To tell you this story, I have to start at the beginning.
My brother weighed over 10 kilogrammes at birth. My father said watching my mother give birth to him was the hardest thing he had ever done. My mother, the gods bless her soul, would probably have agreed if she had survived it.
I was five then, and my earliest memories are of her swollen with child and unable to move on her own. My father and the midwife would support her as she waddled back and forth. Some nights now when I sleep I still hear her screaming in labour but I know that is just my imagination playing tricks on me.
Even though he cost her her life, my brother and I became inseparable. This was back in the days of turmoil, the dark days of war, the world was changing rapidly and our father was gone all of the time. War drums would sound out, and the men of the city would arm themselves and leave. When they returned, regardless of if they won or lost, many families would be irreversibly changed, mourning the losses of their fathers, of their brothers. That was the uncertainty we lived in, never knowing if our father would come back to us.
By the time I was eleven, my younger brother at six was as tall as I was. By the time I was a teenager, he was stepping in to protect me from the neighborhood bullies. I was sickly and frail, and he became my protector, the large shadow always at my side.
You would think that someone of his stature would be stupid, a large buffoon, a lumbering oaf. He wasn’t any of those things. He was as smart as he was physically imposing. Quick-witted, sharp-tongued, and sly.
He would take a look at my books and scoff, amused by the work I was struggling with. If he was in a good mood he would help me with it. I accepted that graciously, learning at an early age to get used to him being better at everything. Grinning, he would thump me on the back as he rushed out for swordplay or to perform feats of strength against grown men.
When I was 20, we lost our father in one of the many battles that had raged all our lives. My brother took it harder than I did. He spent days indoors staring at the wall and mumbling to himself. He emerged at the end of this period and approached the Assembly of Elders with a proposal.
I followed him to the meeting tent that day and watched as he stooped through the entrance amidst murmurs of disapproval.
This act was unheard of, a mere child approaching the assembly, but more surprising was his suggestion.
It was such a simple idea when you think about it, the type of silly thing children sitting around come up with. That rather than pitting entire armies against each other, wars should be decided by a one-on-one fight between the best man from each side.
Many of the elders disagreed, but my brother would not be cowed.
Others had misgivings, “Even if we accepted such a preposterous notion, which man would we stake the fate of our entire tribe on?”
But in asking that question, they only had to look at my brother’s face to fully grasp what he was suggesting.
He killed three men that day, our most experienced fighters, to prove his worth. Such was the price of progress.
From then on, my brother the giant became our beacon
He devoted all of his time to training, and now when the war drums rang out, him, one man, would challenge our enemies. And that one man would bring back victory.
For the first time in decades, families stopped living in apprehension and our people knew peace.
As I grew older, my ailments became more grave, my attacks more frequent, and I grew weaker. Too weak to tend a farm, too weak to win a wife. But I was well taken care of because of my brother, the giant of Gath.
He would return from battle nary a scratch on him and head straight to my tent even while the victory celebrations were going on. On cold nights, he would rub my joints with crushed mint leaves as he recounted solemn stories of battle. He would speak until I fell asleep and only then would he join the festivities.
Years rolled on, some days good, others bad, but I got through them because of the care and generosity of my baby brother.
Until the last time I heard the war drums beat.
For forty days, I waited for him to return, I would stand at the city gates when I was strong enough and watch the horizon until the sun set. At nights, the wind would howl through my room and chill me to my bones, it would whisper things that I didn’t want to hear.
But by the time the remains of our army trickled in, I knew without being told.
The reports from the front were fragmented. Philistines routed. Goliath beheaded. A sling. A stone.
I wept for weeks.
Everything I have, everything I am, I have lost.