I PUNCHED my brother in the face. And I still feel guilty about it, even though it happened more than 13 years ago. Because I feel he never quite forgave me in his teens.
Before I was in foster care we used to spend all our time at a swimming hole in the creek across from our house. We cultivated the area, weeding secret pathways, building a “harbour” in the bank to moor our boats. Our boats were logs that floated. We searched the creek for kilometres to find the best logs which would disappear in the next flood.
Abe’s social worker Geoff took us down there one evening. We had a rough second hand boogie board, the type with broken canvas which did not conceal the Styrofoam.
Our stomachs would break in rashes every time we used it.
I blame my brother.
“I’ve a game. You each have to push the board to the other end of the swimming hole,” he said. “Like soccer.”
So my brother and I pushed the board from the middle of the swimming hole. Nobody could win. And then Abe started winning, his kicks stronger. He forced me back and started laughing in my face.
I felt anger. No. That’s not true. It wasn’t anger. It was a flash of hatred in a space of time I couldn’t think. I just reacted. My fist came out the water and I slammed him in the face.
My nine-year-old brother screamed. He was shocked, upset, and hurt in more ways than one. “Come back,” I yelled at him, and I felt sick as he jumped out the water and ran up the hill to tell Mum.
I wasn’t afraid he would tell. I felt sick at myself for the hatred I couldn’t control. And a guilt because I’d hurt my little brother again. For no reason at all.