He was Yin and I was Yang. Since we were kids, it’s always been that way. Just a whole 15 months apart, my older brother and I have always been polar opposites. He, my father’s right hand, at his side pretty much from the very beginning. Me, always preferring the warmth of my mother’s comfort.
When apa would ask who wants to come to work with me today?, or ama would insist he take one of us with him to teach us the “real value of hard work,” he’d jump at the opportunity, I’d run and hide so I wouldn’t have to go. The few times we did end up going together, Chuy was all energy and will – what do I do now apa? show me how to do it, let me try – I, on the other hand, was more hands off. Sitting on the wayside mostly, trying to stay cool, away from the sun, playing with whatever rocks and sticks I could find.
At home with mom, I had all the freedom in the world to make-believe and play in my imaginary world outside. We were in the country so nature was my playground.
Over the years, though, we did begin to bond a lot more. Probably more than anything because we were accomplices – I’d say there weren’t more than a handful of travesuras that he did without me, or I did without him. We worked well together. He was the mastermind. I was the sidekick. Like Batman and Robin, Fred Flinstone and Barney Rubble, Shaggy and Scooby-Doo, or any other of the cartoon characters we grew up with. Despite our differences our shared mischievousness brought us together.
Chuy taught me how to shoplift, how to skip, how to play cool, how to look hard, and how not to let anybody punk me. Though I struggled with the latter through most of my middle school years anyway. People knew he was my brother and I knew if it came down to it he’d always be willing to stick up for me, so we were cool. Until we hit our teenage years. Then once again he was the cool one… me just the nerdy younger brother. “To each his own,” we thought, hardly ever meddling in the other’s business, except for when it came to girls.
That was the universal language we both spoke. The one we could stay up hours talking about, joking about… him giving me tips on how to win over my crushes, although they hardly ever worked. Chuy was always a lot smoother with the ladies than I was.
Outside of that, he’d take me to school and bring me back home in his low-rider-looking Chevy every day, but that was that. He had his own friends. I had mine. Still, every once in a while, usually late at night in the summers, when it was particularly humid and hot, he’d come in and say hey, you want to go to Dairy Queen? To which I’d reply yeah. We’d get in that car, which also had hydraulics – it was a shiny maroon color with custom rims and very low-riding tires that every once in a while he’d jump up and down for our amusement, and ride all the way to the fast food ice cream spot a good 15 minutes away from our house. We’d order a couple of banana splits and just sit there talking about everything and anything.
I learned more about my brother in those conversations than during any other of our convivencias throughout the years. In that low-rider I came to respect him, to admire him, and to look up to him.
I think, even if just a little, he learned to do the same for me.