There is nothing I enjoy more than pure, uninterrupted sleep- the gentle sound of the breeze rustling the leaves shading me from the hot sun, the sweet smell of the country air, the gentle tickling of grass against my face. It’s relaxing, it’s warm, and it’s rejuvenating.
“Psst, hey Ace?”
My closed eyes tightened at the voice. Yes, there’s nothing I enjoy more than uninterrupted sleep – it’s just a shame that I never get to experience it.
Cutting through the sound of the breeze, the intrusive voice grew closer, chanting my name with alternating pitch and emotion in desperate attempts to grab at my attention. Inhaling deeply, I prepared my rebuttal to the insistent tone. Eyes closed, mouth open, I spoke.
Silence followed, but it appeared that my strongly worded argument didn’t fall through. With frail hands firmly gripping my shoulder, a weak shake prompted a harsher response from me - A longer, weaker sounding “Noooooooo…..”
Once again, my verbal struggle was fruitless.
“Ace come on, I know that you’re awake” his voice hinted the usual spoilt annoyance “And seeing that you’re awake, you may as well pay attention to me”
When I failed to produce the desired response, I was greeted with considerably harsher, and yet still incredibly weak shake.
“Ace come on bro Ace my dude my man my guy my brother my comrade” He stopped to take a breath “My beautiful baby brother--“
“Ooooh my god what?” The disappointment in my voice was blunt as I sat up, facing the source of my annoyance with tired eyes. Staring back at me where those hooded, moss eyes surrounded by sleepless discolouration; so kind, and yet so dull. Out of the holster on his belt, he pulled out that frayed deck of cards. Honestly, I never saw the big deal with card games, but he seemed to love them. Every day he pulls out that ancient deck and asks me to play, and it didn’t matter the game either; blackjack, go fish, poker, snap. No matter how childish and simple, or complicated and aggravating – he would play and he would win.
“Fancy a game of 52 pick up?” His voice was hopeful, but I wasn’t going to get sucked in; not again. “Lewis, the only thing I fancy right now is a good night’s sleep” I rested my head against the gnarled trunk of the oak tree, watching his smile push out into a pout. Hands up in the air, I shook my head “No, no, don’t give me the look. I’m sitting here, under my tree, free of cards and any feelings akin to regret and loss”
“You’re just pissy because you always lose” Lewis huffed with a smirk, looking down at me with those yellowed teeth. He always did this – push my buttons until I lose my temper and feel the burning desire to beat him, although of course, that meant me challenging him to a card game which I would promptly lose. You’d think that I would learn from my mistakes, but alas. Crossing my arms, I responded to his smirk with a sneer “I don’t get pissy because I lose! It’s ‘cos you cheat!”
A gasp of faux offence erupted from my brother “I do not cheat! My talent is absolute! I practiced for all those years before you were born so we could bond!” I gave him an unimpressed expression “You were three when I popped out. You didn’t even have those cards back then” Pressing a finger against my cheek, I mocked deep thought “Ten, weren’t you? When you found those cards? If I recall, you came running up to mum with them and she told you off for snooping in the attic”
“Hey man” Lewis let out a soft laugh, gently slapping my arm as he positioned himself next to me “There’s a lot of interesting shit in that attic. Our whole family has always lived here! It’s like a god damn Liddell museum”
“Yeah, yeah, I know. Once a relative dies we just shove all their crap upstairs”
“It goes back over a century, Ace! I checked the fine print on the package. These cards are from the 1860s. That’s old shit! They could have belonged to our, like, great-great-grandparent or something” It always amused me just how excited Lewis could get over the little things in life; bugs, old ass cards, our dead relatives’ musky-ass possessions. I was seven at the time, and he almost fell down the stairs to show mum the ‘cool old cards’ he found. Mum was mighty annoyed at him, too – see, we’re not allowed in the attic. There’s no light, and boxes upon boxes pile up dangerously to the point of constant wobble as if a single step may cause them to topple. Warnings aside, however, Lewis explored none the less – sneaking up there when mum was out back and lurking around the piles, looting our dead ancestors’ useless garbage. I, on the other hand, remained downstairs where the clutter was safe and also probably not haunted.
“When I die, I want you to have my cards” The comment took me by surprise, and I found myself staring at Lewis in disbelief. No matter how often he spoke about his own death, I really couldn’t get used to it.
“No! I’m serious. You get my cards, and the belt I keep them in, and all the ancient dirty mags under my bed that I stole from grandpa”
“I mean okay the pornos aren’t really that dirty, just mainly photos of women in old-timey swimsuits. No tits or nothing, but I’m sure you of all people knows what a boob looks li-“
“Lewis!” I finally managed to catch his attention, and it seemed that the volume of my voice took him by surprise. He stayed silent for a few seconds, waiting for me to continue. With a sigh, I bit my lip. “You know… you know I’m not at dismissive about this as you are, and you always talking about how you’re going to die before everyone else… it just….” Inhaling deeply, I made some vague hand expressions before exhaling again. Lewis was looking at me attentively “It just… pisses me off! Sooo god-damn much! Like just- just shut your god damn thin-ass lips with your stupid nihilistic ideologies!” Punching him in the side, Lewis started to laugh again “And just your cards and porn? Where’s your other shit? Where’s the good stuff, Lewis?” I continued to punch at him, obviously holding back as to not harm him. Lewis laughed more, falling back onto the grass as I continued my attack. His laughs were always followed by a soft wheeze. It scared me a little.
Okay, so the topic does actually upset me. The idea of Lewis dying often keeps me up, but he’s just so casual about it. It’s nothing to him, and I feel like we’re both desensitised to the idea. I use fake anger to cope, much like I believe he uses dismissive comments to do that same. There’s nothing saying that Lewis will definitely die young, but there’s also a lot saying that he won’t live long. Doctors have told us to anticipate his death within a few years, but we know better. Sure, he’s weak, and he keeps on doing stupid things that make his stomach ulcers erupt, but he’s been eating a lot more recently – not a lot, just more. Soon, the bulimia will just be a thing of the past, and all the doctors who said he was going to get worse are going to be so damn embarrassed.
Kneeling over my brother with my head against his chest, he caught me in a feeble headlock “You still haven’t played cards with me, Ace” I couldn’t help but grimace “Just let me nap a little more, okay? You can think of all the other shit you can give me when you cark it while I have my beauty sleep”
As he finally gave in and let go so I could reposition myself, I slowly fell asleep next to him, feeling him pull me in another uncomfortable headlock – or maybe it was a hug? Knowing my brother, it was probably both.
When you’re asleep, time is an illusion – you cannot pinpoint how much has past, or why it doesn’t seem to equate to how long you believe you’ve been resting. Upon waking up, I found that it was still light out, but it felt like I had been resting for hours. Everything still seemed basically the same except for the absence of Lewis. I sat up and looked around, fully expected him to jump out from behind one of the many trees - however, when he failed to make an appearance, I concluded that mum must have told him off for being outside without a jacket. Sneezing is bad for his stomach, after all. Honestly, the boy has no regard for his own health.