Jumbo Steps: One round of ‘20 Questions’

I’ve been channeling my inner Mr. Moseby from “The Suite Life of Zack & Cody” (2005-2008) quite a bit lately. In the past month alone, I’ve had many visitors: my sister-in-law’s parents, my aunt and uncle, a prospective student, my brother and two former high school teachers. But last week, I said my final goodbye to my last visitor of the semester — Ryan.

I’ve known Ryan for an eternity and a half: We attended kindergarten, preschool, elementary school, middle school and high school together. We share secrets, memories, jokes and tears together. We fight over stupid things. We bond over even stupider things. He’s not like a brother. He is my brother. He knows a lot (perhaps too much) about me — more than most of my family members know about me. This is why his off-the-cuff question struck me rather unexpectedly.

“What are you scared of?”

Why was he asking me this? It wasn’t just a random question; it was a random question to which I knew he knew the answer.

“Horror films. Where did that come from?”

But he ignored me, merely responding to my question with another question: “What do you like to do first thing in the morning?”

“Uh, check my email?” I could sense a wave of his iconic cackle beginning to explode right out of him. (He loves to poke fun at my daily goal of having zero unread emails.)

For 20 minutes, I remained obedient, answering all of his trivia questions: “To travel to Amsterdam … Hands down, getting meals with friends … Eating fried Oreos at the Orange County Fair … Founding an after-school STEM program …“This Will Be” by Natalie Cole … Probably “Existential Anxiety Sold Separately: A Memoir”… Most likely Italy, because pasta … My love life … (and on and on).”

The interrogation abruptly stopped. (He’d exhausted his list of questions.) “Alright,” I said. “You succeeded in utterly confusing me. What the hell?”

“Well, you brought up that girl you like. So, I went on my phone and found some common ice-breaker questions to ask your crush. You know, for practice.”

There is no such thing as a dull moment when I’m with Ryan. He loves to keep me on my toes, forcing me to enjoy the moment and not question it. I guess that explains why he took his sweet time before finally telling me there was actually a point to his random line of questioning.

It’s always a ride with Ryan — a ride I’ve been longing for. In the midst of some of this semester’s extraordinarily arduous academic and familial hurdles, I am truly grateful to have been visited by someone who cares so much for me. Ryan was the first visitor from back home since my grandfather’s passing, and he was exactly the person I needed to see. Why? Because he’s just so entertaining. Take his “interrogation” as an example — it’s a testament to how well he can distract me from thinking about the wounds of the past or the concerns of the future.

Sure, grieving with my family over text and video-chat has offered some solace. But, at the end of the day, Skype calls and iMessages are just pixels. They’re not hugs. They’re not laughs. They’re not personable. They weren’t Ryan.