With friends like these... who carries you?
Who truly gives you that push, that lift. Who helps you climb that mountain?
I remember years ago, when I was a nobody in high school. No one gave me the time of day, no one gave a shit. And I was fine with it. I minded my own business, went along with my own day. I got used to be alone. A loner. Lonely. But truth is, I never really was. Not the way I saw it, not really. I always had a best friend there for me. And yes, sometimes I took it for granted. Sometimes I ignored that he was there. Most of the time it was because I didn't understand, or I was jealous.
This person was my brother.
My younger brother. Blood brother by birth. Separated by two years. This crazy sumbitch was the light of the place wherever he went. I never caught a person not smiling when Juan was in the room. Well, except from me. I always watched from afar, wondering what was it that made him different from me. Why was everyone looking at him. Not at me.
But this was high school; my grandfather always told me, your high school years, they don't matter, your high school years-- you'll never remember.
Well, he was half right.
I do remember. Some of it--and what I do remember, is that every time I fell apart, every time I felt alone. Every time I felt broken-- those times, my brother was always there. And boy, were there a lot of those times back then for me.
I was a mess.
But aren't we all in our high school years?
And the one time I really should have asked for help, instead of pushing it all inside me, letting it cook and bubble up to explode--the one important time in my life when I needed my brother--I pushed him away. I told him "I'll handle it."
And my brother being my younger brother, he listened, and he let me handle it. But I couldn't handle shit to save my own life.
This was a lesson I'd have to learn the hard way.
I will most certainly never forget this moment in my life.
What's worse is that I put that burden on my brother. I told him I'd handle it, to not worry about me. To let me do my thing. I told him to let it be. To let me go. To keep my secret.
I should have never done that. I should have never put that responsibility on him. It wasn't something that he needed to carry. Especially when he was already carrying me.
I'm supposed to be the big brother. The example. The responsible one that protects the younger one. I'm supposed to be a leader. I'm supposed to be the mature one. I'm supposed to be all these things---
But the more I look at my brother, the more I look at how far he's come, what he's accomplished, what he's done to get to where he is---
I see inspiration. I see power. I see bravery. I see strength.
I am proud.
I remember years ago in high school, after one night of drunken stupidity, everyone in that town then knew my name. Knew who I was. And they all would talk to my brother about it. I had gotten some notoriety that I wanted--but it wasn't what I wanted. I was never proud of that. And it wasn't because of the act, but because I felt like that was just a disappointment.
That it was something my brother wasn't proud of--that it was something he wouldn't have wanted to hear.
You see, I wanted to be the big brother. The example. And that moment hindered that.
As today turns towards 5 a.m., twenty nine years ago, my brother was about to be born.
I was just a toddler back then. I had no idea what was about to happen.
But I will tell you this.
The few memories I have left in my library, from those days--- my brother was always there.
When I was sick and my father went to the toy store to buy me a stuffed animal--a seal that squealed when you squished her tummy.
When my father showed me his belt the first time I truly understood what misbehaving really meant.
When I got in a fight with him and punched the air out of my brother, scaring my mother to death.
When we went to the zoo in Mexico to see all my favorite animals.
When we walked up the pyramids.
When my pet turtle fell from the third floor.
When we used to pick ladybugs in small containers by the outside trees in our neighborhood.
When we cared for our pet rabbit.
When we held my birthday party with my friends at home and watched a movie, and my dog chased down a rat that had sneaked in.
When we said goodbye to our father.
When we came back for the funeral of our grandfather.
When we used to run up and down the stairs of out great-aunt's old building.
When we got sunburn at the beach.
When I was a mess.
When we were apart.
He was always--is always... there.
Happy birthday, Juan.
Thank you for being you.
Thank you for carrying me...when I should have been carrying you.