Me I spend so much time in my own head...mainly because there isn't anywhere else for me to stick my thoughts...that I'd lost track of how damn long it's been since I've seen the guy, and what sorts of things our lives have done from divergence to now.
Because I live with the past in a way that makes ghosts of memories, I get distracted easily by my own visions. You know southerners, we see ghosts. Typically ladies or children, and it is typically ladies or children who spot them. Nothing too strange in that; many of my contemporaries comfortably worship a zombie who rose three days into death and walked to heaven along the Mississippi back roads. Nope, nothing at all strange in the thick, heated humid nights to see ghosts wandering through the room. Scary as all hell, sure. But you get used to it.
And hell, I'm not even a proper southerner. My brother and I are more south-west oriented, both of us born in El Paso, Texas. Liminal area filled with threat and dust, oil from refineries, coal smoke and smelter trash. Drugs, guns, gold and blood, but no romance. The desert there is a scrub alkali nothing, heat blasted and wind-driven six months of the year, just plain hot and stupid the other six. Barren and ugly and crowded with desperation and military hardware.
Being from the southwest is like taking a southerner and drying them out, making jerky out of their spirit and cutting loose all the long tails they drag like parachutes tangled to their past.
You lose that sense of common, that rooted relaxation. Everyone is an invader. No one is native to a desert. That temporary sense of sand filling over every footstep is all you get. You leave no lasting trails.
My brother and I, deep in the heated past that forged our stupid lives, diverged. We're so far out of sync that no metronome could save our steps. At the right age for leaving those kinds of situations, my brother got the hell out of town at a steady pace in a broken vehicle, first to the Marine Corps and then to California, to become a Californian totally and completely, a born-again new-aged liberal heathen in another land that has no natives. Traded his desert sensibility for a family and friends, a life that I won't ever really know. Spends considerable time looking back with earnest romance at the 1980s, his nostalgia filters smarter and heavier than mine.
We raised one another, you know. At various points in our lives we were left arid, left to fend for ourselves with minimal shelter and support. We managed well, filling our lungs with each others air, a good tumble of love and derision and hope and jealousy and honor and envy and music and anger. We drove one another. My brother was my hero, my savior, the one guy who'd save me when the shit hit the fan, the one guy who'd reach down and pull my ass from the flames every damn time I got near the fire.
Our stupid lives. He goes off about the time I collapse in to myself, when the world ceased revolving around the sun and instead revolved strictly around me, the gravity from my ego bigger than anything the universe could offer. Like any good young American, lost and penniless and wanting and wandering and trying to find a path.
Left a trail as temporal as any ripple in any sand dune. You can't see my past without this map and flashlight; I have scars but no memory of their source. Some days I invent my past, call it fiction or poetry and leave it here and there. I make my life out to be something more reckless and less desperate. It was, you know. Desperate and grinding and useless, you know.
Then, one day, settled. I scan the past because my future isn't something I think about. I'm not sure when I stopped looking forward. Maybe twenty years ago. But one day, I settled and it's not bad. I have a very good life. Yet. No ambition. Yet. The future is what I can't see. That's why I face my past, walking backward.
So yeah, we've kept in touch, my brother and I. During my head-on-fire years I managed to make it out to California a couple of times. Lived there for a year at the end of it, supposedly for good but one evening had to tell my brother, hey, look, I'm leaving. Like he'd had to tell me. Hey, look, next week I am gone. Off to be in love. Moving heaven and earth for a girl you don't know.
I'm leaving you here. You have to fend for yourself again.
That seemed to snap the connection, and for four years I was ten million miles away on the east coast and when I returned to visit it was alien. He'd not changed. I'd seen the horizon.
I was a ghost.
Now, though. His email had calming language from the first few words which is very bad. No-one tries to calm you for no reason. And the implication wasn't staggering, wasn't a timetable to being dead, but it was close. He'd had a near miss. And it's not a short path to recovery.
And just a few short weeks before that I'd received a message from my sister-in-law saying, hey, let's get him down to see you somehow. Our secret. Surprise him with a vacation to Texas, to the past.
Never make plans, I say. Every time I do make a plan something bad happens. That superstitious southern thing. Ignore it at your peril; I love my ghosts and stories and superstitions. My brother has a mirrored copy of them. He's got a different angle on them, sure. Why not? I love that he looks up to my stepfather. That he's reconciled some things. That he actually talks to my father now. That he's aware of his mortality, I'm not too happy about. But if that's what it takes.
Our paths diverged, but we're still brothers. And if he goes and does something stupid like shuffling off the mortal coil?
I may have to beat the life back into him. There's still so much to do. Too many miles left on our shoes. Our desert is being turned into a golf course, but they can't bulldoze the mountains and some day, baby, when I'm gone, I'll be gone with him on a trail that lasts precisely long enough.
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