Even though we hadn’t always been there for each other in the ways that we wished we could have been there for each other, Dragon Ball Z had. Monday-Friday from four thirty to five pm, Cartoon Network aired Dragon Ball Z. An epic action-packed Anime. It would, without fail, neutralize the rivalry my brother and I shared. Similar to the evening of December 24th, in 1914, where British and German troops met in no man’s land to exchange gifts and play football.
Our grudges went on hold. He forgot about the Lego he’d been working on for weeks that I’d accidentally knocked over. I forgot he’d unplugged the N64 before I’d been able to save my progress in the Water Temple. We both forgot the last time we played tag in the house; in an attempt to prevent him from escaping my touch, I kicked our sticker covered bedroom door with so much force it slammed shut against his trailing right thumb, taking a piece of it off.
All forgotten as soon as that low hum from an electric guitar and a sprawling concentric tailed Shenron appeared on screen. Our attention to every detail and plot point in the Dragon Ball Z universe was met with a level of focus my brother and I rarely exhibited elsewhere. A half an hour never felt long enough, and every episode left my brother and I hanging. We’d offer each other theoretical predictions as to what would happen next. We couldn’t get enough.
We’d grown in the same womb, two and a half years apart. Gone to the same school, slept in the same bed until I was twelve. We were too close. I think what really set him over the edge though was my affinity for the character Piccolo.
“Would you really kill me, in front of my son, to save Earth, if you had to?” He’d ask me.
“Oh, for sure, dude.” I’d answer without hesitation.
Then, my brother, younger than me, got a girlfriend before I did. I was jealous. He’d sort of lord it over me too. They were so young it wasn’t considered “serious.” People thought they were “cute.” It gave the moms and dads an easy go-to joke in social gatherings. Each time someone said, “Watch out. We’ll be in-laws before you know it.” It gave my brother a small piece of hope. Maybe they would end up together?
When my brother tried to kiss her, she didn’t like that and dumped him. He came home crying. It felt good. Watching him fall from grace. What good was all his lording when it couldn’t save him from being in pain?
Still, as four thirty came, we watched in horror as Napa a Saiyan from Vegeta, began to kill the supporting characters of Yamcha, Tien, and Chiaotzu. We thought Chiaotzu had Napa when he blew himself up. After the episode we mourned his loss, maybe more so, than the loss of my brother’s “girlfriend.”
It was early in the Frieza Saga. After Krillin, Bulma, and Gohan had gotten to Namek. Friday. Hot enough to justify not being outside. We individually killed time, waiting for four thirty. I think I had my feet up where normally you’d rest your back on the green velvet couch. My head near the cool floor, I could feel my blood trickling through me, while staring at the upside down T.V. wondering if I was too old to be waiting like a little kid on Saturday mornings to watch cartoons with my brother. Didn’t I want to be something? Do something with my life?
I walked into our room to find him sitting cross legged with his head crooked downward peering into his lap.
“What’s that?” I asked.
He visibly shook. He’d been so engrossed in whatever was in his lap that he hadn’t even noticed I’d entered our room. When I finally caught his blue eyes with my hazel ones, his lips began to quiver.
“I’m sorry.” Wobbled off of his tongue with a healthy portion of regret as if he’d killed our pet cat. “I—I—I couldn’t help it.”
I peeled from his lap a thick paperback bound book. As I flipped through it I could see Frieza but it wasn’t the Frieza I recognized. It was some other version of himself. Everything we’d waded through. All that time we’d spent thinking of how the narrative arcs might twist and turn was here in my hands blooming from the thin, crisp pages of this book written in unreadable Japanese. The Namekian saga. The Frieza saga, and the eventual crowning achievement of Goku turning Super Saiyan.
Everything we’d been through.
Everything we’d been waiting to witness.
The ever evolving bond between two brothers moving through something together. Gone.
Dylan Sander-Self received his M.F.A from S.F.S.U. His work has appeared in Spectrum, and the Ale House Narratives. He lives, works, and writes in Santa Cruz, California.