There had always been a spark. When you’re that age, there usually is. It hadn’t faded as we grew up, though. One of us always had it, even when the other one didn’t. For a very short time, once when we were young and then again when we were older, we both felt it.
His twin bed was pushed against the wall in a room that I remember being cluttered and drab, undecorated. I was sitting on it, my back against the wall. He was in the room with me, maybe next to me on the bed, maybe pulled up near me on a chair. I can’t remember. It was the one day, the one hour, where everything that may happen almost did, where what we could have been we almost were.
The time was cut so short and felt so fast; a minute or two, it seemed, barely more. His mom, angry as always, was a presence before we knew it. Did she come in or was she just on her way home? It felt like she was there. We were both a little sad, him looking down, slow in his movements, careful with his words. We both knew it couldn’t be, not for a very long time – maybe somewhere in the future, but neither of us could even imagine that yet. We were too young. We would be for years.
I was 27 when my older brother got married. I was single and finally coming out of months and years that had been packed with disappointing relationships, endings, long sighs, changed routines. I was refreshed and independent, ready to care for someone instead of just taking whatever they were willing to give. I asked him to be my date.
We had blipped in and out of each other’s lives since we’d left school. Instant messages here and there, long conversations that would dwindle until we completely fell out of touch again; phone numbers saved and never used and then erased; funerals that brought us close again, our arms looped around each other’s backs. Then the momentum kicked up and there were more conversations, phone numbers memorized, a costume party, a night away from home and, finally, an invitation to a wedding. “You’re going to look beautiful,” he said when I described my dress.
The hours before the wedding stretched far past makeup and hair and zippers, handwritten letters from the bride, my father’s nerves that shook his hands, champagne toasts late in the morning. The time waiting for him to arrive curled around itself until it felt like a whole day should have already passed. Then he was there and I walked outside, my dress blowing to the side and tight against my legs, my heart beating. He wore a purple tie and a wool coat with the collar turned up to protect against the chill. He wore his glasses. He was mine for the rest of the day and he looked perfect.
He didn’t show up for me a lot. Eventually, phone calls started to go unanswered again, plans were broken for better things, he changed his mind about which girl was important to him for the holidays and the new year and the spring. But that day, after I’d read a poem for my brother and his new wife, I looked up at him in the first row and he winked, sending a shot through me that made my shoulders tingle. Later on, after the receiving line and cocktail hour and entrances, he would swoop me into a side room to kiss me deeply, in private and away from my family and their questions. He would never be fully mine again, but for that one day we had the future we’d both glimpsed so long ago in his room, back when we were too young to reach it.