His tears are hot and angry when I come home late that night. My day (and my woebegone overly-emotional self) evaporate when I see him curled in the big brown easy chair. Mom and younger brother #1 have briefed me on the situation - the beloved iPod snatched out of his locker, the headphones so carefully, carefully saved for and explained and prized gone. And so younger brother #2 sits in the chair staring at the Bruins and I gasp for words like a fish gasping for water.
"I'm so sorry."
It's completely insufficient and we both know it, his eyes narrowing and his body twisting away from me as I try to hug him to no avail. And then my ends fray and I start trying to talk him down from justice in his own hands tomorrow and talk about confronting and how he wants to act before he thinks anymore and I yell, not loud but insistent, that this isn't safe, to talk this way, and it's dangerous to do this and he shouldn't...
And I realize as I spew the words out of my mouth that my youngest brother is braver than most adults I know. Because every day he wades through adolescents who are fearful and from their fear pours mean words and backtalk and gossip and anger and whispered rumors. And it wasn't so long ago that I was there too.
I remember how friends became enemies on the 4 minute bus ride home, because they "didn't want to talk to you anymore" and how easy it was to tell that secret but swear in the hushed slumber party hair braiding circles that no, you'd never tell. And the next day the secret was gone and I wondered too, like my brother, why God let it happen, and why He didn't stop it? Why? And I remember the wounds on tender teenage hearts, when so-and-so decided lunch was not a time to speak to you and I ate alone, or hid in the computer lab doing work. And I remember tearful diary entries when he or she chose someone else to be their girlfriend/friend/lab partner, or how I too often clung to the group instead of holding my hand to the shy ones in the corner the way I thought about, holding out love and curiosity and friendship.
So after he stalks to his room, angry and reeling, I do the only thing I feel like my heart tells me to do. I kick off my shoes. I peel back the covers. I crawl in. I put my arm protectively around him and I say, "I'm here, and I love you." We lie there for a while, the hum of the fan a gentle music. And I watch him, and am amazed that I have the privilege of being in his life - that the word sister can be what he calls me.
I kick off my shoes and I drop my purse and make my arms as wide and warm as possible, because my brother is brave. Because when words falter, the most I can do as his sister is kick off my shoes and snuggle into bed with him, and stop what I'm doing in my day and stop everything, just so that I can say "I love you" to the bravest among us.
In the world where everything logical falls apart at the first touch: the little child in the manger is the only giver of Life, the whole Kingdom of Heaven is a mustard seed, and the infinite is only ever found in the smallest moment - this is the world where kicking off your shoes and crawling into the sibling space and whispering I love you is the only thing to do.
May we love one another.