Stuck in the Middle
Stuck in the Middle “AJ! Come back!.
” The howling wind was the only response to my cries. How could he do this to me? How could he abandon his own little brother, who he grew up protecting at all costs, like it was nothing? I always tried to be just like my older brother. He was like a god to me. He had a buzz-cut, so I had a buzz-cut. He loved Harry Potter, so I loved Harry Potter. I shadowed his every action, hoping to be just like him when I reached his age, until the day I found myself cold, alone, and scared on the side of a mountain.
Skiing with my brother was a dream come true, and I wanted to prove I could keep up with him. He was used to going down black diamond runs, and I knew it was only a matter of time before I wiped out. With a face full of snow, I watched in agony as the grey and blue jacket became smaller and smaller until it disappeared beyond the slopes as my brother sped down out of sight. I was only ten, yet there I was, lying in pain, shivering, and near tears. Surely, he would come back for me. Skiers were whizzing by me, too busy racing down the slopes to notice a small kid quivering in the snow.
Why did I expect anyone to stop for me? It must’ve been ten minutes before anyone approached me. I had been betrayed and was losing all hope of being rescued, until I found myself being lifted out of the snow. Great. It was a ski instructor and his class. The kids snickered as they stared at me.
“Are you ok? Where is your family? How did you end up buried in the snow?” The lingering stench of old chicken tenders and hot chocolate infiltrated my nostrils with every word. Please go away. I ignored the fact that my wrist was on fire, my back was killing me, and my brother left me. “I’m fine.” I managed to take my skis off and hobble down the slopes with the hope that my brother would be waiting for me at the bottom. I restlessly anticipated his grey and blue jacket to come into my vision.
But it never appeared. Enraged, I stormed into the lodge only to find him devouring french fries without a care in the world. That was it. I was furious. Steam was blowing out of my ears. Punching him in the arm, I yelled, “What the hell is wrong with you?” Who the hell ditches their little brother? “You made it.
You’re fine, aren’t you?” Really? That’s his only response? I tried to look at the situation from his perspective, hoping that there was some reason for him to go on without me, but there was nothing there. I decided at that point that I didn’t want to be like my brother; no one should be left behind. I learned that AJ, just like everyone, was fallible. I was going to be my own self. What I hadn’t realized in this moment is that I had been on the other side of this situation. My little brother, Ben, who tells me he hates me and loves me almost every day, trusted me with his life, and he almost lost it.
Just a few years before the incident on the mountain, I found myself holding a rag to my brother’s weak head to keep the thick red blood from gushing out. Why would he trust me? My older brother had just got a new bike, and I was ecstatic because it meant I was getting passed down his “old” mountain bike. What he saw as a crappy old bike, I saw as a gift from God himself. The black finish with green flames and just enough mud made it look like it belonged to a true mountain biker. It was a major upgrade.
I was barely tall enough to swing my leg over the monstrous bike. It would be a terribly stupid idea to have my little brother try to get on this bike, but I couldn’t wait to rub this in his face. I don’t need Mom’s help. I can do this on my own. All I could imagine was how Ben would look when gazing upon this gift from the Heavens.
“Just trust me.” I knew he was too small, and I wish he hadn’t trusted me. The bike was resting on its kickstand on the back patio, next to some pillars with sharp corners make of brick. It was set up for disaster, and yet I failed to see it. I just wanted Ben to be jealous that I was getting a new bike, not him.
I helped him on so he could feel just for a second what it was like to be as cool as me and ride this sweet bike. My heart stopped when the bike tipped over away from the kickstand, and it didn’t stop falling. I could see where my brother’s unsuspecting body was headed: the bricks. I went wrong in two places here. First, I thought it would be cool to get my brother on a bike that was too big for him, and second, I did not give my brother a helmet.
Oh s***. Splattered blood was dripping down the white column and pooling up under my brother’s head. I ran inside, tears flying off my face, shouting at my mom to come quick. The result? 10 stitches on the top of his head and four family members who were beyond pissed at me. I had always hated the bad guys in movies, TV shows, and books, and I never would’ve guessed that the bad guy would be me.
Looking back to sitting in the lodge on the mountain, I wish that I understood that people and their relationships with others are always changing, and it’s part of everyday life to learn how to accept these changes. Ben was able to forgive me for making the worst decision of my life, and I knew I had to come to terms with AJ. Although he makes mistakes, he is always going to be my big brother. He may not have been there for me on that mountain, but he was there for my first day of high school, my first date, and he’ll be there for so much more. Seven years later, AJ and I are closer than we have ever been, even though he’s in Eugene following his dreams.
I may not want to do the exact same things he does, but he has shown me a path to follow. It took time for my ten-year-old self to grasp the fact that actions can be forgiven and relationships can be repaired. Even if I don’t follow my brother’s path, I know from experience that I can find my own way down the mountain.