Classification of Brothers

Kingdom: Homo sapiens

Phylum: Jerks-ordata

Class: Aplus studentzoa

Order: Chinese-takeout-ophiles

Family: Myne familiarus        

Genus: Cornell-ominthes

(unranked): 4.0 studentzoma

Species: Brothers maximus


Brothers. They do just about everything—swimming, rowing, running, math, physics, biology, chemistry, calculating taxes, telling jokes, chasing someone who stole your bike, chasing you who borrowed their handball, tickling, punching, pinching, making weird poses, sitting, sleeping, making slime, wearing a suit, taking pictures, making pots (or what my mom call “pee pots”), yelling, cursing, fussing, glaring, being unbearably silent, singing, laughing, snatching the last White Castle burger, being dirty, playing ping-pong, playing pool, playing Wii, beating you at Wii, and laughing at you for losing at Wii. There are only two in this household, yet this species is so complex and constantly evolving. They are too much for that one measly list.

Scenario 1: After a fight

When you walk away from the fight, you are always crying—not because of bruises, not because you still don’t have what you wanted, but because one of your brothers had just cursed at you. “Fuck you! Go annoy someone else!” or “Screw you! Leave me the hell alone!” He is your brother. He is the one who taught you how to play chess, who played Monopoly with you for five hours straight, who blew bubbles in the backyard for you to pop, who called your nickname in a ridiculous falsetto, who is, at this very moment, cursing fluently at you.

Within one hour after fighting with your brothers, you come down with something known as Gnawingitis. The first stage is when you are so stunned you become mute. You have a string of curses running through your head, ready to retaliate, but nothing ever comes out of your open mouth. Tears silently streaking down your face become full throttle when you hear, “I don’t care if you cry.” You stare at him, hoping for him to laugh, hoping for him to apologize, hoping for something, but he turns back to his computer screen, and begins typing.

The second stage is rage. You promise to hate him forever. You promise to never spend hours making him cards, never play with him, never give him your tasty snacks, and never speak to him ever again. You don’t want to swallow your pride and be the one who apologizes first, but the fact is you still love him. He is your brother after all.

The last stage is guilt. You want to say “Sorry,” but the two syllables are too much to utter. You are confused. There are only two possible home remedies at this point:

(1)  Lie down on your bed, even though you still have enough adrenaline in your blood to punch your brothers a few times. Don’t stare across the room. You will only look at your desk. The pencils are where you left them, some crumpled computer papers are scattered across the floor, and your chair is slightly pushed back at an angle. Everything will seem too clear, too real—the words, the chair, the curses, the papers, the yelling, the crying, the pain—until you just turn around and see white. Huddle close to the pure, white wall and breathe out again. Let fatigue envelop your body, and drift into sleep.

(2) Turn on the computer and go to YouTube or Cruchyroll. Click on any upbeat, funny anime you see. It doesn’t matter if you have already seen the episode, it doesn’t matter if you aren’t reading the subtitles, it really doesn’t matter. Just watch the damn pictures move and turn the stupid volume up. Don’t think, just watch.

What not to do:

(1)   Allow another human being to come close to you. Beware of staying away from anyone within two hours after the fight. During this period of time, the disease is still very contagious. If you see your little cousin walk in your direction, streamline to your bedroom and close the door. If she gets within one meter of you, you might just pierce her spirit with hurtful words, causing her to be mute and stare back at you with the same shocked, hallow eyes.

(2)  Write a letter. Don’t write them a letter of apology and use a ruler to stick it on their desk just because you are afraid to walk into their room and hand it to them personally. Heck, don’t write a letter at all. One of them will just look at the envelope, nudge the other person and use his chin to point at the letter, and laugh.

(3)   Eat. Don’t eat, especially gourmet food. You won’t be able to taste anything with your clogged nose, and your salty tears will only spoil the delicate flavor.

            It is unfortunate to say, but there aren’t any cures for this. Let time run its course and hope for the best.

Scenario 2: Fighting to use the Bathroom

Let’s take you to the house at hand, where you will be competing in another battle of the seasonal dash-to-the-bathroom-before-your-brothers-do championship. You need to dash through the driveway, unlock the wooden door, leap up all five steps of marble, run through the kitchen, cut left into the dining room, dive through your drawers for clothes, and dash to the bathroom before your brothers do. The Brothers maximus are coming in with the better seasonal record of 18 steals and 2 hands-down victories, and you are coming in with 14 steals and 5 hands-down victories. The game is close. Your two competitors look tall and quick. After all, they did catch the guy who stole your bicycle and successfully retrieved it for you. But you aren’t looking too bad yourself.

            Defense strategies:

(1)   Dib the bathroom privileges in the car. But this usually doesn’t work because your brothers would override your dibs with their dibs.

(2) Take your mom’s keys and make sure you stay between your brother and the door at all times. Last time they wedged their elbow between you and the door just as you were turning the keys, and they had a head start in the game.

(3) Throw your clothes in the bathroom to claim it before putting your books and bags away.

(4) If one of your brothers choses game plan #3, then grab his clothes and throw it out the bathroom door before he charges his way in.

(5) Skip the part where you take your pajamas to change into and just have your mom bring it later.

(6) If all else fails and one of your brothers is charging to the bathroom already, tickle him and pull his pants down (careful not to pull the underwear as well) to drag him as far away from the bathroom so you can dash through the door before he recovers.

Tactics that your brothers have used before in addition to bathroom-dibbing, front-door-wedging, and bathroom-claiming with clothes:

(1) Just as you are about to go into the bathroom, they come out from behind, lock their arms around your stomach, and uproot you in an instant. They drop you off somewhere far from the bathroom and dash towards the goal themselves.
How to retaliate: When they first grab you, kick backwards. Just make sure you don’t kick too high backwards because you still want nieces and nephews. When they drop you, dash forward into the bathroom.

(2) They walk into the bathroom when you are about to close the door. They figure they can throw your clothes out so you will have to leave the bathroom to pick it up, or you will not change while they are inside the bathroom.
How to retaliate: When they walk in, grab your clothes and hold it close. That way they will not be able to toss it out the door. When they just stand there, hoping that you will not dare to change, take their bluff. They always walk out in the end.

(3) They demand to pee first.
How to retaliate: No techniques were found yet.

Why do you do this? Because they are your brothers and you are their sister. It began as an accident, but it’s now a joke that’s fresh every time it happens.

The car slows to a stop in front of the garage. The game is about to begin. The garage door opens and the car rolls in. On your mark. Your left hand edges towards the door handle and your right hand grabs your mom's keys. Get set. Your dad turns off the car engine. Go.

Scenario 3: Photo Albums

            Sometimes you and your brothers take out baby photos to reminisce about the “good old days” when you wear diapers and rolled around on the living room carpet, when pre-k teachers encouraged you to sleep, when grades weren’t important, when you played in the snow, when someone mistaken one of your brothers for a girl, when you had a mushroom-bobbed head and wore Dragonball Z hand-me-downs. You would spend hours just flipping through the pages and laughing.

            “Yo, what were you guys doing? You look ridiculous!” All three of you were standing by the bay. You were in a little flowery dress and smiling cutely at the camera while your brothers were standing with their elbows bent back, fist up, left leg out, knees bent, eyes squinting, and mouths frowning.

            “Power Rangers! That was their stance,” says your oldest brother.

            “Yeah! We look so hot. I don’t know what’chore smoking,” said the other one.

            “Wha? You guys were in Mickey Mouse shirts and were standing in the sidewalks of the bay. And you say I’m smoking?” You laugh.

            “Oy,” says your oldest brother trying to get your attention. “What happened to you?” He shoves a pretty darn cute picture of you as a baby.

            “What? I looked cute,” you say.

            “Exactly. Looked.” He pretends to slap you and you whack him back.

            “What’s that supposed to mean?”

            “You really need us to spell it out?” says your other brother.

            “Well, I at least looked cuter than you before,” you show them a picture of your second brother crying in his crib. His nose was scrunched up, his little arms were flailing. His mouth was wide opened and eyes were only two little lines on his face.

            “Yo, that’s my favorite picture.”

“’sche right.”

“I looked pretty darn good in that white baby PJ,” he says.

            “Yo, yo, yo, yo,” says your oldest brother. “Look at this.” He turns over his album to face you and your second brother. It was your one month old celebration and you were sleeping in this frilly baby blanket. In one photo your oldest brother was leaning over you. In the other one, your second brother was leaning over you. “You kissed her. I missed her.” He laughs and points at your second brother.

            You look closer. It seems true. One picture shows oldest brother’s mouth hovering above your neck. The other picture shows only the back of your second brother’s head covering half of your face.

            “No way. I was just smelling the baby smell,” your second brother says confidently.

            “Geez.” You shove your two brothers. “I was awesome. Your lost for not kissing such a cute little angel.”

            “Psh! All babies are like angels when they are younger. The only thing is who is hotter now.” He cups his hand over his ears and pretends to hear for an answer. Before you react, he says, “Me? Why thank-you, thank-you.” And he bows. You whack him in the head again.


Both of your brothers are in Cornell University right now. According to Google maps, the campus is 5 hours away by car, 19 hour by biking, and 2 days 23 hours by feet. It is 180 miles away.

Once in a while, when you are bored or feeling lonely, you flip through these photo albums again. You don’t remember most of the things that happened in the photo because you were too young. But you do remember all the afternoons you spent looking at them with your brothers, and it is those memories—not the ones that were captured by the film—that means the most to you. 

Michelle Zhang
Age 17, Grade 12,
Stuyvesant High School
Gold Key

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