For my little brother, who says I left him.
We were Christmas caroling for cash
to buy that Liz Claiborne triangle-shaped
perfume, to get a cup of hot cocoa
at the Christmas Festival, to buy something
we were told we’d never have. We told
him to wait, one more house, one
more “Silent Night” and “Joy to the World.”
My fifth-grade teacher at Fieler Elementary
in Merrillville, Indiana, opened the door,
What have we here? She smiled in orange
lipstick as we started to sing, her penciled-
in eyebrows raised, but puckered when we
asked for money to buy Christmas presents
for one another. She gave us cookies instead.
We shrugged our shoulders, Happy Holidays
we said. One more house, our teeth
chattering, we could see our breath,
one more “Away in a Manger” then we’ll
go home, “We Wish You A Mer–”
from the night a scream
What’s that? asked the lady behind
her screen. When people say that time
seems to slow down –it doesn’t really,
it’s protracted– it’s like running
through jalapeno cheddar cheese, that you
put on your nachos at school. I ran through
that cheese to find my little brother
lying in the middle of the icy road
in a puddle of blood trickling from
his face. Joel, please don’t die. He looked
up at me, Stupid, I’m not gonna die. Ambulance
came, a person came out of her Cadillac
wiping her eyeglasses. I didn’t see.
It’s all your fault. my mom said to me.
Anna Abraham Gasaway is a neurodiverse, half-Jewish observer of the human experience. Find her on Twitter @Yawp97.