My father used to hold the pictures up in front of us, point, and say, “Who are those kids?” My brother, Vinnie, and I would look appropriately ashamed of ourselves for whatever we’d done to each other that day. I’d stare at the smiling brother and sister, one helping the other, and wonder when Vinnie had ever felt anything but annoyance for me.
We fought constantly, my brother and I. I once sat before my parents, telling them Vinnie had told me he didn’t love me. My parents called him up from the basement, and forced him to apologize before he could run back downstairs. As we grew older, our battles grew in complexity, from tiffs over who got to hold the remote to who was more helpful to the family (I was). Usually, these fights ended with me storming out, and Vinnie huffing around like a wounded animal. All of this continued until I was fifteen.
I entered high school just as Vinnie was leaving it. Each morning, he drove me to school, forcing me to listen to his terrible, grating bluegrass music. After several weeks of this torture, he began to ask me about myself. How was I liking school? Was anyone giving me problems? Which teachers did I have? Would I be trying out for the play? Eventually, he let me play my own music on the way to school, and even enjoyed it. We began to talk every morning about the friends I liked, the classes he hated, the theorems he was learning in his astronomy class, and all the gossip we’d heard on campus. After a year of these daily chats, when the time came for him to graduate, I felt quite deflated. But he stayed close, coming home frequently and texting me regularly. When I needed dating advice or study tips, I went to him. And when he needed fashion advice, he came to me. Now, he is one of my best friends. Finally, we’re just like those smiling kids in the picture: whole, like a filled balloon.