The first time our parents left me in charge, I was twelve, nearly thirteen, old enough to make sure nothing went wrong. They dressed up in clothes I’d never seen, went to the opera in a flurry, as if escaping from hell.

My little brother, Finn, and I watched two hours of Comedy Central, ate chicken nuggets and thawed peas.

Around eight o’clock, his bedtime, I told him he was adopted. He was six now and should know this, I said.

He grinned, doing the crazy tap dancing routine mom taught him. Shuffling off to Buffalo.

"Mom said you had to be nice to me," he said.

"Well. Finny, that’s what I’m doing.”

He loved dancing, as though he had batteries -- could do it all day, all night. His feet were on all the time.

"You lie," he said. “You just don’t want to be my sister,” Finn could be a very unattractive child.

"Don’t you think I was there when it happened? Don’t you think I helped them pick you?" The phone rang. Neither of us moved to get it. Finn’s feet stopped and he stood rock still.

"Why did they pick me?” he asked, his nose starting to drip. He needed a haircut, though he’d just had one. They were trying something girlish with his bangs.

"Because you are both wicked and good," I said.

I went to the kitchen and poured him a glass of milk.

"Your arrival was a blessing to them, Finn," I shouted from the kitchen. It seemed too quiet, though it always did without mom and dad fighting. When I was Finn’s age I'd seen them hugging from their door crack. He was squeezing her like a boa-constrictor, she was gasping for air, trying to stay alive. They were naked, and I didn’t know if I should do something to help -- so I stayed and watched the rest.

Back in the living room, it was dark. Neither of us thought of turning on the lights. Finny was walking around the living room like a little bird, following the circular pattern on the braid rug. Perhaps he was thinking back to his birth trauma. His real parents. He sat on the rug, limp as a piece of overcooked pasta. Thinking about what to do next. I studied his shape, the bull’s-eye part of the braid hugging him in the dim light.