My escape from the world lied across the country road. Clear skies removed all doubt, fear of being consumed by a hungry cloud, and the sun shined brightly. Windows were rolled down, flooding the car with fresh air, and I treasured the silence. But not today. Today, my baby brother rode shotgun, annoying the hell out of me.
He was ten years younger than me and spoiled rotten. My parents were not expecting him, and my younger brother before him was no longer treated as the baby. My parents were strict with the rest of us, but he could get away with murder. He pushed my buttons, their buttons, and grinned like an idiot. He thought he was funny, but his humor was short and dry. He thought the world revolved around him, and maybe he shouldn’t have been treated as if it did. The world did not wait for him, and he had no idea of what really lied outside his front door.
His education left him stranded without a future. The degree that he received was more of a push outside of those high school doors and a pat on the back for good luck. He wasn’t ready for the real world and curled up into the womb of retail, but retail was as bitter and cold as life could be. And he took his lumps. His trust was betrayed, and the store that he called home for a few years threw him out onto the street. Now, he stayed home, safe inside his bedroom and always on the internet, looking for something. He needed something to fill that void that haunts him still.
My future remained out of reach. My destination was finally back on course, and my hands tightened on the steering wheel. No more detours, no more pot holes. I know where I’m driving to, and my past remained clear as day in the rearview mirror. I glanced at him, seeing that look in his eyes as he searched the road ahead. Where was it? Where was he going?
That ten year divide stretched out between us. My experiences were not his. He was still innocent, thinking the world was as simple as a breeze. He saw the world in black and white not shades of gray, and he didn’t realize that everyone was not to be trusted. He was cut with that cold knife of betrayal because he liked a girl at work, and she wanted nothing more than to get rid of him. There were more like her. I could count them off my hand, but there were good people out there too. They were just harder to find, but once found, he had to learn that some lines should not be crossed, some buttons should not be pressed.
He acted like an ass. His conversation skills were lacking, so he quoted cartoons and movies. He referenced things that were outdated like you would understand off the bat what he was talking about. He hummed annoyingly, making me reach for the radio, and he moaned, despising the dance and R&B music that I now listen to. And we rode on in silence. For a few minutes, and then he started babbling again, trying to hold conversation after conversation. But he was talking a one-way street.
He was a young man now, but he acted like a child. He would never understand how the real world works. Maybe if his school didn’t fail him, he would have gone on to, at least a community college, got a taste of life. Instead, he hung out in his bubble, his glass castle, where all he did was dream. He dreamed of the world knowing him. He dreamed of writing, creating, but he lacked the skills. He listened to no one, making it harder to teach him, or keep him in line. He chased the famous, hoping they would take pity on him, and break through all the red tape. The world does not work that way. The famous wait for you to rise and meet them, but if you can’t deliver, they don’t stay. Their patience is no longer limitless, and their time is their time. But he hasn’t learned that yet, and he may never will. He tried to be an adult, but he remains a child.
He worried constantly about the future, so do I. He made plans, but like a balloon, they popped too soon. I told him to not make plans. Just take one moment after another, but maybe he was right. Maybe I should make a plan, stay on course, but I’ve learned not to get my hopes up too high. Disappointment had brought me down, and it has brought him down. He had to keep trying. He can’t give up. This was what I learned, and this was what I told him. Was he listening? Did he understand? Why did he have to be so stubborn?
Home rose up in the distance. The car jumped up onto the dirt road. A cool breeze drifted in through the open windows, and I savored it, enjoying spring. The sun shined high overhead, promise of a beautiful day, but that day would be lost once we got inside. He would return to his bedroom, close his door, and log in online, and he would search, search for a way out, a way to reach his dreams. I wished the world worked that way, and sometimes, the internet does grant dreams. You just have to know where to look. You just have to be lucky, but most of the time, you had to work at being lucky, at being discovered. I know I have climbed up a long way, where I used to fall down, but he was still climbing. And I promised that if I made it to the top, I would pull him up, but I was not there yet. And he was not patient.
The ride was over. I pulled into the long driveway toward the double garage doors. My father sat on the porch with a newspaper in his lap and a poodle under his chair. His eyes rose to meet our gaze, and the ignition was cut. The time to think was over, and we exited the car. Nothing was accomplished, but nothing ever was. This was just another trip around town, and now we’re home again.