“They grow up so fast, don’t they?” – A woman said. She was an adult, in her late thirties or so, and I guessed she was my neighbor. I must have had seen her once or twice in my building.
“Hmm” – I only hummed in response. I have always thought that big birthday parties were an example of pure phoniness. They were not for the birthday person, or for the family or close friends. Instead, they are only for acquaintances, that thought that buying expensive presents was a way to make up for the lack of intimacy and fondness between them and the person who’s party was being thrown for.
It was my little brother’s birthday party. He had just turned 7, which he was extremely glad for, as it was his favorite number. I have always liked that number as well, as all the good things that happened to me had some type of connection to the number 7. I refused to think that it was the universal number of good luck, and that it was most people’s favorite number as well. For me, it belonged to me and my brother only.
The only thing that made me stick around was seeing him. He was so happy, ignoring all the adults that were around him, trying to take pictures so that they could show their friends they had been somewhere other than their own homes. Instead, he was just running around with his friends, stepping on top of colorful wrapping paper, which my mother always tried to save from being torn by small, excited little hands. I can’t say I was ever careful either. I guess that was the thing that my brother and I had in common the most. We never really cared about material things. To us, what really counted were experiences, the emotions we would feel, the people we would meet. We were always keen to get out of the house, spend some time together in the outdoors, play until we couldn’t anymore, and lay on top of the fresh grass, watching the clouds go by.
He jumped in front of me, all sweaty, his hair damp and sticking to his face. He held on to my legs and said: “Here, come see what I have done for you” I couldn’t refuse going with him, his pleading little eyes shining at me. He led me to his room, where, to my surprise, there wasn’t anybody. He pushed some of his toys and coloring books from his shelf, where in a spot in his white wall, there was a drawing made with crayons and colorful markers. Right away I recognized myself, my father, my mother, our dog and my little brother. Our family.
“Do you like it? I made it especially for you!”
“Of course I like it! You have very skilled hands, you know. When I was your age I could barely write my name.” – I lied. I often did that. Small, insignificant lies. I figured there was no harm in saying such things, as they only made my brother a little proud of himself. I didn’t mind putting myself down in order to see him happy.
I knew my mother would get furious if she saw the drawing on the wall, having experienced that myself when I was younger, but I would not tell her. And I wouldn’t dare to wipe it off, see his work being wasted away. After all these years, the drawing still decorates that part of the wall, not being noticed by my mother, but also not being forgotten by me or my brother.
“Can you sing my special song? Please!” – He asked.
“Only if you grab my guitar. I want to make it extra special today, since it is your birthday.” – I answered, and smiled softly as he handed me the instrument. I plucked the strings, occasionally strumming, and enjoying the sound of each chord as I sang: “Picture yourself in a boat on a river, with tangerine trees, and marmalade skies. Somebody calls you, you answer quite slowly, a girl with kaleidoscope eyes.”
“Cellophane flowers of yellow and green towering over your head” He continued, smiling broadly as he sang “Look for the girl with the sun in her eyes and she’s gone”.
The door opened with a thud as two children appeared, holding pieces of green play dough, which immediately sent my brother to play with them. I only smiled as I saw them running off to the living room, as I got up to look at the pictures that stood on the walls. Many of them were from years ago, when he was just a little baby, but there were more recent ones, of him playing soccer and visiting the beach. Those walls were to be filled with many other pictures. Pictures of our family, of him and his friends, his pets, and his idols, which I know I had a huge influence in. Whenever we were together I would always put some music on for us to hear, varying from classic rock n’ roll, to folk and psychedelic music from the 70’s, all the way to grunge rock from the 90’s. If there is one thing I am proud of, it is the music taste I helped him to develop.
10 years later, I was in that same bedroom, with all my clothes packed, and a bag hanging on my shoulder. In front of me, stood the person I would miss the most. My little brother, who looked so much like me, and had grown up to be much taller than me, wearing a small smile on his lips, but his eyes looking rather sad.
“I can’t believe you are actually going.” – He said
“Well, it is only right for me to do so. I have been planning on moving to Scotland since I was 13.”
“I know, I just can’t imagine myself being here, without you to annoy me every day.” – He chuckled as I hit him in his arm.
“You are going to miss me so much.” – I said, as we both smiled, enjoying one of our last moments together for what would be quite a long time.
“I have only one thing to do before dad leaves you at the airport.” – He said, while grabbing the guitar I gave to him as his 15th birthday present. He sat on the bed and played the intro that I knew for a long time.
“I am going to make it extra special today” – My brother told me, as my eyes were starting to burn, biting back the tears.
“Picture yourself in a boat on a river, with tangerine trees, and marmalade skies. Somebody calls you, you answer quite slowly, a girl with kaleidoscope eyes. Newspaper taxis appear on the shore, waiting to take you away. Climb in the back with your head in the clouds and you’re gone”
“You got it wrong. Again. You are never going to learn, are you?” – I said, and we both laughed, knowing just how many times he had got the words in the improper order.
He took a CD from under his pillow, which had the words “For Jane” written in the cover, in black marker. There was a list of songs in the back, some of our favorites. Wonderwall, Fluorescent adolescent, Memphis Tennessee, and She’s a rainbow were the first songs I saw. I did not want to read the others, preferring it to be a surprise.
“I will listen to it all the time in my new place.” – I said, feeling genuinely happy for receiving such a gift. It couldn’t have been better, he knew me too well.
“I know you will.” – He said.
We hugged and said our goodbyes as I went down the elevator, meeting my father who was waiting in the car. I couldn’t help myself, taking the CD out of my bag and putting it on the radio. We made our way to the airport as I watched the so familiar sights out the window. It would take a long time for me to see them again. My nerves calmed down as soon as I heard that song I knew quite well. “Picture yourself in a boat on a river, with tangerine trees, and marmalade skies.” It was all going to be alright.