My brother was the firstborn. He was spoiled. He had blonde hair, so light, so soft, almost white. Then it all turned dark until it was jet black. He dyed it once, in college, after his first arrest.
He was given a blue blanket, baby blue for a baby boy, so soft. He kept it folded neatly on the edge of his bed, always. I watched him play Super Mario. I laid my cheek on his blanket, it was cool, it was cold, it felt good. I watched him play for hours in silence, only the clink of coins collected, only the melody of a one-up earned. He left the blanket behind, grew up and out of it, the childhood thing, that blanket was. I took it to college, slept with it, and it smelled like his body, like smoke, like teenage musk, like sharp wood, like coffee, like tar. I slept so good with that blanket.
I asked if he wanted it in rehab and he said No, you keep it. I felt like it was mine, a one-up earned. I got high and played video games in my dorm. Boys came and went; they smelled woody, like cigarettes, like tar. When they made love to me I felt the blanket on my body, so cool, so soft. I felt it under me and it stayed when they all left. It was a piece of him. It was him.
In pictures, it looks like my brother loved me, his little doll, his sister, so tiny, so small. But I haven’t seen him in a while. He is my mother’s favorite, her baby boy, so soft, so blue.
A boy once broke my heart. He had the blanket from a sleepover. He loved it too, how cool it was, how cold its belly got at night, how soft it felt against the face. He got mad and threw it away. He made love to me and told me It’s gone, the blanket, I threw it away, and when I changed my mind it was too late, they had already come for the trash. Okay I said, It’s gone. This one, he was so sharp, smoked cigarettes, drank coffee, and I let him defeat me, Bowser in his castle, so proud, so mean.
And when my brother tried to leave himself he left me nothing, the blanket was gone, my favorite thing, the only thing, so blue.
Red Apple Villanelle
This woman was not my mother
who brought a red apple to the play.
My mom had attended every other,
She must have been busy tending to my brother
when we took the field trip that day.
This woman was not my mother,
she wore a long, brown coat made of leather,
long hair, colored scarves displayed;
at the play we sat next to each other.
In kindergarten, I still needed my mother’s comfort.
The woman motioned the apple my way,
this woman was not my mother.
I wouldn’t eat the red skin that the apple did cover,
so she ate the first layer to put me at bay.
And gave it to me, the white chunky flesh uncovered.
I fell asleep in the play on this other,
when I woke up she had no loving words to say,
this woman, she was somebody else’s mother
and I wanted my own, not another.
About Brittany Ackerman
Brittany Ackerman is a writer from Riverdale, New York. She earned her BA in English from Indiana University and graduated from Florida Atlantic University’s MFA program in Creative Writing. She teaches Critical Studies at AMDA College and Conservatory of the Performing Arts in Hollywood, CA. She was the 2017 Nonfiction Award Winner for Red Hen Press, as well as the AWP Intro Journals Project Award Nominee in 2015. Her work has been featured in The Los Angeles Review, No Tokens, Hobart, Cosmonauts Ave, Fiction Southeast, and more. She currently lives in Los Angeles, California, with her forthcoming collection of essays entitled The Perpetual Motion Machine to be released by Red Hen Press in November of 2018.