From Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul IV

My Amazing Brother

Those who trust us educate us.

T. S. Eliot

Mark was the most popular boy in his class. He had top grades, was a star athlete and was everyone’s friend. His face belonged on the cover of magazines, and he was nicer than ice-cold lemonade on a scorching hot day. He was the classic “all-American boy.” Girls chased after him with starry eyes and drooling mouths. Who could blame them? He was absolutely perfect. He also happened to be my little brother.

My brother and I had always been close, yet I had long felt slightly inferior to him. He just seemed to have everything. I, on the other hand, was a shy writer with relatively few close friends. I’m sure 95 percent of the class had no idea I even existed.

High school started, and Mark and I were at the same school; he was a freshman, and I was a senior. We got closer than ever that year. I don’t know whether it was the rides to school when we gleefully sang along to the songs on the radio, the fact that we were both on the swim team and spent three months breathing chlorine fumes together or that we shared the same school gossip with each other. Whatever the reason, our bond grew by the day. We told each other everything. We were each other’s confidant.

I helped him with his algebra problems, and he read my papers and assured me they were A+ quality. We listened to CDs every night and danced around the den, laughing. We joked about our parents and their unjust curfew policy. We even hung out with each other at school functions, at the mall and at the movies. He introduced me to everyone he knew—basically the whole school—and I quickly gained more and more friends. People actually started knowing I existed. I was a “somebody.”

One night, my brother and I were discussing the upcoming semiformal dance. Mark, of course, already had a date. I didn’t have a date and hadn’t even planned on going. I never had a date for anything, and I accepted that nothing was likely to change that. When Mark asked who I wanted to go with, I was shocked.

“It doesn’t really matter, because I’m not going,” was my curt reply.

“What do you mean you’re not going? You have to go. It’s your senior year!” Mark sincerely didn’t understand why I wasn’t going.

“Well, you kinda have to have a date to go, and there’s not one person who would want to go with me,” I told him, using the reasoning I’d repeated to myself over and over.

“You’ve got to be kidding, Care. There isn’t one guy in the whole school who would turn you down. Do you realize how many guys like you?”

“How do you know?” I asked, wondering where my brother was getting such ridiculous ideas.

“Because you’re the coolest girl in the world, that’s how I know. Everybody thinks so. You’re smart, funny, pretty, talented. . . . “ Mark counted off on his fingers, as I sat on the edge of my bed in utter amazement. “Any guy who would turn you down has serious problems. I know. . . .”

I didn’t hear what else my brother said. My mind was stuck on seven words that had rolled off his tongue: “You’re the coolest girl in the world.” I ran it through my mind nearly a hundred times before it sunk in. My brother believed any guy would go to the dance with me. My brother, the most popular boy in school, thought I was “the coolest girl in the world.”

The rest of the year went by in an exuberant blur. By graduation, I knew nearly everyone at school and had been on many dates. I made new friends and tried new things like coffee, guitar, conversation and karaoke. I was happier than I’d ever been.

Later that summer Mark and I were having our normal nightly chat.

“Mark?” I asked.

“What, Care?” His question was as sweet as his heart.

I thought a minute before saying, “Thanks.”

Mark looked puzzled. “Thanks for what?”

Thinking even longer, I replied, “For bringing the ‘me’ out of me.”

Mark smiled and hugged me. “It’s always been there, Care. You’ve always been wonderful you.”

I smiled into the darkness as I thought to myself, Yeah, it just took my amazing brother to make me realize it.

Carrie O’Maley

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