I am an older brother. This means, for the sake of this story, that I have tormented a younger brother for a great many years. The good news for all involved is that these incidents are very much a part of the past and amends have been made. At least that's what keeps me able to sleep at night. Sometimes I like to think that, in a vacuum, I would never have made such sport of him. I like to believe that since we spent so much time being such good friends outside the influence of others that I was only reacting to the exhortations of those around me. The kids on our street, for example. My "best friend," to be precise.
It was with this friend that my younger brother suffered the most. Not that I was without blame. I certainly helped in the countdown when we announced to him that "We're all gonna die in five seconds: five, four, three..." And then we would collapse in a heap, leaving him to shake our lifeless bodies shouting, "Come on, guys! This isn't real." Which would have been an easy enough position to maintain if A) we hadn't done it to him with ridiculous and alarming frequency and B) he hadn't been five years old. Much in the same way that we insisted that we had exact robot duplicates of ourselves and we would be right back with them except we could only control them from the other room so we could never be seen with them.
Again: Silly. Harmless. And really awful if you're a five year old looking for some kind of connection with your older brother. In hindsight, of course, I wish that I had the strength of character to stand up to the pal of mine. I wish I could have been the one to rescue my little brother from this endless torture. I could have been this end. Instead, I was working under the pressure of knowing that if I were to stand up to my friend, then I was probably going to end up on the receiving end of whatever agonies that could be unloaded on me that were no longer reaching the original target. I was, embarrassingly enough, using my little brother as a human shield. I gave him up to deflect all of that childhood angst and rage.
And I'm sorry.
We laugh about it now, and I marvel at how resilient he is. I wonder sometimes if I helped make him that way. Or if he's just biding his time, waiting for the proper moment to strike.