For my little brother/Evan

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For my little brother by Enoch Leung
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The wind was blowing, ruffling through my hair, my shirt flapping in the breeze like a flag. The toxic smell of garbage was almost pleasant to me, as was the sunset blinding my eyes. In the middle of that sun stood a small boy, his back turned towards me, looking into the distance across the ocean at a horizon filled with red.

"Evan!" I called out.

The boy turned around, his face still concealed by the glare of the setting sun. "...Garrett?" he said softly, so soft that I wasn't sure if he actually said it or not.

"Evan! It's me, it really is me!"

The boy began running, running towards me. His arms reached out in front of him as he rushed to touch, smell, embrace the one person he longed to see again. I started to run towards him, hoping to close the gap between us quickly before something or someone could separate us again. He leapt into my open arms, almost taking me off my feet, and squeezed me tightly. I blinked, half-expecting my brother to disappear right before me, like he always had in my dreams. He didn't. Every bit of him was real this time, his flesh, his soul, his beating heart. I hugged him back, so tightly I thought he couldn't breathe.

"G-G-Garrett..." He was crying. "I... I m-m-missed you..." He buried his face into my shirt, and despite the fact that it had several months worth of sweat and grime embedded into the fabric, he found more comfort in it than he would any tissue paper on earth.

I turned my head and kissed him lightly on the cheek. "I... I missed you too..." I realized that I was crying as well, tears pouring out of my eyes, as if they had been bottled up within me up until now. With my right hand, I tried to brush away the tears, tried to appear strong to my little brother, but my efforts were in vain. I finally gave up and allowed my brother to hear the audible sobs, which brought a wave of great relief as I wept freely.

"P-P-Promise me you w-w-won't l-l-leave me again?" he said.

I looked at him. His eyes told me everything I needed to know, that when he saw me in prison I had torn him to pieces, driven a knife into him, murdered him, left him to die. His youthfulness, his innocence, and his boyhood, I had ruined for him. I knew that, if I left him again, broke my vow as his brother, I would have done away with him, ending him right there. Tears were still coming out of his eyes, and the sight broke my heart.

I brought him close, again offering my shirt to mop up the misery and grief I had caused for him. "I promise," I said. "I promise, I will never leave you and mother ever again. No matter how hungry we are, no matter how poor we are, no matter how much I want to leave, I won't. I will always be there for you, always sleeping next to you if you need me at night, always listening so I can hear you when you call for help."

"Do you really mean it?" he said in a small, small voice.

I sniffled. "Yes... Yes, I do mean it."

He was reluctant to let go of my chest, but eventually, we had to move on. I lowered him back onto the ground and he stood beside me, holding my hand tightly. He looked up at me, still crying, but one emotion dominating all the others: Happiness.

It came back to me too. Hey, remember the good old days when the mountains of garbage was our playground and we'd climb up and come running back down as fast as our legs could carry us? You would piggyback on me, squealing with delight as the air sped past you as if you were flying. And the times when I tripped and almost fell over but saved myself just before we hit the ground. You can't have forgotten — I haven't!

I smiled. "Let's go back to mother, shall we?"

He smiled back and, still holding onto my hand, began to walk. I remained still, catching him by surprise when his arm did not follow. He looked at me. "Aren't we going?"

My smile grew bigger and bigger. "How about we run there together, with you on my back, like we used to?"

He appeared a bit confused, but not for long. With a boyish, lively laugh, he scrambled onto my back and wrapped his arms around my chest.

"Ready?" I asked my passenger.

"Always!" he said gleefully.

"Well, let's go!" And I took off, running as fast as my legs could move, jumping over obstacles as I went. I ran past the slums built onto the garbage dump, past the piles of burning refuse, onto the rough, paved streets of our neighborhood, down our small street towards our house. Out of breath, I set him down on the ground. "Last stop, everybody off!" as I used to say, and he laughed. He was about to run inside when he turned around and gave me an unsure look, as if he expected me to run away before mother could see me.

"Go," I said. "I promised I will stay. I will never leave you again."

He turned around and, entering the house, called out: "Mom! Mother! Garrett's back! Garrett is finally home..."

I looked up towards the sky, where the reddish hue of the setting sun was beginning to give way to the darkness of the night. "I promised him," I said, "and I promised You." Then I turned and headed inside the house.

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For my little brother by Enoch Leung
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