We didn't know each other at all. Visits from across the country had been scarce.
The first family gathering I remember him attending was just before their move.
Two of my other cousins and I, who called ourselves "The Three Musketeers" and spent our time walking around like The Monkees, passed the afternoon wondering if we should try to make friends with him and giggling ourselves senseless every time we tried.
Then the other cousins went home and he stayed.
His family stayed with us for a week, or maybe two weeks, while they looked for a house.
Soon, he and I were great friends. We split our time between two thrilling activities. Being obnoxious to one another,which I our mothers might have called "playing happily together," and being obnoxious to everyone else.
When the move was complete we traded phone calls and spent weekends at each other's houses. He taught me the words "Destination" and "Gazebo"
I had a blank tape once and we spent hours recording and re-recording what we thought were the funniest jokes in the world.
Then we started growing up.
We didn't hang out as much.
One evening as a family gathering was winding down we were busy being obnoxious to one another. I guess I was especially proficient with my obnoxiousness that day because he got an odd look on his face, then he started toward me. I remember thinking "It looks like he's going to punch me" I put the thought aside, people don't actually punch one another. Especially not best-friend cousins! But he was still coming, and his fist was at the ready. I began to suspect that he might actually do it and I thought "You want to punch me? Fine. Do it!" and fixed him a saucy gaze.
Then he did it. He punched me.
I stared at him kind of shocked, puzzled really. My best friend cousin had honestly just punched me in the jaw. It hurt a little, not much. (He didn't really know how to punch and he hesitated at the last minute right before I delivered that saucy gaze.)
I didn't know how to proceed. Rules of conduct had been broken. What was I supposed to do now with the fragments?
He answered the question for me. "You're not going to cry are you?" he said obnoxiously (how else?) So I looked him in the face again, and I cried.
That was the end.
Oh, we poked fun at each other, debated pointless topics and generally carrying on when we found our selves seated under this or that tree celebrating this or that family event but we weren't bests anymore.
I haven't seen him in years, about ten.
I wish we were friends.