When I was young my brother and I used to fly kites.
I remember the day my dad made my first kite. My brother came with us while dad taught me how to fly it. He showed me how to get it off the ground. He showed me how to twist and wrap the strings so that I didn’t lose grip of them. He showed me how to lean and pull to control the kite when it got too close to a tree.
I struggled with all of these things, it took me a long time to get the hang of it. I would have lost the kite many times if not for my father being there to anchor it. In fact it was a long time before I even got the hang of take-offs. Until then I just let my brother get it off the ground for me. He didn’t have the patience to watch me struggle.
My brother was always much better at flying them than me, it’s a wonder he couldn’t teach me more. He could just throw the things in the air and make them stay. My father and I would watch, awestruck as he controlled them high in the sky.
Whenever I tried to do the things he did I’d just get scared I’d lose my kite, even the way he held the strings, just one bend around each hand, using his foot to hold most of the weight.
Despite my brother’s skill, I don’t think any of us thought much of the kites back then. At the time we were just kids enjoying ourselves, but looking back now, it seems like this hobby was just the start.
By the time I was 12, my brother didn’t use the strings anymore. He just made his own kites out of folded fabric or paper, and would throw them in the wind. They would go quite far but would always fall down after a while. You could hardly call them kites really, but it was still impressive.
There was something about the whole process that only he understood. One day he said he knew what the kites wanted, and what the winds wanted, so I asked him what they wanted, but he looked at me blankly and exclaimed that he didn’t know! A few moments later the wind picked up so he got his paper kites and ran outside. By the time he came back home he had lost half of the kites he took with him. I guess they wanted to leave.
He seemed to be at the mercy of the weather at this point. On a good day the kites would hang in the air for a moment, as gracefully as a bird, but on a bad day he might as well have been throwing stones. Sometimes even a windy day was a bad day, in fact the last time dad and I decided to fly with him, we got along fine, but he got nowhere. That was the only time I’ve ever had more success than my brother at flying a kite.
As the years went by however, his good days got even better. Eventually you could hardly tell that there were no strings, they’d just fly about in the sky as if he had full control. Sometimes you could hear him muttering under his breath as he watched them fly, as if asking favors of the wind.
I think people would have liked to see him fly his kites. Frankly, I think if there were people around to watch, it would have been the most amazing thing they had seen in their whole lives. We could never imagine the practical use of what he did, but at least if there had been people, they could support him with their wonder.
Maybe he thought that way too. I think he always dreamed of traveling somewhere else, discovering new people and places. Some days he’d tell me he wished he was a kite, so he could fly away in the wind. It made me sad when he said that, I didn’t want him to leave, I wanted him to love where he was, and who he was with. It didn’t seem right. But looking back I don’t see how he could want to stay.
Then one day he left. There was a storm so intense that the whole family was shut inside the house. My brother had been tense around my father before then, but the storm seemed to make things worse. Father told him not to go outside of the house, but he seemed adamant for some reason. He said it was the only opportunity like this that he would get. I begged him to stay, because I thought it was too dangerous, regardless of what he might learn from it. I know he understood the storm better than we did but I still couldn’t handle the thought of him being out there all alone.
Well it didn’t matter, on the last day of the storm he rushed out of the house, arms filled with his paper kites. I shouted his name and watched as he ran straight to the hill nearby. My father came to see why I was shouting, and upon seeing my brother running away, was soon following behind. I rarely see my father run, but given the circumstance, he had no time for patience. I watched my brother stand on top of the hill, throwing his kites in the air one by one. He paid no attention to his father’s pursuit, and simply studied the motions of the kites. Just as dad got to the base of the hill, my brother jumped after the kites, and never came down.
My dad tried to chase him over the hill, but pretty soon my brother was out of sight completely. Even after the storm ended we couldn’t find him anywhere. I haven’t seen him since. I sometimes dream of him living in mysterious places around the world, but never of him coming back. He doesn’t belong here anymore, that’s what I have to believe.