Christmas Eve, 1996. 10 years old.

   The entire family of my mother's side is gathered around the tree in the living room of my maternal grandparents' ranch house. In our family, it's tradition to open gifts on the evening of the 24th, not the 25th.

   So far, the evening has gone wonderfully. Great gifts, good, family fun. Suddenly, the elf for the night, the person who's job is to hand out the presents, one by one, discovers a small 2x9x11 wrapped box that I had, until then, completely forgotten about. I had thought it a hilarious idea the previous day, but now my breath hissed inward with the realization that it really was a bad, very bad idea.

   The label under the bow betrayed the victim as well as the origin, and was read aloud with cheer, and awe. I watched in fearful anticipation as the package was handed to its target, the sappy 'awww's coming from around the room -disbelief that someone like me would care enough to get his big brother a present- only made it that much worse. He ripped the bow off and tossed it in to a bag we always have set aside, so my grandmother can reuse them after people finish decorating the dog. I squirmed further back in to the cushions of the couch as he ripped the snowy paper from the box; I knew nothing would save me now. The box was opened, to reveal a layer of crumpled paper padding. What could be hiding under there? It was a very thin box.
   My brother, the one who's always been there, four years ahead of me, breaking a path into the thicket of the world through which I can follow along, tipped the box toward him, spilling the paper padding. I pushed myself as far back in to the couch as I could, as he turned the box around, trying to catch the inky glint coming from the bottom. He managed to tip it just right, so as to allow the flourescent lighting of the room to fill the cardstock innards of the box, displaying the words, "Gotcha, sucker!"

This is why I cannot sleep tonight. 2,010 days later, 2,200 miles away, and I cannot sleep.
I hate what I've done.