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My Brother This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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     My brother and I are tapping our feet and humming along to Medeski Martin and Wood as I drive him home after spending New Year's Day at our friend's house.

"So, let me tell you about my New Year's," my brother says randomly, reaching to turn down the volume.

"Alright, so it started when Lauren and her friend, whose name is also Lauren - which was so confusing because they even look alike - came over. Ryan and Nick were already there and we were just hanging around or whatever. Then we all walked down to this Mexican restaurant which is also a bar ..."

"How'd you get in? I thought you didn't have a fake."

"Yeah, well, they weren't really checking at the door. Anyway, so we get in and then randomly we ran into Rebecca. Which is weird too, because

I haven't seen her since ... I don't know, a while. So yeah, we were dancing and stuff, whatever. I guess she was flirting with me."

"Un huh."

My brother has an uncanny way of talking like everybody in the world is ready to listen.

***

"Let's talk about the movie," my mother prompted.

I watched as two women a few tables over had their Thanksgiving dinner at 11 o'clock at night in this contemporarily dim-lit restaurant in our Boston hotel.

"This is the kind of movie you just have to let sit. Give it 24 hours, Mom, then we can talk about it," my brother said.

My brother is always, always confident in what he has to say. He is the King of Being Right in our family. My mother likes to challenge him sometimes, but only to bring about more conversation. Silence makes her nervous.

I can't understand my brother most of the time. My parents don't either, but they pretend to, saying things like:

"The thing about Matt is, he just needs to grow up some more. I mean, he is

really smart and his thoughts and ideas are valid. It's just that he doesn't apply himself to his morals; his morals apply themselves to him."

My father convinced himself that my brother had made some sense, and tried to probe a bit further, and my mother silently clung to the topic as it slipped from her grasp. It's not that he never makes sense; he makes complicated, over-analyzed and supremely confident statements. His pompous hypocrisy makes me twitch.

Since my brother left for college, his presence in our family has become exponentially important. My mother relishes every moment of contact with him, printing out his emails and announcing when she is planning to call him; my father boasts about the philosophical emails they trade. They are so proud of him, in the most sickening way.

The first week of his absence left my mother pacing in front of his bedroom door, opening it, closing it, looking in, looking away. By the second week, she had decided the only solution would be to redecorate. She put the zebra rug in storage, and replaced the soccer-themed curtains. She moved his bed, took down his posters of Jimi Hendrix and Bob Marley, and put away his books; it became The Charming Guest Bedroom With the Lovely View. I know she could not stand to see his room like he was still living there, even though she never said it. The whole change left her an emotional wreck: crying and screaming outbursts became frequent and she became more clingy with my father.

Personally, his absence changed my world only slightly, and like any little sister, I missed him and looked forward to his return. His presence is always welcomed; I love my brother more than I probably could begin to express, but as much as I love him, I hate him too. Maybe it's the perfect balance between love and hate, or maybe it's completely imperfect. I always love him and I always hate him, both simultaneously and equally. I hate him most when he's with my parents.

I sank deeper into the booth as Brother loudly delved into another one-sided, deep meaningful and impossible-to-follow discussion while my parents desperately tried to follow, catching his delicate words with their eager hands. They eat him up, everything he has to say.

***

"And, I mean, I was pretty far gone at this point and I was dancing. I can't really remember everything - I'm just giving you stream of consciousness, just sorta snippets of the night that I can remember. Anyway, so we were dancing and she put her hand up or something and I did too and this huge guy walks by and I hit him!

I laughed a little. "In the face?"

"No ... or maybe; I don't know, but it was pretty funny."

"Yup." I glanced over my shoulder to change lanes, making sure to signal.

"Yeah, so we were there until midnight and then she kissed me on the cheek. I was a little disappointed because we were flirting, but whatever. So later we went out and, as we were leaving, well, at this point Ryan and Nick were so wasted, I mean, they drank so much that night and so we're leaving the place and all of a sudden I turn around to find Nick, because I've been herding them out of the bar so we can leave and Nick's gone and - oh man, this is so funny!"

"What happened?" I asked, listening now.

"So Nick apparently got into a limo, with people in the back, and literally tried to drive away but the real driver pulled him out of the driver's seat and beat the crap out of him." He laughs. "So Nick runs up to us with a black eye and his shirt ripped, hanging off him and we're all like, 'Dude, what the heck happened?' and Nick told us that he just sat in the car and wasn't trying to cause any trouble and the guy just randomly beat him up ... stupid drunk bastard!"

He laughed again, and this time I laughed with him. -

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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