Tuesday, July 28, 2009

This One's For Anyone Wondering What My Brother Did with His Weekend

If you walked into my brother's room in my mother's trailer here's a few things you might find: a poster featuring three spread-legged porn stars; a replica of his and his girlfriend's hands--which are intertwined--done up in two colors of wax (pink for her; blue for him); seventeen bottles of cologne; spray painted t-shirts of the variety you can get at the state fair; a coffee maker; and a bag of multicolored dog treats ("Only a $1.99!" he told me.  "Can you believe it?").

The newest item that has made it into my brother's room is this: a turtle.

The turtle appeared yesterday, mysteriously, a surprise.  One day the trailer was turtle-free, the next it was not.  My mother woke up and walked by his room and saw a suspicious soft light streaming into the hall.  When she pushed inside, there was the turtle in a large tank that had been set up on top of Adam's dresser.  The tank had a makeshift wooden top placed over it, and there was writing on it.  It said: MY NAME IS MYRTLE THE TURTLE.

"Did you see your brother's turtle?" my mother asked after I arrived at her house tonight, loaded down with the makings of her official birthday dinner (beef stroganoff, homemade biscuits, and chocolate raspberry cake) I had started at home.

"Excuse me? A turtle?"  I walked down the hall and leaned my head in the room.  There it was.  A turtle.  In a tank.  On Adam's dresser.

For those of you keeping track, here is the current tally of living beings currently inhabiting my mother's very small, very skinny, very non-double-wide trailer: my mother, my mother's boyfriend, my mother's boyfriend's son, my brother, the cat (Zoe), the dog (Ziggy), and Myrtle the Turtle.

"I didn't know he was getting a turtle," I said.

"Yeah," my mom said.  "Neither did I."

Earlier that weekend, over a fish fry, my father had revealed to me that he knew Adam was headed down to Erie, Pennsylvania, which Adam had recently informed us was his and his girlfriend's favorite place on earth, a place they go when they're feeling down in the dumps, a place they hope to someday live because they think it's a fine place, a sweet place, the best place.  

"Why are they going to Erie again?" I asked.  

"I think they're getting a fish tank."

"In Erie, Pennsylvania?"

"Yes.  In Erie, Pennsylvania.  A fish tank.  Just another passing fascination of your brother.  He'll love it for a few weeks, and then it will be over, forgotten."

My brother loves things like that--fast, hard, intensely--and then, without warning, those things are pushed aside in his heart to make room for the next fad.  In the past, he has gone crazy for collecting hot sauce and glass Coke bottles.  He has been obsessed with exotic flavors of pop.  He went wild for paintball for about two months and hasn't touched his very expensive equipment since.  For a long time, he amassed tiny sample bottles of every cologne they sold at the perfume counters at department stores.  He had a short-spanned love affair with dwarf rabbits.  He used to comb the grocery stores and coffee shops for the blackest, darkest, earthiest grounds he could find for his bedside coffee maker, but that led to unpleasant stomach and bowel issues, and that obsession fizzled.

And so his new obsession was a fish tank, and, I thought, fish.  But I was wrong.  My brother wasn't tooling around Erie, Pennsylvania for a fish tank for fish.  He was looking for something to keep a turtle in, and, of course, he was looking for the turtle, too.

When Adam got to my mom's tonight, the first thing he asked me was, "Hey.  Did you see my turtle?"

"Yes," I said.  "I didn't know you were into turtles."

"Oh, sure I am."

I stirred the stroganoff and nodded.  "Of course," I said.  "And are you planning on getting Myrtle a friend? Someone to keep her company? A boyfriend?"

"Sure," he said.  "Sometime.  Not now, but soon.  He'll need company."

"Wait a second," I said.  "HE? You named your male turtle Myrtle?"


"Are you aware Myrtle is a girl's name?"

He frowned.

"It is," I said.

"Well, what else was I going to name him?" he asked.  "Myrtle the Turtle.  It sounds great."

"And how do you think he feels about that name?"

"Great," he said.  "I think he feels great about it.  I think I'm going to get him a salamander."

"For a friend?"

Adam shook his head.  "No.  To eat."

Later, at dinner, my brother charmed us with burps, with farts, and a story about he laid out the longest, most disgusting fart in the middle of Gander Mountain while he and his girlfriend were looking at golf balls.

"I swear I looked around before I did it," my brother said.  "I swear.  I mean, I looked! I checked! And then I farted, and it was the loudest fart ever.  It was the type where you could hear my butt cheeks rattling.  It went on forever.  I was trying to do it discreetly--"

"Wait a minute," his girlfriend interrupted.  "You weren't super discreet.  You popped your ass up in the air and tipped your head back."  She demonstrated.  

My brother laughed.  "Yeah," he said.  "I did that.  And then when I opened up my eyes, there was a guy standing two feet from me.  I don't know where he came from.  I can only imagine what he thought."

Most of the time, I can only imagine what Adam is thinking.  I'd like a chance to crack open his head, see what's brewing inside, understand just how he got the way he is--because he is an odd boy who is capable of going on rants about the awesomeness of Pennsylvania ("Did you go to Pennsylvania just to go to Petsmart?" I asked tonight.  "Well, no," he said.  "I mean, we went to price out pet stores.  We went to just check around at all the local joints and price things.  How much are fish in Pennsylvania? How much are dog treats? You know, we priced that stuff.") and the unawesomeness of France ("I hate it!" he said.  "Why?" I asked.  "Give me one good reason," I said.  "I don't know!" he said.  "I just hate France and everything French!"), and he is capable of wanting to own a roomful of floppy-eared bunnies, and he is completely okay with wallpapering his room with posters of porn stars, and he is not above jostling his private parts around in his palm while he tells me goodbye.    And now he is the proud owner of Myrtle the Turtle ("Hey!" he said.  "Lots of turtles live to be 150 years old!" and "Hey!" he said.  "He's going to be over a foot long soon! He's just a baby now!"), and sometimes I think I should get a therapist just so I can discuss my brother and his antics, and we would work every day for hours and hours, and this could go on for months, and the therapist and I still wouldn't figure him out.  We still wouldn't figure out where this kid came from and how he's in any way related to me.


Joshua said...

Oh my god. Your brother is wonderful.

Jess said...

You are him. He is you.