I when I first heard my brother say your name, his voice grew just a shade more serious, and more tender. He was rambling about something, I don’t know what, a story I don’t remember involving you and some practical joke, I think. You weren’t a principle character in that particular story, but I recall the way he said your name, and the budding-but-still-unspoken world behind the word. Your name, and its unnamable resonance, arrested my attention. There was something inside those syllables. I made a mental note, and waited for the day my brother would tell me what he’d discovered.
That day came two springtimes ago. It was early evening, wet and dark outside, bright and warm in my sparse hardwood living room. He called me out of the blue. This happens sometimes, and our conversations usually last at least an hour — my flurried, non sequitur musings matched by his deliberate insight. That night, however, I was caught off-guard by his polite — rehearsed? — small talk. As he paused between emphatic pleasantries, I sensed a gathering gravity. I was ready, Laura, and in fact, a little bit amused that it had taken him so long.
So, he told me how his feelings for you had “changed, grown.” And I grinned to myself in the dusty reflection of our disconnected television, paced the hall and uttered my delight, my eagerness to hear more. I reveled in the strange version of my brother unfolding on the other end of the line. I heard the hesitant thrill in his voice, pictured the sweet sheepishness on his young face (he was nineteen, then). He was amazed at his fortune, and bewildered at the way your mere existence rocked his world.
When we finally hung up the phone (after I promised serious injury if he did not introduce me to “Laura” soon), I strode into the kitchen, where my then-boyfriend was making dinner. We smiled at each other, sharing a sense of benevolence towards you both, an “oh, how sweet, young kids in love” sort of feeling. We wished the best for you, while taking ourselves more seriously.
He’s long gone, now. But you’re not, Laura.
Instead, I’ve watched you turn my brother inside out. Since you’ve come around, I’ve seen his shoulders grow higher, and more broad. I’ve also seen canyons of fear breaking behind his eyes, grooves worn by the gravity of a world grown infinitely more precious and in need of protecting. Sometimes, we speak and I notice he is squinting — looking farther than he ever did, peering into a frame where he’s standing by your side in a place and time we’ve never seen.
Laura, there have been moments where I’ve missed him, missed the younger, nearer brother with his narrower shoulders, his shirt untucked and his laugh that made us all relinquish our self-sober inclinations. Not to say you’ve lessened his laughter — far from it — but I remember a day when it felt like I was the only one of us who worried. I wanted it to stay that way — I stayed warm thinking about all the wind I kept from those I loved. But he’s a head taller than me now, and carries his own umbrella. Nowadays, we speak across tables and dashboards, then duck out into the rain and go our separate ways.
I knew there was a ring coming long before it arrived. It loomed, a bright beautiful lump in my throat, a small key ready to turn in an unknown door. I got another phone call — or was it me who called that time? — late summer last year. I was on the porch of a different house, sunning my atrophied body. I’d just left the hospital after many weeks. There was no man in my kitchen this time; your romance had outlived mine.
When he told me what he was planning, I closed my eyes and felt the gentle weight of the warm summer air rest against me like a blanket. Beneath me, the earth quietly turned a somersault. He asked me for my blessing with gentle, halting words. A clap of time and space, a fleeting, emphatic affirmation of the weight our love still held. My little brother. So strangely changed, still sounding so right. I gave him my own vows, my promises to embrace you both, to be always ever for you. And, implicitly, to step aside, to watch you build your own, shared shelter from the rain.
So some days I wonder at you, and the way time seizes us with surprises. You, a regal soul and nimble spirit, a spark, a flare, and with so much more to come. What have you done to my brother?
I gave him my own vows, my promises to embrace you both, to be always ever for you.
Laura, there have been moments where it’s hurt to watch — a simple, clean pain. Your love is rendering him into something new and better but not wholly shared with me. You have to understand, of course, how very proud I am of you both, and the grace you sow. Yet, sometimes, my overgrown sister-heart aches for the past, and all my nostalgic renderings of what was. Please do excuse these growing pains, and these words, as I remind myself that love is always paradox, and time tends to leap, and how very beautiful it is to see what my brother is becoming.
In fact, what I was writing to tell you was this: thank you for being the woman of my brother’s dreams. Thank you for the way he fell into love with you, despite his half-willed denial, his fear, his Five Year Plan. Thank you for letting him love you, and for teaching him how by loving him too, deeply and imperfectly and with great and growing sincerity.
What I wanted to say was this: thank you, and I forgive you for taking my little brother, and don’t ever go away.
I love you.
P.S. He snores like a bear, doesn’t he?