We were enemies to begin with.
I stood on the edge of the porch—front row to the show—bare feet rubbing against smooth planks. I gripped a pink plastic cup with both hands, ready.
“Wait, wait! Don’t pour it yet,” my older brother ordered. He sounded like a five-year-old drill sergeant, making me wait to pour my water cup over the edge of the porch until he was ready to pour his. I wasn’t sure why we were pouring water off the edge of the porch and onto the dirt and gravel down below, but I didn’t think to ask.
“Why?” I wondered as he hustled our younger brother into pouring position. He ignored me, clearly annoyed with the question and with the effort required to make our little brother stand still and hold his plastic cup at the ready.
I shrugged and brushed one foot back and forth, back and forth, over the smooth porch planks, feeling the metal heads of the steel screws in the wood. My drill sergeant brother was two years older than me. But personally, I thought he acted three, like me. I really thought he should start acting his age.
My foot brushed faster and faster.
Looking over at me and taking the fast footwork as a bad sign, the drill sergeant yelled, “WAIT!”
But, tired of waiting, I poured. In a blink, I was pushed off the edge of the porch.
I don’t remember falling—just the dirt and gravel and the spiky gumball from a sweet gumball tree that hung in my hair while Mom gave me a bath in the bathtub.
From that moment I decided brothers were horribly overrated and wondered what a reasonable woman like my mom had been thinking when she burdened me with not just one, but two of them.
In what felt like a blink of time, my older brother had started playing soccer. He even had his own uniform. I didn’t think it was fair that he looked so . . . official. He and his team even got snacks after the game—juice boxes and crisp little breadsticks that you dipped in soft cheese. He ate them in the car on the way home, even though he didn’t like cheese. I sat in my car seat, listening to him munch his snack. Life really wasn’t fair.
Blink. Soccer season ended and violin lessons began. His playing sounded awful at first. But somewhere between age eight and sixteen he got good. Really good.
I went to all his recitals and concerts. There were a lot. I heard myself introduced as his little sister. That happened a lot.
Blink again and I had learned to play the violin, learned from my very own drill-sergeant-grown-kinder. He was convenient, cheap, and the best violin player I knew. It just so happened he was my brother too.
Blink and I was learning to drive—a tiny white stick-shift car that heaved and bobbed with every wobbly gear shift. My brother sat in the passenger’s seat as I practiced driving in our driveway. We bounced over potholes in the gravel and bounced in rhythm to my clumsy feet on the pedals. He laughed, so I laughed—and the bouncing got worse as the little car caught the cadence of our doubled laughter.
Blink and we were in Colorado, looking at a never-again sunset and trying to memorize the view since my phone was dead and he had forgotten his. He had his wallet, though. So, we stopped at the little shop with glass windows and watched the workers pour liquid ice cream on a cold metal plate and scrape it flat and roll it up like an eggroll made of ice cream. And he bought that little cup of rolled ice cream that cost as much as a gallon of ice cream from the store and gave it to me. And I ate it and didn’t even feel sad that he had never shared those crispy breadsticks dipped in cheese so many blinks ago.
Blink and another cup of ice cream was in my hand, this time with chocolate sauce on top and a fudge brownie below. An ice cream truck—a happy alternative to wedding cake—served the last of the wedding guests. My older brother and his new bride ran for the car with blasts of bubbles being blown from all sides. I watched him open her car door and, after they left, I finished my ice cream, slowly. Somehow, in years and years of blinks, my brother had gone from enemy to hero. I wasn’t sure when or how it happened, exactly. But I felt pretty pleased that I’d been front row to watching my hero grow.