Brotherhood is a beautiful thing. Or not.
You are two and he is four, and you don't remember that far back but he does; he tells you that the week the family moved to Gunma you fidgeted in your new blankets and cried from dusk to dawn until your father was growling and your mother wrung her hands, and finally he was sent to read quietly to you in halting Japanese, making up the words he didn't know, until you gave up on tears and slept peacefully. You tell him to read to you again; he smiles and ruffles your hair and hands you a book on car mechanics. It's boring, it's useless, you protest, but he frowns at you and asks if you're serious about racing professionally, and you know he's asking you if you want to disappoint him. Two, two and twenty-two, but he is still capable of shutting you up.
You are four and he is six. Your first memory is not of him but of his absence, being unable to find him in the house where he should always be. Aniki, you say, wandering into the hallway; Aniki, searching through every room, upstairs and down. Your mother finds you trying to open the front door, stretching towards the latch you can't quite reach. She makes a horrified noise and drags you inside, and you know that she won't allow you to find him so you bite her on the wrist until she screeches. She slaps you; you kick back; your father comes in to find the two of you scuffling in the living room.
When he comes back you tug on his hand and try to make him promise that he'll never leave again, and when he refuses you bite him, too, but not so hard.
You don't remember what he said to you. You remember knowing that you had to grow up.
You are six and he is eight. He has friends and so do you, and the world is a little wider for it, the boys and girls who tug your arms and fight you in the sand. No one tugs his arms and the sand does not touch him, so you tug his arms and you touch him, and he stops and smiles and ruffles your hair and you think, he is still the best, there is no one to touch him.
You are eight and he is ten, and your mother goes out the front door and does not return. Did Okaasan go to school, you ask him, and he says no, no, Keisuke, no, he says and doesn't smile.
You think that he is lying; you wonder if it was you or he that hadn't grown up fast enough, or if it was maybe the both of you. He puts his arms around your back and hugs you so close you can't see his face, and you know that he is lying. You say, it's okay, it's okay, and you smile and ruffle his hair, just like yours, straight and sleek. You say, I will always grow up fast enough for you.
You are ten and he is twelve, and school swamps you; school eats him. Rika-chan next door who ties up her hair with two pink ribbons kisses you lightning quick before running, and though you eeek and eeew and rub it off, you remember her blush and the way her dress blew up when she turned, showing a glimpse of pink checkered panties, and you think maybe she isn't so bad, maybe she isn't bad at all.
You are the first person in your class to be a boyfriend, and your classmates tease you while they envy you. You don't care. You hold hands with Rika-chan after school and walk home together to devour the cookies he leaves for you. You think that this is love.
You are twelve and he is fourteen, and Rika-chan gives way to Miyako-chan, Miyako to Chihiro. Really, Keisuke, he says, going over your geometry textbook and penning notes in the margins, you're turning into such a heartbreaker -- then he smiles, to show that it is all right.
He never brings anyone home, boy or girl, and he never needs help with homework. You tug his arms and you touch him, you think about doing so, but you are twelve and he is fourteen, and it is past the time that you can touch that way. So you turn your head away, slant your mouth downwards, tell him, none of your business.
My business is none of yours. You regret it at that exact moment, but before you can take it back he smiles again, to show that it is all right. Keisuke's growing up, he says, and you think, with sudden fury, that he was waiting for this all along.
You are fourteen and he is sixteen. Your orbits shift, re-align, a galaxy apart.
You are sixteen and he is eighteen. You don't see him often, and talk to him even less; life is friends and fighting and more friends and more fighting, one breeding the other, midnight revels that last through the hours when all good boys should be snug in their beds. Your father can't keep you in hand, and eventually doesn't even try.
You buy a motorcycle, your world becomes wider still, and the wind blowing your spikes into disarray tastes very much like freedom.
You are eighteen and he is twenty, and he gives you your first ride down the slopes of Mount Akagi, cutting corners like a demon, switching gears like something divine. His tires screech on the asphalt, and inside you feel something else switching gears, switching back to the memories you don't have of his voice hesitating over storybook words, childish but determined. He has perfect control over his car; he has perfect control over his life.
When the ride ends, you don't want to get out of the passenger seat. Can we do that again?
That night, he makes the run from the top of the mountain to its foot, again, again and once again. It should be like your midnight motorcycle runs, but isn't. Instead, you wonder if you can stay here like this for the rest of your lives, together in this car; you wonder what it would be like to let him drive you up and down the mountain forever.
You are twenty and he is twenty-two, and together you rule the mountain paths of Gunma. #2 of the RedSuns, and you say it with pride, because it means #2 in the world.
Focus, he says, and your driving becomes smoother, smarter, faster; always faster.
Focus, he says, and you drop your girlfriend with no regrets.
You would do anything for him.
You would do anything.
You are twenty-two and he is twenty-four, and it is the year of Project D, traveling all over the country, but to you it is the year of Ryousuke. Ryousuke-san, Fujiwara calls him; Ryousuke-san, what do you think? Ryousuke-san, did I do all right? and for the first time the syllables echo in your ears. Leaning against the car he helped you pick out, listening to his name sung in Fujiwara's hesitant voice, you realize that for the first time, Ryousuke holds as much meaning as Aniki.
Time to prepare for the downhill race, says Fumihiro, and you get into your car, wait for him to leave Fujiwara and appear by the window.
You lift your head. Watch me, you tell him, unwavering. Try to grind it in, press the words into his eyes, his chest, his driver's hands.
He smiles at you, the same confident, expectant smile that asks all and gives all, that prods you to grow and leap and soar. I always do, he says, stepping back, swallowed by the glare of headlights switching on.
You feel his eyes on the back of your neck. The race begins.