My brothers and sisters,
Don’t look now, but life has dreadfully altered us, twisted our intentions and morphed us into funhouse versions of the people we thought we’d become when we were passionate, semi-happy, well-intentioned youths. Through tragedy, betrayal, loss, suffering, bad luck and a thousand other grim reasons, something – well – odd has happened to us. But that’s okay; we’re all living that way. And we’re doing it together.
And with whom do we share this experience more deeply than with our siblings? Who do we truly know like them? Who do we love more deeply or dislike more enthusiastically? Our brothers and sisters are the people who teach us that concepts like love/hate, trust/obligation, charity/nastiness, big mistakes/big victories come from the same vaguely emotional primordial ooze. They are also the people who can get under our skins and make us feel the tidal pull of all seven Deadly Sins within a twenty-minute time span. Our brothers and sisters are implacable, inescapable. Blood connects us, or at least the familial shedding of it does.
The “why” is easy. Sure, there’s genetics as an obvious link, but don’t discount all those wonderful step and half-siblings out there, those wacky trips! And how about those lifelong friends? They’re choosing to know us, the tragic weirdos. But in any of these permutations, the scope of our sibling relationships exceeds others in most respects due to its context; through the story arcs of our lives, our brothers and sisters are real people doing real things of uncertain motivations, or what we refer to in writing as dynamic characters. Mostly, our parents are static authority figures, and our favorite memories of them are when we notice them acting like real, flawed people after all, but our brothers and sisters are always real people, providing one flawed moment right after another. And they feel exactly the same way about us.
Our families come built-in with these wildly unreliable narrators with fully-formed worldviews that don’t always make sense, and as we mature, we’re forced to contend with these people as we establish our own psychoshperes and philosophies. This is all part of growing up, a convoluted process which undoubtedly sucks past the age of twenty-six and is usually removed from the sunny fields of memory where our childhoods play. But not when the formula involves our siblings. With them we travel through time, allied to the zeal of our youthful selves while we create a future in the negative space of possibility they embody.
Because our brothers and sisters are just like us, yet not like us at all. And we’ll never forgive them for it. We love them as hard as we hate ourselves, and it’s always been too late to do anything about it. What we can do is be humble enough to learn, they’d like us to tell ourselves, and wise enough to love them. Wrath, greed, sloth, pride, lust, envy and gluttony are unquestionably great times, but where did learning how to live with these sins come from? Who taught us that shit? About going to bed a little sad every night? About waking up angry in the morning? About existing with burden?
Our brothers and sisters did. They are our arch-nemeses and petty heroes, a Bizarro fugue state that can nurture our aspirations and harbor the roots of our obsessions. Or maybe that’s just us, but judging by the amazing submissions for this issue, we’re not the only ones who feel this way.
What are our contributors obsessed about in the Brothers and Sisters Issue? Well, for fiction, we offer you jealousy, primal terror, dirty (filthy!) magazines and the importance of contraceptive use. The issue’s creative nonfiction takes a long, ponderous walk through the woods of our sibling relationships by asking big questions about mortality, Jeanie Beuller’s retrospective period, the patchwork natures of our personalities, and – well – the importance of contraceptive use again (because we can’t stress that enough, kids). Our poets, meanwhile, are drunk on life while they meditate on ghostly longing, the genealogy of hurtfulness, drinking too much bad whiskey, digging things up from the fathomless depths, and the highest they’ve ever been.
Like I said, we’re all a little fucked up.
So much thanks! Thank you, patient and lovely contributors, for making our jobs difficult by submitting such heartfelt material to Barrelhouse, and a special thanks to all of you readers out there for just being you. We appreciate it. And lastly, an extra special thanks to Susan Muaddi-Darraj, our Online Editor who has left the building, for getting the Brothers and Sisters issue rolling. I hope we did your theme justice.
Matt Perez, Assistant Editor
and The Barrelhouse Gang