20 Aralık 2012 Perşembe
I had to pick up my brother from the airport. I was very late. I took the keys and got out of the house. I run the car and took the closest highway. The sun was shining. It was a hot day. I drove at 110 miles per hour and you could see the bottom of a long winding driveway. Cars passed. I put some music. It felt good to be outside.
I parked the car outside and went directly to the gate. He wasn’t there. So I decided to check the bar. He was sitting there, across from the bartender, playing with his phone. I shook his arms, “Hey, sorry. Traffic.” “Don’t bullshit me. Have a drink.”
“How long have you been waiting?”
“The same,” I said to the bartender.
“Where’s your luggage?”
“I’ll be here just for the night.”
We poured down. He seemed calm and tired. He was working in the music business and earned better than anybody. He led a carefree life, a good house in the good neighbor, a wife and two kids. I didn’t know why he came and never asked. After a while, we went out. I drank too much to drive, so we’ve decided to take a taxi. ‘’We’ll split the fare,’’ he said.
We went home. I took a warm bath and rest for a couple of hours. Later on, I saw him drinking in the kitchen. Some radio noise was buzzing in the background but I couldn’t decide where it came from. “How can you drink this shit?”
The phone rang. Mom. I was OK, how was she and dad? I glanced over my brother to pass the phone; he swung his hands mentioning ‘I’m not here!’ No, I didn’t know where he was and yes, I would call him at the first opportunity.
That night we stayed home and drank. We talked about stuff. He was listening most of the time. There were long and deep silences, now and then, but that wasn’t bothering us. I wasn’t sure how long, but we weren’t seeing each other for a long time. I got hungry and asked him if he wanted a sandwich. ‘’No’’ he said and poured himself another glass.
We continued to drink. Finally, he straightened up in the sofa and said:
“Mandy is divorcing me. I can’t blame her. She’s sick of my drinking.”
“How long has it been happening?”
“For a while. It was obvious. We fight like hammer and tongs. The kids are disturbed.’’
“You can stay for the week. Shit man, I’m so sorry. Mandy was nice.’’
We didn’t talk for a while and gazed out of the window.
“I’d better get going tomorrow,” he said and went directly to my bedroom. I settled myself in the sofa. I finished the glass and then poured down what was left in the bottle. There was nothing on TV, except call-girl ads. I watched them senselessly, got bored and turned off the lights. Then I heard some noise from the bedroom. He was talking tearfully with his wife. Mandy apparently was serious about dumping him. I never had much in common with her. No big family dinners or visits. I felt bad that I was driven out of my brother’s life. All I could do was listen to him and full his glass, which apparently was the exact thing he expected from me.
The next morning he was gone. He left a note on the refrigerator: “Come visit me. Mandy is taking the children. Let’s go to Disneyland!”
I opened the curtains. Sun came in. I got hungry and went to the closest bar to find a sandwich or something. Finally I found a place called Dream Girls – with fancy flashing neon lights blinking constantly in the gateway – ordered a club sandwich and a coke.
Next thing I knew I was driving at 200 km per hour down the highway. You could see the silhouette of forgotten soap factories, textile industries and buildings you never know how to reach. I stopped at the liquor store, got a bottle of whisky and went home. I opened the windows and let some fresh air into my living room.
The phone rang. Lyla. She was sobbing.
“My dad is dead. You’re the first one I’ve called.”
“Shit, Lyla. I don’t know what to say.”
“We took him to the hospital this morning. He complained of feeling real bad and died in three hours. Can you believe that?”
She started to cry. I waited her to continue.
“Shit…” she said and snuffled.
“Is there anything I can do, Lyla?”
“No… I’ll be with my mom. She won’t speak. Maybe I’ll come over when she’s OK.”
Lyla was working as a pre-school teacher for kids who lived mostly in poor places. We once met at a party of her friends. She had no sisters or brothers, except a drunken father. It was no big deal, but she used to tell about him when she was drunk or high. It was like a little scratch of her life, and it apparently turned into something against mans. She’d start with a sad sick story of her father and quibble the subject about mans selfishness and shit like that.
The last joke of the parade, I thought, lid a cigarette and felt sorry for Lyla. I filled my glass and poured down in one shot. I didn’t know much, but as far as I knew, he was the kind of man that our mothers loved. At some point, it wasn’t important how people would fuck you up with their habits; on the contrary, it was about getting fucked up when the person you complain so much was gone.
Lyla had hard times ahead.
So I was surprised when she called me a couple of hours later. She came in thirty minutes. We had a strong hug. She was pressing my shoulders with her sharp fingernails. She sniffled and cried into my chest and I stood there, right behind the door, waited to end and realized how bad I was in these things. There were too many ridiculous and tragic things about it. Most people seemed to know how to handle it, but I was the one who was roaring at nights, a wolf that made life a toy out of it.
The night went long. We both had drunk too much. She opened another bottle of wine. She was talking my head off. I poured down and down in each sentence. Sometimes I thought about something else. Sometimes we had roaring discussions. Sometimes we were making out. But most of the time, I had no idea what we were talking about. There were only big highlights with big decisions. Finally she got tired and fell asleep on my lap. Car horns over the city, complete silence, it was like the end of a bad song. I managed to stand up, put her head onto the pillow and went to my bedroom.
I can’t tell in a full-fledged memory how I ran away from home that morning. Bits and pieces remain in the back of my mind, and I can tell that too much had happened in too short of a time. The night was reaching to its end, slowly and surely. I remember watching these bad advertisements on TV. I also remember that a dog was barking faintly in a far corner, continuously and persistently. I was alone at home and was about to fell asleep on my couch. Then, out of the blue, I realized that the ceiling was starting to shake. The chandelier was swinging here and there with a clanging sound. Earthquake, I thought, and straightened my position. It was a strong earthquake, so strong that I couldn’t decide what to do and what to expect. But I remember that I was afraid, afraid of not have lived a decent life, that I have not sufficiently cleared my throat to say beautiful things to my friends and family. Glasses fell on the floor; the painting right in front of me went down with a turbulent noise. The house was turning into a barn, and it was maybe the hardest part to sit there and don’t know what to do. After a couple of seconds, it ended. I could hear the car alarms; their sirens were loading the whole neighbor, as if it was a festival of a hullabaloo. The chandelier was still swinging slightly here and there. I managed to stand up, went directly to the bathroom and vomited into the sink.
It didn’t last long when I realized that everybody was leaving the neighborhood. Kids were crying, mothers were packaging and fathers were starting the engine of their cars. I saw my neighbor, “Where you going?” I shouted from the window, he looked at me, then turned his head over and shouted: “Let’s go kids!”
Panic in the disco, I thought, and watched how people were leaving their house. After an hour or so, the whole neighbor was empty; it was like a ghost town. I continued to stand behind the window and gazed the view: The colored lights on the street kept on blinking on and off, a trash bag was floating around accidentally and a cat was licking its paw.
I felt the urge to call my family but couldn’t get any line for the next six hours. I was worried. After that entire pointless phone calls, I hadn’t the slightest expectation that my brother would call me before dawn. Before anything else, I was surprised that my phone rang for the first time after a long seven hours. The lines were working again, and without knowing that my brother was on the end of the line, I pick up the phone with an unexplainable frustration. On the night of August 16, 1978, once again in my life, the random process have led me to my brother, and despite of my vibrant breath-takings on the phone, I couldn’t think of anything to say, I was simplified by the call.
‘’What in the hell are you doing in your house?’’
‘’Where in the hell was I supposed to go?’’ I yelled back to him.
It didn’t last long to understand that our current standings were meant to bring us back together. I had specifically nowhere to go, and my brother, on the other hand, humiliated in front of his kids by trying to safe his marriage and finally and cruelly dismissed by his wife and home. The best course of action was to meet in the midst of the city and leave as soon as possible. Telling our experiences of the earthquake calmed me down, but the lines were still fragile and we didn’t want to waste our time. So we decided to meet in an hour and to take only one car. By the time I managed to say a few things about going to a specific place, I witnessed a tiny aftershock and the next second the lines were down again.
So I find myself driving at 6 A.M. through the highway. I switched on the radio. Some seismologist was telling excitingly that the ground was discharging its whole set of energy, that people should not be afraid anymore, and that the worst was over. I rolled down the windows of the car, put some music and started to go faster. You could smell the odor of a troubled town. The horizon was pinkish, and it reminded me of hot chilly peppers, burning away with a heat in maximum. When I looked to my left, I saw an empty desert, a total waste of land and ego. When I looked to my right, I could see a flock of storks, unconnected to each other, floating and drawing a symmetrical harmony in the beauty of the early morning. It was the kiss of a loud animal scream that would shake your mind and body.
You find yourself thinking about all these unrelated little things with the hope of putting them into terms, explanations, dreams, and imaginations. You fight with somebody, with some related or unrelated person, through your mind, asking a lot of ‘why’s and ‘son of a whatever’s that has actually no importance for your life anymore. You do it because you never done anything about it. As you put your foot to the floor and speed up the car in the marvelous loneliness of 6 A.M., you think about your life in a rebellious hope, you allow yourself to get drowned in an open-ended illusion of emotions that can immediately turn into another direction.
It took nearly thirty minutes to reach the address. There he was, standing all alone with a big suitcase beside him, a cigarette in his mouth and apparently bored and sickened of waiting me. I approached my car next to him, the windows were wide open, and he immediately got in and asked what took me so long. I realized how big his suitcase was and felt unquiet, since I didn’t get anything with me except my typewriter and a couple of underwear. I pulled over the car and set the parking brake. We looked to each other, grinned and finally hugged. I was happy to see my brother again, and his response was in the same way, almost the same that we felt a sudden awkwardness. I asked for a cigarette, he lid one and gave it to me, then lid another and puffed the smoke outside the hot waiting day.
‘’What now?’’ I asked.
The road was full with cactuses, and you could see little dust storms, dead dog and fox corpses, old and rotten motels and large commercial boards.
‘’How about Disneyland?’’ he asked.
So we went into another session of silence for about ten minutes and continued to gaze the desert. You could hear millions of insects buzzing into the air, extremely disturbing if you’d listen carefully. And as we were smoking already our second cigarettes, I came up with this idea of visiting my mothers’.
‘’Hell no,’’ he said. ‘’They still don’t know about Mandy.’’
‘’They’ll find out sooner or later. Maybe not because of you, but for your children.’’
‘’And that is why I don’t want to go. They don’t care about us.’’
That wasn’t true. He sounded selfish and angry, which I could completely understand.
‘’Maybe it’s time to reduce the expectation. We’ve become grown-ups, brother.’’
‘’When, exactly?’’ he asked and turned his face towards me, and I understood in the moment when his two shiny eyes screamed out loud that he wasn’t OK, that he was still suffering by the lack of his home and kids, that he wasn’t ashamed of expressing his dullness and disgust against the world right now, and that I should keep it short and just drive the hell out.
So this was how my trip started with my brother. It was an extremely hot day and my car had broken springs and a leaking radiator, but it was enough stable and we rolled all the windows down so that we could feel the harsh breeze during the travel. The engine of the car was giving out a strange booming sound whenever I was shifting. ‘’You’d better get that checked out,’’ he said, ‘’That’s not normal.’’
Now and then, we would see a dead dog beside the highway. Sometimes we saw hitchhikers and whenever I’d slow down the car he’d say ‘’Don’t…’’ and I’d continue and watch peoples angry faces through my car mirror.
When we reached finally a place where we could gas up the car, I proposed to eat something. He said that he wasn’t hungry, but a drink would be excellent. We parked the car back side of the pub and went in: Low-pitched, wooden and thick with smoke. We settled down behind the bar counter. There was a large TV screen at the end of the hall and it was at full blast, a young poor-looking reporter was informing something about the intensity of the earthquake. My brother ordered a whisky. I had potato chips and soda. Following the hour, nothing else particularly happened. Without speaking, we only gazed the large TV screen and turned our heads occasionally from behind the stools whenever someone would shout: ‘’This is the end of the world!’’ or ‘’These bastards won’t tell the real intensity, they’re lying!’’
I wasn’t in the hurry of interrupting our block of speaking, until he calmly turned his head and asked me in whispers if I was scared during the earthquake.
‘’I wasn’t sober that moment,’’ I said.
‘’The hardest part was after the earthquake, when I saw everybody leaving.’’
He smirked for a moment, stared at his glass with his wide eyes and turned towards me, again, as if something was terribly wrong.
‘’Look... We don’t know what’s going to happen… Especially about you and me… How come you aren’t married yet?’’
‘’I didn’t know there was a date,’’ I said and poured down what was left in the bottle. ‘’Apparently marriage is not the best thing for us.’’
‘’Speak for yourself….’’
‘’Look who’s talking... You’re the one who wanted to see Mickey Mouse… Are you really that desperate?’’
‘’Watch your fucking mouth, you’re talking with your brother…’’
Why was it that in such moments of unhappiness, misery and frustration, I could find the sparkle to attack my brother and allow him to tread on my toes? Never once did I entertain the idea of fighting with him, but we had no other choice.
‘’Come on,’’ he said. ‘’We have a long way to go.’’
As I had begun to discover even then, we didn’t know where to go. The sky was studded with bright stars. I once again gazed the desert, the cactuses, the full moon, the road, my brother, and the shaking earth, once again, and once again.