Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Sibling Rivalry

He’s two and a half years younger than I am. I do have very vague memories of when my mother was pregnant and going to pick them up at the hospital with my father. To say that we were never friends is putting it lightly. I can’t really remember a time during our entire childhood or adolescence when we were nice to each other. The times when we were just civil were few and far between and usually were a direct result of some kind of threat or bribery regarding television, Nintendo, or some other coveted privilege from my mother.

I think the only thing we ever had in common, other than the obvious, is that we both wished to be an only child. I used to think he was switched at birth and that my real brother was floating around somewhere else. If he hated it then I loved it. If he said it then I didn’t. If I went somewhere then he didn’t. If I excelled then he failed. I was neat and tidy and he was messy. I was an honor student and he never turned in homework. Many a game of Super Mario Brothers turned into a fist fight. Sometimes my parents would separate us in the car so they could drive in peace. I had no rules and he had every rule there ever was. I had a car waiting for me when I turned 16 and they didn’t let him get his license until he was 17 ½. When he got sent home from summer camp for buying a hallucinogen from a VW van in Yellowstone Park I thought it was hilarious. When I went through my first bout of teenage girl angst over a guy he mocked me endlessly. I went away to college on the East Coast and he went to a technical school in Phoenix. He was married and divorced by age 22. I’m 29 and I’ve never brought a serious boyfriend home to meet my family. I had built a million dollar company by age 24 and he enlisted in the army after his divorce at 22. I’m 5’6” and he’s 6’4”. I have dark hair, dark eyes, and olive skin and he’s pale with lighter hair and hazel eyes. And so on… The term “polar opposites” seems fitting here.

He got his discharge papers in January. It’s amazing that four years could go by that quickly. In the last four years we’ve reached a new point in our relationship. We can be in the same room when he’s in town and not clash. We can mutually ignore each other or even have polite small talk. In January when he was home we were both at my mother’s house. She left to go out with friends for the evening. We ordered pizza and hung out watching movies while she was gone. When she got home and found out we had done that there were tears in her eyes and she kvelled over it for days.

He made the choice to work as a contractor for an American company in Iraq after the army and left in late January. His reasons are not political. He does the same thing in the same place that he did for the last few years in the army except now he makes about six times as much money. As you know I don’t watch local news and get whatever pertinent national and international news I feel I need to know in the five minutes I spend on the internet every morning but yesterday I happened to be in an office where CNN was on and the breaking news flash read: “U.S. citizen working for a contracting company was kidnapped from a construction site in Baghdad.” My heart skipped a beat and a knot formed in my stomach.