The sky and waters were reflections of each other. It was February. It began as one of those blustery, bright days where the thick grey globs of clouds move across the sun like the ice chunks across the bay.
(actual names are not used in these writings)
I was readying myself to drive to Greenwich to study with my uncle; he had recently re-enrolled himself back to community college, to pick up from where he had left off 30 years ago. Since then, he had made his living and raised a family being a journeymen, union carpenter. At age nearly 60, he decided he was getting too old to do the grunt work and wanted to get a degree so he could use his experience still in the trade, but in a less labor-intensive way. I loved the relashionship between us. He hadn't been to school since 1969 and I was kinda like his guide to the 21st century campus; we were both nervous because we had to complete a public speaking class, and a computer class, so we decided to trudge through it together.
My brother had been acting strange the past few days. He had walked off his new job at a local gas/ convenient store that morning. He came home around 6-7 am and said it was the right thing to do and that they accused him of taking $40 from the register.
Later that afternoon, my Dad said to me, "Sean's going with you?"
"Not that I know of... Why would he want to go?"
"Well, he said he told uncle Gabriel when he called here that you two were going there at 3."
I immediately went to his steps and called up for an explanation.
He leaned over the banister at me, grinning. "I told him that we'd be over at three. Three is a sacred number."
"Why didn't you tell me he called?"
I yelled, "No, you didn't."
"By telling Dad, I told the whole family," he replied.
I became angry and scared I guess at his newly odd manners. I began yelling, but I don't remember what, and he told me that because I am a woman I need to raise my voice for him to understand.
I replied to him, "I have been a woman all my life, what do you know about being a woman!?"
Hours later, we were both in the car and he played with my radio, blasting it and singing loudly. "Turn that down," I told him.
He replied, seeming to have no conception of being in a car with ear-splittingly loud music thumping the windows, and my chest like a second heartbeat.
"Oh, sorry," and turned it down.
We arrived at my uncle's. My brother came in the door behind me and the first thing my uncle said to me as my brother walked up the 3 steps from the kitchen that lead to the rest of the house, (it is eerie, 3 steps), we tread upon and swung over, holding onto the banister, as children, "Last time I saw someone act like that, they were on Acid."
"You think maybe that's what he did?"
"I dunno... Veronica said maybe his dealer is here in Greenwich and that's why he wanted to come with you today."
"That makes sense."
"Well, lets just do what we gotta do," he said.
I nodded and we went up the 3 steps and into the living room.
We opened our books while my brother relaxed on the sofa, casually picking up our uncle's Masonic ritual book and rifling through it.
Our uncle made look at 'em gesture at me, then glancing to him, smiling. I made a disappointed, apologetic face at my uncle after looking at my brother, now laughing at a picture of a man in a fedora, another piece of Masonic literature my brother had picked up from the coffee table before him. My uncle smiling at me, shook his head, telling me, don't worry about it. We studied and quizzed each other. As he asked me questions my brother interjected unrelated answers from the couch, the back of his head facing us. My uncle and I tried to ignore him. But we talked a bit to him in between our quizzing.
Soon, my brother got up and went outside. We let him go. I actually felt relief with his lack of presence. My uncle and I continued on. A few moments later, my aunt, his wife, came in and asked, "When did Sean start smoking?"
I replied, "I didn't know he had started."
"Well, there 'e goes..." she said, staring out the window. I looked and saw my brother sauntering down the long driveway toward the road... If he went left, he would wander down the dirt, gravel and eventually paved lane, where swamp fragmitees loomed over on both sides and where eerie croaks of hundreds of frogs made you swear they were talking about you, and mysterious rustles unsettled your heart and breathing... If he turned right, he would wander down farm preserved lanes eventually hitting the main street, a historic lane of 18th century houses, where maybe a car or two passed, it would be more fitting if a horse and carriage came through.
I said, "Let him go."
My aunt eventually said that she was leaving to go to the store. My uncle and I continued our studies for the next hour.
We braked for an early dinner. I, of course, couldn't stop talking about my brother, looking out the window for him, my stomach twisted with anxiety. My uncle listened patiently as he made us some soup and I sat at the table. I told him what he had said to me, about being a woman and my uncle said to me, "How old is he?"
"19" I replied.
"Right. And, excuse my language, but what the fuck does he know about women?"
I smiled. "That's basically what i said to him."
"Well, you're right... I've never been a woman, so as old as I am, I won't know what it's like to be a woman." I loved when he said logical, vindicating things like that.
The clock above the fridge said 4.00. "If he's not back within the hour, we'll go look for him... He took my cigarettes," my uncle said.
"I'm sorry I brought him."
He could read my face, worry all over it. He hugged me and said, "You're shoulders are too small to carry the world on them."
We sat and ate our soup.
My brother never showed up. So, we got in his car and drove around. First we went to the bay. I was almost expecting to find him floating in there; that's just what image flashed in my mind. But, when we got out of the car, in the wind, the ice in the grey water glided past and nowhere was my brother. By now, the grey clouds had completely taken over the sky. Before, the only thing that separated the sky from the water was the color; the sky was blue between the clouds and now it was all grey. I actually prefer grey, so I felt comforted and creatively stimulated under these skies.
We got back in the car and drove through the fragmitees and went down the other road that led to town.
"We should try John's house. Maybe he's there and with Alena." Alena was my other cousin. And John was her boyfriend who had caused some family turmoil; he was over 30 years her senior and a pretty shady character. She had recently moved in with him. Sean seemed to take a shining to him, and Alena was Sean's favorite cousin.
We went to his house and knocked on the door.
John answered the door wearing dark sunglasses. I asked, "Have you seen my brother?"
"No, I haven't..." I don't remember all that was said, but he said that he'd tell my cousin when she got home from work that we were looking for him.
We left his house and went back to my uncle's. We sat in the cold kitchen, me nearly in tears. Soon, a white pickup truck stopped at the end of the driveway. I saw my brother in his black, tapered coat from the Gap that I had bought him for Christmas, (all he needed was a paper boy's cap and he could say lovely day, govna... people said often he looked like John Lennon) hop off the back of the bed of the truck. We watched him walk up to the door. When he came in, his ears were red and he was shaking all over. My uncle took him to sit down in the living room. He came back to the kitchen as I was ladeling out some soup into a bowl. My uncle came over and said, "Here, I'll show you a trick... He won't hold a spoon, but he'll sip from a cup."He poured the soup into a big coffee cup and brought it to my brother. Sean held it in both hands, sipping a few times, rocking back and forth muttering, "He took forty dollars from the register."