That Which Might Have Been Different

You would have a girlfriend now. Probably a serious one from your point of view. I would dislike her and know you could do better. You would be a snowboarder and would tear down icy slopes without regard for safety. Your blue eyes would flash with good-natured sarcasm under snow encrusted brows when scolded to be careful. I would be powerless to make you listen. You would bend down and kiss the top of my head and tell me to lighten up. You would be the most charming, pain in the ass teenager that ever existed.

You would volunteer with agencies serving the less fortunate and be on the High Honor Roll at school. You would love to spend time with your little sister because she understands you like no other. You would be proud of her and whisper promises in her ears like butterflies to protect her from the darkness in the world. You would share a room with your brother and get him involved in adventures I’d know nothing about. You would take every AP class offered in high school, visit colleges with your parents and guide your brothers into pursuing careers in the arts and sciences. You would be a renaissance man in emergence. You would be capable of anything. You would be the model of perfection with a wicked dash of charisma.

I take you to McDonald’s on Sunday and you charm the woman working the drive-thru. She sees you leaning closer from the passenger seat, watching with interest as she performs the duties of the job she dislikes. She tells us her day is made each time she sees you and tosses extra fries in your bag to prove it. You ask another stressed store clerk if she would like a Popsicle. She tells us about her love for her autistic nephew and smiles genuinely on a day she did not expect to. You know how to charm the ladies.

When visiting the pet store, you climb to the top of a pile of dog food bags and crow with laughter. Every shopper freezes uncomfortably. Once, I would have been embarrassed, but now I want to climb up next to you. You would laugh even harder if I did and our voices would peal through the otherwise silent store. You might bend over and kiss me on the head. You are the most charming and exasperating teenager that ever existed.