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When I meet him I am 23 and he is 16.

He is the kind of innocent kid that betrays his thoughts and feelings in red, blushing blotches on his cheeks or in wide, happy grins on his face.

I am older and he is the younger brother I never had. He is someone with potential and grace. He has the type of humor that, most times, leaves me laughing until I cry and hold my sides in pain. He longs for meaning but has the awkward teenage desires for acceptance and a voice.

We’re cheering him on the football field with his parents and shivering in the cold. We scream for him to rip off someone’s finger - just because he can. We stand and worry as he storms off the field, throws his helmet, and paces on the sidelines while they pack his shoulder in ice.

Some mornings, I come home from third shift and find him sitting on our front stairs with a bag of Egg McMuffins and hash browns- he asks if he can hang at our place and skip school.

We are such dizzy suckers for company and sentiment and food.

Always welcome.

Anytime he wants- wrap him up in a gift box. Display his sculptures and ceramic coffee mugs, from art class, as if they’re Faberge Eggs on our mantle.

We are blithering fools for this chap in chucks and an OSU sweatshirt.

He’s won us. We might as well be his slaves- or his parents.

We are there for the first date. we discover where he is taking a beautiful girl before the prom - dinner at Max and Erma’s in German Village. Stefanie and I park up the street so we can walk by the window and wave at them. He turns so red in the face - we knew he would - we are so pleased to learn that we are right.

On Halloween we go to a party, unknowingly, disguised as each other. I wear his trademark chucks and football clothes; he wears my silly t-shirts and symbols. He grins and laughs, then draws up the leg of his pants to show that his mother has drawn a dragon tattoo on his leg - with the face of Barney. I laugh to tears.

“My god! Bart, you’re Jared! Jared! You’re Bart!”

We get him drunk for the first time the day Stef and I get married - and we all get thrown out of our own wedding party. The next day we run around Scottsburg, Indiana with bottles full of bubbles - we rain bubbles everywhere.

He goes to Chicago and we grieve for his company and rejoice when he returns again to us, our growing son, our loving brother, our amazing friend. Always welcome.

I meet with him now, I’m 33 and he’s 26.

We talk about the things that make us cry, the things that make us laugh, we eat Chinese food and stuff ourselves sick.

He calls from work reminding me that he wants to show me something special. He takes me to a waterfall in Dublin. We climb down the rocks and explore the wet ravine, tripping into the muck and admiring the graffiti, and then we stand and skip stones across the Scioto River and talk. I cut my finger on a sharp stone, get six skips out of it, and I’m perfectly pleased.

Afterwards we rifle through a thrift store and find these hideous lamps - huge Owls with fucked-up eyes.

They are the most God-awful monstrosities. He buys one and I bring the other one to him two weeks later. They are perfectly terrible… they are terribly perfect.

At his place we sit and watch a movie, have a drink, look at the owls, and laugh ourselves silly.

If he was a book I would read him over and over…

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