My brother has this crazy idea in his head, that if he gets his ass kicked in the old Chestnut Barn, he’ll somehow end up with ghost blood in his body.
“A ghost would heal me, and then nobody would ever try to fight me again, because I’d have a little tiny bit of ghost blood in my body, so their punches would go right through me.”
“Why not the McDonald’s parking lot?” I asked, “Isn’t french fry grease less spooky?”
“Shut up, Kevin, you don’t understand.”
“You’ve never even been in a fight.”
“That’s totally not true. I’ve been in so many fights, dude.” His face starts to redden and I know a tantrum is on the horizon.
I’ve been trying to figure out who my brother is. He is 12, and he talks a lot about his friends, but I’ve never really seen anyone hanging out with him. Although, I don’t come home all that often, so I don’t really know what his friend situation is like.
Riley is exactly ten years younger than me, and I have just realized that he has been a completely different potential version of himself every time I’ve seen him since I moved away. I know that he has impossibly long eyelashes, that used to tangle themselves up while he slept. I know that he loves snowboarding. And I know that he’s a dick just like every other 12 year old boy. Mostly I know facts about him. Like his middle name (Bryant), and that we share a birthday (June 13). And that the shiny scar that splinters across his face like a fracturing planet is from a school bus accident.
Our mother says that sometimes he gets mentally stuck at 8 years old, which was how old he was when the bus driver had a stroke and crossed the center line on a foggy April morning. She told me that he is “mostly normal,” but not to be surprised if he acts immature for his age. It’s what happens when you experience a trauma like that. So when he see him clench and unclench his bony fists, I change tactics.
“I’ll kick your ass in the Chestnut Barn, if you want.”
“Shut up, Kevin.”
“Yeah, dude I will. If you think it’s gonna win you some ghost friends. I’ll beat you til you cry.”
“I don’t need ghost friends. I’m just saying that if I get a little of their blood on me, I’ll have a superpower.”
He looked down at his phone and spun it around the kitchen counter, quietly.
“Stop teasing me, Kevin.”
I had knocked something loose in his fouled-up imagination, and I wished I knew how to put it back.
“Have you ever seen a ghost?” I asked him, finally.
And finally, he responded.
“Yeah.” He pointed at me. “You.”