We always knew when my brother was coming. Everyone knew. My mother would hurry around the house, removing everything that wasn’t nailed down and locking it in her bedroom. She would put the baby gate at the bottom of the stairs and make sure the back door and windows were all locked.
I hide in my bedroom, playing Xbox 360 games and listening to music till it was over. Then she would call me downstairs and we would stand in the living room, waiting. Looking out of the window at the neighboring houses, I noticed their drawn curtains and how quiet the street had become. So usual for a Saturday afternoon, but it was like this every other weekend.
The sound of a mini bus engine broke the stillness and I saw flashes of white from the other side of the hedge. My mother walked out of the room and to the front door, long skirts swishing around her. I stayed put tightening and un-tightening my fists, wondering what was going to happen during this visit.
The door opened and voices came from the hallway. I turned, sighing deeply as footsteps approached then my brother appeared in the doorway. He looked the same as always, a tall, thin mid-twenties man, with too short blond hair and bright blue eyes. He looked too pale, like he was ill, but really he just needed more sunlight. He was wearing black jog pants and a plain blue t-shirt and black jacket. He smile at me, made a gurgling noise then inspected the living room.
My mother and a male carer from the disability home appeared. They sat on the sofa and fell into the normal conversation about how my brother had been. I watched them for a few moments then decided I should go and put the kettle on. I went into the kitchen, aware that my brother was trailing behind me.
I ignored him and went about making everyone a cup of tea. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw my brother opening cupboards and searching through them.
‘No. Peter. Stop,’ I said firmly.
I closed the cupboard he was in and took his hand. He made some moaning sounds as I dragged him back to the living room. Pushing him through the door, I went back into the kitchen again. He shouted something and followed me again. I crossed my arms and watched him opening and closing another cupboard door.
Putting the drinks on a tray, I took them into the living room and placed them on a table. With thanks, my mother and the carer took mugs and carried on talking. I sat down in the armchair next to the window and faked interested outside. I just wanted this to be over already, but there was still two hours to go.
‘He took part in art yesterday and he’ progressing well,’ the carer’s voice drifted over.
‘And has he been eating okay?’ my mother asked.
‘Not really, but he’s been better then other week. He’s been fussing less, but we are still finding it challenging.’
From the kitchen my brother let out a scream and the sound of water rushing out of the tap could be heard. My mother shot me a look, which I pretend not to see. She got up and brought my brother back into the room.
‘Drink your tea, Peter. Adam, made it just for you. It’s nice,’ my mother said.
She sat my brother down in the other chair and give him his tea. Even though it was far too hot to drink, he sipped it anyway. He made some happy giggling sound then in three or so gulps drink the whole thing.
‘Fastest ever tea drinker,’ the carer said.
My brother got up, handed the mug to him and wondered out of the room again.
‘Adam. Go and keep an eye on him,’ my mother demanded.
Groaning, I got up and started trailing my brother throughout the house. He went into the kitchen again and messed around in there before going to the dinning room. He scared the cat and chased her around, till she scratched him and I had to stop him from kicking her. Picking the cat up, I took her to my mother, then followed my brother upstairs.
He went into the bathroom and was using the toilet before I could give him some privacy. I pulled the door too and stood there rubbing my forehead. A headache was building already. I heard the toilet flush and the sink tap running. My brother made his happy noises then squealed.
I rushed in and turned the taps off. He’d burnt his hands again. I give him a towel which he just dropped on the floor. Ignoring me, he walked out and down the hallway. He went into his old bedroom and I followed him. I turned the light on and watched him looking at a few childhood things on the shelves.
My mind pinged with an idea and I opened the wardrobe. I pulled out a box and opened it. Inside was a train set. Sitting on the floor, I begin to take it out and set it up. My brother watched me for a few moments, then joined me. In silence, we made a track and played with the trains. Then my brother broke into loud laughter.
He smashed two of the trains together and laughed even more.
‘No. Don’t do that! Stop!’ I shouted.
A train whizzed past me. The sound echoing in my ear. I turned my head and saw the toy land in the doorway. I started turning back and the second train hit me in the face.
‘Peter! Bad!’ I yelled.
My brother just laughed.
Growling, I snatched up the train set and packed it away. Collecting the two train engines, I shoved them in last and put the box away. Then I walked out and into my own bedroom. I locked the door behind me and sat on my bed. I rubbed my face, which was stinging, but not cut.
Hands banged on my door and my brother began wailing. Trying to ignore him, I grabbed a pillow and wrapped it around my head. He started kicking my door and screaming.
My mother’s voice rang out then I heard her and the carer wrestling my brother away. They took him downstairs where I heard him throw a tantrum. It took them a long time to calm him, then I heard the front door open and the mini bus engine.
Soon my mother was knocking on my door. I just wanted her to go away, but I knew it wasn’t going to happen. I let her in and we sat on my bed. I told her what had happened and she put an arm around me. Offering me a little comfort.
‘You must try harder,’ she said.
I fought down my words. It was pointless arguing. She left and I stayed on my bed thinking about how easily I could have been born my brother and he could have been born me. Both of us are unlucky, but he has come off worse. I know I should be grateful for the life I’ve got, but I’d rather we’d not been born because for us living with autism is just too hard.