whispered in amusement. And Donald, who disappeared shortly after with a plastered smile and something strange brewing in his eyes.

God, it hurts to remember.

I didn’t even know Graham was there until Mindy ran up to me and told me.

“Felix, what the hell? Did you know Graham’s here?”

I should have taken him home then, I should’ve, I should’ve. But I didn’t. I didn’t want to drag his sorry butt back to Mom and Dad and land myself in trouble. So, I told him he could stay as long as he didn’t drink anything and wouldn’t let a peep slip out about that night. Stupid, stupid, stupid. It went on for what seemed like forever. Drinking, dancing, and laughing — until I woke up the next morning on a stranger’s tan, smoky couch. And Graham was gone. I scoured the whole house looking for him, the backyard, the attic, everything. My emotions ran from confused, to annoyed, to worried, to panicked, to… gone. That’s when I spilled to my parents, who called the cops, and plastered posters with Graham’s face on the sides of milk cartons and on the faded bulletin board in the community center. A year later, and those posters have browned. Their corners curl up in tired wrinkles — like they know we should be giving up.

I can barely look Mom and Dad in the eye anymore. They never blamed me, or stopped caring about me; but I think they know, deep down, that it was my fault. If it weren’t for me, Graham would still be humming some light-hearted tune in the room two doors down. And I wake up choking on my hot, bubbling shame. It’s always there to rip me out of any peaceful dreams. It’s the cocktail of my life. And I down it everyday.

Donald and Mindy stopped hanging out with me. We weren’t bound together anymore. They found new friends, and I found solace in the soft, navy sheets from Graham’s bedroom, that still felt like him.  

Graham. I miss him. I miss him, I miss him. I miss him so damn much.

Because, honestly, life without him isn’t worth a cent.


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