Thursday, August 31, 2006


I have been trying to write a follow up to The Gospel for what seems like an interminable amount of time now, though in reality it’s only been like a week or so. Every time I go to talk about how the girls in my cabin made it their mission in life to convert me, how they attempted to lay hands upon me in hopes that something other than a virulent strain of bronchitis would find it’s way into my chest cavity, something like the Blessed Lord and Savior, I end up with one really good sentence and then one qualifying sentence. Like the one that’s coming up, where I’m going to say that while I’m sort of making fun here I’m not actually MAKING FUN, if that makes sense.

Because the thing is, I totally don’t care what you worship or even if you worship. I don’t care if you tithe to Maximus Daximus, the god of shag carpeting. Really, I don’t. The only time I’m going to get up in your bees-wax is when you try to convert everyone else to your particular sect of shag-carpet worshipping, because obviously it’s the only way to go. Also I don’t so much like it if you fire missiles or make things go big boom to make a point about how cool your religion is. And I don't like it when you tell little girls that if their family doesn’t convert to Southern Baptist then they’re all going to hell. Overall, I just want everyone to sing hippie songs and frolic in fields of flowers and not get so uptight about how MY church says mini skirts make you a slut and MY church says drinking the grape juice of fire makes you a heathen and MY church says you should wear yellow on Wednesdays because if you don’t, you’re going to burn in the fires of hell for all eternity.

And since I obviously won’t be finishing up The Gospel story I’ll just move along to the Events of My Day.

This morning my alarm clock, which is really my cell phone, went off at 6:34. After I hit the snooze button three times I eventually picked it up and squinted at the screen, attempting to see the time. In theory I should know the time because each snooze is seven minutes long but this is why I set the alarm to go off on an uneven denomination. There’s not a chance in hell I’d be able to calculate 6:34am plus seven minutes plus seven minutes plus seven minutes before at least lunch and eventually I’m forced to pick up the phone to see the actual time. All so that I may have a heart attack and jump out of bed because it’s wicked late and I’ve still got to iron my pants.

But when I flicked open the phone I saw that I had a text message, which was odd because I didn’t have one when I laid down for bed and I didn’t have one when the sun came up so sometime in between those moments I must have slept, hurah! But my excitement was short lived because I saw the text was from an area code where my parents live and I had one of those moments when I thought something had happened, oh my, panic is welling and then I realized I hadn’t yet ingested any caffeine and what drug was I smoking to think that either of my parents could send a text message. (Hi, Mama! I’m not really making fun of you here, swear. And you know you rolled your eyes a bit when you bought Mama Sylvia a DVD player two years ago and still it sits, unused on top of her TV. So this is just like that, only I’m telling the internet. But look how far you’ve come in the cell phone age! You carry it with you almost all the time now! And you call me from places to tell me they have shoes on sale! You DO love me!)

As it turns out this text was from my brother. Oh, you don’t remember him? Let me refresh your memory. He was the one who claimed a kamikaze black dog ran out in front of his car which forced him into the ditch on the side of the highway. And then, because this was totally the best choice ever, he decided to run down the country highway at like four in the morning. Where he was subsequently picked up by the county po-leece and taken to the pokey. And then my father and I spent an entire day looking for him, calling his friends, not finding him, growing more and more grim as the day wore on. Knowing you don’t just leave a car on the side of the road, keys and cell phone and guitar scattered amongst the seats.

Obviously there was no kamikaze black dog and a day later the true story came out, the story that involved a bit of excessive drinking (surprise!) and a black out (shocked!) and my brother’s insane ability to pilot a motor vehicle whilst completely unaware and probably not even awake.

But here’s the thing: I’m not sure I can ever convey to him what that was like, how it felt to sit in my apartment all day and be absolutely convinced that he was gone, that I was never going to see him again. How I sat in a chair in my darkened living room and stared at the wall with tears falling down my cheeks. What it felt like to have something hurt that godamn much and have not a single mark on my body to accuse as the culprit.

After a conversation the next day that involved him proclaiming his innocence and me trying, without success, to tell him how scared I was (oddly enough, this is hard to do when both parties are shouting) he called me a bitch and hung up the phone. Not a word was spoken between us since, not until my mother came to town and tried to force a friendly family dinner on the three of us. While there I asked the right questions, made the right gestures, smiled at the appropriate times. But it wasn’t real. An entire trash bag of beer cans and liquor bottles was literally overflowing onto his kitchen floor and my fear of someday, soon, looking at my brother through dirty plexiglass or inside a satin lined coffin was even more a reality.

And this text message, well, I’m not sure how much it helped. He said he just wanted to say I Love You. That he knows he never calls but he loves me. And while this sounds a bit like a Lionel Ritchie song, you should know that no one in my family is of the inclination to go around spouting off I Love You’s and Can’t Live Without You’s. Even when I say it to my friends I say it in my sing-song voice, the same voice I use when I pick up a pair of five-hundred dollar shoes and talk directly into their shoe depths, proclaiming my unwavering love for them. It’s not that I love my friends with the same part of my brain that I love pretty shoes, it’s just that saying it like you mean it feels kind of like the morning after you ran naked through the What-a-Burger.

Also, this text came through at 12:51am and I know where he goes on Wednesday nights. It sure ain’t church camp, unless church camp serves dollar beer and greasy pizza. So I appreciate the sentimentality, I appreciate that he thought about me because I think about him. I think about him and I worry about him and I can never tell him that sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night, heart racing, convinced that he didn’t make it home okay this time.

It was three hours later before I could say it back. It was three hours because it took that long for me to cry in the shower and get dressed for work. I had to stand in the cafeteria breakfast line and stare intently at the price of biscuits while my friend admonished me for not immediately replying. I had to flip open my phone a half dozen times. But I finally said it back, and I mean it. No sing-song voice.


Derek said...

Sorry to mention that rude word f**t -maybe pedal extremities is a better eupemism, but you have a f**t among your pictures in your FLICKR file: “toe_flip_off” loaded on May 24, 2006, which is what set me off!
I promise I won’t bother you again on the subject and I thank you for the tactful and polite way in which you closed the topic.

Drunken Chud said...

aww, your brother loves you. how sweet.

and... $500 pairs of shoes? that's... wow.

lilylala said...

I am proud of you! I know it is hard for you to express your emotions. but do keep in mind that i do love you and one day i no you will be able to say it to me without the sing song voice. kisses