Joe “Binx” Soto, Jr. has been my friend since the kindergarten – though, if you asked him, he would say since the first grade. And I remember the day we met with some clarity.
Two small kids – though he always was taller than me – walking the same path, coming at each other from opposing directions. We did that small dance when you come into the situation. When you move to your left and the other person moves to his right.
“Cut it out,” one of us said.
“Cut what out?” the other replied.
This went on for what seemed minutes. After that, we became friends. Up until the fourth grade, we attended the same school. At the end of our third grade year, the district split us up, sending him to Escandon and me to Lincoln. We went from being inseparable to never seeing each other – for what felt like – again.
Of course, nothing in a small city ever remains so. Our sixth grade year brought us back to the lone six grade campus in the city. After a few days started out in a new school, we recognized each other as I went to buy a snack. He jumped in my path and, rather than repeating the conversation when we first me, we both burst out with, “Don’t I know you?” Again, we became inseparable.
Bad relationships, horrible high school experiences and emerging into adulthood later, we’re still good friends. He’s married now and, from what I hear, attempting to start a family. And marriage, ironically, made the friendship stronger. About a week after he tied the knot, a side of him I never knew came out. I’m still getting used to this side. Marriage had given him confidence. He told me he’d been listening to talk radio for months during his lunch break. We spoke politics. Things that I never fathomed talking to him about, we now have idle conversations.
And while we don’t see each other as often as we used to, when we do everything returns to normalcy. There are only a few people I can actually say that about. There’s no small talk, no having to get to know each other again. Like the friendship was never put on hold. I can’t even name a family member that carries the same feeling. And that’s what Binx is to me, a family member – the brother I never had.
But older brother, of course. He’ll want me to mention that. How he’s older than me by less than a day.