I remember him as a handsome man, his cardigan slung carelessly over his buttoned-down shirt, which was slightly open at the neck, extending slightly so that one could see a little of his chest hair. I remember his glad brown eyes as he laughed, the handsome smile that cut through so many potential admirers. I remember him at the prow of a boat, standing there jauntily, taking up a pose as he had taken so many formerly. His legs are crossed, as though in a single moment he will unbend them in order to dance. I can almost hear the laughter that radiates from his skin. He is glowing; he is caught in a moment in time. I see these visions in my mind, and then I look at him now, the man who is walking through our house. He is weighed upon, his eyes are filled with pain. He looks wild. His hair has grown out, a tangled mane, and despite my best efforts, it remains uncombed, a wild mess. He will not suffer me to go near him. But it is the look in his eyes that is like a knife; it overflows with pain, so that I cannot move; I am struck by the weight of it.
Sister and brother, I have lived with him forever. I am younger than him, with my brown locks and unhappy eyes, and I remember him comforting me about my beaus and suitors, assuring me that none of them were worthy of me. I remember him dancing with me on the ship, the pleasure ship we had enjoyed so well. And then came the dark times, the murders. Our parents had desired to emigrate from Russia and their visas had been denied; not only that, but in retribution for their having asked, the government had them murdered. And so we came home to discover that we were orphans and Aiden had always taken it harder than I have. He walked through the house, his step cold, firm, but what I did not know is that his mind was a camera, photographing all, so that it would remain imprinted upon his memory. And what I did not know is that everything in the future was to be replaced with that roll of film, the faint bloodstains- they were too polite to leave a mess- and the ugly letter they had left on our kitchen table, informing us of what was to be.
But now it is decades later and we live in America. One would think that it would no longer haunt him so much…but his eyes lost the blind look that once struck him, the fresh rage with which one can plan and achieve so much, and took up a pained one. He feels the pain of the slaughter of our parents, and he feels my pain in the fact that I have nowhere else to live except with him, in this grand mansion that we have kept clean for so many years but which is slowly beginning to fall apart. And so it is, that one day, he took upon himself a vow of silence.
“Vows of silence are for young women who are sewing shirts of nettles to throw over their young men,” I reproached him. “They are not for the old ones, such as we,” I cautioned. But he did not hear me.
“You cannot do this to me!” I protested. But I saw in his eyes that he could, and furthermore, he believed he was sparing me.
I took loose change, coins, and threw them at him. I did this so as to hear a sound, the coins falling to the floor, tinkles and splats as they fell. He paused seven times and looked at me; the look in his eyes was ghastly. And then he stopped no longer, and I could throw coins at his retreating back and even at his front, but he would not move.
I wanted to get him out of the house, to do something despite his silence. There was a grizzled old man who lived down the block, at the edge; his name was Efrom. Efrom was obsessed with his pool and the cleanliness thereof. He owned a beautiful outdoor pool with chlorinated water, pristine in the light of the sun, sparkling like jewels. I walked down the block to Efrom and saw him cleaning his pool.
“My brother could do that,” I called.
“Yeah?” he asked gruffly.
“Yes,” I said, though the tears stang my eyes to see my brother so reduced. Once he had stood at the prow of ships, the future written on his face, and now he would clean this man’s pool.
And so Aiden went to work the next day. He did not speak at all. He took the net and cast it into the water, looking for insects and bugs and dirt, casting it out. He scrubbed at the edges. After time, I saw that he had been replaced by a little speedboat that zipped through the pool, cleaning in its wake. However, Efrom was a stickler for perfect cleanliness, and so, after the speedboat had gone its way, Aiden walked carefully, almost like a machine, picked up the neck, cast it, took out the dirt, and cleaned.
I could not bear to watch it and so I would spend my time at home, or out. Once, a female friend came over, and as we walked about the block, she caught a glimpse of the blue water, deceptively calm. She wanted to see it, so we walked over. More importantly, I wanted to check up on Aiden, and make sure he was fine.
I saw the little speedboat zipping atop the waves of the pool, and I heard Efrom, laughing madly. But I did not see Aiden. Then, turning my eyes to the right, I saw another boat, this kind with a propeller, and a large sack of something underneath it. Strangely, the propelling was turning at high speed. I heard Efrom’s laughter grow louder.
“What is it?” I cried out in alarm. And as I ran toward the shape, I knew, somewhere within my mind, that it was Aiden.
Efrom had pushed him there, on the dock, unconscious, and the boat’s helicopter propeller blades had gouged themselves into his neck so that he bled. But his eyes were not glassy, free of pain; they held that same look, that same immortal look, and even in death, his eyes were full of pain. I screamed and demanded that the man who owned the pool help me, and my female friend who ran forward alongside me, and Efrom, grinning madly, put his hands underneath the propeller blades to stop them while I dragged my brother out from under that boat and onto the concrete that was next to the glittering, shining outdoor pool. But he was dead, and the water glittered mercilessly in the light of the sun.