COLIN was late, as usual. He is almost always late come to think of it, although usually not by much. It was already 10.05pm and we had initially agreed to meet at the mamak by 9.30pm; I had been waiting since 9.15pm.
He turned up eventually around 10.15pm, and try as I did to give him a tongue-lashing, I just couldn’t. I’m hopeless at getting anywhere beyond being marginally annoyed with Colin.
If I had to list down all my brother’s negative attributes, I’d be stumped for sure. Save for his borderline tardiness, Colin is a saint. Or very close to it.
Colin is three years younger, but it always feels as if we were born only three minutes apart. Paradoxically at times, it seems like he’s the older sibling. Colin’s exuberance (for food, mostly, and life) and good nature is tempered by a certain gravitas that, perhaps, makes him more mature than many men his age. We’re very close-knit, him and I, but then again, we went through a lot together growing up.
Naturally, we started out like all siblings: the usual rivalry and childish cruelty that some outgrow, but some continue to nurture even up till their twilight years (thankfully, we don’t fall into the latter category).
I remember how I used to push him around the house at dangerous speeds while he sat in his pram, precariously strapped to safety with a flimsy buckle. I don’t ever remember him crying out in fear. In fact, I think he enjoyed it as much as I did! Then there was my usual preoccupation of tapping the top of his head so that I could see how his eyes automatically closed like a doll’s with each tap. It amused me no end, but my brother believes he would’ve aced more papers in school if I had refrained from being too heavy-handed with my, err, head taps. But I beg to differ; he wasn’t that smart in the first place…LOL
We squabbled a lot when we were kids. I remember even hitting/thumping him on his back once: we had this major fight over a stupid looking lime green toy crane and I hit him so hard, I regretted it immediately because his cry of pain actually cut me so deep. Many kids would quickly forget incidences like this, but I didn’t and never did it again.
I think the instant identification with his pain (even at that young age) could be because of our naturally empathetic nature – Colin more so than me; I am the more cynical sibling. He used to shed genuine tears when others fell and hurt themselves, and that, even when I was a kid, was something I found very endearing about my brother.
I used to have my own room, but started sharing a room with Colin when he grew old enough to string a few decent sentences together. At the time, I hated his invasion on my privacy; looking back, I think those were good times…we used to hang out and chat at nights on opposite ends of each other’s beds. Colin was a frequent guest in mine because he was afraid of the dark and the monsters. Eventually, when we grew into our teens, we got our own rooms again. I suppose we all grow up at some point. But, the bond had been forged by then.
I remember how he used to hold my hand everywhere we went, his voice raspy and husky each time he called me che che, and I, at one point didn’t quite like him hanging on all the time…I felt I had ‘grown up’ and my little brother was totally cramping my style – at the mature (or so I thought) age of 7!
In retrospect, I don’t think Colin ever let go of my hand. I think as we grew older, we reached out and held each other’s hands through most of life’s experiences. He’s always been there for me, and I’d like to think that he feels the same about me.
We have this wonderfully affectionate and mutually respectful relationship that I am proud to acknowledge. I’m thankful for him and cannot imagine my life without my dearest brother. For those who have siblings, always be thankful for them. They are your only link to your past and your bridge to the future.
Loving you bro, for all that you have been and are to me.
Note: I hereby attest that Colin Pal did not pay me in cash or kind to sing his praises.