The boy, 20 years later

Guilherme Matos
3 min readAug 23, 2021

Twenty years ago I was a boy, and my brother had his first crisis. I was 10 and he was 13. He has a severe case of autism and, when triggered, he loses control of himself, yells and hits things — mostly himself and our parents — that are on his way. His main trigger is the noise made by fireworks. A single BANG coming from the sky is already enough to send him on a fit of desperation.

We were both at our house during his first crisis. Our father was working and we were watching a movie with our mother. A firework popped, no big deal, except this time he yelled so loudly that I fell out of the couch. Then he started hitting himself, so our mother went to intervene. At 13 he wasn’t that strong and my mother was still young, so she could hold him. But he didn’t stop yelling and screaming in desperation. It is like he was afraid of something that penetrated his very soul. My mother yelled at me: “Go to your room! You don’t have to see this”. But I stayed. I said “no. I want to be here with you”.

Years passed and the crises kept getting worse. He got bigger, stronger, more agressive. And along that my teenage angst went on with more complaining than the usual teenager. I hated everyone. Could not form a bond with any of my classmates. I specially hated the ones who would whine about not being understood. Felt like I was the only one with a real problema there. I could not talk or reason with my brother. He doesn’t understand words or language. He doesn’t understand the simple concepts of “How” and “Why”. He only understands “What”. What is this I’m feeling? It feels good, I want it forever. What is this bad feeling? Make it go, make it go…

So I grew up spending most of my time alone. Reading books, playing videogames, mostly trying not to think of others or myself. As long as I was a good student, my parents left me to my own. They did insist on me doing therapy, which I ended up doing for about a year and a half. But once I declared that I was fine with my loneliness, they accepted my word on it. They’ve always shown respect for my decisions. When I turned 18 I finally got away from my brother by participating in a interexchange program for six months. Lived alone at a college student dorm and it was a wonderful time to be alive.

I was late for a lot of things. Got my first girlfriend only when I was 20. My first job when I was 26. But I maneged to succeed at things, matured a lot and left my angst behind. At last I could leave my brothers’ shadow behind and see the world through my own light.

I went to see my mother last week. She is old and frail now, but still wants to take care of my brother. He had another crisis that she managed to circunvent with the tricks you learn by facing an impossible situation several times. Nevertheless, it was violent. The violence of the innocent is a most distraught thing to witness. Like a giant baby punching himself for his inability to comprehend the world. My mother said to me “It hurts to live”.

And in that moment I went back 20 years in time. To that boy who said “I want to be here with you” after witnessing his older brother go through the first of hundreds of terrible experiences. And upon seeing my fragile and old mother feeling the pain of life, I can now only do the same thing that boy did, stay.



Guilherme Matos

A verdade o libertará. Mas não antes de acabar com você. — Graça Infinita, David Foster Wallace