Essays, Journal

With every heartbeat

There is a knock on my door, and I haul myself out of bed from my nap to answer it.

“Yo, how do I use my credit card for Uber? Like, what’s a CV-whatever?”

It’s my brother, and internally, I am smiling. (Externally, I am giving him the you are the biggest idiot on the planet look I really enjoy giving him in moments like this one.) This situation is faintly reminiscent of the time a decade ago that he borrowed my laptop to write a paper and asked me, “Yo, how do I print?” “Well, you plug this cord into this port, plug the other end of the cord into the printer, turn the printer on, and then click ‘Print’, oh my God, so complicated, aren’t you so glad I’m majoring in rocket science?” I replied then. The laptop returned to me with Microsoft Office completely deleted from it; a mystery that, to this day, neither of us can quite figure out, but one I have teased him about relentlessly ever since.

“These three numbers,” I say, gesturing to the back of his card, “are the verification numbers. Now that I know them, I just need to memorize your card number and I can go on an online shopping spree.” He gives me the this is my greatest fear in life and I am never letting it happen look.

“And do I type the entire number on the front as the credit card number? I really don’t like having my credit card information anywhere on the Internet.”

“Yes. Dude, you’re 25, you owned your own business for two years, and you have way more money than I do, how do you not know this? How am I actually still better at adulting than you? Welcome to technology! Also, can I put my Uber account under your credit card instead of my extension to Mom’s?” I joke.

I then explain the mechanics of Uber, and help him set our new address as “Home,” as it has already been on mine for months.

He has always taken late to any technology that doesn’t involve gaming (he is the reason I have Final Fantasy VII and Final Fantasy VIII on my laptop — recovered from the original PlayStation discs we owned as children). I know soon enough he will come around, just as our mother, who also once feared the Internet, has. (“Mom, you need to stop spending money on Candy Crush. I can’t believe I’m the one telling you this. I can’t believe that I, your offspring, am telling you, the parent, how pointless it is to spend real money on virtual things like extra lives on Candy Crush.” “But I’ve been stuck on this stupid level forever and I’m one move away from finishing it!” “Oh my God, I’m changing our WiFi password and I am not telling you what it is.” “Don’t you dare!”)

We don’t talk about why my brother suddenly needs to start using Uber. We don’t talk about the extensive damage to his car from the accident the other night. We don’t talk about how he could have died, although I was the one assigned to do the getting-mad when my mother herself was so mad that she didn’t know how to; because I’ve always been part-confidante, part-best friend, part-third-parent, and all only sister. We didn’t even talk about it when I was meant to.

Because while I walked up the stairs with purpose and knocked on his door with a Big Sister Speech already running through my head, the words, they were a flood of tears instead. In a family that loves intensely but, for some reason, rarely hugs and mostly expresses affection in the form of making fun of each other, he is the one I have hugged the most in the 25 years we have known each other — his whole life — and I held on to him for dear life, literally dear life; his life, dearer to me than my own.

“What happened? What happened? You can’t do that to me, you can’t ever do that to me, I love you so much.” Near-incomprehensible blubbering that I knew he understood, because we have always had a sibling shorthand for everything, one that often doesn’t even require actual speech. We are our own language.

And my mind still runs the gamut of everything that could have happened, but didn’t — injuries, death — and the lesson is the same, but never, ever any easier to learn: that life is fleeting. That the people we care about are mortal and so very, very fragile. That we will never have enough time. That we must be so, so grateful.

So I resolve to love, to hold on to every precious second I am gifted, with every last heartbeat.

(Photograph: Joseph Pascual)

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