Homemade Apple Vinegar
I have gotten to know my brother Belčo gradually, from one All Souls’ Day to another. My grandmother used to take me to the graveyard, she would point at the place and say there’s your little brother.
I had a lot of questions back then. Was anybody telling him about me as I was told about him. Did he also have a granny next to him now, who would tell him there’s your little sister. And how could he have another granny, when ours was next to me. For it was true that I would only see him when I die and it was true that I died every time I wanted to hug him.
Maybe I was a bit relieved when my grandpa died. For a long time I used to think that he was the only one to take up the responsibility — he died on purpose, so that my brother is not alone. There was some logic in us being divided like that: my little brother was baptized with my grandpa’s name, that is why they’re together, I was baptized with my granny’s name, and with her we were on the other side of the earth.
Even though my little brother was older, he has always remained smaller than my. I have long outlived his hours. And they were not many. He was born, he cried and then he went silent. I don’t remember him, I only imagined him. In the course of the years I have adopted the memories of my parents. These memories are not the same, but they are equally fierce. I know exactly which ones are my mom’s and my dad’s — they are only one hospital window apart.
My mom is on the inner side. Very young and very beautiful. She does not think of labor pains. Endlessly happy — that she has become a mother. My dad is on the outer side of the window. He can barely stand on his feet. Not because he drank and celebrated all night. He has just found out that the baby was dead, the doctors did not manage to save him. Instead, they thought of saving my mother’s soul to postpone the sad news. They told my dad — we’ve given her some other baby, until we decide how to inform her.
One winter I was in the same hospital. When I got better, I asked where the maternity ward was. I went under the windows and I wanted so much to throw a stone. I couldn’t, because in this memory which is not mine, mom stands behind the window, not being my mother yet. I was not born, and I already bore the cross of the first-born.
Sometimes for a moment I think of the other baby. Of the time when he was my mother’s son without being my father’s son. As in a live transmission, where there is a difference between the studio and the life outside. As a letter from the front, which comes after the soldier’s funeral. As if the whole philosophy is in the timely exchange of people and objects.
Sometimes I think of myself as of that other baby, ordered by the doctors for the mercy and will of the parents. Have I succeeded in replacing the son, being my brother and his sister at the same time.
How will the brother and sister recognize each other, I also think. When I die, will our joint childhood start. Does he know about me and how does he imagine me dead. It happens that I am frequented by hope and comfort: that somewhere in the world I might have a five-minute brother, that I have an angel somewhere in the skies. Sometimes I don’t believe it, but I keep the heritage ritual. It’s the same when I light candles for health and peace of souls.