There is a reason why there are secrets. There is a reason why some choose not to tell. Some things are better left unsaid. I learned that a long time ago but I couldn't always put it into practice when it came to a particular secret of my own.
There is a reason why I tell my story anonymously. There is a reason why I still need to tell my story. But there is no good reason for wanting to tell those closest to you, no good reason at all. Maybe it's part of growing older. Maybe it's wisdom. Or maybe it's because I sensed a strained silence during a phone conversation with my oldest brother.
It is true that we aren't a close-knit family. It is true that we are perhaps closer than we used to be. It is also true that weeks and months go by without any communication whatsoever. Maybe that's how it's supposed to be for after all, don't we have our own lives and families? But what about other families? Why is it that there are those who are closer, and choose to connect, with their family members more frequently? Why isn't it that way with my family, with the men that I grew up with? Perhaps it's different with men. Maybe it would have been different if I had sisters instead. But I don't have sisters. I only have brothers. And even with all this physical -- or even emotional -- distance between us, I know that my brothers love me.
And I wonder now if my sister-in-law did indeed tell my oldest brother what I had confided in her a few years ago. I had chosen to confide in her, did I not? I felt that I was supposed to, that I wanted to, and even needed to. It wasn't such an emotional outpouring of my soul, that sort of thing. It was a simple sharing. And it was easier to do so as she was also an outsider, in a way, not someone who was directly related to me. And that helped. But now I wonder if it had been wise to do so. She was my brother's wife, after all, a close and intimate relationship. Even if I had sworn her to secrecy, maybe there came a time when she felt that she had to tell him. Maybe something had happened, or something was exchanged. And my secret was no longer a secret.
I don't know the facts. I don't know if what I think happened had really happened at all. I am merely guessing. And I am left wondering.
My oldest brother and I aren't talkative with each other over the telephone. It is usually more formal, for some strange, unfathomable reason. It is, of course, easier to talk with him in person, if we do end up having a long conversation at all. It is difficult to tell -- over the telephone -- what the other person is thinking or feeling especially as one cannot see the expressions on their face, their mannerisms. Pauses over the phone can be misinterpreted, I realise that as well. And yet something in me wonders if he knows. And if he knows, why should it create this invisible barrier between us? Does he know something I don't? Does he wish that he had protected me? He was only four years older, a boy himself. The oldest boy in the family who had to find his own way himself especially after our father passed away. He was a young man by then, twenty-one years of age. But during our teens, he was still a boy. I see that now.
Is he harbouring his own secret, whatever it may be? Or have I, in some way, ruined the memory of our father? Or have I caused him to question ... what?
Of course the first question should be: Does he even know my secret?
And the answer is: I don't know.
I am writing down whatever comes into my head. All this is mere speculation. My husband wondered why on earth I had told my sister-in-law in the first place. I didn't wonder about it then. But I wonder about it now too. And just because he didn't think it was a good idea didn't mean it wasn't a good idea at the time. I almost always seemed adamant to let him know that I had a mind of my own, however an unwise and uninformed mind it could also sometimes be! And if my brother does know about it, I don't begrudge my sister-in-law for having told him. Whether I should or not, I don't know. I just know that there are no ill feelings, just that familiar sickly feeling of having been exposed yet again. And I am once again out of my comfort zone.
A strained silence over the phone can mean different things for different people. Perhaps it was the passage of time, two siblings who are now older and who hardly contact one another. Perhaps .......
I will never know unless I am bold enough to ask. And I am not bold enough to ask. Not yet. And whether it is wisdom or plain nervousness, I realise now that some things are better left unsaid.