What I Couldn’t Say Out Loud

“I ain’t never told nobody this before,” the guy in the back row said, his voice low, steady, emotionless. “But I killed my little brother.”

We took it in silently, the five of us on the dais and the sixty or so people in the room. Nobody knew how to react, because it was a lot, and also because he said it in the Q&A portion of a panel discussion about social media and type 1 diabetes. But he seemed to need to be unburdened, and nobody else was going to say anything, so he went on. He and his brother had both been diagnosed with type 1 in childhood, before either of them could remember, as many people are. It was the thing they had in common; the two were the only people they knew with the disease. Not that they ever discussed it. “It was hard to talk about, so we didn’t,” he said. “Neither of us wanted to ask the other one for help.” They both negotiated the confounding and complicated condition alone, this Tennessee man whom I guessed to be in his early sixties and the baby brother who didn’t make it that far. Side by side, or maybe with their backs to each other, they both lived with it. Until one of them didn’t.

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