For a month, I believed I had a newborn nephew in a foreign country — a feeling both exciting and conflicted, and, as it turns out, completely wasted. A DNA test revealed that this latest emotional roller coaster, like most of my brother's romantic engagements, was far from reality. But there were other realities to contend with.

I told her to become angry, because finally, I really was.

Sara called me immediately, as she would many times that month, always barely audible through her sobbing. I remember the final call between us, in which I told her to become angry, because finally, I really was. It was one of those calls you make on the way to the grocery store, and then two hours later, you realize you're still standing outside the entrance, and the store's about to close. "What's wrong with him?" she cried. "How could he have another woman's child?" And finally, "Does he still love me?"

I couldn't answer those questions without excusing or justifying his behavior. Things I couldn't do. And things, from then on, I decided I wouldn't attempt to do.

 

After my brother's recent wedding (which I didn't attend — it was outside the country), my mother was flipping through the wedding album, and scolded me for the contempt she saw in my face. But what my mother doesn't see is that my outward apathy is my emotional safety net. I once supported my siblings' romantic lives with the hope and naiveté of any little sister. I've had to force myself to stop.

How is a sex addict made? Usually they endure some sort of trauma or stress that manifests in a monstrous sense of boundlessness. We had a rough childhood with split-up parents, but I can't think of anything that shook my brother's formative bones enough to create such a need for constant sexual gratification. It must come from some emptiness even I don't know about, and frankly, I'm scared to.

My brother owns his own business, is respected in his community, maintains my mother's yard, and keeps up with his independent art pursuits — including pot throwing and collaging. He isn't soulless, unkind, or inherently repulsive. In fact, he tells me he loves me dearly all the time. This is the person who bragged to an entire school bus that I could spell "caterpillar" on my first day of kindergarten. But in the "episodes" I've witnessed, my brother seems to experience a complete loss of contact with reality. When I'm speaking to my brother at a club, and he says something about the ridiculous ass on a woman, I truly and thoroughly believe he forgets I am his sister. He's not my brother; he is in the full haze of his preoccupation.

To my brother, women he might sleep with aren't multidimensional individuals. They're only "quality pussy." But his sister, a non-sexualized human being, can be a recipient of his unconditional love, attention, and respect. To wit: that same summer, I was approached by a thin middle-aged woman at a local bar. She had watched me with my brother. To her, I was doting over him, and she felt competitive. "He's my brother," I clarified. After taking another sip of her vodka tonic, she leaned over and whispered to me, "He would have fucked you by now if you weren't his sister." Disgusting, insulting, and outrageous? Of course. But unfounded? Maybe not.

How do I help him? His little sister doesn't seem like the person who should address this specific addiction, but then again, who could be? Every time I conjure my brother in a social setting in my head, he is an indomitable force of confidence — not someone I can debate. A steam-powered, coke-fueled, one-track mind.

But this will come to a head somehow. As his wife asks if I want more salad at the latest family gathering, I turn my eyes up and quietly decline. I can't meet this proud, tall woman's eyes. She rocks one of her children in her arms playfully, and she looks just about as genuinely happy as anyone could get. When she calls my name and asks me a question, I don't look at her for fear that I'll reveal too much with my gaze.

My brother isn't married to a woman. He's married to an obsession, removed from reason, reality, and emotional sustainability. To him, the vast range of human possibilities becomes meaningless in the presence of untouched female flesh. I wish him upon no woman. I won't get close to his wife.

And I can't stand it, because, God, do I love the guy.

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