I saw Felipe yesterday. It was the first time I’d seen him since his brother’s wedding, and he looked just the way he’s always looked when he was sleeping.
He’s slept the same way since we were born. Mouth open, the thoughtful look on his face accompanied by a scab or scrape for good measure.
Those scabs when we were little were often my fault. Even now, at 22 we both still have reminders of our childhood wars: his on his forehead, me on my hand. We poked, hit, bit, pushed, kicked, and absolutely refused to be separated.
We were a team at that age. We were for better of for worse.
The “worse” was public. It was in everyone’s faces and at the expense of our Uncle’s and Aunt’s, and parent’s energies as they would try to chase us around the house pulling us off of each other or whatever cabinet, or shelf, or tree we had decided to scale.
The “for better” part was ours. It was quiet and mostly private. They were the times he’d try to nurture and fix my wounds regardless of the fact he mostly caused them. The way he absent-mindedly played with my hair at 8-years old while we were squished together on the couch with his sister watching the scary movies we’d found tucked away in a closet. The way he always made me laugh. Sharing his journal writing with me and the stories behind it as we grew a little older. And, the occasional heart-to-hearts we’d have at 2am when our late teens brought greater distance between the amount we’d see each other.
Being exactly three weeks apart we spent our lives arguing about who should get the final say while renting videos, buying snack food, deciding what to do, where to go. But we also shared stories from grade to grade about adventures, teachers and what we were learning, and sometimes we even revealed secrets on how to get in good with the opposite sex.
All the millions of memories forgotten in the back of my mind, and all the ones still colorfully vivid came to me as I watched him. My Felipe. Just lying there.
I waited for him to wake up. I kissed his cheek and he didn’t swat me away. I twisted his hair in my fingers and whispered, ‘I see you finally decided to brush it’.
But still he didn’t move. And when I took his hand, I really knew for the first time that he never would again.
It felt so cold. I wanted to wrap him up in a blanket. His fingers were waxy and smooth like they’d been scrubbed clean—a long way from the rough and strong hands that had shaken me awake almost every Christmas morning since we were born.
There he was. Little Felipe. Little teaching me to play Nintendo, holding my head under the covers after he’d farted, swaying with me for hours in the basement hammock, Felipe. My partner in mischief and the only person who’s ever shared the loves of my life: scheming, and dreaming. There he was.
Still managing to bring life, tears and love into the room, even in death.
Amaya Duran is a Latina American writer based in Seattle, WA. For her day job she works as a humanitarian in disaster zones. Her off time is spent with her family, and 1 year old Maltipoo.