Letters to my Sister in Japan — Day 63

Dear Sister,

Did you know that at a very early age I told myself I couldn’t trust you or anyone else?

When I was around 4 or 5 years old, you and Dad used to drop me off at whatever San Ysidro preschool would take me. One morning I would enter a new facility and sign-up to be part of the class, and then within one or two weeks, I would start attending a different preschool less than a mile away.

I don’t think I was a bad kid, but few things were static during those times. You once told me that before we settled into the house near 15th, we had moved a total of 7 or 8 times. Very few of those houses, apartments, or single-room studios were memorable, but deep within me I carry tiny little narratives that still feel vivid.

The day before you broke my trust, I fell for a girl during my first day in a new preschool class. Again, I was 4 or 5 years old, and I didn’t understand liking someone — still don’t, by the way — but at least I recognized how she made me feel. I remember how happy and nervous I was when I first down across from. Today, her features are a blur, but I imagine she worse a dress, had a pretty smile, and had a name that started with an “A”. We’ll call her Amy, and she was my first crush.

That first day of that preschool with “Amy” must have really been special because I remember how excited I was to go back to class the very next day. It was your turn to take me to school, and you weren’t comfortable just leaving me at the front door and letting me go to meet up with the other kids. You walked inside, my hand held firmly in your grasp, and you asked a nice, older woman at the sign-in desk if you had to fill out anything before you could go. As you spoke with the woman, I stepped around and leaned out to the classroom to get a look at who was inside. I scanned the far corner of the room where Amy and I sat the day before, and the second I saw her I immediately darted back to your side, peeking out from behind your back. She was there and I would get to spend the day with her again.

You noticed. You looked down at me and asked what was wrong. I was afraid to tell you, so I covered my mouth with one hand, and raised my other arm to cover my eyes. You read my gestures and asked if I was afraid of another kid inside the room. I shook my head and I pulled on your shirt so that I could say something in your ear. You obliged and lowered your head and offered your ear.

“I like that girl.” I said.

You stood up, looked from one side of the room to the next, and you asked me, “Which one?”

I raised my hand and pointed at Amy, and I noticed that your eyes followed the direction I was pointing in, I hid behind you once more. “That one.”

And then you made your first mistake: you laughed. It wasn’t a hearty laugh, but something like a light chuckle. If it was me today, I would have laughed too. There is something inherently silly about looking at someone feel so nervous because they like someone else. But to a very young, naive, and (obviously and literally) childish me, it felt like betrayal.

“Why would you laugh at me when I revealed a vulnerability to you?” is probably what I felt like expressing, but I was silent, as I hadn’t learned the words to tell you that that made me feel sad.

And then you made your worst mistake: you told someone else.

“Is there anything wrong?” the nice, old woman asked.

“No,” you responded. “He’s just a little nervous because he has a crush on that girl over there.”

And with those verbal daggers poking holes in an already prematurely bleeding heart, you killed my trust in you. I was mortified that someone else knew my secret, and my body sunk against the sign-in desk because I didn’t want to face the rest of the kids now that the word was out. “Marco liked Amy” they’d all think and repeat, and any little hope I had of spending the day with her, coloring and painting, died immediately.

I think it was at least a decade before I felt like I could trust you again, if not more. And if it wasn’t you, I extended this moratorium on exchanging Marco secrets to any other adult in my family. It was that serious to prepubescent me.

But ultimately, it’s the dumbest thing in the world, and I was being more than dramatic. In the grand scheme of things none of this is important, but it’s still one of my most treasured memories, so I am more than appreciative and thankful for your part in it.

Your memory is a little better than mine, so if you do remember it, you may remember it differently. That’s okay too. Whatever your version of the events, I’m sure mine is better.

Love,

Your Little Brother