My brother and I both knew what the Vietnam War had done to people, courtesy of the research papers we had completed earlier in the school year. My brother sympathized with the young men who had served; he could see how the things they’d seen and done would ruin their innocence and leave them broken. Me, I saw a set of young men different from the altruistic, self-sacrificing idealistics my brother saw. I saw the bloodlust and the joy they seemed to take in the carnage. We had engaged in countless discussions on the subject, and still weren’t ready to accept the fact that neither of us would budge an iota on our opinions. Regardless of how we felt about the other’s opinion, we had always ended with a few laughs and an “agree-to-disagree” mentality.
I threw the first punch but was stopped by my brother, who had jumped between the old man and I. The way he’d angled himself in front of the older man had created an awkward angle for my arm and I had too much momentum behind my fist to stop. I ended up hitting him with enough force that I broke two knuckles and immediately left a rapidly-growing welt on my brother’s left cheek. As my brother fell to the ground, the man stumbled away, continuing to mutter. I tried to help my brother up, but he jerked away from my advance and swore under his breath. I had no words to express my regret, but I continued to apologize to him. I’d been in plenty of fights up to this point, as had my brother, but never had we faced off against one another.
My brother was an impressive fighter. Thin as a whip, but wiry as they come, the strength in his body was very misleading. For the most part, he would go out of his way to befriend someone, especially if he knew that there was any level of animosity in them. He abhorred unnecessary violence and it was obvious. Although my brother made every effort to pacify anyone who would think of starting a fight, he had gotten into a few scraps that he couldn’t get out of. I had seen one of them and, ever the gentleman, my brother had immediately helped up his opponent after laying him flat on his back with a single punch.
Even though the punch I had just thrown wasn’t intended for my brother, as soon as my fist had connected with his cheek, I knew our relationship had come to a crossroads. Things wouldn’t be the same and I was definitely worse off because of it.
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