Danny is missing. His bed is empty, and the white-on-white floral pattern of his mattress is cold. Once, I sat on his bed. Mom yelled, “Get off. It’s Danny’s!” But Danny’s been ignoring his bed for a long, long time. And he’s ignoring me.

I know I wished he would. When he was home, he would moan and retch. Mom would go over to him. Wipe his forehead with a towel, administer liquid into his many pipes. She’d even zip over to 7‑Eleven for a dazzler if the wind blew that way in Danny’s mind. I wish I hadn’t wished him away. I didn’t really mean it, but he had to go because I forced him to. It’s all my fault. No wonder Daddy doesn’t talk to me.

I wish I hadn’t wished him awayI tell Daddy about sports. I won yesterday, I told him. He looked at me. So I told him all about how I beat Gail to it. Then he asked, “Huh? What did you say?” His eyes looked far away, as if my eyes were windows he could look past into a far place.

“Danny once played basketball. But Joseph won, not Danny,” he said.

I shouldn’t have won. I will never win, ever again. This is my vow to you, Danny. But I will play. Oh, how I will play, just like you, until my shirt smells like yours used to when you came home from the game, before you stopped playing.

But Danny, will you be proud? Or will your bed remain empty, just like every night, when I wake up to check the shadows in your room? Your room is so cold. I’m so afraid; I can never fall back asleep.

I wish someone would hold me close and send your phantom life away. You are always there. Your absence is like a ghost I can feel. You taunt me. But I deserve it. When I wash the dishes, I don’t turn around to look if you are peeling a banana into the garbage can. I know you aren’t. I can feel it like a missing tooth.

It hurts me to remember you. But I shouldn’t think that. I must not think at all.

Yesterday, Mom lit a candle. She said it was a year since Danny. I said I also want to light one. She looked at me the way she did when I asked her for alcohol. I said, “He was my brother too.”

Silently, she went to the pantry above the fridge where we keep Grandma’s aprons and newspaper clippings. She handed me a candle and a small matchbox. I flicked the match and lit the wick.

You were there, Danny. You were. I saw you in the flameYou were there, Danny. You were. I saw you in the flame. You danced, you swayed, you wanted to escape higher, you kept flickering upward. The candle burned and burned, melting beneath you.

Late at night the flame flickered, released itself upward in a curl of smoke that carried the stench of the candle’s death high and away. I stood up from where my face had been illuminated and warmed by the light, and bid Danny goodbye.

It was time to let go. Today was his yahrtzeit.