In the last month, I have had the pleasure of being with my sister, and seeing that she’s grown up to be a beautiful person. We spent every day together, and I found with each passing day that our minds became more and more aligned. Brigitte’s sense of humor, which is always intact, was uproarious, and she often had me laughing from morning ‘til night.
One laughing fit began because we were having a conversation about laughing fits. “Isn’t it terrible,” one of us said, “when you’re absolutely NOT supposed to laugh, but it starts to come out anyway… like when you’re in a classroom, or at a nice dinner?” We were sitting in a circle with about ten Thai guys at this point, most of whom were younger and had rarely had occasion to see a white girl in their life. They kept stealing curious glances at us, and whispering amongst themselves in Thai. Brigitte and I were speaking quietly in English, giggling frequently, but aware of our surroundings, and keeping the noise to a polite level. Several minutes after having the conversation about inappropriate laughter, we began to play the “What If” game. “What if I just shoved you over right now, and you rolled into the circle and knocked over that bottle of Fanta?” I asked Brigitte, a mischievous twinkle no doubt in my eye. She shook her head threateningly and countered with, “What if I threw you down and pinned my knee into your chest and started slapping you really hard?” I started laughing quietly, imagining what all of the Thai guys would do if we started rolling around, beating each other. “Okay, okay,” I said, “What if I slammed you up against the wall and then held you out the window, strangling you while you kicked and screamed?” This last image was too much to take, and I started laughing, quietly at first, but then harder and harder. I caught Brigitte looking at me with an expression that seemed to be amused, but was warning me to shut up at the same time. I couldn’t stop. I was aware of a few of the Thai kids darting looks in my direction, and this seemed to make it worse. I was sitting cross-legged with my arms on my knees, and I dropped my head into my arms, hoping to make it stop. I kept seeing Brigitte hanging backwards out the window, screaming as I throttled her. It was ridiculous, but I couldn’t stop laughing. The only sound in the room was the soft murmuring of Thai voices, and so my attempts to cover up my hysterical giggles were not very successful. I finally turned around completely, my back to the circle, and tried to contain myself. I took a few deep, shuddering breaths. A few more giggles escaped me. I took another deep breath, then another, and finally turned around. Brigitte was watching me with a tight, threatening smile on her face. She really didn’t want me to be set off again. Luckily, I got it together and was able to divert my mind from that highly provoking image for the rest of the evening. But Brigitte’s sly sense of humor kept me on my toes, and always had me laughing at what seemed like the most inappropriate times.
Being in love does wonders for people. I watched Brigitte and Jack this month, and I knew they were in love. I think my favorite thing about the phenomenon of being in love is that people come to life and are themselves around each other. So many times I have watched my friends and myself fall in and out of crushes, but these are generally characterized by a giddiness around the person they like, a show they are putting on. One of the highs I receive from being around people who are in love comes from the fact that they are being themselves. Their faces are open, and their essences intact. It was so wonderful for me to see Brigitte cocking her head to one side when Jack spoke, entirely alert and listening, so that she could understand what he was saying. Every part of her was in tune with him, listening to him. Here was the Brigitte I had known and loved since childhood, real and unguarded, her essence shining through.
Part and parcel with just being herself around Jack, I saw that Brigitte was also very comfortable in her own skin. A lot of us take our time getting to this place, and it was refreshing to see that Brigitte has more or less arrived. She shook out her hair, and put on lotion, and walked around in a baggy tee-shirt and boxer shorts in all the same manner- with comfort and assuredness. She was a confident young lady, and a humble grace permeated her actions. Of course, she can still get down and be as bawdy as the rest of us, but that just rounds her out, and makes for a hilarious and often challenging buddy to hang out with when you’re trying to hold it together in front of a group of Thais.
By the end of our month together, Brigitte and I had established a closeness that I don’t remember having shared for some time. We have always been very close, but often that closeness has been jaded by the stresses of life. This month was relatively stress-free, a blessed vortex in time, where everything came together just right, and beautiful coincidences began occurring every day, many times a day. I gave Brigitte a book that I read several months ago, one of those books that awakens you in a way that a million thumps on the head could never do. It speaks to you directly and without judgment, and it is responsible for opening my eyes to my silly, egotistical behaviors in a way nothing or no one else ever has. Brigitte had remembered that I was reading that book a while back, and asked me to bring it to her this time. Although I didn’t bring it because I had returned it to my friend, I didfind a copy of it in a bookstore on Ko Tao, and the sticker on the back said that it was from Epilogue Books in Seattle, no less. I bought it for Brigitte on the spot and gave it to her that night. From then on, we had endless fodder for discussion. Everything was subject to questioning and criticism. We had so much fun calling out his ego, or her ego, or our endless egos, that the serious subject matter often had us in gales of laughter. But it was also opening our eyes. I watched Brigitte skillfully avoid several arguments with Jack because she was reading that book. Rather than accept his bait and be lured into a clashing argument, I saw her walk up and put her arm around him, making friends instead.
When Brigitte finally left, and Jack was on a bus headed south, I had a moment where I wondered, “Were we really close before this?” Because the closeness I now felt transcended the strong bonds that had previously existed, and made me feel like we were on the right track together. Before, when I first got to college, I had a similar moment. Being the responsible older sister that I was, I began inviting Brigitte and her friends out to party on the weekends (and often the weeknights) at the various house parties and frat parties around the Greek system. We did this all the time, for years, and grew incredibly close in that time together. I remember thinking then back to the times before college- when we were merely sisters sharing a house- and wondering if we had ever really been that close. How could we have been? We were just living together then. But at eighteen, nineteen, twenty, we were partying together every week, and the closeness between us had moved up a notch, as we were older and wiser, and at that next level 😉
This time, alone in Bangkok, I remembered that old sentiment and understood it, because I was feeling it again. Had we really been that close before, I wondered, thinking back on our incredible month together. But even as I asked that question, I knew that we had. We had just been close in a different way. Now we were close in a way that felt beneficial to us both, not just because we were drinking together all the time. Watching the world coming together time and again to help us, surprise us, and show us how connected everything is, I felt like our bond had actually stepped up a level and allowed us to see the beauty and order of life. Seeing my sister grow up had a profoundly positive effect on me, because it made me realize that anything is possible, and that if she can grow up to be a beautiful, confident woman, so can I.