As children, my cousin and were inseparable. Last year he was married, and while he was dancing with his bride, I pondered a piece of our shared history......
At 12, we sat upstairs, a bare bulb lighting the room as Grandma snored downstairs. We did not do reckless things: there was no drinking, no smoking, no fighting, no vulgar discussions of sex. Instead, we wrote.
Fiction was not our forte, so we wrote our shared history--mostly about school. Taking turns, with horrendous spellings and newly learned cursive, we tried to capture Nathan's sneer when he got me in trouble or Christopher's tears when we beat the crap out of him at a softball game, unbeknownst to us he would die before turning 18, his body splayed out on a Green Bay sidewalk from an undetected heart condition.
Maybe we would have been nicer if we had known, but we didn't. We wrote from the perspective of the recent past, and we used pencil, pens still off-limits to our fingers, and the temptation of the eraser seduced us with its ability to alter the past.
All summer we wrote.
The bare bulb glowed, casting more shadows than light, and often we heard the hushed whispers of bat wings in the attic and strange rustling sounds of mice chewing on the dusty encyclopedias stacked haphazardly in the corner of the room. We attended to these sounds, but mostly they blended with the scratching of graphite against 8.5 x 11 inch paper in spiral bound notebooks.
It was a race to hold on to memories, and we acknowledged this even at 12, but with each page turn, we felt as if we would hold on to this shared past, our friendship, and we sat cross-legged on those beds, tossing around misspelled words like candy confetting on a birthday cake, hoping someone would notice its beauty before blowing out the candles, leaving us in the dark.
In his dark, charcoal tuxedo my cousin made it over to the table I was at with other family. Time had split us apart, and we hadn't spoken nor seen each other in almost a decade. He had grown into the body of a linebacker, with intimidating shoulders and paws of a grizzly bear. When his paw clapped me on the shoulder with a gesture of welcome, I almost fell off my chair with its force. Unlike him, I had grown into the skinny, bald artsy type one would expect to be a roadie for Peter, Paul, and Mary or The Kingston Trio.
We created a stark visual contrast. I brought up our shared history, the nights at Grandma's scribbling away until dawn; his eyes seemed to glaze over in a state of vapid politeness. He tilted his head and shrugged his twin mountains he called shoulders: "Huh," he said, flatly, "I don't remember that..."
But, I do; and as I am typing, next to my coffee cup on the end table, I can see two of those notebooks I have managed to save from all those years ago. Their pages are yellowing, my cursive writing is fading more than his because I didn't apply as much pressure when I wrote, but the words can still be read. That wedding had turned into a funeral for a young boy I had once known, and it scared me. I didn't want that to happen to me, so that's why I type here and type mostly from the perspective of the past: I am writing in an attempt to keep me whole.