The door phone jangled. Cats scampered to their visitor hiding spots underneath the bed. The husband picks up, hangs up and comes in and says you’ll never believe who’s here. Your brother. He wants you to come down to… Talk. My body instantly reacts: uneasy, stomach lurch, heart pounds, foreboding, a pre-weariness descends. Maybe this time will be different. This is the only way for him to get in touch with me since I’ve blocked his number from landlines, cells…. I know what he wants. I know that this will not go well, but I still hope that my big brother will be my big brother. I hope that he will be kind. I hope that he really does want to talk. I hope. I hope. I hope.
I blow a plug of snot from my plugged nose, cough a little more out of my chest and grab my shoes. I steady myself as I grab the essentials for the day and take deep breaths. The husbands asks if I want him to go with me. Yes.
We descend in the elevator. I see him pacing, cat like stalking, his body, his really thin body, ready like a coiled spring. He is scruffy looking with a scraggly, ungroomed goatee. His eyes, murky, milky. I open the door only for it to stop an inch from opening. A couple, the ones with the gorgeous, big, vicious looking blue dog who is really a sweet heart, are walking up to come into the building. I ask him what he’s doing. He says something like we can talk through the crack. Already off to a cracking start. I say please get the fuck out of the way, people need to get in the building. He actually moves. They come in and know this isn’t a good situation. They stop. They wait on the staircase. They watch. He has a litany of complaint, all yelled, all of the usual stuff: he doesn’t want to have anything to do with the family; he doesn’t want to have anything to do with me; I refuse to communicate with him. All yelled, angry, bleary eyed. His eyes so filled with pain. So filled with accusation. I tell him I won’t talk to him when he is like this. Just go home. That’s all I can say. He starts reaching toward a u-lock hooked to his backpack. The husband says, woah there. The couple are waiting at the elevator by now, watching, ready to call 911 if needed. I walk up the stairs and tell them he’s my brother. He has mental illness. He is still yelling. I just repeat: just go home. This makes him rage even more. I know there is nothing to be said or done that will help. This is the pattern and I just need to stop the interaction. Just go home. He yells through the door more. The husband wants to try to talk to him. But I already know that it will only escalate. That’s the pattern. No, just leave it be, there is nothing we can do.
I’ve already walked away, left the situation. He finally lets the door shut and latch, still yelling something, climbs on his bike, gives us a finger and pedals away.
I hadn’t seen him since the day of our fathers memorial service over a year and a half ago. But it is fitting that he came on the last day of the year 2016. See, the thing is, I get it. His anger, his relishing in this life of instability because I dance at its edge myself. I’ve often wondered how can a black man in America not be scarred with mental instability, wondering how I keep a grasp on this so called reality. I get why he won’t seek out help. I get why he distances himself from his family. I get it, but I always hope. And realizing that on this final day of 2016 is what I will take with me. Not the yelling, blaming, fear, failure, all of the shit. Just the hope.