Sometimes life can be pretty good.
“Despiertate Alex, despiertate! Solo tenemos poco tiempo!” — the familiar wake up call.
I felt a tiny hand playfully smacking my face, and a pair of small knees digging into my chest.
Knees don’t giggle, but the body sitting on top of me convulsed with laughter. I was being awakened on an early Saturday morning. It takes a lot to get me out of bed — especially when there’s no school — but for this kid, I would get up in a second. His name was Andrew, and he was the little brother I never had.
Carolina, our housekeeper at the time, would bring her son to work because pre-school was not available for the toddler. I have two brothers and a sister who are all older than I am. They’ve always taken care of me like sheepdogs guarding an animal herd. As the youngest child, however, I never knew what it felt like to be the sheepdog — that is, until Andrew.
I have incredible memories of the Saturdays I spent with him during my high school years. He had so much energy and wanted to do everything with me. It was like a wonderland for him. I taught him how to swim, play basketball and soccer, have a catch, make pancakes, use the iPad, play poker even though he would cheat and a seemingly infinite amount of other activities.
By the time he reached the age of four, our relationship developed into more of a brother-friend relationship. It felt like I was watching him grow through different stages of his young life. And it was affecting me. At five years old, he was able to have very detailed conversations with me — always, of course, in Spanish.
I was born and raised in Puerto Rico for the first seven years of my life, and I have always tried to make use of every opportunity where I can speak Spanish to someone. That way, I will never forget the language.
Andrew was learning how to speak Spanish and I was fighting hard not to forget my Spanish. He and I were a perfect match. We were both struggling to communicate in a language he was still just beginning to grasp and having a great time doing it. We were like brothers, friends and companions and never failed to make each other laugh and have a good time. If we had a language barrier, neither of us knew it.
But life, I learned, has a way of constructing barriers where they don’t belong. I was on my way home from school with my dad, and we stopped at our mailbox to get the mail. Inside, there was a large envelope from Carolina. I stood right in front of my mother as she was cutting the envelope open. She reached in and pulled out a house key — house key that had belonged to Carolina.
I instantly began to think about how I would probably never see Andrew again. We weren’t given a reason, and we had no clue why. They were simply gone.
Things began to speed up after that. School, the tennis team, my friends — the day-to-day world of high school life completely enveloped me.
A few months later, in the fall of my senior year, I was accepted as a volunteer at ASPIRA, an organization devoted to assisting and educating underprivileged Hispanic youth. I started at ASPIRA in the beginning of September.
It was day I will never forget.
I remember walking into the reception area, signing in and the receptionist leading me to a classroom where I would be assisting the teacher.
As the teacher was telling the class who I was, where I was from, and what I would be doing as her assistant, I couldn’t believe what, or rather who, I saw.
There was a young boy, sitting at a table in the far left corner of the room. He was making direct eye contact with me, and his mouth was open in shock. He got up and slowly, shyly approached me. It took me a solid 30 seconds to process the fact that it was Andrew. He stopped right in front of me, and we looked at each other without saying a thing for a long moment. Then, without hesitation, he ran right at me, jumped on me, and gave me a huge hug. He didn’t let go for a long time. And neither did I.
Sometimes life can be pretty good.
Alex Woods, ’21, is an assistant sports editor for The Brown and White. He can be reached at [email protected]