I look over my math homework; it is a worksheet of thirty problems that may as well be Arabic. Unable to remember the class, I look through my notes. The lines that create words are desperate and foreign, making the notes a futile attempt to understand. The search and struggle continues for what seems like all eternity until a pair of large, freckled, clammy hands grabs my vice.
The gray-blue, sometimes green, eyes examine the paper, then me. As if the frustration inside me grabbed him by the shoulders, he sits down on my bed and says, “Oh I remember this stuff, it’s easy!” then rambles off some gibberish that could be the answer. I stare blankly at him as the monkey plays the cymbals inside my brain. “Ok, let’s start with number one,” he says while starting the problem out for me. “Don’t you have homework to do?” I interrupt. He replies, “It doesn’t matter, I’d rather do this.” He continues with, “This one is asking for you to solve linear inequalities, in other words, find out what V means.” Handing me my pencil he says confidently, “Move the 40 over to the other side of the equal sign, you know how to do that.” The next twenty problems are battled like this- every problem looks different and the starting line is nonexistent until he takes my hand and guides me to it.
At number twenty he says, “I think you can handle this one, I am going to watch but I won’t say anything.” After ten minutes of trying and failing, frustration consumes me as my memory blackens and the numbers blur. It burns, causing my eyes to prickle and look up. I catch the gleam of his fiery hair that is supposed to match his temper; clearly it was given to the wrong kid.
Unfazed he asks me, “So what are you trying to find out? You want to move that -62 over, so you add it on both sides, right?”
I am a brick wall and he is a sledgehammer, slowly chipping away anger and confusion. He swings with all his might until the last problem. Even then, he does not leave. “Those were some hard problems, but you’ll be fine Madd,” he says. His words calm my aching brain, lifting the worry off my shoulders as he helps carry my burden. With a smile and a joke he leaves me laughing, almost forgetting. I look outside and all I see is black, the clock strikes eleven. My brother had not even looked at his own homework; being a junior deep in second semester he had enough to worry about. I hear his feet against the wood until they reach the carpet of his room and his door shuts, his light on when I fall asleep.
Lying in bed that night, my mind drifts into the silence that evokes my thoughts. He and I are polar opposites in almost every way except humor; this was helpful on nights when nothing made sense because he was bound to understand it. Without me asking, he would sit down like this to try and explain it to me until I too saw what he did. I never could see nor understand, but he stayed with me as if I would.
Over the years I spent in school, I have had numerous tutors, all with their same accusations, “Don’t you remember yesterday? Why can’t you remember what we just did?” or, “How many times do I have to repeat myself?”
My brother, however, would quietly settle in his spot beside me, calm and steady, unlike the erratic thoughts in my head, or the constant prodding of my tutors. “Let’s try this together,” he would say. Wordlessly analyzing the equation with a whisper of a smile and a fire in his eyes. We would fall into the familiar comfort of our routine and finish whatever task had once seemed insurmountable. My mind runs with this thought into the abyss until the hands of sleep take it.