I watched in tears as his car pulled away. I knew I would see him soon, but I did not know how I was going to manage in the meantime. I stood on the warm concrete until the sedan turned the corner, shielding my eyes from the intense August heat. Slowly, I rotated toward the house, fixing my eyes on the crimson door. There, my mom put her arm around me in an unsuccessful effort to console me. I’m fine, I assured myself, but I wasn’t. I went upstairs, down the seemingly endless hall, and closed my door. I rested on my bed, staring at the wall covered in snapshots. Suddenly, I realized: I’m never going to live with my brother again. I buried my face in the pillow and began to sob.
He may not know it, but Zack is my best friend. We may not have spent every waking moment together and, of course, we fought, but that did not matter. He has been the one constant in my life. That is, until he left. Even though he wasn’t far away, he was still gone. I did not realize how much I would miss him.
“Whatcha going to do when I leave?” he asked, half jokingly, tossing his favorite T-shirt into a suitcase. “You’re going to be an only child.”
“Yeah, I’m taking your room!” I giggled, sprinting past him to leap on his bed. He didn’t like that idea but didn’t argue. I thought being an only child would be fun. I’d get all the attention, wouldn’t have share, and would move into a bigger room. Little did I suspect that I would happily skip all of these perks to have him back again. Who was I going to talk to? Who was I going to blame when something went wrong? Who was going to look out for me? More importantly, whom could I go to when I needed someone who knew exactly how I felt?
My parents divorced when I was 10 and Zack 12. It was a production that lasted five years and Zack was by my side the entire time. During screaming matches, slammed doors, and walkouts, he would hold my hand and tell me everything was going to be all right. I would be physically and emotionally exhausted, shifting from house to house, but my brother was always there with me. When my father remarried and chose his new family over us, we had to deal with rejection, hopelessness, and sadness. Knowing Zack was going through it with me made it bearable.
He was always there.
“College isn’t forever,” he said, seeing my dejected look. “I’ll be home in the summer.” I glanced at the floor scattered with clothes. What about the rest of the year? “You’ll be in college soon, too,” he said, trying to reassure me. “Everything will be alright.” I could not help but smile. I didn’t tell him I was upset he was leaving; I didn’t have to. Zack always seemed to know exactly what I was thinking and tried to make things better.
“Can I come visit you?” I asked quietly, as he gathered the last of his belongings.
“Of course,” he replied. “You can come whenever you want.” I beamed and he saw my delight. We walked out of his room and he turned to give it one last look. “It’s all yours now,” he said with a grin.
I waved as he backed out of the driveway, the sun creating a glare on the windshield. I squinted and wondered, When are you coming back? Reaching
the end of the driveway, he winked at me and my tears began.
I never switched rooms. I left his the way it was in a subconscious hope that he would return. Now I sit in his deserted room a year and a half later. His flawlessly made bed, spotless floor, and empty drawers look like a hotel room. I glance at all his photographs and pause at one of a little boy tenderly kissing the crown of his newborn sister’s head. Clutching the dusty frame, I walk to my own room and place it on my dresser. I wonder what he is doing right now, if he is happy or if he misses me. I know he likes college, since he tells me that all the time, but sometimes I still wish he would come back.
I wish I could freeze the moments when we were little and baked Christmas cookies with Mom, played board games, and loudly sang the lyrics to our favorite song. He will probably never know the impact he has had on my life and in shaping the person I am. To this I owe the one person who has stuck by me, my brother, my friend.
Next year I will join him in college as well as adulthood. It’s a little scary but I know he will help me every step of the way. I think I chose his college because I wanted to make sure that my big brother would be by my side, holding my hand and telling me everything will be all right.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.