Ghost Pains

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Young Adult  |  House: Booksie Classic
A boy loses his brother and goes through his grieving process.

Submitted: January 28, 2015

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Submitted: January 28, 2015



When I was younger my brother held me up by my throat and came very close to knocking me unconscious and as I sat in the front row of his funeral I considered how someone who had done me wrong so many times had ever ended up being the person I was closest to in the world. The top of his casket was closed as to not horrify the people shuffling around me with a demonstration of what an I.E.D can do to the human body, but within me I felt as though I could just walk over to his casket, lift up the lid, and there he would be, “Nearly got you didn’t I?” he would say. I’d call him a bastard, give him a hug, and we would go watch the Liverpool match as though nothing had happened. But I couldn’t. He was gone now, and as the members of my family some of whom I had never met began to fill the seats around me I developed a nagging feeling in the pit of my stomach. He had told me before he left that,

“If anyone mentions god at my funeral I will defy every law of nature to come back and haunt you for the rest of my life.” So when a priest who I had never seen before from a church I had never gone to stepped up to the podium to begin the service I felt like the pain exuding from inside of me was not just the pain of losing my brother, but my brother’s way of letting me know that something was going horribly wrong. The priest bowed his head and began to say the first sentence of some prayer never uttered from any of our lips when I jumped from my seat,

“This is wrong, this is all wrong. How can you sit there and pretend this is what he would’ve wanted. He didn’t believe in god and I don’t even know who the fuck this guy is, but we’re all just going to sit here and bullshit our way through this? How is this honoring his memory? How is any of this supposed to be in honor of his sacrifice?” It was at that point that I realized an eighteen-year-old standing in front of his brother’s body screaming at a priest did not make as much sense in practice as it did in theory. My father grabbed my arm and dragged me out of the funeral home before I could embarrass him any more,

“What in the world do you think you’re doing? Do you think any of us want to listen to that guy talk about Trevor? When will you get it into your skull that not everything is about you? You didn’t just lose a brother, Tony. I lost a son, your Aunts and Uncles lost a nephew and your Grandparents lost their first grandchild. Clear your head, wipe away your tears, and come back inside when you’re ready to act like an adult.” I wiped at my face and realized that not only had I been screaming at a priest and my family, but I had been doing it will tears flowing down my cheeks the whole time looking absolutely insane. I watched my father walk back through the doors and then just stared at what waited for me inside. So I took a deep breath, walked down the street, and did what would really have honored my brother’s memory; bought a pack of cigarettes, sat on a curb, plugged my headphones in, and listened to At the Drive in while trying not vomit. Cigarette’s had never really been my thing. So as I sat there on a curb in Battle creek, Michigan pondering how in the world I was going to get through a weekend with a family I had only met one time before it was reassuring and frightening to get a text from an unknown number that read,

Don’t worry, they can’t possibly suck that much.

Sorry, new phone. Who is this?

lols, you’ll find out.

Reinvigorated by the unsolicited motivation I marched my way back to the funeral parlor, sat down in the back of the room, and bit my tongue as speaker after speaker spat out hollow words detailing the life of a person they barely knew. That is, except for my brother’s commanding officer. He stood at the podium in a pair of blue jeans, a grey t-shirt, and a face far too old to belong to a 24 year old. He only said two sentences, but they were the truest statements I’d ever heard in my life, “Trevor was the most irritating son of a bitch I’ve ever met in my life and in the time I knew him he managed to convince me that I liked that about him. I’ll miss him, and I know he’s looking up at us all complaining that there’s no open bar.” My phone buzzed in my pocket as soon as the last syllable came out of his mouth and as I glanced at the front screen I laughed once and had to shove my hand over my mouth to prevent the sounds from escaping any further,

Call him a pussy.

I looked around the room to see if anyone had their phone out, but they must have tucked it away before I could catch a glimpse of who it was. I had my suspiciousness of my cousin Jack or maybe my Uncle Kraig but the thought slipped out of my head as everyone turned to me and it was somewhat obvious that it was now my turn to speak. I sat up from my chair, scooted past the distant cousins whose names I didn’t know, and began my walk down the aisle. Standing at the podium next to a piece of wood holding my brother’s corpse was probably not the most appropriate time to check my phone, but I was so nervous that there was a good chance my shaking hands would let the notecards slip out from between my fingers so I laid them down in front of me and slid my phone out of my pocket for a quick glance,

I bet you won’t quote the Quran.

Staring around the room I didn’t see a single person smile and it just wasn’t sitting right with me,

“Every other person who has spoken today has talked about how smart he was, how courageous he was to join the army, and how much we’ll miss him now that he’s gone. But I feel like there’s one subject that he would’ve wanted addressed that every one else has managed to gloss over; how much of an asshole he was.” No one laughed,

 “Alright, tough crowd. But c’mon, you’re telling me that if Trevor were in this room right now he would’ve wanted all of you to be sad. Of course not! He would’ve wanted you laughing about the best time you had together or the funniest story you could tell about him. So I’m going to go first because hopefully it’ll bring a smile to your faces and take some of the heartbreak away. I was in a Starbucks with Trevor a month before he deployed and we were talking about how he wanted to learn Arabic before he went to Kandahar. I was saying that it probably would take more than a couple Rosetta Stone lessons to understand the language at such a level that you could actually use it to communicate. He stood up from the table and walked over to this Persian looking woman and said, “I’m deploying to Afghanistan in a month and I want to learn Arabic. Hear me out, I was reading the other day that Benjamin Franklin learned French by pillow talking girls in Paris so I was thinking if we get started right now I might be fluent by the time I leave.” She replied, “Get fucked.” And then he said, and this was possibly the funniest shit I’ve ever heard in my life, “Inshallah.” This poor woman stood up from the table and probably set a world record for how quickly she sprinted out of that coffee shop.” By the end of the story only a couple people were smiling, but I definitely was, and I think he would’ve liked that. I sat back down as people began to say their final goodbyes before we drove to the cemetery.

I don’t have any of the Quran memorized but I think that fit the bill

I thought it was super funny, but it also never happened you lying cunt

Yes it did, Jack

Better luck next time, and stop trying to bullshit a bunch of bullshitters

The next day I woke up to another text from the number and it began to hit me who I was actually talking to,

How in the world has it taken you this long to figure out whom you’re talking to?

Trevor…is it you?


How? What? Why?

You don’t have much time left; I have to go soon. Ask away, anything you want.

Why did you leave me? How could you abandon me to these people? I have nothing, you were the only person I had a connection to and now you’re gone and you’ve left me nothing. Where am I supposed to get my guidance? Why do you get to go?

I don’t know, but now it’s all on you now. Now throw away the cigarette and go give me a real eulogy.

And just like that I found myself sitting on the curb, again. With a nearly finished cigarette in my hand and One-Armed scissor blasting in my ears. It was raining now, or I was crying. I couldn’t really determine which one was which anymore, and I didn’t care. I flicked away the cigarette, left the rest of the pack sitting on the curb, and began my walk back to the funeral parlor. I was alone now, but that doesn’t mean I had to be.



© Copyright 2018 Tony Britvec. All rights reserved.

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