Growing up my older brother Jeremy was a blessing and a curse. Our Father was never around, but that did little to stop us from inheriting his stature. When Jeremy was 13 he reached his full height of 6’1″. His shoulders were broad and his chest was powerful. He always had a daring look in his eyes and confidence to back it up. I was the antithesis to his existence, a fat, shy kid with thick glasses. Even with our differences we were brothers and happily took with it every duty it entailed.
One day we were riding our bikes to the park, in a moment of hesitation and then stupid urgency I cut across a busy street to catch up to Jeremy. A van narrowly missed me as it came to a screeching halt. I stopped my bike to survey the near accident and give an apology. The driver’s door flung open and a man stepped out. He began yelling at me and questioning my intelligence in a rather rude way. When confrontation came the turtle was my totem, and so I sat stationary on my bike hoping this man would stop screaming before I started crying.
Jeremy must have heard him and wandered over from the park. He quickly sized up the situation and said “Shut the f— up, and get back in your car.” The man looked at my 13 year old brother and quickly entered his van. We heard the door lock as he drove off.
“What a bitch.” Jeremy said.
“The punks lucky he left.” I added.
Jeremy laughed deep and loud. That was my brother, the boy who frightened men.
He was a force of nature to the other kids in school. Nobody messed with him, not even our own suburban brand of tween gang bangers. Heck, most didn’t even mess with me and I looked like the fat kid from Hook, you know the one who folds up into a ball and rolls down the plank way. But only most kids, some kids still saw easy prey and jumped all over me like hyenas on a plump and wounded gazelle. The only problem was the biggest, baddest, king of the jungle was this gazelle’s brother.
Jeremy was a good older brother, but we still argued, fought, and made fun of each other. One day we were in the halls of our middle school on our way to the clubhouse to play Street Fighter II. Jeremy was laying into me, mocking me and kicking at my feet as I walked in front of him. Apparently he had deemed my method of victory in one of yesterday’s Street Fighter II games as underhanded, and wanted to know if I thought I could replicate the trouncing in real life. I did my best to assure him that this was not a thought I could ever entertain, and that the very idea was so ridiculous that the words used to form the question were practically unintelligible to me. This seemed to appease his ego, and he changed the subject to the characters I could not use against him in Street Fighter II because of my cheap tactics. The tactic of victory through coercion he held to be a time honored tradition and the beginning of my exposure to meta-gaming. When he was finished I was left with Balrog, a character I never really played because, pointedly, he sucks. “Let’s see you beat me now when you can’t be a cheap pussy.” Jeremy said, and once more he began taunting and mocking me.
One of our classmates decided to join his fun as we passed by and spoke up to contribute an insult. It would have upset me, but I knew something he didn’t. My heckler, this bastion of power that other kids flocked to and followed, the king of the jungle was my brother. Jeremy turned so fast the kid almost didn’t have time to finish his critical commentary on the state of my developing manhood. “What the hell did you just say about my brother!” The kids face contorted into a mask of shock and terror. He eyed the exit 30 yards down, but was either too scared to move, or knew that Jeremy would cut him down like a two ton truck hitting a tricycle. “I… You were…” the kid stammered. In one swift motion Jeremy charged the kid slamming his left arm into the kid’s chest so hard his feet left the ground. Jeremy used the momentum to violently pin the kid against a locker. The protruding handle and lock could not feel good on his back. “Nobody makes fun of my brother.” He said. His voice was calm and certain, as if he was commenting on the truest principle in the universe. This certainty filled me with a momentary sense of pride and self-worth that was often missing in those days. With his free hand he slugged the kid in the stomach, and let him drop to the floor wheezing. Jeremy then pressed his foot into the kids back until he was flat on the floor. “Don’t ever say a f—ing word to him again.” The King eyed his fallen prey and was content with the natural order he had restored to his lands, so we walked on.
“You didn’t have to do that” I said. “Hey, nobody makes fun of my brother.” he said. His face was sincere and filled with brotherly compassion. “Nobody but you.” “That’s right.” His face held a different brotherly look and I thought it best to drop the subject. “F—ing Balrog.” I said in a whine of exhaustion. “Yeah, Balrog.” He laughed, already anticipating victory.
We had our pains, but I wouldn’t trade my two brothers for the world. You should hear the stories about Anthony!