When I was a child, I was convinced that my brother was pure evil. As Mike Myers would say, “so evil, you would say e-vile.” He had relatively little interest in paying any attention to me but when he did, it was usually a creative infliction of torture. He wasn’t always blatant in his hostility but he never missed an opportunity.
The memory that sticks with me most clearly happened when I was about 8. I had a neighbor over and we had an argument (about which lip smackers flavor was the best or who could skate backward the longest or the Iranian hostage crisis…who remembers?). I did what any 8 year old would have done in my position. I told her to go home and never return. On our way to the front door, we passed my brother sitting in the living room with a smirk on his face that spelled e-vile . It was the look that Shere Kahn wore through most of the Jungle Book. It was the look of victory.
“Rhonda, where are you going?…Oh, you two had a fight, did you?…Well, if you want, you can just hang out with me…What? She’s my friend, too. No, she REALLY DOESN’T HAVE TO GO HOME.” His friend? Like genital herpes are a pal you just can’t spend enough time with. Evil genius, making with the torment. Sure, we had moments considerably worse than this one. But this event triggered my understanding that there was no opening he wouldn’t take.
But since I’ve been writing this blog he’s been my #1 supporter and, I think, only reader. Which sparked another childhood memory, of a completely different variety. Our father had taken us with him to the grocery store and, because we were undoubtedly making him crazy babbling at him and trying to throw sugar-laden foods into the cart, was happy enough to let us explore the store alone. The only stipulation was that my brother, probably about 14 by this time, keep me with him. We were instantly sucked into the candy aisle, the way matter is sucked into a black hole. Eyes popping, we scanned and fingered every chocolatey, gummy, salty morsel in sight. And suddenly I realized that the shelves were becoming more bare while my brother’s pants were beginning to sound more crinkly than I had remembered. He turned his head and gave me a look that said “You’ve got an inside pocket in that jacket, right? You deserve that Toblerone, no matter what dad might think. It’s yours if you want it enough.” At least that’s what I was getting. He might have been thinking “I wish I hadn’t switched from boxers to briefs.”
We drove home, pockets bulging, listening to the radio in silence. The fear was overwhelming to me. I couldn’t believe we were getting away with it. When we pulled into the driveway, I started to relax and could almost taste the first triangle of nougatty goodness. We both seemed to bounce out of the car and that’s when it happened. My brother had too much bounce. He had bounced the Gummi Bears right out of his shirt. They hit the pavement like an atomic bomb. My father’s disappointment was palpable. After a minute of yelling, which was out of character for him, my dad made my brother get back into the car so that they could return the items to the store manager. I thought, “Hmm. What a bad break. I wonder what I’ll watch on t.v. as the chocolate melts in my mouth?” Why was I shocked when my dad took this opportunity to teach us both a lesson? When I got back into the car it hit me. MY stolen goods were still in my jacket. My mind raced, “My brother is going to turn me in. What a fink. I can’t believe he practically put the candy in my pockets and now he’s taking me down with him.” But he didn’t. Not during my father’s rant to and from the store, not when the cocky store manager gave his most hard-assed lecture, and not when he had to apologize to everyone concerned.
That was my first notable “protective older brother” experience. It wasn’t my last. He has made me crazy more times than I could ever recall but the memories that are most prominent are the ones that caught me off guard. Thanks, poops.