"So you trying to tell me that your sister is rich and shit."
"Man...who are you that I gotta lie to you? Yeah she rich. She be traveling all over the world and shit. Send me pictures all the time from Dubai and shit. She balling."
"Whatever man. Why am I gonna believe that shit from you. If your sister was rich...why you sleeping under this damn bridge with me?"
"She ain't me man. Just that simple."
"She know you here?"
"Man...I don't know. It's just that...every time I call her and she ask me how I'm doing...I just say good. I don't want her to know you know? Cuz I know she'd drop everything and fly down here and come get me or send me a ticket and I don't have my ID so she'd get mad and shit cuz she couldn't do nothing."
"But she could pay for you to get your ID right?"
"Yeah...but then she'd find out about my tickets and stuff I ain't paid and she'd be mad and I ain't trying to hear that right now."
"But you'd rather sleep under this damn bridge with me all out in the open?"
"I know right? I can't explain it but...I just don't want her to know right now. It would hurt her."
"Man...fuck that. If I had someone who gave a damn...someone who'd get me off these streets...I'd call them."
"I ain't you. I got pride."
"Pride ain't shit when it's cold and raining and you ain't got nowhere to be. She's gonna find out you know. She'll hear it in your voice. One day...if you ain't lying...she'll find out and this shit will hurt her more than anything. If she's human."
"No way she's going to find out. I talk to her every Sunday. One day I'll be able to go visit her and shit. Maybe I'll stick around. She cooks good too."
"Yeah man...whatever. Ain't nobody fooled by you. You ain't got nobody just like most of us. The only people who got somebody be them White boys. They too shamed to let their family in on the real."
"I ain't no White boy. I'm real with my shit. I wasn't raised like you man...but that ain't mean nothing you know...cuz here I am."
"Whatchu think will happen if you tell her the truth?"
"I know she'd come get me."
"So man...you like living like this?"
"Well...I'm confused. Why don't you tell her? She could end it."
"I wanna be my own man. I wanna pull up in a shiny new Cadillac and bring her something to make her smile."
"Shit...you gonna bring her one of them can goods the spot gave us today?"
"Naw man...she don't eat no can goods. She be growing her own shit. Beans and corn. Potatoes and shit. Basil."
"Whatchu know 'bout basil?"
"I know them shits is easy to grow and taste good in a pasta sauce."
"Yeah...some spaghetti with some meatballs and shit."
"Or a spinach tortellini with a vodka sauce."
"See...you always talking that fancy shit. You worked in a restaurant or something once?"
"Naw man...my mother used to make it from scratch. Pasta and all."
"Where she 'et?"
"I told you. She's gone."
"Yeah...I forgot. I bet she'd want you to call your sister."
"Prolly so bruh...prolly so."
He went to the same phone booth he'd used for 2 years. Put his quarter and dime in for the initial contact and put in 8 more quarters so he wouldn't hear the voice of the annoying woman demanding money. He dialed her number hopping from foot to foot trying to stay warm.
"Hey big sister! What's going on?"
"Hey baby brother."
Tap, tap, tap.
He looked around.
And into the eyes of his sister standing outside of the phone booth looking at him with tears in her eyes.
He dropped to the ground and let the phone dangle.
"NO, NO, NO, NO! WHAT ARE YOU DOING HERE????????????????"
And he cried.
And she cried.
And she held him.
Without a plan.
She put him and his things in her rental car and drove them to her hotel.
Wondering, how, when, why, how, how, how...
"Go take a shower. Here." She gave him a bag with underwear, toiletries and clothes.
He did as he was told.
She picked up the phone.
"I can't fly back. He doesn't have an ID and I'm not staying here until he gets one. I'm going to drive home."
"That's going to take 38 hours honey."
"You don't like driving 20 minutes."
"I know. But I have no choice. We'll figure it out when we get there."
"There is a flight in about 3 hours I could catch and help you drive."
"Thank you for that but I think we need some alone time to get some things straight. If you wouldn't mind just getting the guest house ready..."
"The guest house? Shouldn't he stay in the house with us? Do we want him to think we don't want him here with us?"
"I think he's going to end up with us for the rest of our life. The sooner he's comfortable in the guest house...the better."
"Maybe we should give him the option."
"You're the man...I'll let you present it to him however you'd like. We'll be home by Thursday. I'm not driving straight through. If you don't mind...find us hotels for each night. I can drive for 12 hours a day without a problem."
"Of course...are you okay?"
"I can't be anything but okay."
"How is he?"
"What do you mean he's not talking?"
"He's not talking. He's shamed."
"Did you tell him you love him?"
"Yes. But then I broke down and cried."
"I don't know what to say."
"I know. Neither do I. He's my brother. He's been living under a bridge for two years and didn't tell anyone in our family because of pride. I can't keep having him worried about the wrong things. I need to know he's good. Thank you for that."
"He's my family too. He will be just fine. WE will be just fine."
The shower stopped.
"I'll call you when we get on the road."
"l'm headed to LA tomorrow but I'll be back in two days."
"Are you sure you don't want me to cancel and come help you drive?"
"Yes. I'm sure. Can you have Barry call me tomorrow? Have him help him get started with the process of getting him a driver's license and stuff?"
"I love you. I'm grateful for you."
"Stop. This is family. It's nothing you wouldn't agree to do for my brother if it ever came to this."
"I know...but would it?"
"Well...we were knocked off our feet to learn your brother had been homeless for two years so I guess anything is possible right?"
"Right. I love you. Thank you."
"I love you more. Call me in the morning."
"I will. Bye."
And the door opened.
And he was lighter.
And dressed in the navy blue flannel pajamas she'd picked up earlier.
He sat on the edge of the bed drying his hair.
"You need a haircut. Do you have somewhere you'd like to go before we get on the road tomorrow?"
He kept drying with the towel.
"I know you hear me."
"There's this place I used to go to. Martez used to cut my hair there."
"We'll go tomorrow first thing."
He kept drying his hair.
"Is there anything else you need to do before we leave?"
He kept drying his hair.
"I'm not going to ask again."
"I have a friend. He don't have nobody for real. You got room for him too?"
She looked at him and saw his future. Saw the potential challenges of him not fitting in. Of him not having anyone who understood. She thought of her life. Her husband. Her children. Her business. Her...challenges with her past, present and future.
"Would he want to come?"
"He ain't got nobody. He shouldn't die alone...cuz that's what's gonna happen. He's gonna die alone."
"Did you think you'd die alone?"
He looked up and then down...and then back at her. "Yes."
"Why would you do this to me? To us?"
And he took a deep breath.
"Because I love yall. Because I ain't wanna bother yall."
And she slid to the floor and wailed. The type of cry you'd hear from a mammal far larger than her. Far more primitive.
And he walked over and held her.
"It's not you. It's me. I just got tired of asking."
And she cried thinking of the life she lead. The money she had. The casual way she she spent. Not that it was casual before...but now...in the pause of his breath...it became minuscule.
"I love you."
"Should we go get him tonight?"
"You gonna get us another room?"
"Then yeah. It's gonna rain tonight and it's gonna be cold. He's prolly all worried about me cuz I ain't there. We watch out for each other. I want him to sleep good too. You got room for him if he wants to come?"
"Will he want to come?"
"Yes. He'll want to be with me. We're all we got."
And she caught her breath and turned her head. Took a deep breath and realized that somehow...somewhere along the line...she'd failed.
"You have me."
"Yeah. I just ain't want you to be disappointed in me. I got tired of asking."
"Did I ever make you feel like I had a problem with your asking?"
"No. But I still got tired. I couldn't feel like a man."
"You felt like a man where you were?"
"More than I did asking. More than I did asking."
He dried his hair.
"Let's go get him."
And he dried his hair.
And he finished.
And they left to go get him.
She was driving.
And he smelled like the color blue.
Fresh and clean.
All of her tears were dry.
She was human but accidentally she became someone caught up in her own life and she forgot to focus. To pay attention. Until it no longer added up. Until she searched and searched until she found her brother was homeless. Living under a bridge. Cold and alone. Hurting with the knowledge he wasn't sought out by those who claimed to love him.
If you can't take care of your own family...
Who in the hell are you?
Accidents can be considered purposeful in grief and/or by those who don't know the circumstances but are familiar with the brevity.
If you don't understand...
You're not even human.
You're just a lovely idea of one.
Don't ignore the obvious to preserve the sanctity of you.
These are different times.
- See more at: http://creoleindc.typepad.com/rantings_of_a_creole_prin/2011/10/the-lovely-idea-of-one.html#more