Rediscovering Connections

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Haruta and his brother at the beach

We all have at least one person we call our best friend, and I’m sure everyone agrees it is important to express our gratitude and love for them. 

February 28th, 2008, a call came from my father; Announcing the delivery of my newborn brother, my future best friend. As I let the news settle in, the cheers of my grandparents subsided. A shock of realization struck my head: I was an older brother. My clouded emotions condensed into a single dot of love. I made a promise that day: To become a guardian, a role model, and always protect and lead brother. 

In a blink of an eye, I was 9, and my brother had turned 6. The upbringing of our strict parents shaped my brother and I into puzzle pieces. We completed each other, and were inseparable. But from time to time our exceptional bond attracted hate, and I often found myself throwing my brother under the bus; For the sake of my reputation. Regardless, the silhouette of my brother never left my sight. Mutual understanding, acceptance, our relationship fulfilled everything I could possibly ask for.

However, transitioning to junior high, the magical times welcomed an end. As I hit my teenage years, the ins and outs of my puzzle piece changed; a rise in strength, speed, and size. Our competitive games of soccer flipped into my domination. Looking down at my brother on his knees, listening to his heavy breaths, my eyebrows furrowed into a frown. Our favorite activities came to a halt, as the soccer equipment collected dust in the shadows of our house. But that was just the start.

I was maturing into my own person. 7th grade was when I felt the uneasiness of having my brother around. Our inside jokes, conversations, and interests, all seemed childish, foolish. Nights on the bunk bed welcomed the day without a word, and family dinners went by with a few squeaks of scraping utensils. Day by day, our brotherhood crumbled, slipping through my fingers like sand. 

A few months passed, and I noticed a sudden change in my brother. I caught him scrolling through my unattended phone, reading text messages, examining photo albums. Despite my warnings, he slithered his way through to violate my privacy, my boundaries. The attempts swarmed my head with irritation. It was a declaration of war. A superficial touch was over-exaggerated into an intentional jolt, and a wrong choice of words was misdisplayed as a formidable insult. Anything was and became a reason to fight.

July 21st, 2020, my family and I were issued a mandatory return to Japan. The massive outbreak of COVID-19, the language and culture gap, followed me on a road of utter loneliness. Face masks and social distancing turned conversations into an anonymous phone calls. Unnecessary conflicts, misunderstandings repeated endlessly. Wherever I went, an overflow of anxiety and doubt choked my throat turning me colorless and empty.

As any other day, I distracted myself in pools of homework when a distant cry echoed in my ear. My brother’s. I had forgotten that right next door slept a person that understood everything. 

The deceiving filters of friends and academics faded into thin air. It was clear; I avoided him, ignored his calls for help, and caused the downfall of the relationship.

 It was time I stood up and reclaimed my duties as an older brother. 

I began bringing home soda and candy, became careful with my words, and started conversations. It took weeks, but the long-awaited response of progress came from the other side. My brother voluntarily cooked the family scrambled eggs. His offer, “ You want some?” turned my paralyzed frown upside down. Without a pause of thought, words escaped my mouth. “Thanks, man. I love you.” 

Danger allows us to wake up from our normalization of beautiful things. Countless people have lost their loved ones to COVID-19, and there is no assurance my family won’t be next. It is impossible to take back death, but memories last forever. Let us reflect once more on our tree of relationships. Are there any branches that have broken off, forgotten and untouched?  Are there any leaves that await to bloom from the restrictions of fear to reach out? Live without regrets, make the best of your limited time here, and rediscover your lost connections.

 

Live without regrets, make the best of your limited time here, rediscover your lost connections.
- Haruta
Stories
Japan