He certainly didn't look like someone who would be turning eighteen in a few months; he looked much younger, and I would joke that he was only fourteen. But that wasn't true, either. His age changed along with his mood and his personality and his small comments. Flexible and malleable, and yet he was still seventeen, always seventeen. That's the part that confused me the most. That a guy could look young and act young, speeding down sidewalks on his bike, imagining it was a motorcycle, but then suddenly mature in a matter of seconds into somebody who knew what he was talking about. He was a giant mystery to me; everything I never understood rolled up into one impossible person.
We used to go skating every weekend in the winter, when the arena was open for family skates and adult skates. I'd be the first one on the ice, doing spins and crossovers and waiting until he finally finished tying his skates; because then he would be on the ice and we would race until we fell over or we started acting silly. We pretended we were fighting, just play fighting, like something I used to do with my brother before he grew too tall and too lanky and too mature to play fight with his older sister. We would race and then, when I knew I couldn't catch up to him, I'd cut across the ice and grab at his sweater, spinning him until he was facing me; those light green eyes dancing with something unexplainable.
Sometimes when we fought, and I was feeling nervous by our closeness, I would make jokes about us. "Oh, did you want to hold my hand?" I would ask, and he would sigh and grumble and skate off towards the other end, and I would fiddle with my gloves, wishing that for once he would just take hold of my hand instead of leaving me to wander the ice alone. But it wasn't a big deal, that's what I would tell myself; it was never a big deal with him. He would be back in a minute after racing around the rink, and then we would be taking every chance we had to be in contact with each other, like we were the only ones there.
When we were caught side by side, and my mother wanted to diverge us from the road we were wandering down, she would say things like, "this is my other son," and I would take a quick glance at him, assessing his reaction. But he was stoic and standing straight as a pin next to me, hardly noticing the gaggle of Chinese women gathering to admire my mother's other son. And then when they turned to me, I followed my mother's example, squeezing his arm gently, and saying, "this is my brother," but never really believing it. Our eyes were both a mysterious green, but that was our only similarity.
Then one night, when we were all alone, partaking in our favourite pastime activity - watching endless episodes of Supernatural - things changed. I was used to him constantly being at my side, poking at me or teasing me or just standing so close that I could feel him breathe in, breathe out, breathe in. But this was different. This was on my mother's boyfriend's couch, and this was his right side lined up with my left side, his pinky finger slowly, slowly, slowly reaching up and hooking around my pinky finger, and slowly, slowly, slowly stealing my hand away into his own.
The entire time, my focus was gone. I was remembering a time when we were walking outside in the dark, back from a show in a house by a famous Cuban musician. I was talking to him in French, knowing very well he wouldn't have a clue what I was saying. "Je t'aime," I had said, while we were walking alone that broken up sidewalk, and he would ask me what it meant, what anything I said in French meant. And his hand would be so close to mine, so close that I needed to say something, incase he had forgotten how close it was. "If you want to hold my hand, you can, you know," I had said. He said, "really," like he wasn't so sure, he wasn't so sure at all. But I was sure, so I said so. "How should I do that?" he had asked. "I don't know, just tell me how much you like me," I laughed at that, because I was just kidding by then. We were joking and play fighting and walking back to the car we had arrived in. "Maybe you could tell me you wanted to hold my hand, and I would say sure," but then, "maybe you could just hold my hand."
And that's exactly what had happened that night, sitting on my mother's boyfriend's couch, watching as we turned from whatever we had been into something new and tingly. He traced circled on the palm of my hand, as if he was reading my future, and I wondered what he saw in it. Was it as misty to him as it was to me? I wasn't concentrating on the t.v. like he was, I was watching everything he did; the way our legs suddenly twined together and the way he would point towards the t.v. during the scary parts. I had already seen the episodes before, I had time to wonder, I had time; filling me up until I was spilling with the next five weeks. Because five weeks was all we ever had.
I remember playing infection on Halo with him, the high-pitched laugh that would erupt from him whenever he had destroyed a zombie, and the way we would creep up behind each other, whack each other on the head, even if we were on the same team. I remember making popcorn and melting too much butter over it, just because I liked it like that best, and I knew he liked it like that as well. Him teaching my to salsa in somebody else's basement, his hand barely touching my waist, mine barely laying on his shoulder. A sweet smile when we passed each other on the stairwell up to my mother's classroom. A moment, any moment, that I've captured perfectly; so perfectly that sometimes I think it'll be okay because I have all of these memories.
More than anything, I look at him and realize that soon we'll be the same age; seventeen for a few months together. And, also, that I liked him, and he liked me, and I realize, as I sneak glances into those pale green eyes, that it will never be that simple.