Summers during college were stressful. Gone were the days of ultimate flexibility and freedom, of constant friend availability, of endless ice cream and lucky charm dinners.
And then, my little brother and his friends would hide around corners, poised with nerf guns, waiting to shoot me.
It was all a bit too much for my angsty-self-absorbed college student self to take.
Before the Milwaukee Brewers ball game yesterday, L and I meandered through the parking lot, looking for his college buddies who were tailgating. Random fans of both team persuasions smiled and laughed as we walked past, and the moment we found L's friends, we were welcomed with hand shakes and cold beers. Between playing washers and sharing drinks, they chatted with L, and I listened as they teased him about his *advanced* age of 26. I leaned over to L and whispered, "If anyone asks, I'm 28, 'kay?" He grinned and nodded.
Overheard snatches of conversation on the way to the ball park involved beer, food, baseball, driving. Besides the ubiquitous Brewers and Sox shirts, I saw one tee with a line drawing of Illinois and the text "Wisconsin: Illinois is beneath us."
We watched the game and the people around us, while soaking up the last bits of sunshine before our section descended into shade. I asked L about his time playing baseball in High School, about his buddies I'd just met. I drank about 3 inches of my giant beer before passing it on to L. I ate half a tub of salty, slightly singed popcorn.
By the top of the eighth inning, it was clear the Brewers were *not* going to pull off a win, so we headed out to beat the traffic of emptying parking lots.
As I stood in line in the bathroom, I noticed a young, very drunk girl, cutting in line in front of me, firmly clutching her bottle of beer, swaying and looking like she might not make it to the bathroom. I let her go.
Walking back to the car, overheard conversations were sharper edged, people a little less kind, as hours in the sun and hops kicked in.
We stepped over broken glass and smashed food remains, and L magically found my car.
As we slowly drove through the parking lot, we were attacked by a group of Abercrombie wearing college boys playing nerf football, deliberately throwing the ball and themselves in front of my car. As we pulled away from them, L and I let loose a stream of vitriol, and he confessed that he *almost* yelled out the car window or jumped out because he was so mad at this rude ambush of nerfdom. I smiled, glad that he didn't engage them (there were about 12 of them and two of us) *and* that he was outraged on my behalf.
We road tested my new road trip mix CD in between stints of classic rock, and car danced and air guitared and drummed the hour and a half back to my house.
L left this morning and I was sad to see him go. The house seemed quiet and lonely, and I felt, for a moment, a little less myself. There's something so comforting about really being yourself with other people, and my brother's one of those people who sees the dorky, silly, anxious me in all her glory. We've come a long way from sibling rivalry and nerf attacks, and settled into a sustaining friendship.