Fading Familiarity

I wrapped the arms of my brother’s hoody around me and closed my eyes. I could still smell his Lynx deodorant, the faint smell of sweat from his last Hockey training session, the smear of Nutella on the right sleeve. All at once it was like he was hugging me again, like I was back in his arms as was supposed to be. But his strong arms are missing, his fingers with the tough calices of years of acoustic guitar-playing, palms with dust filled crevices - gone. I suddenly miss the gentle strength of his hugs, and the emptiness of the cotton sleeves of his favourite jumper don’t compare to the emptiness I feel without him filling it. I know that nothing but fading familiar smells and memories fill his sleeves.
My brother always said I had a place in his arms. He was bigger than me, four years older, infinitely stronger. When we were younger I would come home from school crying because I didn’t fit in. “You fit here,” he would say, enveloping me in his warmth, wiping salty tears onto his jumper’s sleeves until my eyes were dry and his sleeves were soaked.
I think of the last hug. He was wearing the jumper I now hold closely around me, rushing out, taking it off as he walked out the door into the sunny Sunday afternoon. I imagine what happened from then. He opened the door of his Mitsubishi Mirage, the familiar squeak of the rubber echoing in his ears as he drove out of the driveway, casually chucking the jumper on the passenger seat as he turned out of the street. I wish our last hug hadn’t been rushed. I wish he wasn’t in a rush – maybe then the accident wouldn’t have happened. Maybe if I’d hugged him just a moment longer he would have been a moment behind and the car wouldn’t have... well I guess it doesn’t matter anymore.
I feel stupid, sitting amongst his things, smelling the smells one last time before they fade away, looking once more at his poster-covered walls and dirty carpet, stained with years’ worth of slips and spills, holding his jumper, my favourite memory of all, but never putting it on in fear of leaving unfamiliar, displaced scents and imprints where they don’t belong. A place where I once belonged – but holds nothing for me now, just as everything else.
Maybe it wouldn’t hurt so much if there were other arms to envelope me again, someone else to say, “You fit here,” other sleeves to wipe the tears that are bursting to flow once more. I wonder if they know that the biggest hurt in life isn’t to die – it’s being ignored because no one wants to face it. I pull the arms of the jumper around me once more and pretend. I pretend that I’ve found my place, that it was simply missing – and for a moment, I almost believe it.

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