“Get on the couch. Don’t sit on the floor while coloring.” There was something magical about his voice that made people scared of him. His voice was defined by extreme intensity of assertiveness mixed with a tinge of impudence that intimidated the listeners. It uncomfortably aroused people’s fear and haunted their minds ceaselessly until they satisfied his commands. However, perhaps my usual exposure to this threatening voice temporarily made me forget this fearfulness for a second as I continued my joyful pursuit in coloring and ignored his command. Then, a continuous hissing sound reverberated from the kitchen. “Watch out, it’s a rattlesnake hissing. You better get on the couch before it bites you!!!” I couldn’t hold my fear anymore. I was doubtful yet his conniving, threatening voice grew unbearably alarming. I hurriedly jumped onto the couch as he hysterically laughed: “There’s no rattlesnake here. It’s just a cockroach. Hahahaha. Gotcha!”
He is my brother. Growing up, I hated his foreboding and threatening voice. It forced me to listen to his authoritarian commands. I wasn’t the only victim. All of my neighborhood friends were. A girl next door obediently gave my brother a massage so he wouldn’t summon “ghosts” to torture her. Her brother revered my brother as his “master” and submissively obeyed to all of my brother’ orders. To me, my brother was a scary, conniving dictator who tyrannically made people submissive to him using his unbelievable yet spooky threats. He was never an ideally loving and caring brother like those that I read in Grimm’s fairy tales and Vietnamese folk stories.
As we moved to the US, I was not surprised that all of my aunts and uncles admonished his laziness and lax attitude. He rarely seemed serious about anything. As I studiously crammed English days and nights, he listened to music, watched TV, and relaxed. If I’m an overachiever, then he’s a minimum-achiever. He enjoyed himself, worked enough to get decent grades, and did what he was told to do but nothing more. When he studied for the SAT, despite my laborious attempt to meticulously translate and write down 7 notebooks of vocabulary to help him study, I still had to constantly remind him to study every day. I was quite nervous as I imagined sharing a room with him for the unknown amount of years before moving out of my aunt’s house, which meant that I would have to tolerate his loud and upbeating music while studying and cleaning up after his mess every time. However, strangely, the more I lived with him, the more he became bearable, and the more I bonded with him. Underneath his lazy and evil mask, I recognized his intrinsically compassionate, caring, and patient characters that are unexplained by words yet evident by actions. His voice was still threatening and fearful yet his actions were truly altruistic. Without my parents, he worked to pay for our living expenses. He defended and soothed me whenever I was reprimanded for not knowing how to cook or not knowing the rules while living in my aunt’s house. Facing a tough life without my parents to assist me unconditionally whenever I needed and to forgive my mistakes easily, I felt secure when my brother was beside me to support me emotionally as I was striving to adapt to the new environment. I felt cared about when he shopped new clothes for me so that my friends stopped asking why I was wearing the same clothes every day. I felt empowered by his willingness to give me a ride everywhere to participate in sports and service activities after school. Beyond being a scary dictator, he was a loving and kind brother. His subtle small acts not only empowered me to live well and study well but also to transmit the same empowerment to those around me through thoughtful actions, community service, and leadership. At the end of the day, though his menacing voice still arouses fear in me for making him wait for 5 minutes before picking me up from school, I always feel secure and privileged for having him as a brother.
Written in 2012.
P.S.: This was one of my college essays that I submitted 5 years ago