Monday, July 15, 2013

was i an asshole?

It's always one of the first questions that comes up when I'm rehashing a day's events. Goes double if I drank.

Saturday morning my boyfriend and I ran 6 miles with our running club before making a mad dash out of town for a river float trip, stopping only to grab our stuff at my apartment, then at Quik Trip for ice.

As Eddie pulled into QT, I had my phone out to post something float-trip-related on Facebook, but I forgot it when I glanced up and saw my brother getting up from the table in front of QT where the homeless dudes sit. I don't know why it surprised me. Dude is homeless, right? So him being there would make sense. That's always the table where the panhandlers sit. My brother stood up, fresh cigarette hanging from his lip, and walked quickly away.

My reflexes might have been slowed by the run, my skipped breakfast or surprise. I don't know, but it seemed to take forever for my hand to make contact with the door handle. I already couldn't see where Alan had gone. I jumped out of the truck and took a few steps in the general direction I thought he'd taken. I scanned the gas pumps and the sidewalk, assuming he would pop out on the other side of the gas pumps or a car any second. He didn't. I took a few more hesitant steps and found myself standing in the middle of the parking lot, frowning past strangers, raising up on tiptoe, still holding my phone still displaying its blank Facebook status, turning around in a slow circle like a visitor from another planet who's just been dropped off by her space taxi. Eddie came outside with ice. I explained what had happened while he dumped ice into the coolers, then we got back into the truck and left. We didn't see my brother again.

We hurried to Tahlequah - hurried so hard we got a speeding ticket - and we met up with our float trip compadres and commenced the floating, which was nice. We met interesting folks and had some laughs. And some beers. 

It bugged me, though. I started to send Alan a text, then stopped. I typed out, "Hey, I just saw you at QT. You okay?" and deleted it. I tried to come up with something funny, but failed.

I texted him today (Hey, I saw you at QT yesterday but I lost you. You okay?) because it kept bugging me. Standing in the parking lot looking for my vanished brother, I had a feeling I had seen a ghost. I had a half-buried muffled scenario playing in my head, getting the call that they'd found him (would I have to identify his body? god i hope he's okay) and me saying no, I'd just seen him, he was walking away from QT on Saturday morning and someone telling me no, that wasn't possible, because see... And I shivered, waiting for a response. 

He says he's fine. He just gets coffee there on weekends.

This is not what I set out to write about. I'm in bed eating jellybeans because I couldn't shut down all the switches in my head and so I just spent a miserable half hour listening to all the little sounds in my apartment. Finally I got up and put my contact lenses back in, grabbed the bag of Jelly Bellys and the laptop, and here we are.

My brother and I only ever seem to have awkward silences. Maybe that's me trying to force a situation to become a scene. Probably it's my issues causing my distress. I'm not sure Alan even notices that the silences are awkward, or that there are so many of them or that they are so long. In the months and months he lived with me, I kept thinking we would relax into a sort of understanding. I kept thinking we would get to know each other, but we didn't. To this day I still end up asking a barrage of questions that come off more as an interrogation than a conversation. He answers in as few words as possible, and I give up pretty quickly. We sit stiffly and say little.

We had dinner one night a couple weeks ago. The silences were long. I think my irritation was evident. Even the waiter seemed uncomfortable. We finished eating and went outside, where Alan walked away without saying goodbye. I looked up from my bike lock to see him already five or six steps away, lighting a cigarette and walking fast toward the homeless shelter. It's only a few blocks from the restaurant we picked. I thought about going back inside for a glass of wine, but my misery didn't want any company. The bike ride home was a solitary necessity.

I don't know why it bothers me. Some part of me that wants something more traditional from the brother-sister relationship, I would think, but it's an old and tenacious piece of me if that's the case - Alan and I haven't been traditional for a long time.

But that's a copout. Nobody's traditional, just like nobody's average. So maybe I do want more. I want to know what's going on in my brother's head. I want someone to help him - and I think this is the best chance he's going to get, barring private psychiatric intervention that I couldn't afford and am not even sure he needs, judging by the social services people failing to jump out of their chairs like "OMG finally a case where we're REALLY NEEDED," and judging by the number of homeless people I see daily walking around with visible tics and twitches, major medical or dental needs.

My sister and I, though we may disagree about things, have a "normal people" sort of relationship. We talk, we share things, we laugh, we rely on each other for support through major things and to gossip about people we know (in a generally kind way - if we both know you, odds are very good we've had a conversation about how pretty you are or how much we love your shoes - maybe both!) - we know each other. We can go to each other's houses without much warning or housecleaning. We've each helped the other get her house ready for "company." We're comfortable with each other in a way that neither of us is comfortable with my brother, and I feel bad about that.

I seem to spend a lot of time not saying the awful things that come to mind. During the awkward silences at dinner with my brother, I mulled over ways to bring up that time he - what would you even call it? When he sent his friend in to molest me because his friend liked me, and I was what, maybe nine? And I overheard their plan and wore my bathing suit to bed because I thought it would offer more protection? And I didn't get molested, no fingers made more than the briefest contact with my skin before I jerked away and eventually sat up from my feigned sleep and shooed my would-be tormentors away, but come on, wasn't that kind of fucked up?

And do I need to bring it up with Alan? Do I have a right to have that sort of a need, when I am comfortably ensconced in my ivory tower and he's living rough at the homeless shelter?

What I told myself was, "Now is not the time." 

Neither was it the time to bring up how he used to cut our stuffed animals open and use them as masturbatory tools. The teddy bear I still keep from childhood is sewn back together. I'll show you the stitches. Don't worry, I pulled out all the stuffing and threw it away, and I washed the bear more than once before restuffing it and sewing it back up. But try not talking about that over dinner, once it's crept into your head!

Maybe this is why I feel so compelled to help my brother. I need him to be okay, because I don't believe in kicking a man when he's down. My brother has been "down" as long as I can remember, and I have a goddamned bone to pick with him.

Maybe I'm an asshole.


Arena said...

Man Kate. I think you are a really good writer. If you wrote a book I would read it.

kellisor said...

Thanks, Arena! One of these days, maybe...