The sole window in my room is layered with snow the same color as the ceiling that I stare at from my bed because I can’t sleep. I peek out from under my comforters and rest my head on the wood framing of my loft bed. The usual mess of clothes on my floor has been replaced by a mess of blankets that form a makeshift bed for my little brother. He must have heard the creaking caused by my tossing and turning, because he pushes the sheets off of his head and I look down to find a pair of eyes identical to mine.
Will moves into my room once a year, on Christmas Eve. Neither of us knows why but neither of us remembers a time when he didn’t. A part of me likes to think that one Christmas Eve many years ago he was having bad nightmares and slept on my floor for comfort, refuge. But then I remember that I was always the one with the nightmares. I still wake him up in the middle of the night at our country house asking him to come watch T.V with me because I can’t sleep. I hate the crickets chirping, the owls hooting and the lost dogs barking but he always seems to sleep so soundlessly.
I hear sheets rustle and light floods my room. Will is standing with his hand on the light switch, his head almost hitting the bookshelf that juts out of the top of my wall. When I climb out of bed and face him he towers above my forehead and takes the opportunity, as he always does, to tease me about being shorter than him. For a moment I think about how he is starting to look less like me as he gets older. His cheekbones are more defined, chin more square, lips thinner, he is unmistakably skinnier and taller. But as we smile at each other our cheeks curl up in the same way, our lips stretch ear to ear the same way, our eyebrows raise in the same way. He puts his hand on my doorknob and slowly opens the door. He runs across the hallway as quick as possible so when his feet hit the carpeted, hundred year old floor they won’t wake up our sleeping parents. I map out my steps, walking as slowly as possible so that my feet don’t hit the floor too hard, but with each step the ground sounds like it is about to crack open.
He slides open the living room door and immediately I smell pine and hear the wind hitting the huge windows. We used to have to open the door together because it always gets stuck, but he doesn’t need the extra strength anymore. It’s nighttime but the streetlamps flood a dark orange into the living room so that we don’t have to turn the lights on. We both notice the tree at the same time. There are wrapped presents flowing out from under it like waves.
We stare at the same living room with the same tree in the same place every year. The same ornaments hanging off it and the same ones are scattered across the floor that always fall off, the presents wrapped with the same paper, but we still stare at it with the same awe. We revert to five years old for five minutes once a year, but as we step back into the hallway we grow again. We sit on the floor and Will tells me about girls, parties, and I am torn between telling him to stop because to me he is still my baby brother and egging him on to tell me more because I want him to be the baby brother who never gets too cool for me, who always wants to share his life with me. We talk until Will starts to yawn between every sentence and cannot keep his eyes open. I am always the one who has to tell him it’s time to go to bed even when he can barely stay awake.
Will goes back to his pile of blankets. Before I shut off the lights, my eyes linger on his comforter-wrapped body. I can only see the back of his head and for a moment, he looks smaller than me. His legs are curled up and I imagine him feeling like he is safe in my room, but I notice his feet sticking out of the sheets that are carelessly piled onto his body; he does not sleep in the blanket cocoon that I sleep in, that I always imagine him sleeping in. I wonder if he will go into my room while I’m gone and look at the wall of photos and notice the scattered photos of us together, arms around each other and sticking our tongues and miss his best friend, or if I’m imagining it and while I miss my best friend, he is begging my parents to move into my room because it’s bigger. I take one last look at him, and my hand falls onto the light switch and he is gone, all that remains is the soft sighs of his deep sleep.
Every Christmas Eve, when we finish watching It’s A Wonderful Life and A Charlie Brown Christmas, finish opening the one present our parents let us open, I am afraid that he will not carry his sheets and comforters into my room and throw my clothes out of the way to make a bed. I am afraid that he will climb back into his room next to mine and have a blissful, full night of sleep without us sneaking into the living room or eating cereal at three in the morning. A few years ago, he did go into his room and he did not come back out carrying his makeshift bed. I think he planned to sleep there the whole night. I think he decided he was done with sleeping on the dirty yellow rug on his older sister’s floor. But as I lay sleepless in my bed I heard a knocking on my door and when I opened it I saw a pair of eyes identical to mine.
Age 17, Grade 12
Berkeley Carroll School