He’d never been drawn to the water before.
I know they say you can’t turn your back on people like him, you can’t ever stop watching them but after twenty-five years we thought we knew him. Thought we knew his traits, his habits.
We’d been taking him there for years. He loved it. We’d walk around for a bit; we’d look at the animals. He loved the animals. Every time he got so excited, just like the little boy he would always be. He found the goats hilarious for some reason and his heart melted at the horses. His hands would flutter softly and his eyes go all soft when he saw the horses. God he loved them.
And then we’d walk back and he would look around at everything. Everything. It was always fascinating to him, it was always new, like he could see something in ordinary things that we couldn’t see. Rubbish, the graffiti on the walls. Even found a dead possum once, and just the way he looked at that thing so intensely . . . it made me wish he could talk to us, talk to us properly and tell us what it was that he saw.
But he was never really that interested in the water. Sometimes he would point at it, point at the ducks and nod earnestly but he never went close. We’d have a picnic there, sitting in the grass and Mum would try to get him to eat his sandwich while he watched the cyclists and the people walking their dogs. He just didn’t seem to like to go too close.
We’d been taking him there for as long as I could remember, Mum and I. And I know they say you can never be complacent, that people like him must be watched at all times but we thought we were so safe with him. All it took was thirty seconds.
Thirty seconds for Mum to start walking towards the car to put the basket away and for me to walk to the rubbish bin. Thirty seconds of me thinking he’d gone with Mum and for Mum to think he was with me.
Thirty seconds was all he needed to be drawn to the water and slip silently away.
Mum says she always knew he wouldn’t be long for the world. She said ever since he was a baby and he started failing the basic tests she knew something was wrong and he would one day die. Says there’s a deep sense of mortality in having a child like him. And she says it so matter-of-factly like some perfectly reasonable explanation but you can see in her eyes and the deep, new lines on her face how much she’s really hurting.
But for me, I don’t like to think of my brother as gone. I think he was called, something called to him that only he could hear and he followed until he merged with the water. And he’s still there. He’s in the eels and the little fishes. He’s flowing past the rocks and through the reeds. He’s in the ducks that used to make him giggle and his hands twitch. Maybe the water didn’t speak to him before but something that day told him it was time and now he‘s where he was always meant to be.
Now he’s free forever.
I was hoping for a nice long sleep-in today. Instead, I woke up early and had this in my head.
There is something about living so close to a river that has taken so many lives that makes a deep impression.