Chan was in his bedroom, working on some college assignment when he heard the front door slam shut; followed by his mom’s voice scolding Jisung for his -yet again- shitty report.
“Why are you like this, mh? What did I fail with you?” he heard her say, the sound of her car keys getting thrown on the table echoing in the house. “You’re wasting your life away, and you act like you don’t care!”
Chan took his headphone off, instead listening to what was happening in the living room.
“Because I genuinely don’t care!” Jisung yelled, going in his room. Chan felt the slam of the door from his room.
“Yeah, right, just run away from the discussion, like you always do anyway!”
Chan walked out of his room, just in time to see his mom leave the house. Then, there was the sound of a hit, followed by Jisung’s muffled scream. He knocked before opening the bedroom door, meeting his younger brother punching a wall; low pitched screams tearing his throat apart and tears welling up in his eyes.
“Hey hey hey, you’re gonna hurt yourself, calm down,” Chan tried, speaking softly.
“Go away,” Jisung replied, not even stopping to look at him.
“Please, Sungie, stop, come on…”
“I. Said. Go. Away,” Jisung snarled, pushing his brother away. He winced and looked at his red knuckles, brushing it off the next second. “Shut the fuck up and go away!” He closed the door, but Chan was faster and put his foot in the doorframe, keeping it open.
“I know you’re angry, but I can’t leave you alone when you’re like this,” he explained in a soft voice, trying not to stare at his brother’s nails ripping his own skin open. “I’ll go when you’ll be calmer, ok?”
Jisung broke down crying, panting, and gasping for air like he was drowning in his tears. He was mindlessly scratching the healing scars on his arms, wincing when they’d split open, tiny droplets of blood tinting the tip of his nails.
“Sungie, I need you to breathe and leave your arm alone, can you do this?”
“I c-, I can-can’t,” Jisung said, his arms shaking as he tried to take his own hand away from his skin. A desperate cry left his lips as he started scratching at his cheeks and pulling his hair from his scalp. “I n-need to fee-feel something, anything.” Chan’s heart broke and he stepped in, back hugging his brother, and tightly holding him against his chest, making sure to keep the boy’s arms straight against his body.
Jisung shouted, legs and feet flying in the air, until his voice broke. Fat sobs replaced the screams, his body going limp in his older brother’s arms. Chan kept on hugging the boy tight, making small ‘shh’ sounds to calm him down, trying his best to hide how much his chin was shaking from the tears that wanted to spill from his eyes. He let go of him only when Jisung was motionless, sitting on the ground.
“Please, leave me alone,” Jisung whispered. Chan obeyed.
Secluded in the darkness of his room, Chan was working on some stuff on his laptop in his room. Only his face was lit up by the screen’s light. The door creaked open, his face softening when noticing it was Jisung.
“Wassup,” Chan said.
Jisung sat beside Chan, still not speaking a word. Chan went back to what he was doing, eyes darting to Jisung from time to time.
“I’m sorry,” Jisung finally said. “I went overboard. I had no excuse to talk to you like I did. Yeah. I’m sorry.”
He bit his lip, playing with his fingers. Chan ruffled his hair, a bright smile on his face.
Jisung stayed there, his feet dangling off the bed. He sighed, opened his mouth, and closed it right away. Chan looked at him, pushing his laptop away.
“I don’t know where to start,” Jisung half-whispered. “I just don’t see any purpose in being alive, I guess.” He choked on a sob. Chan put an arm around his brother’s shoulders.
“Keep talking, let it all flow, it’s okay, I’m there, buddy.”
“I’m scared I’ll never get better,” Jisung coughed, tears altering his breathing. “Sometimes… Sometimes, when I come home from school, I stop by the bridge over the train rails.”
Chan swallowed, feeling something twist in his stomach.
“And?” He asked.
“And I’m scared cause each time I truly feel like I’m going to jump.”
Chan felt like the sky fell on him, crushing him with all its weight. He quietly nodded, unsure of what to say, not even knowing if there was something to reply to that. His hand rubbed Jisung’s back.
“I feel like the world’s going to be a better place without me in it. I hate myself; I truly do, you know. I’m not even sure why I haven’t killed myself already.”
“Why would it be better?”
“I keep hurting people. I’m not good. Mom’s always angry because of me. I feel like no one loves me,” Jisung angrily brushed the tears off his face with the back of his hands.
“But I do. I love you Jisung, and I don’t say this cause we’re brothers,” Chan said, softly smiling when Jisung looked at him, eyes shining in the darkness.
“You’re an idiot, then.” Chan snorted.
“Maybe I am. But I still love you.”
Chan’s laptop went into sleep mode, putting the two boys in pitch black. Jisung moved, lying down in Chan’s double bed. He lied down next to him. They remained in silence, staring at the ceiling.
“Do you like yourself?” Jisung half-whispered.
“Mmmm,” Chan hummed. “I’m learning to. I used to hate myself,” Chan started.
“With a face like yours?” Jisung asked, sounding surprised.
“What do you mean?”
“You’re handsome. Your face is literally perfect. I wish I looked like you.” Chan snorted once again, before sighing.
“I wanted to die, too, for a long time, for other reasons. Now, I’m doing better. I still have bad days, but not as often as before. Now I can look at myself and think that hey, I’m not that bad of a person after all.”
“How did you do?” Chan heard Jisung turn in bed, the bedframe creaking loudly at each of his movements.
“I learned that beauty is subjective. My beautiful is someone else’s ugly. Someone else’s ugly is my beautiful. And if I love myself, I can love others better. Jisung, you are handsome. You are kind and funny. I’m not asking you to believe me, only to listen to my words. You are my beautiful, and I’m proud to be your brother, okay?”
A silence fell, only to be broken by Jisung’s tears. He started crying, his whole body shaking at each sob. Chan faced him, now lying on his side, and hugged him. Jisung buried his head in his brother’s chest, crying so hard he could barely breathe.
Chan kept on hugging him and rocking him gently, playing with his hair as he whispered sweet nothings in his ear. He could feel his younger brother’s tears wetting his t-shirt, and it took him the whole world not to cry with him. He needed to be strong for Jisung; no, he had to be stronger to help his brother get up.
“It hurts so much. Everything hurts. Just being alive is too much. I feel nothing, yet I feel too much. I can’t do it anymore; it feels like it’ll never stop. Chan, I don’t know what to do… How can people love me if I can’t love myself? Even my own dad doesn’t love me.”
“Then I’ll love you for two.”
Jisung humourlessly laughed a little, hugging his brother tighter. They stayed like this in the dark, Chan staring at the flickering lights on the ceiling when cars went by their house, feeling somehow lullabied by the purring of the sounds of the wheels.
Chan deeply sighed, feeling his lungs getting full of air as his stomach poked out, before slowly exhaling. His eyes were still teary, and he was nervously licking his lips, trying not to cry at the realisation of how much is brother was in pain.
He had always wondered how scarred the younger boy was from the painful memories of their childhood, but he had never thought it could be this bad. He felt stupid, of course it would be that bad. Jisung held the worst memories. He was younger, yet his mind had trapped the traumatic memories Chan’s mind has erased or changed.
Chan felt guilty. He was his older brother. His role was to protect him, and he had failed miserably. It was like getting repeatedly stabbed in the heart, each throw of the knife telling him he had been the worst brother one could ask for. Chan was stronger, so why is it that he hadn’t been the eyewitness of those monstrous nights? Why hadn’t it been him?
He wished he could have been the one that had had to see their mom getting hurt. He wished his mind were the one remembering their mom’s scream of utter pain as her head hit the cold tiles. If only that man was his dad, and not Jisung’s. Jisung deserved a man that would love him as his son, and not a monster that had abused of their mom in front of his eyes. He deserved to live without those nightmarish memories.
But Chan couldn’t change all of that. He had no say in the matter, nor before nor never. Yet, he still felt guilty. Guilty to have been the one with a loving father, and to have an escape every other weekend. It should have been Jisung.
He kissed Jisung’s hair, careful as not to wake him up (was he really sleeping or was he simply peaceful?). His eyes rolled back in his head; he was growing frustrated of that need to cry.
“I wish I could take your pain away,” Chan whispered, more for him than for Jisung. “If I could take it all for you, I’d do it in a heartbeat.”
The boy didn’t stir. He loosened his arms around him, only for Jisung to grab him again.
“I’m sorry,” he mumbled, “for being like this. Thank you for listening.”
“No worries, Sungie. I’ll always be there for you, okay? I promise it’ll be better one day. Try as hard as you can to see the day you’ll feel lighter. I’ll be there with you.”
“But what if I don’t make it that far?”
Chan gulped, but still tried to smile.
“I’ll still be proud of you for trying. No matter what, I’ll be proud of you, and I’ll love you.”
Chan wouldn’t trade their relationship for anything in the world. Being Jisung’s brother was both the best and the hardest thing in the world, and he knew no bigger pride than this one.