A Twist of Time

September 20, 2011 § 1 Comment

It’s a common joke in the Starnes household. Many siblings can say that they have been competing since the day they were born. My brother and I might be the only ones who can honestly beat that. The story goes that I was “Baby A” the entire time our mother was pregnant and was all set to be born first. Then, with just a month left to go, my brother threw his foot out and stepped in front in typical Bobby fashion. Four short weeks later we were born, Bobby having won the first of many races that would culminate in the closest friendship I have ever known.

Entertaining the idea of the multiverse for a moment, in many other worlds I must have not choked at the finish line and won this first race. (As a quick clarification, this would have made my name Bobby because my dad chose to assign names based on who was born first. This should make the story a little easier to understand.) What follows is what could have happened after (or did depending on your belief in the multiverse)…

Everything was just as it always had been. I woke Joey up at seven, and we took a jog to the Clemson University gym for our morning workout. He followed me there, just like he followed me into this world. Just like he had followed me to South Carolina for college. Just like he had followed me to a private high school. And just like he had followed me into the end zone on countless Friday nights under the small-town Ohio lights. That was how we both liked it, so there was no reason to change. Besides, I was the older brother and that was my job.

One short year ago we had been on the verge of splitting up. Being more reserved and focused on his studies, Joey had gotten into a slew of colleges that had all decided I was only worth an indefinite spot on the wait list. I tried to convince him that he should go to the best school he could. Every time I brought it up he just made that awkward little half grin he always does and said, “If you’re not good enough for them, then they clearly don’t know what they’re talking about anyway.”

In hindsight, I feel guilty about that. I suppose I always will. To me, high school had been a great time in my life that was more about living in the moment than worrying about the future. I was smart enough to get by without trying too hard, and so I did just that. I got by. Sometimes I can’t help thinking that my lack of effort held Joey back from where he could have gone. Then I remember the good times I forced him to have. The nights I made him put the stupid books away and just be a kid. I’ll never know how it would have been, but life had turned out all right.

As we take a leisurely jog back to the dorm, I think about a recent lecture in my pre-business psychology class. The professor seemed convinced that being the oldest or youngest child had a huge effect on the person one eventually became. With this in mind, I asked the off-handed question,  “Do you think things would be different if you had been born first?” His blunt reply resounds in the thick southern air.

“No,” he says.

– Joey S


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