Where is your brother?

How many miles separate you and your brother?

For me, as I’m writing this, there are about twelve feet between me and my brother, who’s across the room having a breakfast sandwich and Sprite for dinner.

For Laura, a dedicated student-teacher in Wisconsin, her brother Alex is nearly 6,500 miles away, and the Pacific Ocean stands between them.

When Alex arrived from South Korea nearly fifteen years ago, he was a stranger to Laura, just a gangly foreign exchange student with a slippery grasp of English. He didn’t have much in common with her musical, religious parents or her athletic baby brother Ethan, but they started to bond over their shared love of Somali cuisine. In the years that followed, he finished his education and put his newly-minted law degree to use in court. Meanwhile, every Easter, Alex and Ethan would joke about the messy paper-mâché crafts Laura would make with their mother, but they’d join in all the same.

By the time he got on a plane four years ago, Alex was the quintessential big brother: he spent Laura’s high school graduation party teasing her and trying to trick her friends into eating strange, spicy snacks. He was fiercely protective of his sister and fiercely proud of his brother and reluctant to return to South Korea, where he’d been an only child once again, for the mandatory military service all young adult males must put in. He preferred life in Midwestern America, and he planned to return two years later.

Now, two years after those two years passed, Laura and Alex work around the fifteen hour time difference, carving out moments to talk a couple of times a year. The visa process is complex and the future up in the air. Each year, they hope for next year, but Laura’s not sure when she’ll see her brother next.


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