We grew up side by side, but never together.
Kids just stuck to their respective groups of friends, never straying as an unspoken rule.
His friends and mine were few and far between.
He played basketball while I read a book from the tree overlooking his backyard.
Twelve years spent in that tree and I said nothing to him.
We always smiled though, like we were sharing a secret.
Both of us were too shy for our own good.
And then there was his sister, the popular girl a year older than me.
She was unafraid and adventurous, hardly spending a minute alone.
My own sister was the oldest kid in the neighborhood, too mature for the younger crowd.
She was in high school discovering her first taste of freedom.
While my sister played on the beach with her friends, I was playing dress-up with his.
I was grateful for her attention, chiding myself for wanting his a little more.
She chided me for always suggesting we invite him to play along.
That’s not how things were done back then.
Little girls played with little girls and little boys played with little boys.
So I sat in the room adjacent to his, wondering if he was as aware of our proximity as I was.
His door stayed open while she never hesitated to shut hers.
It felt like a warning at times, reminding me to not overstep my boundaries.
He and I never spoke, but we continued to smile at each other from little distances.
Soon, he started playing basketball at his school and I was reading on my couch.
I moved away and he did too.