When I was little, my brother and I were really close. We’d build Legos together and play video games until sundown. We’d sit on the floor in his room in front of his TV while I watched him play Crash Bandicoot. He’d teach me right from wrong, and keep me entertained while our parents fought.
He was my big brother. My protector.
I knew that if he told me everything would be okay, I would be safe. As the years passed and he became a teenager, we drifted. We stopped talking everyday, and I’d only see him a couple of times a week, if I was lucky enough to stumble upon him in the kitchen. Old Legos and video games were packed away, and we turned into strangers with the blink of an eye. However, there was one moment in my life when I truly reconnected with him.
It was May 2019, and our parents had gone to Jamaica for the weekend, leaving the house to just my brother and me. For my brother (who was 19 at the time), and me (who was 15 at the time), the lack of our parents could only mean one thing: we could do whatever the fuck we wanted. I remember laying in bed one evening, when a sudden knock on the door made me jump out of my skin. It was my brother. He never willingly talked to me, so I was shocked by this urgent knock on my door.
“Come in,” I hesitated.
“Are you doing anything this weekend?” my brother asked.
“No, don’t think so.”
“Do you want to road trip to Montréal for a few days?”
Now this shocked me. My brother never talked to me, let alone invited me on trips with him.
“Um– I– Yeah sure, sounds fun.”
“Cool. Pack your stuff, we’ll leave tomorrow after you’re done with school.”
That was it. With only a few short sentences, our trip was planned.
The next day, I came home to my brother in a packing frenzy. Packages of Whitecastle burgers, Doritos and cans of Red Bull riddled our kitchen table, a tsunami of cancer-inducing foods. The perfect road trip snacks. We wanted to get an early start, so within the hour, everything was packed in the car and we hit the 401.
Now I’m not really one for spontaneous adventures, my brother is the more spontaneous one. I am, however, known to be the worrisome one who plans their every move. So while we drove on the highway, my mind became plagued with thoughts of worry that made my body shake with anxiety.
What if people notice we’re gone? What if we get into a car accident? What if we run out of gas money?
I looked over to my brother to see if he was feeling as freaked out as I was, but he was completely fine. He sat in the driver’s seat with a faint smile and loose grip on the steering wheel, as if skipping town was something he did every weekend. However, there was something about his calmness which helped me relax as well.
He was my big brother. My protector.
If he was completely fine, there was no need to worry. Before long, it was as if every worrisome thought I had was washed away in a blanket of calming bliss.
To provide some context about the length of our drive, a typical trip from Toronto to Montreal should take about five and a half hours. But for us? It took four hours. I won’t say how fast he was going so as to not get my brother in any trouble, but if you understand even the most basic fundamentals of physics, it is evident that my brother was speeding down the highway.
“I need you to look out for the cops,” he said nonchalantly.
“Well I’m going pretty fast, so if you see the cops, tell me to slow down. Don’t want to get pulled over or anything, y’know?”
Okay. Holy shit. Now I was panicking. Not only do we have to worry about gas money, people wondering where we are, or crashing, we also have to worry about the cops? I was freaked out, and my brother could tell.
“It’s gonna be fine. I promise. Just relax,” he reassured me.
I always thought about how stupid and naïve it was for me to believe him, but I still did. He’s my big brother. My protector. If he says we’re going to be okay, then it’s going to be okay.
Just like that, the next three hours became the most calming moments of my life. It’s funny to think back on how relaxed I was, considering the fact that the cops, the gas money, and all the laws of nature were against us. Despite that, here we were. Flying down the highway like a fiery catapult of destruction, and I could feel nothing except freedom. The world around me felt strange. When you’re traveling at an exceptionally fast speed, there’s a threshold moment where the world is still. As I looked out my window, it no longer looked like trees and fields were whizzing past us. It all stood still. Like a piece of art. My brother rolled the windows down to let some fresh air in, and I could feel it gently caressing my face as I watched the world around me. He was blasting Kendrick Lamar and Motley Crüe on the stereo, I felt the bass of the car speakers vibrating my muscles. I’ve spent most of my life trapped inside my own head, worrying about everything, from the next test I have to write, to the next wave of depression that would debilitate me. But in this moment, I was free. It was just my brother and I against the world, speeding into the blissful unknown.
We didn’t talk much for the next couple of hours. Yet, I’d never felt closer to him than I did at that moment. When you experience something profound with someone, you don’t need to fill the silence in order to make it meaningful. We both smelled the same crisp air wafting through the car, saw the same tableau of hay bales, and the same budding maple trees outside our window. We felt the bass of the speakers course through our veins and vibrate our souls. Nobody else was experiencing this exact moment at this exact time except my brother and I. There’s something beautiful about that.
We stayed with our cousins for the weekend, watched movies and ordered pizza, went to fancy restaurants and stayed up late. We got back to Toronto in time for school Monday morning and nobody noticed we had gone. We didn’t run out of gas money or get pulled over by the cops, and most certainly didn’t crash. My brother told me everything would be fine, and he was right. Just like when we were kids. He was always right.
My brother and I never talked about the trip that much after it was over, but I think we didn’t need to. We shared this experience together, and that was enough to hold a bond between us. Months later, sitting in the kitchen eating dinner with my parents and my brother, we painfully endured the awkward family small talk, trying to eat our food as fast as possible in order to be unshackled from the mind-numbing conversation. Suddenly, my dad brought up a subject which perked my ears.
“It’s been a while since we’ve been to Montréal. How long has it been?”
“Probably like two years,” my mom chimed in.
My dad looked to me for confirmation that it had in fact been two years since any of us had been to Montreal.
“Yeah…two years seems about right.”
I glanced at my brother to see if the subject had piqued his interest as well. Sure enough, he was already looking at me and we shared a meaningful glance.