“The past is never where you think you left it.”
~ Katherine Anne Porter
Sister J. is the youngest brother of my (ex) best friend. There is another brother between them but I hardly know that one, he was aloof and hanged around with a different crowd.
Even though J. practically grew up in our place (his parents had the weirdest relationship I have ever witnessed in my life -the mother had a lesbian lover who was posing as her best friend- but everyone knew the real deal except probably the husband which I find very hard to believe because they all lived together, no wonder my ex-best friend is as fucked up as he was) I only gotten close to him when my friendship with his brother turned sour and finally ended. By that time my best friend was 19 and J. was 15.
We call him Sister because when he was young he liked to dress up like a girl complete with clips and ribbons in his short cropped hair. He behaved like one too and a voice to match. He was a likable kid, honest to the bone and very, very real; we loved having him around especially my mother. He was quite protective towards me and would attack anybody who ever dares to do me wrong, particularly boys. He accompanied me where ever I went, at all hours, without a single word of complaint.
My niece fancied him but J. being what he was always brought out the worse in her. They fought like cat and dog but I knew deep down inside, he cared about her; as a friend. He worried when it was late and she wasn’t home yet, taught her to dress up, talk and act decently, things like that.
When I asked Sister J. if he is gay he said: “Of course not!” he only acts and moves like a sissy but he is as straight as any male heterosexual could be (at least that was what he told me) I suspected that he hanged around our place seeking for some warmth and affection. I think he came to the wrong place but he seemed having a good time with us so, there was no harm done.
He was very demonstrative physically. If he comes around and finds us or me sitting on the sofa or lying in bed, he will squeeze himself in between or drape himself over me in different positions or will start combing and braiding my hair. Often times he would play with it while his head on my lap talking about everything and nothing. He was quite straightforward in his manners and language. I appreciated it. Honesty is so hard to come by.
He even told me about that one time he was playing with himself while lying in bed, he said the fluid shoot so high it landed right back inside his mouth and it tasted salty. He could relate such stories so matter-of-factly like telling some mundane occurrences such as the weather. Funny kid.
One day he showed me a love letter from one of his classmates. When I asked what he was planning to do with it he confessed that his ideal girl had to be someone with chinky eyes, long straight hair and must be clean and smells good with beautiful skin. I could only conclude that the letter sender did not possess those qualities he was looking for, or otherwise, we will not be there discussing the subject with me.
We used to sleep on the rooftop on a very big wooden bed under the water tank. Me, J. my niece, my mother, my nephew and his pregnant wife and another boy from the neighbourhood (but that story is for another time) we made bonfires and roasted marshmallows and crisps, drinking gin with fruit juices, making all sorts of concoction in a water jug mostly with milk and jelly in all colours of the rainbow, sister J. consuming most of them. It was a fun time.
With all the experiences I have shared with him, only three stay with me the most.
One was too painful to recall (maybe I would write about it someday) the other was when we were in the karaoke bar and he was singing (I miss you like crazy by N’Sync) out of the corner of his eyes he saw that someone put his arm around my middle to whisper something in my ear the only way I could understand what the guy was saying because of the noise. Sister J. suddenly put down the microphone and attacked the person I was having a conversation with, who could only utter in confusion: “J. if you are not what you are, I have beaten you up to a pulp by now.” But J. was beside himself and threatened to get the gun his father owned to shoot the other guy.
I was shocked! I didn’t expect that from him.
On the way home, J. blamed me for being so nonchalant about things like that. I told him it was nothing, that the guy didn’t mean me any harm but he was not convinced. He told me that talking doesn’t necessarily include touching, that I have to take better care of myself because I was gaining some reputation and he didn’t like to hear such things being said about me. The boy truly cared.
The third incident was about his brother.
I was at the karaoke bar (Again. The only form of entertainment in that part of the world) singing Against All Odds by Phil Collins when his brother walked in, ignored us, purchased some potato chips at the counter (he didn’t normally eat potato chips) talked to the pretty girl manning the cash register, lingered some more, put his face so close to hers their lips almost touching and smiled, the sweetest smile I have ever seen on his face. I didn’t know if the reason was that I knew it was an act and done especially to taunt me for the reason which that time eluded me, or I was surprised he would go to that extent to put on a show just to… what? Hurt me? I don’t know!
But nevertheless, something got stuck in my throat, I choked the words, my voice trembled and I could not finish the song. The next thing I knew, J. was behind me, saying softly: “Don’t mind him. He is just my brother. You know that he would do anything to get to you. It doesn’t really matter. He is not worth it.” And suddenly I felt a whole lot better. And I was ever so grateful to that boy for understanding beyond words, for being there when I needed someone, for being a true friend.
I realized that sister J. was growing up when one day I came home and as usual he jumped up to greet me, put both arms around my neck and kissed me affectionately, but I noticed that only his upper body was connected to mine; his lower torso he kept away from me. When I asked him about it he said: “But of course, out of respect. I’m not that little anymore you know…” with his usual exaggerated flair and air.
I heard he became a nurse (very J.) pity I sold my house and we lost touch and I see no reason to come back. But I miss him and will continue missing for the rest of my life…
A couple of years ago, I found out that he is active in social media. Since then, once in a while, I pass by his page to check what he’s up to but I never establish a contact. I don’t know why. I guess I am scared to lose what we had. In my mind, it was so perfect that I don’t want to be disillusioned if we can’t pick up where we left off.
I want to preserve the memory, to keep it intact. You see, I added it to the list of good memories to sustain me during hard times. Besides, he’s not a boy anymore. What it is they say? The past is never where you think you left it?