When I look in the mirror, I see a faint scar running across my nose. It is a smooth white curve with tan borders that hugs the bridge of my nose. My mother tried more than a thousand times to remove this scar. She bought cocoa butter and various dark-spot-fading creams and applied them to my bridge every night, but it never seemed to fade. Even now, I look at it and I think of my brothers.
Full disclaimer: there is actually a lot of debate among my siblings on how I got this scar on my nose. However, I remember the moment my middle brother gave me my wound. My brothers would watch WWE for days and then go into my parents’ bedroom to replicate the moves; my favorite memory we share is when they let me join in. I remember asking to participate once and being met with a strong “NO!” from my oldest brother. Before I could ask them to hang out, I was kicked out of their wrestling ring. Eventually that evening, they made their way to the living room to see what I was up to. The next thing I could remember, I was falling over and there was blood running down my nose. As I write this story, I can hear my older brother screaming in the back of my head “No, it was because you tripped over your fat foot!” In reality, my middle brother pushed me causing me to cut my nose on the corner of the black wooden coffee table. Ever since that day, they never allowed me to wrestle with them because, though they did not want to admit it, they did not want me to get hurt.
My relationship with my brothers is very unique. As the only girl in the family, my father told me stories of how shocked they were when he and my mother brought me home from the hospital and explained that I was not their brother, but in fact their sister. They were always told to be gentle when hanging out with me.
Enforcing this gender norm from the day I was brought home immediately established that I was not allowed to wrestle with them, play the same gory video games — like Call of Duty — or go on bicycle rides around the neighborhood with my friends the same way they were allowed to. Despite that, growing up, we were stuck to each other like superglue. My brothers were my chaperones, but because of our close age, they were also my friends, and soon all of my friends became their friends and vice versa. They were my second caretakers: reading The Little Mermaid to me as a toddler, comforting me when I would cry about having to go to school and picking me up from class at the end of the day to start our walk home.
As we got older, we grew apart. We no longer went to the same schools, so we would not see each other in passing during lunch or walk home together at the end of the day. In high school, they would ask me to watch a movie or play video games, but I had become busy with juggling school work, fencing practice and tutoring children. By the time I would get home from practice or work, they were already hanging out with their own friends or getting ready for bed. Soon, I didn’t know their friends well anymore and they didn’t recognize the names of mine. On the weekends, they were busy with their own extracurricular activities and work.
When I moved to Ann Arbor for my first year of college, I thought I would be okay moving in without their help. After all, I was only moving in with two suitcases, a duffle bag and a book bag. I felt independent enough to settle in alone. This sense of independence quickly vanished as I watched other students have their family beside them as they moved into their residence halls. They helped loft their dorm beds, unpack their clothes and brought them self-care packages; things I had to do on my own. Watching siblings hug and tell one another “I love you,” made me miss my own. It was then that the distance between my siblings and me became magnified.
I’m a junior now and there are still times when I miss my brothers. We see each other for the holidays and we text in our group chat, but the time we share as adults feels minimal in comparison to what we once shared. Looking back at the relationship the three of us shared before high school, I know I took it for granted, unaware that every “next weekend” or “next time” was an opportunity lost with the little time we had left. When I look at the scar on the bridge of my nose, I am reminded of our reckless childhood; I tell myself there will never be enough time for everything and I decide that family matters most.
MiC Columnist Anchal Malh can be reached at email@example.com.