From Chicken Soup for the Latino Soul


Puedes ser solamente una persona para el mundo, pero para alguna persona tú eres el mundo.

Gabriel García Márquez

Last night, my brother and I got into a dumb argument over the phone. I hate fighting with him. We don’t argue that often, but when we do, I take it to heart and feel terrible until it gets sorted out. My stomach gets knotted up, and I worry that our relationship will never be the same. It’s a stupid fear, but I get it every time.

Danny is twelve years older than me. He’s a police officer. He’s shy around strangers, but open around family. That’s something we share. We tend to laugh at the same things, and we both hate being the center of attention. He’s the person I bounce things off of, the person I go to when something bothers me. And if something good happens, he’s usually the first person I call. He’s one of those people in your life who makes you feel safe when you’re with him. I can’t put my finger on it, but I feel more secure and confident knowing that he’s nearby.

It wasn’t always like that. Danny and I didn’t grow up together. I never even knew he existed until our father died when I was sixteen. Danny’s name was listed in the obituary under “surviving children.” At that point in my life, I knew I had one older brother, Rainy. I thought that was it as far as siblings went. So who the heck was Daniel? My mom filled me in, in her matter-of-fact way: Danny is much older than me, he has a different mom, he has two little daughters, he’s a very nice guy and he’s a cop. And then my mother—never one to sugarcoat things—simply said, “Your father never took a lot of interest in Danny, kind of like how he was with you.”

Danny and I met at our father’s funeral, a big Mexican affair with mariachis and men in cowboy boots. It was an odd feeling. Rainy looked like my mom. I looked like a cross between my mom and my dad. But Danny looked exactly like our father. It was uncanny. He was younger, of course, but the shape of the face and the body were the same. And he had sad eyes. All Cordova men have sad eyes; my mom once said we looked like cows about to be slaughtered.

We didn’t see each other for many years after that. A twelve-year age gap is huge when you’re a teenager. But then, years later, when I was twenty-eight, my brother Rainy died. Danny came to the funeral, looking more like our dad than ever with a few more years behind him. He had a trim goatee and a blue sport coat and a gold bracelet on his right wrist. We talked, and he said it wasn’t right that we kept “meeting each other at funerals. We’re brothers.”

After that, we made an effort to get to know each other. I worked a late shift on a newspaper copy desk and would call him on my lunch hour, usually nine in the evening. He always made time for me, even with a wife and two kids and working as a narc. He would call me when he was pulling overtime or had slow moments in the police car. Sometimes he would call on one of his dead late shifts: “Just talk to me. I need to stay awake. Say anything.”

Often, we would talk about the way we grew up. Our father never had much of a role in my life. Instead, he was a shadowy figure who would drift in and out a couple of times a year, a man with thick eyeglasses who was drenched in the aroma of cheap filter-tipped cigars. There was never really an emotional connection there. I didn’t talk about it with anyone before. Neither did Danny. He told me that I was the only one he felt comfortable discussing it with because I was the only one who understood. At times, it was odd. We were brothers who knew these deep, intimate feelings the other one shared, but I couldn’t tell you Danny’s favorite baseball team. I didn’t know how well he spoke Spanish or the name of the girl he took to the prom. He didn’t know that I loved pop music or that I once gave Sheena Easton a bouquet of carnations as a pledge of my undying love.

But we cobbled a relationship out of what we did know, and it grew. We began to see each other more and more. Now, we talk several times a week. We go watch the Diamondbacks together and borrow each other’s movies. He took me to buy my first suit. I wrote his latest resume. He has the keys to my house, and I have the keys to his. We can make each other angry, and we can make each other laugh.

There are other things. I’ve gone through some hard times with my health. I call him, afraid of what the future holds, and he makes me feel better. He has had some personal trials; he told me once that he was glad to have a little brother he could lean on.

We know each other’s friends. People who have met me recently don’t know we didn’t grow up together; it seems like a moot point now. If our schedules get extra busy, we still talk several times a week, even if it’s just, “Hey, what the hell are you doing? What’s going on?”

Sometimes, it’s odd to think we didn’t grow up together. People say you can’t choose your family, but in a way we did. He said he thinks part of it is because we’re Latino. We’re naturally drawn to our families and put a high value on that relationship in our culture. Once, one of my bosses said he liked to see us together because he had never seen two brothers who were closer. That felt good.

That’s why it’s so hard for me when I argue with him. Deep inside, I think I’m afraid he’ll walk away from me, like my dad did, and that we will lose that closeness. I’ve never been able to tell him that, but he surprised me last night when we were quarreling on the phone.

“You know, I’m not going anywhere,” he said, cooling down quickly, like always. “No matter what you do or say, you’re always going to be my brother. Nothing can change the way I feel about you. We’re blood. We’re brothers.”

They say you can’t choose your family, and that’s true. But even if I could, I would choose Danny.

Randy Cordova

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