My little brother was a vial of stars.
He rested somewhere in that pantheon of light. He loved the stars and planets, so our father bought him a telescope for his seventh birthday, even though he couldn’t even read the label. I had snorted at the gift.
The last thing I wanted to do was drag the massive contraption out into the gardens. We stood, shivering, as my father unpacked the telescope and spent thirty minutes trying to actually make it see a star. My little brother giggled and ran circles around us, sticking leaves in my father’s hair. His eyes gleamed, flashing in the lamplight with his impish grin. On that night I was thirteen, and thus, I thought, too old to chase him or shriek. I thought I was too old to flop down on the ground and gaze at the stars, flopping about as our father swore over the telescope. My brother asked me to lift him so he’d be closer to the planets, and I told him he was stupid and ought to wait for the telescope.
I regret that now.
When our father did finally get the thing working, my little brother leapt into his lap and gazed into the telescope with breathless wonder. Then after a beat, when I thought he was going to hyperventilate with excitement, he turned on my father, as if it was entirely his fault, “There’s only one star!”
He pointed up at the night sky, as if we had missed the obvious. “The telescope is broken!”
Father was cold and tired, and he burst out laughing. I gave a frustrated huff. I too was cold and tired, and I had never been able to see the stupid shapes in the stars or identify the planets. I was just out in the garden because mother had told me to. “You’re such an idiot!”
In a moment of blind rage, I kicked over the telescope and ran into the house. I heard my father swear and my little brother call my name, but I ignored them and stormed up to the warmth of my room.
I had buried my nose in a book, one of my favorites, when he knocked on my door an hour later an told me that they had found Venus. He pleaded for me to come downstairs to see it. I remained silent, until he left.
I fell asleep with the light on, the book draped across my chest, and woke up for school. Mother made me breakfast, and Father my brother hadn’t woken up yet. I passed the telescope on the front porch, and I felt a tinge of guilt before I sprinted to catch the bus.
I went to school, and so did he.