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My brother is a rapist.

He is a pedophile.

He's also a thief. A misogynist, a ticking time bomb. A short-tempered addict/alcoholic full of rage. He is the epitome of a nihilist.

There are dozens of men out there in the world who want nothing more than to strangle him, or otherwise physically harm him, because of what he did to their daughters. I was threatened countless times on his behalf. When I explained my own outrage and gave them directions to where he might be on any given day, they'd usually calm down and apologize to me for assuming....

I always told them where he was because I thought he needed a good pounding from the fathers of his victims. But as they'd leave, my stomach would churn and I'd fight back tears. My brother was going to be dead by the time I clocked out of my shift. I couldn't stand to think of him going through that much pain.

What can I say? He's my little brother.

And I love him.

He was a tortured soul from a young age. An outcast for as long as I can remember, even if I don't quite remember why.

We both had speech impediments, affectionately referred to as "lisps" back in the day. For those of you who never had such an impediment, imagine hearing yourself talk perfectly but having everyone tell you you're doing it wrong. It is incredibly frustrating, especially for young creatures who don't quite yet know how to verbalize everything and when they try, it's an endless round of "what are you saying?"

The thing is, when you're a child with a lisp, you hear your words perfectly. When I said "rich" or "sister," those are the exact words that I heard leaving my mouth. But what others heard was "wich" and "shishter," and it made no sense to me at all why no one else heard it the way I said it.

My brother's lisp was far worse than mine, and he could not outgrow it no matter how hard he tried. He was teased relentlessly for this on a daily basis by all the neighborhood kids.

I teased him a lot, too, but you know how it is with family. I was a scrappy little tomboy and was often flat out mean to my brother (this apparently started from the day mom and dad brought him home, although I'm too young to remember that). But lord help anyone else who picked on him in front of me. I wasn't afraid to throw punches or pick fights with boys.

One day after the bus had dropped us off in our neighborhood, we were all walking home. A boy who was usually my friend started teasing my brother for mispronouncing a word.

The next thing I knew, I was staring at the front bumper of my dad's car and he was getting out of the driver's seat screaming at me.

I had the kid pinned on the pavement, pummeling him, and it happened so fast that my dad, who was leaving the neighborhood to go to school, almost ran over both of us. My dad pried me off of the boy, asking what the hell I thought I was doing. I was still throwing punches and kicking, and screamed to my dad that the boy was picking on my brother.

My dad put me down and picked the boy up, telling him to leave his goddamn son alone, then dragged the boy by his shirt collar to his yard, dropping him in the grass.

I was still breathing heavy and angry, and my dad looked at me and just started laughing. "Get home," he told us as he got back in the car and drove away. "And tell your mother what happened."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I'm not quite sure how to tell the story from that point on. I was mean to my little brother and I've never really forgiven myself for it. Even if he'd gone on to be a stellar pillar of the community, I wouldn't have forgiven myself for how I treated him.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

When we were teenagers, our relationship became more complicated. Our parents were divorcing so it was a hard time for all of us. My sister and I took turns hating each other and being best friends, as sisters often do. My youngest brother and I spent a lot of time together, playing silly games and walking around, talking.

We all had our escape mechanisms. When my youngest brother needed to be nurtured, he would hurt himself then lock himself in the bathroom. I'd stand outside negotiating with him until he'd finally unlock the door and let me in, then I'd bandage his wounds and we'd cry together.

Life was hard. We wanted it to be the way it used to be, a young family in a new subdivision with both of our parents around and lots of friends. Everything was so stable and predictable. Then one day my parents shook it all up and dropped all the pieces in front of us and kind of left us alone to pick up what was left and make of it what we could.

All of us started drinking, smoking, and experimenting with drugs. My sister and I conspired to get smokes and alcohol while hiding it from our little brothers, and we had no idea they were doing the same. We all more or less dropped out of school, except for my baby bro, who was determined to graduate no matter what.

For the record, he did that, and he's still the only one out of the four of us who has a high school diploma and college degree.

I started writing when I couldn't get drunk. The words would just flow from me like vomit- I wish I could say it was something more pristine, like ice cold water roaring down Niagra Falls on a hot summer day- but it wasn't like that at all. It was an angry and unforgiving demon that had to spill through the ink on the pages, laying my soul bare and exposed for everyone to mock. Leaving me so twisted and breathless that I welcomed the cold surface of my heart to lean against.

Nothing would save me now, but vodka sure fucking helped.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I wish I could say that I always harbored some soft spot in my heart for my other brother, but that would be a lie. I hated him and everything he stood for. I always told him I didn't give a flying fuck about him because he'd just end up in prison or dead, and that was for the best. He was a nobody, a nothing. A ghost.

As often happens, I didn't know how much he admired me, even while he constantly spat hateful words at me.

One night when I was sixteen, I had spent the night at my friend's house and came home to find obvious signs of my brother in my room. I flew into a fit of rage, but my mother stopped me before I could get to my brother.

"He had a really hard night last night," she told me in a hushed, angry tone. "Your father isn't taking his calls and that boy is all alone and thinks you hate him, and all he wants to do is impress you. He just wanted to sit in your room and be like you for a night. He even brought his own notebook and laid in there all night writing. Why don't you go ask him what he wrote?"

I never did ask him what he wrote. To this day I never have, because I don't want to know.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Then I was nineteen and things still hadn't gotten much better. I woke up one day to a magnificent thunderstorm and it seemed I was all alone in the house. I opened the front door and sat on the patio, relieved to feel the rain pour and the wind whip. I sipped some coffee and listened to music, enjoying the silence and the wrath of nature.

Then my brother walked up to me out of nowhere and sat next to me. He took a hit off of his pipe then handed it over, and the sweet smell of mary jane combined with the smell of rain made everything perfect.

I took a hit, handed the pipe back to him and, holding my breath, said "thanks."

"No problem," he said. "I kind of owe you. I found your stash a few weeks ago and stole some."

"Shouldn't have told me, bro. I thought I just smoked it all."

We both laughed but his lip caught a little and he bit it the way he always did when he was holding back tears. "Well," he said, "I thought it would be cool since I knew you stole a bottle of vodka from me."

I stared out into the storm. "Did I? I don't think I did."

"Yeah," he said. "You did. I was gonna go kick your ass but when I got down to your room you were playing your guitar and singing a song and it was really cool. So I just sat outside your door listening to you and ended up falling asleep."

I exhaled my hit dramatically, watching the smoke whirl and twirl through the wind. "Why didn't you ever want to play an instrument?" I asked him. "We'd probably get along a lot better if we didn't have to talk to each other, but could just play music."

He took a long hit off the pipe and killed the bowl. The pot was gone.

He held his breath as long as he could and then exhaled.

"I wanted to play guitar but you'd never teach me. And we'd never be able to practice because you won't let me in your room."

I pulled my knees up under my chin and kept my eyes focused on the storm. "That's because you're an asshole," I explained. "And I never know what version of you I'm going to get. Usually it's the belligerent sexist. You scare me."

He nodded and went to his room. I dumped my coffee and traded it in for wine.

It was going to be a wasted day.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

It has been years since I've spoken to my brother. We exchanged letters for the first year he was in prison, but it became too complicated for me, too hard. The thing is, he is a monster. He's a predator.

But he's also a human with feelings.

He is now and will forever be defined by the worst that he's done.

No one will ever know that he once chased a car through the neighborhood because the driver intentionally ran over a squirrel, and when he gave up chasing the driver, he ran back to the squirrel to resuscitate him.  

He performed CPR on a squirrel.

It's a dark joke in our family: put my brother in a room full of babies and animals and he is the kindest, sweetest, most compassionate man you will ever meet.

We don't really laugh at the joke. We know that once those babies are older, he can't be around them. It makes it difficult to explain to my nieces, who've never really spent time with him due to his time in prison, that he is where is because.... what?

What do we tell them? At six and nine years old, my brother would move heaven and earth to protect them from any harm whatsoever. But when he gets out, they will be teenagers.

The very girls he would jump in front of a bullet for now are the very girls we have to protect him from when he's free.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

This brings me to the difficulty of writing this diary.

I know and love my brother. I do. I love him.

But I fear him at the same time.

I see comments on this site sometimes that seek revenge against sexual predators and I cringe. Perhaps I'm a coward, but I don't want to be that person who defends child molesters and rapists, besides to say that wishing the same upon them is a very sick thing.

I want an end to rape culture. I want an end to violent misogyny.

But I think that a lot of times we really miss the mark when we discuss such things. We can't end it if we don't stop whatever it is that makes men do this.

I don't know what that is.

I know that my brother is a sweet, sensitive, intelligent and loving man who sometimes can't control himself when in the presence of young, vulnerable young women.

Sometimes I think I'll never know why.

And I think I'll never know why because we define people by the worst of what they are. We lock them up and hope they get what they deserve.

But we never see the person behind the evil.

The person that knows what they're doing is wrong, but doesn't know how to stop doing it.

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