I hung up the phone and cried. Hard.
He called me from Malaysia this time. I never know how he reaches me. The calls are always from an unknown number. Thanks to him I’ve had to talk to a lot of telemarketers over the years. Fucker.
It’s hard to explain to my daughters why I cry so hard after he calls, so I don’t. I’ve tried to tell them that I’m happy and he’s happy and that I cry because of what almost happened but didn’t. I can never find the right words.
My brother is very soft spoken. When he calls, his voice barely crackles above the static. The commotion on his side of the line always makes me think of Mos Eisley Cantina. I can never tell exactly where he is or what he’s using to call me. I like to imagine he’s sitting in some sweaty hostel using a shitty dialup connection to Skype me from one of those old neon Apple computers. Remember those? It’s just so grungy and pulpy and cool to think that he’s on a grand adventure.
I don’t know what he does for work. I don’t know what kinds of friends he’s made. But I do know that he’s happy, that he’s alive.
It’s been years since we’ve seen him. I miss him terribly. Last time he called me from somewhere in the south of France. The time before that was from a café in Rome, said he was eating the best piece of pizza he’d ever had. I was jealous.
My brother just wasn’t cut out for this world. You’re usually caught saying that about someone who killed himself. Thankfully, he didn’t. A few times I thought he was actually going to, and a couple of times I wished he would have. Shitty thing to say about someone you love, right? But his life was a chemical party: ADHD and depression meds, God knows what else.
Listen, I enjoy my fair share of adult beverages. I’ve cured a hangover or two with a handful of Advil but let me tell you something: fuck that. I can’t imagine consuming ibuprofen every morning, let alone the shit he was taking.
This isn’t a sob story. I love my life. I’ve got a great job; a hot wife and my girls are healthy and smart. We’ve got a pool in the backyard, and the neighbors come over on weekends for barbecues.
But this live-in-the-suburbs-work-in-the-city-and-vacation-twice-a-year-thing? It isn’t for everybody.
It shouldn’t be.
It can’t be.
When he graduated from college with a degree he hated, my brother applied for jobs at companies he didn’t believe in. His search for employment reinforced an idea that kills, an idea that’s implanted at and nurtured by the university experience: your skillset is only useful if it fits in a box.
The first one of these calls was the hardest: he called me from the airport to tell me he sold everything, and that he was leaving the country, but I was relieved.
I was relieved because he was finally going to stop torturing himself.
He was finally going to go stop looking for himself.
He was finally going to start creating himself.