It is sad to say this, but I do see my brother now, as never before, as an ageing man. His wife knows, even better than me. The change, in the past three months, since they returned from Berlin, has been so worrying. Finished the laughter, the jokes, the amiable flirtation: he’s now behaving like a much older man.
What has changed him? Sarah says that his illness has progressed rapidly, overwhelming him at times, in a hopeless daytime melancholy. Perhaps I never realised how serious this illness was for him, as I always played his game, around this absurd story of his lost sweetheart. How I now regret all that nonsense, on the island of Chi and the lady in the cloak.
In Berlin, he lived in a trance, in a fictional world of his own that followed vaguely his reality. He weaved the story of the “Coven”, even using poor Gabrielle as one of the main characters in the plot. When we visited the Bundestag, he pointed out to Sarah the special uniforms and badges the official staff wore. At the time she did not see the significance of it, and thought it was only her husband’s imagination at work, the writer in action, gathering odd facts and details, to use later in his story. Since then, he has become a character in his own novel. I find it frightening. Is he playing the part of the doomed lover?
Towards me, he is still the older, protective, loving, brother. His voice is deeper, his gestures slower. On the telephone, he sounds far away. Face to face, he is not quite present, almost fading. Sarah wants Helga, his therapist, to prescribe him a tougher treatment. Apparently Helga’s resisting this, saying that the risks of serious damage to Julian’s persona are real. She favours patience, a lot of rest, and no dramatic change.
As his sister, I tend to agree with Helga. But who knows him best? I was a baby when he left the family home, and I never caught up with that period of his life, as a young man, until, many years later, he reappeared, so completely changed, our mother thought. Then, the young girl I was, saw him as her hero. The strong brother, the one who knew about all the things I was curious about, and not a little frightened of. The one who would protect me as I took my first timid steps into this wild world. I admired him, but I did not know him, and still don’t. Only Sarah knows her husband.