My little brother is bigger than I am. All those years my parents warned, "You'll be sorry, someday he'll be bigger than you"? Turns out they were right. These days, a bear-hug from Ross can pop several ribs out of place (slight exaggeration, but oh God, it feels like it); a pat on the back can make my ears ring (no exaggeration whatsoever)--and almost anything he says, perfectly timed, can make me laugh until I'm dizzy or nauseous or possibly both.
Recently, he moved away for college.
By "away", I really mean Seattle, which isn't bad as far as "away" goes, but still--sometimes any distance at all feels too far.
And then he joined a fraternity.
I wasn't sure whether to laugh or gasp in horror when he told me, so I'm sure my expression looked a bit like, say, the face I'd make if Bush burst out with an Astaire-style tap dance on the evening news, while arguing for an attack on Canada--if you can picture that (my expression, I mean).
And so, sometime last spring, we hatched this mad idea to get me on a train to Seattle so I could spend 4 days in Ross' "scene"--his word, not mine. We picked the weekend of a cousin's much-anticipated wedding (wine! relatives! disco! hysteria!) so that Ross could come home for a few days, and then we could ride the train down to Seattle together.
Things went pretty much as planned.
Until we got to the ticket booth at the Amtrack station, that is, and realized that I, utter fool that I am, had forgotten Ross' ticket at home. After that minor delay, we dragged our luggage out onto the train platform and stared at the many cars in front of us, doors open and waiting, and wondered how exactly one goes about "boarding" a train. No worries, though--a conductor with an interesting hairpiece sauntered over to us just then.
"Where're you headed?" He asked, beaming broadly.
We told him, and he beamed still broader and said, "Sit anywhere you like!"
"Anywhere?" We asked.
"Yes! Anywhere!" And he sauntered away.
Ross looked from one end of the train to the other, his eyes glazing over happily, and said, "The train...is our oyster."
And so our excursion began. Four days in a frat house, and I bet you're thinking scandal! intrigue! binge drinking! Well, here's the funny thing--we were by far the rowdiest ones there, which is not surprising if you know Ross, but rather surprising if you know me. Most of the boys were quiet, pleasant lads, who, when asked if they wanted to join us for an evening of drinking, responded, "Actually, man, I've got homework."
"What kind of frat house is this?" I wondered.
My moment of glory came when I beat my brother (hitherto pretty much Beer Pong champion, having only ever lost once) at Beer Pong. Twice. In a row.
However, I'm pretty sure that, later that night, he had to piggyback me home from the UW campus after I sat myself down in the middle of the sidewalk (rather drunk, yes) and said, "I'm tired."
"Little further," he said.
"Piggyback?" he asked.
"Okay." And it was settled.
That was just one night, though. During the day, Ross went to work, and I prowled the many blocks of University Ave., seeking out bookstores & coffee shops & Cellophane Square, and at 3:21 every afternoon we went to Tully's and bought milkshake(s) with our "Buy 1 Get 1 Free! (Only valid from 3:21-3:51pm)" coupons. We went back to the frat house after that and Ross beat me (often, and badly) at pool, before heading upstairs to make tuna casserole in the frat kitchen, while an endless stream of guys in flip flops moved in and out of said kitchen, claiming to have met me earlier in the week.
Hmm. "Yeah, hey...man," I'd say, and smile politely. For the better part of the week, apparently, I was "Ross' little sister"--until it came time to buy beer. Then they figured out who was "the elder", and right away.
On this trip, I had the distinct pleasure of watching the episode of The Family Guy where they make fun of frat boys in--get this--a room full of frat boys. Ah, sweet irony. (I think that's ironic, anyway. Ever since that controversy with the Alanis M. song, I don't know what "ironic" means anymore.)
But, as all weekends must eventually do, this weekend came to an end, and we found ourselves back at the train station, saying goodbye (which was sad, but not sappy, so there). I suppose in the long run it was good that the weekend ended, since Mitch had been calling often over the last few days to ask when I was coming home, but as I boarded the train I couldn't help thinking that it might be nice to a have a little Ross to carry around--much like some people carry small dogs--to say funny things, or recite entire episodes of The Family Guy for me, while doing all the voices (even Stewey's).
No, I realized. A small Ross wouldn't be fun. I'm far more attached to the big one.