Day 4: Choices, part one

December 29, 2020

“Come on, man, you gotta lighten up.”

He said this to me at 3pm yesterday, and I knew I was finished with this. All of it.

At 8am, I called him to wake up and eat. His AA zoom would be at 9:30, and I had a dozen urgent neglected work deadlines, I explained, so he has to wake up and eat now. I’m grateful he doesn’t argue.

Today will be the first day we leave my home to run errands and go to his shabby apartment for supplies.

I have resolved to give him a week but he must complete two tasks today since it’s a holiday week. New Years will eat two whole business days so he must call to find out where his car was towed, and start the application for medical disability online.

These are simple tasks. He doesn’t need his car and can’t afford to retrieve it, but he has insisted and I understand the need to feel independent, in control. The least I can do is turn it into a bite-sized step. Just find out where it is.

At 10:30 he is fed, zoomed, showered, and downstairs ready to go. A sign of initiative, I believe.

“Can you go by the house to pick up my mail? I need my new license.”

The house is where his family lives. He left his wife and children about 4 years ago. He would say they kicked him out but in truth, they gave him a choice: quit drinking or leave. He left.

“No, I’ll drive you but you have to get it.”

He dissolved in front of me.

“I can’t. I can’t. I can’t!” He shakes and cries. “I’ll just tell her to mail them to me and I’ll go home today.”

Manipulation.

“You don’t get to make more work FOR HER.”

More resistance but desperate and terrified, like a trapped animal.

His wife agrees to put the mail in the mailbox and I agree to pick it up with my driver’s side facing the house. He is appeased but I am seething. I know I should have made him go to the door, but I couldn’t bear the children seeing him, a wraith somewhat reminiscent of their dad.

It feels so good to be out in the sunshine, windows open with fresh air blowing the desperation off of us.

He packs two bags and hauls then up and down a steep hill, and I marvel at his strength. He shuffles my halls like a wilting weed in a rainstorm. He makes several trips and is winded and sweaty, but vigorous.

We go grocery shopping at the Asian Costco, which he has never seen even though he’s lived here most of his life.

“I don’t come to this side of town…” he mutters.

He leans heavily on the cart and delights at all the fresh produce, the cheap head-on shrimp, the endless exotic pickled kimchi snacks of our childhood. I almost recognize my brother again.

Errands completed, we head back to my house and he tries to unload his bags.

“I’ll do that, you have two tasks to complete to earn today.”

“What tasks?” He is instantly livid.

“Find out where your car is and…”

“I told you I KNOW where it is! B&G Towing!”

“Where’s that?”

Silence.

“How much will it cost? How much do they charge per day.”

“Come on, man, you gotta lighten up.”

Inside my bones, I recognize the almost imperceptible shift. There’s always a moment when I’m done. When I hit the wall and decide to stop whatever I am doing that is causing me discomfort. I love this feeling. It’s a sacred certainty I seldom feel or achieve. I have made my choice.

He knows too. He follows me in the house and goes straight upstairs. I hear him making calls.

When he emerges with dirty dishes caked in dried yolk and wasted bacon, he approaches me cautiously and waits.

“Don’t ever fucking say lighten up in this house again.” I can taste bile.

But at least it’s done, this day, I foolishly believe, but it has only just begun.

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