Monday, February 23, 2009

the boy who's always had my heart

They keep changing. The seasons, I mean. And not like they're supposed to. Last week it was in the seventies, and a few nights ago it got down to nineteen degrees, and then driving home today, the way the light was bright and clear and the air blew through cool on my hands, it was fall of 2005, cross country and the smell of leaves and earth, running through the trails, driving to meets.

Last week I was walking to campus for my eight a.m. class and there were tractors in the part Alicia and I call the Narnia woods, kicking up earth and it smelled like that mix between country and something urban, fields and asphalt. I remember being maybe nine or ten and playing with my brother and my babysitter's neices and nephews in her front yard. Along the edges of her house, you could dig two inches into the damp dirt before hitting concrete, and rolliepollies crawled out of the brick and we played with them, let them crawl across our fingers.

They were the only bugs my brother wasn't afraid of. I remember how he'd scrunch his shoulders up, face stretched like laughing and almost shouting, the way he'd hold as long as he could until it tickled too much and he'd jump up and try to catch a few more.

Last week it was mid-February and it was humid and warm for that early in the morning, surprising for that early in the year, especially if you're not from here. But it was also twelve years ago, and I wanted to reach across that gap and hold my brother's hand, tell him things would get hard and he wouldn't understand, but that one day after everything we'd realize there had only ever been hope.

I saw Josh this weekend, and I know we aren't there yet--and there's so much I wonder. If I could have been holding his hand the whole time, something, would it have been any different? He's almost grown now, and it's still strange to reach up to hug him, for him to be so much bigger than I am. But he is not the child he might have been, and he's not the child I sometimes remember. He is hurting and fighting everything there is and when people really love him, he's my Josh, the one I missed out on loving when it might have meant more than it does now.

It's too early to be this warm. I want it to be warm. Really, I want it to start getting warm and stay in that not-quite place for a while. But when it went back to cold again, I started complaining about it and someone said to me, well, it is February.

He's sixteen, he'll be seventeen in two months. And I have to remember that it is only February for him, that we haven't even seen spring yet.

But what I want is May, he and I running at dusk underneath a summer sky, that great dome of heaven reaching across it from one side. I want the way the night beat inside itself, cricket heartbeat, the shingles on the roof still warm from the sun. We were alive and he was my brother and there were only nights like that.

He'll be all right. He'll be all right.