I didn’t mean to hurt you. That time I said he was my favorite. Brother. It’s not that . . . What I meant was . . . Well, you’re different. You’re something else.
I will give you this: you never came at me with stealth, a certain anarchy oozing from your pores. And not once did you approach me hands choke hold ready and cheeks stoplight red but forging through anyway. You were different. A low tide. Quiet, steady.
I like to look at your senior picture and consider how your hair was like the bunny slope at Canaan Valley when I went there in eighth grade with the Beverly Hills Presbyterian Church youth group. Not white, but a smooth, nut brown arc with one perfect dip in the middle.
That first morning I hurtled down the hill over and over, winter’s edge both thrilling and terrifying me. Right before lunch, the ski patrol gal advised me that falling down in a six-point star formation at the bottom of the slope was not a safe way to stop. She demonstrated the snow plow a couple times. Recommended lessons. I never skied again. Ever.
In your portrait your eyes seemed serious even as they smiled. Did you already know you had healing (and therefore much responsibility) in your hands? Your irises matched the widest stripe in your chubby tie—fall-morning blue-gray sky.
Remember all the stuff we dabbled in? I do, because I made a list. That’s how I write a story. I jot down everything I can remember then comb away all the stuff that’s not so hot. Here, I’ll show you:
Stuff We Did Together
Yoga (living room): For a whole summer we copied the moves of Lillias as she did Hatha Yoga on public television. We wore Marshall green gym shorts and gray Thundering Herd t-shirts. I was way more flexible than you.
Weight Lifting (basement): You lifted. I watched. Because you’d read somewhere my bones wouldn’t be ready for resistance work until at least fourth grade. I wept, but you insisted.
Archery (back yard): We set up a range behind the house, crammed the target into the tangle of honeysuckle that concealed the chain link fence. We were evenly matched until our flimsy green bow broke and you replaced it with a red, white, and blue compound model. I couldn’t budge the string so I became the designated arrow fetcher.
Church (Ohio): You invited me to come along when you started attending church across the river. We’d hold our breath as we drove over the bridge. Make a wish when we got to the other side. You suggested we start a gospel group since I was taking piano lessons. We practiced a few times but then you went off to college. I was sad to see you go but also relieved that I wouldn't have to inform you that your pitch was less than perfect.
Did you know that writers are supposed to show instead of tell? You never told me, “I like spending time with you,” but you didn't have to. The stuff we did together showed it. Proved that you were in fact something else, something better than “favorite.” I might go as far as to say you were the best. Brother.