Ryan and the Technicolor Wardrobe
Short Stories and Essays

There’s an interesting dynamic between my four older sisters and me.  It’s not just because I’m the only boy sibling, it’s because of the huge age gap between us.  All my sisters are roughly a year to two years apart, and then I came along 8 years after that.  When I was a kid, my sisters were quick to point out that the large gap indicated that I was an “accident”, but since I was a boy, I countered that I was the best “accident” to ever happen to our family.  My parents wholeheartedly agree with me to the chagrin of my sisters.  To be fair, my sisters have been more than kind to me throughout my entire existence, but it doesn’t seem to make the dynamic any less weird.  When I was a kid, my sisters were dating, and I kind of unknowingly became a pawn in the game of chess between my sisters and their suitors.

Obviously, when you date someone, you want to make a good impression on their family, so it would make sense that at some point, these guys would want me to approve of them.  Since I was literally just a little kid, I find it odd that I’d been taken out quite a few times (I have lots of sisters, it’s not that they dated a lot of guys).  My sisters weren’t going to take any feedback I had about the guys seriously.

“Was he nice to you?”

“Yes.”

“What’d you guys do?”

“He bought me ice cream.”

“Do you like him?”

“Sure.”

Unless a guy punched me in the face, I was probably always going to say I had fun and the guy was nice, so I doubt that it was my sisters’ idea that I needed to be wined and dined, at least not with these not-so-serious boyfriends.  The serious boyfriends, I could understand.  Perhaps they thought I was some sort of guard dog that could smell shadiness.  There’s Something About Mary hadn’t come out yet, so I don’t think they viewed me that way, but I never asked.  I think their money would be better spent on my other sisters (closer in age, more likely to have an opinion) than a boy who doesn’t even understand how babies are made, but that was their choice, and I definitely reaped the benefits of it.

I particularly remember one prospective suitor, not because our time was particularly interesting, but because he wasn’t actually dating my sister, he was just interested in her.  He went to our church, so it wasn’t like a stranger wanted to take me out.  He took me to the mall, he bought me some frozen yogurt, and then he bought a bouquet of roses for my sister.  There might’ve been more to the day, but that’s all I remember.  My sister never actually dated the guy, which is kind of sad.  I know she had valid reasons, and I’ve never questioned her judgement (she’s happily married now).  He wasn’t a loser, he was just kind of a dork, who happened to like my sister A LOT.  Even I picked up on that.

As kind of weird as it was in retrospect, I give that guy credit for trying to score points with my sister with the gesture of taking me out.  His intentions were clear, he executed his plan, but unfortunately, he just came up a short of his goal in the end.  I don’t know what he ended up doing with his life, I hope that he ended up with a life that he was happy with and that he doesn’t live with any regrets about my sister (my sister is in a healthy and happy marriage so don’t be a creeper).  He was able to give it his best shot and he was able to state his case.

In my life, I try not to have many regrets.  Failure is a part of life that everyone experiences, so it shouldn’t be something to be ashamed of.  Most of my regrets stem from not being given a chance, not because I tried and failed.  While no one in my family keeps in touch with this guy, I don’t think this guy was a failure by any means.  He didn’t achieve his goal, but he took a risk and put his best foot forward.  He may not have been able to earn my sister’s hand, but he was able to gain the respect of a young boy.  He may have thought of himself as a reject and a loser afterwards, but as sad as it sounds, he was probably more of a man than most of the people that have passed through my life since.

Over the weekend, a good friend came back to town for a friend’s wedding.  They had been gone for a few months and were only in town for the weekend.  I got to church late, so by the time I got there, there were plenty of people in the process of catching up with her.  I figured that at some point, I’d stop by to say ‘hi’, but I wasn’t going to wait in line.  I knew that she’d be back home for good in a month, so I wasn’t going to be upset if I didn’t get that time to reconnect.  Besides, she was in town for a wedding.  I wasn’t going to take things personally if catching up with me wasn’t on her agenda on this trip.

I eventually did get a few minutes to chat.  Since it had only been a few months since she’d been gone, it was easy to fill her in on what she had missed.  Sure, we had Facebook, e-mail, and blogs to fill in some of those cracks, but it was nice to just let the conversation flow rather than sitting down and typing up bunch of concise facts.  Even though the time was brief, I didn’t feel like my time was rushed and I was able to share what I needed to share.  It’s not like my life had radically changed in the last 3 months and it won’t likely change too much in the next month by the time she comes back.

A year or so after our move to San Diego, Bruce’s family came to visit us, or more accurately, they came to California to visit some relatives and were nice enough to swing by to see us for a day as well.  Since they had other obligations, their time with us seemed brief but I was obviously thrilled to see them and made the most of it.  After their visit, there was a 6-7 year gap between that time and the next time I would see Bruce.  We kept in touch through the years with a couple of letters, the occasional (more like annual) phone call, and eventually instant messenger/e-mail when the technology became available.  I didn’t see Bruce again in person until my sophomore year of college and when I went to the airport to pick him up, I wondered if it would be really weird.  We were no longer kids, we could legally drive cars.  We pretty much missed each other’s teen years (though that may have been a good thing for us).  The dynamic in our friendship could’ve understandably been a lot different, but there I stood there at baggage claim wondering if I’d even recognize him right away when he walked by.

Luckily for us, things hadn’t changed too much.  We still loved to eat and play video games.  He got along with Phil, who generously drove us around, and I didn’t notice any awkward silence.  I don’t remember discussing what we had missed out in each other’s lives at all, but I’m sure there was a little of that.  I think we spent most of the time focussing on the present and the surreal notion that we were actually sitting in the same room as adults.  I think I asked him if he thought I talked like I was from California now or if I seemed different because of my move, but the only thing that seemed to stick out as different was how large the size of the asian population was at my school.  I think a lot of the big changes in either of our lives were mentioned mostly in passing and we weren’t very aware of the weight that they carried.  My oldest sister had gotten married and had a child.  I was already an uncle.  That’s kind of a crazy notion, but I don’t think I understood that then.

I’ve always found catching up with people as kind of an intimidating task and sometimes I’ve even found it intrusive with the friends who’ve dropped off the face of the earth and have come barging back into my life wanting to know everything they’ve missed out on.  I’m not sure where this disdain stems from, since I can’t really think of any specific instances where I’ve had a bad experience.  I’ve had to catch up with someone who missed out on years and years of my life in Bruce, and I’ve caught up with someone after just a few months of being out of the loop, and I found both instances to be refreshing.  Perhaps I can put whatever bad taste was in my mouth behind me, and look forward to a future where I’m happily sharing about my past.