love – long distance

pam's brotherMy brother started running in my mother’s womb. This is the first lie. There will be more as the story progresses, I will only own up to this one. My brother never stopped running, he was born too early, a month, a week and 3 days before the doctor’s original prophesied dates – he came tumbling out and disturbed my grandfathers’ prayer.

This would be my brother, the rest of his life. He started crawling at nine and a half months and by 13 months was being chased down the street. My parents had to hire young nannies – the one who had nursed and cared for my two sisters and I, was old and suffered from arthritis – she could never catch up with him. My brother climbed, he curled his feet on curtains and grabbed and groped his way to the top of the rail, then slinked back down again, belly first, taunting gravity. My mother screamed and cried a lot between ages 9 months and 12 – she wore a crazed nervous expression and drank sugared water every other hour.

At age two, my brother packed a plastic bag – a white one with a red ‘OK’ on it and bid us farewell. We’d just sat down for dinner, he would have closed the door behind him and maybe even pulled open the gate but he was too short to reach either handle. I watched him climb up concrete wall, scratch his knee and elbow as he fought his way up. My mother screamed at him from inside the house, my father poured himself a stiff one – my sisters and i laughed ourselves hoarse. We loved our brother, his little antics brought us much mirth.

At age 12 after many attempts to ‘run away from home’ my brother woke up screaming from a nightmare and asked ‘If I went to Lesotho, would that be such a bad thing?’

We’d never seen Lesotho, we started crying that we’d miss him – our father called a friend and my mother checked the calendar. The following year, my brother left the family for good – he moved to a place we’d only ever seen in dramas – my father was relieved, my mother made new friends and every holiday my brother had some other family to visit for the two weeks or the month.

I think he’s in Havana now, met a girl when he was in Martinique, fell in love and followed her there. He claims he makes a living climbing things – I don’t know what to believe – I’ve only ever known my brother’s back and the bottom of his foot – I’ve never met the man he is.

wendell berry – to know the dark

To Know the Dark – Wendell Berry

To go in the dark with a light is to know the light.
To know the dark, go dark. Go without sight,
and find that the dark, too, blooms and sings,
and is traveled by dark feet and dark wings.