It was something that began when they were born. A young couple moved in across the street with a kid in each hand. One was newly born, a handful of years younger than the fully grown child in his father’s arms. I believe that is where it began, but there are many reasons.
I watched from my home on the second-floor of the apartment building. Pushing the curtain aside, I would see so much of the neighbourhood happenings and eventually I saw too much. At first, I was happy with what I saw. New residents, new smiling faces. It simply changed after that.
A few years later the oldest brother was playing with kids in the street, the youngest trying to keep up, but always falling behind. It was laughable at first, but then it turned ugly. The little brother cried and ran towards home. The older brother stopped and hit him. There was no love in sigh anymore.
In the years that followed I watched the older brother go to school, leaving a small brother behind. It wasn’t long before the little brother joined him, both wearing smart uniforms, but walking different ways to the same school. I found it sad and in addition, I felt age catching up with me.
I collapsed one day on the street and the little brother saw me. He was the one who told his parents and the ambulance was called. I arrived very soon at the hospital and was put under the knife. Of course, I didn’t know any of this until I woke up in the hospital bed with so many of the streets residents around me.
It was more than heartwarming seeing all their friendly faces. Even the brothers were smiling together and I soon made a rapid recovery.
Despite my deadline being extended, I still felt like spending my time in a rocking chair, watching the neighbourhood behind a curtain. It was something special in my heart and I didn’t have the ambition nor energy within me to do anything else.
The brothers, once more, were the focus of my attention. So much so, I didn’t notice how far the neighbourhood was falling. It had been years since I saw a child playing on the street, now busy with unhappy adults, but no new smiles.
The smile I longed to see belonged to the younger brother, who stopped smiling. The older brother had stopped long ago. Far too concerned with their own agendas, the brothers soon separated. The youngest left to university, the eldest still sat on the front steps of the house.
Even the kids he used to hang out with stopped showing themselves. He was alone and lacking in purpose. I could see that as he stared at the passing cars, the people and his phone. A phone he barely tapped, but kept checking. I don’t think he realized that people could spend their whole lives in that state without doing anything. He was desperate for a change.
New people started appearing, but I didn’t like their smiles. The older brother talked with them, laughed halfheartedly with them. These people offered him an opportunity that smart people wouldn’t take. Their eyes betrayed their smiles, the weak bodies and pale complexion gave too many red flags, that even the brother who was desperate for something chose nothing over them.
I felt pride in that moment and I wished the parents would as well. The loving couple weren’t so loving in their new circumstances. With numbers rising in the wrong places, the couple seemed to argue more. That is when the prodigal son returned. There was sadness in the little brother too, but more than that, there was hope.
From behind a curtain, I watched the young man attempt the impossible. Pushing people who were too tired to do anything, pushing people who lacked the confidence to look at themselves in the mirror. I believe for a long time that it was working, that the family were finding their feet again, but every time I visited their home, it was a different story.
The youngest had left home, living someplace better and working a job that took all his time and soon all his love. The family pleaded to be with him, but he always gave the same charming smile, shook his head, waved his hands until he disappeared around the corner. The older brother returned to the front steps and accepted his future.
I saw him less often being that he was occupied with a part-time job. Something he could qualify for, but far from something he enjoyed. I watched the family fall again and this time for good. With that feeling, I felt my last days approaching.
Visiting the hospital on my own two feet, I was given an estimate to how many last days I had left. The number wasn’t great, but the fact they let me go home meant it could have been worse. I climbed the stairs once more to my old home and found that someone had broken in.
Some drawers had been rifled in, but the important ones were emptied. Photos remained, jewellery and money did not. Collecting what mattered in my arms, I sat in my rocking chair and browsed the memories as the police browsed my home. I sat there for the longest moments, not feeling anything. Even when I received the bad news I simply nodded.
I stared out from behind the curtain at the house across the street, no longer a home. I didn’t see the older brother anymore, but I saw a couple comforting each other. When so much good was taken from them, they still counted their blessings. One brother would find his way, there was a roof above their head and more than that, they had each other.
I would give anything to see new faces on the street and not long before I closed my eyes, I got my wish. From behind a curtain, I saw a brother return home with a happy woman and a happier baby. I let the curtain slowly close and left with a lighter heart.
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