When I was 10 my parents finally introduced me to Justin. I had heard the name behind cupped hands for as long as I could remember, but whenever I said, “Who is Justin?” they just said, “Oh, no one you’ll ever meet.”
So when one sunny afternoon my father sat me down on our flowered, early-American couch, the last thing I expected him to ask was, “How would you like to meet Justin, honey?”
My eyes glazed over and I nodded. Okay.
“Who is he?”
My dad took my had carefully and held it in his lap. “Justin is your older brother.”
Well, that floored me. I’d been an overindulged only child for 10 years. And now out of the blue came this long heard of, never told about Justin.
My dad explained that he lived in an institution in the country. He was coming to visit us for a week while his room was remodeled. And that was where Mom and Dad went every Sunday afternoon while I was forced to play with the six-year-old runt next door.
“Okay,” I said. “When will he be here?”
Dad looked at his watch. “Any time.”
“And where will he sleep?”
“In the guest room.”
Ten minutes later I heard the rubble rubble of the diesel Mercedes engine outside. I peeped out the flimsy curtain to see Mom opening the passenger door and gently taking the hand of a guy. He looked old to me, at least high school age. Ancient. He had on brown trousers and a white, short-sleeved, button-down shirt. His hair was dark blonde like mine and he had green eyes. He shuffled when he walked and smiled broadly at Mom. I opened the front door as they came up the walk.
“Hello, honey. This is Justin.”
I stared hard at him.
“Helwo dare. Mine name is Justin.”
He stuck out his hand. I took it. He walked past me and into the foyer. He picked up the receiver of the old telephone in the hall and listened to it before letting it plop on the table. He walked into the dining room with Mom. Dad and I followed discreetly. He went to the china cabinet and opened the door. He took out a plate and put it on the table and closed the door.
“Do you think he remembers?” Mom asked Dad.
“I do,” he told her matter of factly.
Justin then walked the hall and into the lower bathroom. He opened all the cabinets and left them open. He peered below the sink and reached in. He took out two pads, the kind my Mom did something with. He took the stickers off and put the pads on his face.
I laughed. Dad turned red and Mom gently removed them from Justin’s face.
“No toys?” he asked.
“No,” Mom and Dad said in unison.
He then moved to leave. We all backed out of his way. He smiled and moved out into the living room. He squatted in front of the t.v.
“On?” he inquired.
“Oh no, not now. Later, okay?” Mom told him.
He stood and shuffled toward the bookcase. He took down a book, looked at it, and then threw it on the floor. He took another, looked at it, and threw it on the floor. He did this to about ten books before Dad asked him what he was doing.
“Reading,” he said.
What was this? I couldn’t even touch those books. They were rare.
“Justin,” I said. “Want to see my room?”
He dropped the book he held and said, “Okay!”
I took his hand and led him toward the stairs. I looked at Dad for okay. He smiled, so we headed up.
What a mistake. I realized my bed was filled with water after he smeared my own tube of lipstick on my mirror, put my underwear on his head after examining my bureau drawers, and putting my teddy bear under his shirt like he was pregnant.