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  • Writer's pictureAvani Venkatesh Kumar

Mark and Aaron - II

Aaron’s words seemed to cut through the air, the truth of them sinking in slowly. For a moment he could do nothing but stare at Aaron, shocked into silence. Aaron was looking back at him intently, still biting his lip. Finally, Mark spoke out, his voice sounding strange to Aaron's ears.

“What are you talking about, Aaron?... When was this?” he asked Aaron, trepidation building up inside him.

Aaron spoke faintly, the voice he used when he wanted to soften a blow.

“When we were kids, our parents were gaga over you. They loved me too, of course, but they admired you, in a way they didn’t admire me. You were their star kid. It wasn’t about academics or sports or anything particular. It was a bit of everything. I was good. But you were the one who excelled. And you knew that. Not that you rubbed my nose in your success, it was the fact that you never realized anything was wrong. And all along I used to wonder, what is it that I could do to have our parents look at me that way. I didn’t realise when “beating you” became the goal of my life, even though I loved and cared about you. It started draining my life of all other ambition, my ambition became outdoing you. One day, I didn’t attend a school trip to the museum because I wanted to stay back and prepare for an Olympiad you were going to sit for. You won anyway, Mark. And that day I realised that this needs to stop, that day more than being upset that you had won, I felt upset that I gave up on the trip to the museum just to score a win over you. I didn’t want my life to be a race, I didn’t want everything I do to be guided by my desire to be better than you. So, I accepted the fact that you were better at some things, that maybe you would always be better at those things. But that didn’t mean I wasn’t good enough, it just meant I needed to find what I was good at.”

Aaron finished, his words concluding in mist. Mark looked at him, stunned. He felt cold on the inside. Their childhood flashed across his eyes, Mark wondered how Aaron had never mentioned it, never even seemed to hold it against him.

Aaron spoke out quietly, “Mark, I-“

“Why didn’t you ever tell me, Aaron?” Mark whispered.

Aaron sighed. “Because, there was nothing to tell you about. I went off to college after high school, remember? I grew into myself there, made new friends, shed off my insecurities. By the time I got back home, all of it had stopped mattering to me. I didn’t feel the need to hold a grudge against you anymore. I told you this because I wanted to tell you that all of us are flawed. But our flaws don’t stick through with us all our life, at least not all of them. You were mistaken because you probably did not realise anything was wrong, while I was wrong because I should have told you everything when I felt it, instead of letting it get bottled up inside of me. But Mark, look at us now. We’re closer than we ever were as kids. So, my point is– our mistakes don’t define us. We can always choose to try and better ourselves through them.”

He couldn’t say anything, couldn’t do anything but move ahead and hug his brother. The burden he had been carrying in his mind unknowingly eased, he felt understood and that comforted him more than anything else could have. When he withdrew, he knew what had to be done. He looked Aaron in the eye and said -

“I’m so sorry, Aaron. I’m sorry that I made you feel that you were less than me. I didn’t realize that you were hurt. I didn’t realise how it must feel to you. I should have, but I didn’t.”

Aaron’s face softened. He smiled slowly, a warm smile.

“You have no idea how much I’ve craved for that apology back when we were kids”

Mark grinned indulgently, some of the tension easing from his shoulders. “Well, I said it now.”

“Yeah, fifteen years down the line” Aaron said, his eyebrows cocking up.

Mark snorted. “I knew it. I knew you would throw my apology in my face”

“I’m not throwing anything in your face, just telling you that apologies are usually more effective when said on time. That’s sort of the point of them” Aaron shot back.

Mark whistled. “Whoa, what have you been watching? Philosophy 101? You sound like you’ve mastered the trick of living. Don’t you ever have problems at work?”

Mark and Aaron laughed with tears in their eyes, Aaron sniffled - “You sound almost sorry about that”

Mark crossed his arms. “Maybe I am”

Aaron looked at him dramatically, then spoke in exaggerated tones “Ouch, Mark. That’s such a horrible big brother thing to say”

Mark grinned devilishly. “Brothers we may be, but what are we doing if we’re not telling each other the hard truths?”

Aaron flashed him a surprised look “Did you just quote Suits?”

Mark’s smile lit up his whole face. “I did. You actually got that?”

Aaron raised his hands in a classic question pose. “I’m the best reference guesser this city has ever seen”

Mark sighed. “Aaron, you should leave the reference making part to me.”

Aaron gave him an annoyed look, followed by an impish smile. Mark smiled back as both of them faced the city of towers beyond them. Aaron was smiling because he was touched by the sincerity of Mark’s apology. Mark was smiling because not only had he said what he should have to Aaron a long time ago, but also because he now knew what needed to be done himself. He needed to find his groove. And both of them were smiling collectively because they knew that they would always have this night and each other to hold on to

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