Lately, I haven't been listening to any specific playlists. Instead, I've been listening to my liked songs on Spotify. And every so often, the song 'Memory' comes on, and I never skip it. I don't know exactly why. It's a short song, about a minute long, the music-box reprise of 'Fallen Down' from the video game Undertale.
And it's not my favorite video game by any means, not that it isn't a good game. I just don't think it impacted me as much as other games have. I was a little late to play Undertale, so maybe that had something to do with it. Or maybe it's because it's one of the few games my older brother hasn't played before me.
Omar and I have always been mostly the same. It's all his fault, really. Like God, who spat on the ground and molded Adam from dust (or something like that), I was wet clay, and it was my brother's hands that gave my mind form. It was his fingers that made the wavy indents in my head. It was his words that told me what to do and when to do it, what to say and how to say it.
My older brother made me into the brother he didn't have at the time. And for me, he was my sister before my sisters were born. He played Barbies with me. I played Star Wars with him. We used to drive down together along the sidewalk of the neighborhood in those battery-powered kids' cars our dad got for us, back when we still lived in the yellow house.
And we played video games together.
Our first gaming system was the GameCube.
Omar and I used to play that GameCube a lot. We'd play it in the upstairs guestroom to the left of the staircase in the yellow house. The TV was squarish and would give your hands a fuzzy feeling when you put them against the screen. I wonder what happened to our GameCube. I think if the two of us could, we would track it down by its serial number and fight over who gets to keep it, the way we used to fight over who gets to be Player One.
We only had three multiplayer games on the GameCube: Lego Star Wars, Sonic Adventure Battle: 2, and Super Mario Party 5. The rest of the games we had were single-player. For the most part, I was content to sit beside my brother on the carpet in the upstairs and watch him play. But sometimes, I would get antsy and ask for a turn. Omar wanted to keep playing Peter Jackson's King Kong: The Official Game of the Movie, and so he would plug in the second controller and tell me I was playing as the monkeys trying to attack him.
You'd think I'd realize I wasn't actually playing. After all, the monkeys weren't moving in the direction I wanted them to move. But I didn't. I sat there mashing the A button on the controller, frustrated at the game for not working properly, but never at my brother.
And then we got a Wii for Christmas. By then, Omar had brothers and I had sisters, but he was still my sister and I was still his brother. So, it was still the two of us, now standing on the carpet in the basement living room of the yellow house playing Super Mario Galaxy.
The game says it's two-player, but really it's one and a half. The first player gets to play as Mario and the second player is just an extra cursor on the screen that can only collect starbits or hold off Goombas. Nonetheless, we still played the game together. He, first player, and I, second.
I had my own save too, but it was far less accomplished. When I played, I was more content to explore Rosalina's Observatory than to venture into the different galaxies. A lot of the levels were simply too difficult for me, so I would have to hand off the controllers to Omar.
One of the things I remember most vividly, even before replaying Super Mario Galaxy in adulthood was Rosalina's Storybook. It's exactly what it sounds like: a storybook. Mario enters the library and Rosalina is seated in a rocking chair surrounded by Lumas. She flips the book open and begins to read.
In the book, Rosalina is just a young girl. She finds a small star child, a Luma, who is looking for his mother. After promising to help him find his mother, the two set off exploring the universe in search of the Celestial Mother.
In Chapter Seven, Rosalina gazes through a telescope at a planet that is eerily familiar to her. The sky is the same one she used to gaze at with her father. The hill is the same one she used to sled down with her brother. The tree is the same one she used to picnic underneath with her mother.
"I want to go home! I want to go home right now! I want to go home! I want to go back to my house by the hill!"
I wake up in the middle of the night and I stare at a ceiling that is foreign to my siblings. It's been a long time since we lived together. It's been even longer since we've lived together in the yellow house. My older brother still calls me on the phone, but it's not the same as speaking to him face to face, sharing air the same way we share flesh and blood; sometimes it feels like that's the only thing we have left.
I've been thinking about that a lot lately, especially when I pick up my controller and I play a difficult level that I can't hand off to my older brother, and also when I drive the car I inherited from him and 'Memory' starts to play.
There was one part of Undertale that was impactful to me. At the beginning of the game, the player walks up to a mirror and a dialogue tag appears saying, "It's you!"
Then at the end of the game, the player approaches the mirror once again, but this time the dialogue tag says, "Despite everything, it's still you."
My older brother and I will never again wake up early on Saturday mornings, sneak into the basement, and play Super Mario Galaxy until the afternoon. We will never again sit on the ground until the pattern of the carpet tufts is engrained pink into the skin of our legs. And we will never live in the yellow house again. We will never live in the same house again.
But for as long as I can remember, he has been older than I, and I have been younger than he. And we will always be 3 and 7, 7 and 11, 11 and 15, and so on. He's my older brother, and I'm his little sister.
He's still my sister and I'm still his brother, even if we can never go back to the yellow house again.
I'm still me.
And I think it'll be alright.