1. You scream the first time you fly. This is only okay if you practice in your own room. You start from the top of your dresser and jump. That way, only the walls stare at you as you bloody your knee against your floor.
  2. You must learn how to fly without screaming. If you scream, then your brother will notice. Your brother cannot notice, or else, he will never learn how to fly.
  3. Your younger brother must trust you. This should be easy. He should already trust you.
  4. The next day, your younger brother asks why you are limping. You tell him that you are trying out a new style of walking. The next day, he limps with you. He turns his left foot awkwardly, and drags it behind him. It reminds you of a tail dragging behind a rat.
  5. Your brother was born in the year of the rat. When he discovers this, he comes to you wailing. I don’t want to be a rat, he whimpers. You pat him sympathetically. It’s okay, you say. You, of course, have no such issue with your animal. Your zodiac animal is a rooster.
  6. After all, rats are just featherless roosters.
  7. But when your brother sniffles, you lie. Zodiac animals are nonsense. Of course you are not a rat.
  8. Bible studies has taught you that lying is bad. That you will be sent to h-e-l-l. Your teacher likes drawing out the letters in a long whisper as if the word itself is a prayer. But it is most definitely not a prayer. Prayers are things that people wish for. H-e-l-l is a place where the bad people go. 
  9. H-e-l-l is how you make your first friend. Her name is Katie. She is pretty. You exchange looks with Katie as your teacher drones out the word h-e-l-l again and again and giggle. Isn’t the teacher silly? Katie tells you after class. You agree.
  10. Katie has a nose piercing, and it fascinates you. You are not sure why she is in Bible school, but you are too intrigued to ask. You just stare at her shiny nose stud and wonder where she had it done. I like your nose piercing, you tell her. I don’t, she says. How old are you? you ask. Fifteen. She is two years older than you. She is small for fifteen.
  11. After Bible studies one day, your brother comments, you talk about Katie a lot.
  12. You hesitate. She is like an older sister, you finally decide to say.
  13. A month later, Katie tells you that she lied. I’m thirteen. The same age as you. 
  14. You are relieved and hurt. Katie notices your face. You are not quite sure why her lie hurt as much as it did. Katie says, I lied because you are not supposed to pierce your nose before you are fifteen. I lied because I was scared of what you would think.
  15. Is this the only way of loving? you want to ask Katie. Instead, you ask, How did you get it pierced? and she says, My older brother.
  16. You did not know she had an older brother. You turn away before your lips begin to quiver.
  17. You also are a person who lies. At home, your younger brother notices your face too. You tell him that it is just sweat. See? You say. You touch your finger to your wet face and let him lick it. It’s salty. Like sweat, you lie.
  18. Sometimes, it is fun to lie about stories. You like to make up stories about yourself. In this story, you are not your brother’s real sister. But you love him too much to leave him. This is what you tell your brother: I could fly away. But look how much I love you. So much so that I am still with you today.
  19. I love you too, your brother says, and you almost believe him.
  20. Other days, he clings to your backpack and cries, don’tleavemedon’tleaveme in a long string of words. Those days, you think he loves you only for the sake of survival.
  21. Is this the only way of loving?
  22. You also like telling stories about h-e-l-l. Unlike you, your brother is scared of h-e-l-l. Your foot will break through the dirt like thin ice, you tell your brother. He shivers. His eyes are large, and you know he is listening. You tell him, when you fall into h-e-l-l, you can never come back to earth again.
  23. The next day, you hear a knock at the door. You open it. Your brother comes in. His eyes are puffy and red. I don’t want to fall into h-e-l-l, he whispers. You let him crawl into the warmth of your bed. You kiss him on top of his soft head. He is warm.
  24. Once again, it is important to teach your brother how to trust you. You do this by being an older sister.
  25. But he comes into your room again. And again. Even a month later, when you are having your first sleepover with Katie, he opens the door over and over again. You shove him into his room and lock the door. The next morning, you and Katie wake up together and spot his small body lying against the foot of the bed.
  26. Katie wonders why. You laugh and tell her how silly your younger brother is. I told him that he might fall into h-e-l-l, you say. But when you look at Katie, she doesn’t laugh. She says, My older brother was cruel. He was bored with life. He told me that the piercing wouldn’t hurt. He placed a needle to my nose and told me it would be fun. 
  27. After that day, Katie stops visiting. When you try to make eye contact with her in Bible studies, she avoids your gaze. 
  28. That night, you feel your brother squirm back onto the bed with you. He is not Katie. You feel a strong desire to scream. When morning rises, you promise your brother, I will teach you how to leave h-e-l-l. You lie, I will teach you how to fly.
  29. You sling your backpack underneath the kitchen table like abandoning a dog. Your brother sits on your backpack and swings his feet lazily. He watches you with curiosity as you scramble up the kitchen counter. Then the stovetop. Then, you hang from the hooked lights above.
  30. You can count how many dead flies are smushed across the ceiling.
  31. Your younger brother is small from up here.
  32. The floor is far, far away.
  33. There are eight dead flies. One of them is only a dark smear.
  34. This time, you do not scream. For a second, it almost feels like you are flying. You are just like a rooster. You want to laugh at God and his angels.
  35. You land.
  36. Your knees absorb the impact. One of them cracks. You do not scream.
  37. Your younger brother doesn’t notice your twisted leg. Teach me, he begs. Teach me.
  38. When you don’t respond, your brother begins climbing.

Writer | Sarah Wu ’25 |
Editor | Jeffrey Zhou ’25 |