This journal entry is dedicated to my little brother, Jonathan Newton. Thanks for the best sixteen years of my life so far, Jon.
We sat on the rough wooden porch beside each other, staring into the dim yellow twilight of the lampposts scattered along the asphalt pathway to the right. We stayed that way for a long time, conversing in our own unique dialect of silence, until at last Jonathan spoke. “I’m sorry.” We still weren’t looking at each other, but I knew the expression on his face well. His bright brown eyes were set hard against his emotions, but the tears glimmering just in the background revealed that his defenses were already weakening. “I’m sorry for being such a jerk and everything,” he continued evenly. “I shouldn’t have ignored you back there.”
I nodded slowly, “It’s alright. I understand.” More silence. My mind went back to the cabin behind us just five minutes before. I saw myself standing in the center of the room, words coming out of my mouth like hornets from a shaken nest, frustrated and venomous. Jonathan didn’t know, he was on the other side of the wall in Blue Jay 1, but I know if he had heard he never would have appeared in the doorway and asked me to come out and talk. “I’m getting so sick of this. Why does he always have to act this way?” All of my friends knew what I was really saying: “Why couldn’t he be a better brother?” Sitting there on the porch of Blue Jay, though, my own question turned on me like a righteous Benedict Arnold. My father’s words rang in my head, quietly accusing. “How is your brother? Make sure he’s doing alright, make sure he’s not lonely.” I’d left him hurting on his bed to be a next-door Judas, betraying his trust to indulge my own emotions. Looking back over the summer, I saw all of the days that he walked without purpose, his face dark and hard, and I knew I’d failed. How many times had I asked him if he needed to talk? How often had I gone out of my way to spend time with him? Why couldn’t I be a better brother?
I knew that I had no choice, I had to tell him, but I was afraid. If he knew what I’d said about him, that I’d put him down in front of my friends just for being human, would he be able to forgive me? I turned my head just half a degree, glanced at his face, opened my mouth. “I’m sorry, too,” I managed to whisper. Then, gaining strength, “I’m sorry I haven’t been there for you. I was just telling the guys in Blue Jay 2 about how frustrated I was with you for ignoring me, but the whole time I’ve been ignoring you, and I’m sorry.”
The silence returned, this time heavier and packed with intensity. Then I felt the slightest pressure as his arm moved up and rested across my shoulder, and warm reconciliation flowed from his body to mine. “It’s just so hard,” Jonathan sighed as I returned his embrace. “Knowing that you’re going to college, that this is our last summer together.” He paused. “I don’t regret any of it, you know.”
A jolt went out from my head to my heart and back. I turned to look him in the eyes for the first time that night, and I found them full of gentle redemption. I stared for a moment, transfixed, then I found my voice in the midst of my awe. “Any of what?”
“Of anything,” came his answer, quick and certain. “Of this week, of this summer, of us.”
“None of it?”
“None of it.”
His arm tightened around me, releasing me from bonds only he could break. We cried together on the porch of Blue Jay, cried for what we were about to lose and for all we’d just gained. The tears of hurt that we had held back minutes before transformed into tears of joy even as they fell, soaking into the rough cement steps below us and staining them with spots of shadow.
At last my tears retreated, leaving behind an emotional residue one step from numbness yet bursting with feeling, and I released my little brother. “Thank you,” I whispered.
Jonathan smiled, a divided smile born of sixteen years of brotherhood soon to be memories. “It’s going to be so weird,” he mused. “Who will I talk to when I’m supposed to be sleeping at night?” We laughed then, together, and I knew that nothing had changed between us, but at the same time everything was different. That summer was the end of our childhood, of our growing up together.