He’s following his big sister down the sidewalk, fumbling with the handful of Legos that are too big for his little hands. Wait for me, he says. Or did he think it? Can she even hear him? She is only a few steps ahead of him but it feels like he is galaxies away. When she thought of her youngest brother she thought about Legos. Piles of them. Buckets of them. Landscapes of them crunching underneath her bare feet at the lake house. He’s trying to keep pace with her but he’s struggling to hold onto the plastic pieces of their childhood that she always associated with her memories of him. One of the blocks slipped through his fingers and if he stopped to pick it up, he wouldn’t have been able to stay close to her. So he left it there on the sidewalk and thought he’d pick it up on their way back.
I was walking home from class with my headphones in, thinking about Sam. When I die, I wonder which version of me people will remember the most vividly. Maybe my childhood friends will think about my gapped smile and those bangs and high pitched giggle. Maybe my high school classmates will remember the girl with thick eyeliner and that brownish-black hair color that my natural blonde roots never quite took to… and my violin and my paints and my bad ankle that always put me on crutches. I like to think my siblings would remember laughing with me. When I hear the word happiness I envision my family and we’re laughing the kind of laughter that temporarily freezes time; the kind of laughter that fills the corners of your eyes with tears. When I hear Sam’s name I think about us kids, playing in the sand. Laughing. I used to think stepping on Legos was the most painful feeling possible but now when I think about Sam I know I was wrong. Despite the consistent sensation of loneliness, I haven’t felt alone since God began plucking people from my life. I feel them all around me all the time now. I was walking home from class alone but I didn’t feel alone. It felt like I was being followed. This was probably five months after Sam died and my mind was wandering when it found him; he was ten years old again fumbling with those Legos. And suddenly, on a walk during college in the middle of Minneapolis, I was thirteen again stopped dead in my tracks looking at a real-life Lego on the sidewalk that I nearly stepped on. It was a black, four-by-two block. I picked it up and looked around wondering if it was some kind of joke. My head seemed to mute everything around me and it felt like I was in a separate world from the college students shuffling past me. I remember gripping the piece of plastic and feeling God. Tears started pooling in the corner of my eyes the way they do when I laugh.
And although the little boy didn’t catch up to his sister, he watched her pick up his Lego on their way back and they laughed again. The kind of laughter that freezes time; the kind of laughter that fills the corners of your eyes with tears. And he knew she knew he was there.