Mornings are rather cold these days. There is a nip in the air, and my nose always looks like Jack Frost sneaked in a little kiss before running off and waking up the rest of Toronto. In the early rush of people heading off to school and to work, the smell of coffee is always a constant. A friend once told me that Tim Horton’s was the Canadian equivalent of mittens, and I am always reminded of this when fall and winter comes around.
The smell of fresh coffee during cold mornings also reminds me of airports. I remember travelling from Bacolod to Manila, then from Manila to Korea, and finally from Korea to Toronto in the fall of 2009, my heart broken that I was with my brother on our way to Canada, but I would be making the return trip to Bacolod alone. I had one more semester left to finish for Nursing school and I would be done with my degree, so I had to go back. More than with anybody else in the family, I have always felt that my brother is the strongest tie I had. I can survive everybody’s absence, but not my younger brother’s. In a life characterised by instability and the lack of parents, my brother was the only constant I had.
I came back to Toronto the summer of 2010, and I was so relieved to finally have him back. Imagine my surprise when I was met at the airport by this tall youth, with a strong jawline and broad shoulders. Where was the chubby, round-face little boy I had left only a scant couple of months ago? My baby brother had grown up so quickly without me.
It still strikes me as crazy, the way he shot up during those couple of months that I didn’t see him. But he’s all grown up now. He’s twenty and making his way through college. He’s fiercely independent – I know that he doesn’t need (or want) anybody to survive. He makes an effort for our Mom, but he hasn’t really formed a connection with her. While the circumstances of our childhood made me want to choose a new family in the form of friends, my brother trudged the other path and walks alone. He’s also very secretive; the analogy of a walled castle with a moat is not far off.
These days, we often sit and talk around midnight, which is when the house is quiet and we’re both studying at the kitchen table. He tells me about his day, and he tells me about school. Sometimes, he hesitates whether or not to tell me about his classes, because I don’t speak computer. But I told him, “It doesn’t matter. Just tell me. The important thing is to talk about it.”
I’m glad I did, because tonight he started telling me about POPs and servers and scripts, which I only have a bare understanding of, and then segued into telling me about a past girlfriend, who was apparently very clingy. Before this conversation I wasn’t even sure he had a girlfriend. I thought he did, but didn’t want to ask because I didn’t want to force it. I knew he’d tell me when he was ready. Although I did get him a gag Christmas gift, a book entitled, “How to Deal with Women.”
It makes me so happy to know that he now feels comfortable enough to talk about these things.