He was competitive. I was so...not. Once I'd gotten an H and an O - I was done. He'd get angry. Eventually he'd offer to pay me a dollar to play the game all the way through. Win or lose. I'd agree. Until the H, the O, the R and the S and I quit. He couldn't stand it.
I could say that it was a noble, sisterly thing. That I just crumbled under the idea that he was the older brother and I submitted to him being better than me in every way. But that wasn't it. I just didn't want to play and didn't want to officially lose.
When we were adolescents it became a battle of the wits. He once tried to explain advanced algebra to me. But I simply didn't compute math. He tried and tried to explain and I repeated and repeated that it didn't matter how he explained it - math was simply a ridiculous notion.
"But if X = 5 and Y = 3," he said. "Then A = 8. That's basic. How do you not get that?"
"I get it," I answered calmly. "But who's to say what X really is? If it's 5 then it should just be 5. Not X. It's stupid."
He raised a dining room chair over his head as if he was going to slam it against the floor.
When we were teenagers - it was a battle of rebellion. I was the rebel. I was the girl who told her Rabbi she was thrilled w/ her parent's divorce and refused to love back the father who didn't love first. So when he tried to rebel, by drinking or staying out with his girlfriend - I didn't do the sisterly thing and keep my mouth shut. I rebelled against his rebelling and tattled.
But when we grew up, both away from home...something happened. He picked me up in Pittsburgh and drove me home for a holiday. He popped in Cd's of bands I'd never heard of and advised me to sleep once we hit Cleveland. He walked around the city with me and I showed him an old record store that he thought was cool. I kept going there after he'd gone home because...well he thought it was cool.
Stationed in Korea, we emailed each other. Nice, long emails. Sisters and brothers don't always talk like that. But friends do. He became my friend. Then he moved back to the states. We started hugging when we saw each other. When I first went to visit him in Phoenix, all of his friends told me how excited he was that I was there. We drove to the Grand Canyon and stood in silence. We hiked up Thunderbird Mountain. We drank Guinness and on a walk through Scottsdale, found a falafel house as out of place as you could imagine in the middle of the Southwest. It became our place. He became one of my best friends.
He's still competitive. He calls when he's sitting in a cafe on Santa Monica Boulevard, sipping on an iced latte and I'm sitting in a Pizza Hut in my small town sipping on iced tea. He leaves messages at 3 a.m. that he was in a bar sitting two tables away from Colin Farrell. He explains in detail the beauty of the 70 degree weather when I'm huddling in below zero temps smoking a cigarette and waiting for my car to warm up.
And when I tease him about growing older today, feeling brittle bones or losing hair - he reminds me that while all the girls who grace Maxim or Cosmo or any other lusty magazine are barely 20 - the men on the cover of GQ or Vanity Fair tend to be in their late 30's or 40's. Thirty, he says, is the new twenty.
He always wins.