The Visit, Part 2

Life can be a funny old dog. Every now and again I just come across something that mystifies me; I can't explain it away, I can't fully comprehend it. My brother Buddy is one of those things. I'm rubbing my forehead in between sentences trying (as many times before) to make sense of him, to put to bed my survivor's guilt, to find a cosmic reason we are the way we are. When it comes down to it, we're two broken people who have dealt with our brokenness in a thousand different ways, and only a few of them are the same.

Poverty has a way of gnawing at one's self-esteem like our guinea pig Charlotte approaches her daily allotment of green bell pepper. Charlotte is naturally cautious, but she loves her daily salad. You can see the struggle in her little piggy-poo heart as she tries to decide which is greater - her love for bell peppers, or her fear of my hand. It's the same dance twice a day, every day - her pink nose rises in the air catching that first whiff of peppery goodness. She spies my finger and makes laps around the cage consulting with her conscience, mustering the bravery. Then she gradually approaches my hand, giving in to her rodent desires long enough to steal the gift from my hand. Each time I offer her more bell pepper, the dance becomes shorter and shorter so that by the time she receives her fourth piece, she hardly notices my hand at all. My brother reminds me of Charlotte. Over time Buddy's sensibility and self-worth have become obscured by the poverty cycle. He's apathetic, depressed, lacks motivation. Even though he is kind, smart, and skilled (as an electrician's assistant), he can't seem to pull himself out of the rut. He's totally given in to the pepper.

Even with his depressed circumstances, Buddy is still easily one of the funniest people I've ever known. He has a fantastic accent, a great sing-songy, drawn out southern tone that is kind of marriage between the chicken farmer from Napoleon Dynamite and Paula Deen. But above all, Buddy is kind. It's nice when you run across a soul in this world who is genuine and pure. That's how I see I see my brother. He certainly has his fair share of demons to slay, but his essence is something special. I have struggled over the last fifteen years with trying to get to the root of him and make peace with my survivor's guilt, but I can't. I don't know how two people can grow up in the same home, experience many of the same things, and choose two different paths. We are born from the same womb, raised in the same home, yet we could not be more different in how we have chosen to sort through the mess. The moment I sensed an opening to escape from that hell-hole, I took it (a story for another day). Buddy on the other hand is tied to that place, the same trailer, the same lifestyle, by some sort of corrosive tether. Like a prisoner, he captures fleeting images of the outside world, the sun and laughter, the shrill of a song bird, and wonders what it would be like to feel the sun on his face. But if he would just turn around, if he would only take his eyes of the window and look at the door, he would see the bars are open. My brother is free, he just doesn't know it.

3 comments:

Sarah aka Booty-rific said...

My sister is the same way. Definitely not the same background, but she sticks around. No one can seem to understand why I have moved away and found my own life and family here.

jalna said...

Beautifully written post. Your words are magic.

Ooh Baby! said...

My sister is the same. I used to carry a lot of guilt for her position in life - why did I make it out and not her? i still struggle with it...