oh, brother

What? Two posts in one day? Don’t get used to it.

Today, as I watched a particularly riveting episode of Wife Swap (God, I hate that show), the phone rang. In our house, the answering machine always gets first dibs. Everyone else just stands around the phone when it rings, waiting to hear if someone worth speaking to is on the other end (rarely) or if it’s a telemarketer (sometimes) or if it’s a hang up call (9 times out of 10).

I muted Wife Swap (God, I hate that show) in time to hear the answering machine pick up, followed by…silence. This could only mean one thing: someone was actually leaving a message, and the sound on the machine had been turned down. I leapt up, raced to the phone, and turned on the volume in time to hear my 21-year-old brother’s voice on the other end: “…are you there? … No?… Well, okay…”

As I picked up the receiver and pressed “Talk” he hung up. Perfect timing, brother.

I was immediately concerned. He never calls the land line. Ever. He also sounded strange on the phone: some combination of sick and angry and dejected. My brain immediately leapt to the following conclusions:

  1. He had been arrested, and this was his “one phone call.”
  2. He was calling from the hospital, where he had been diagnosed with some horrible disease, or had just finished having a night’s worth of Everclear pumped out of his system
  3. He had been kicked out of school
  4. One of his secret “adventures” had gone awry, and he was phoning from Thailand
  5. He’d gotten someone pregnant. His girlfriend, maybe. Or a Thai prostitute.
  6. Some permutation of all of the above (his track record isn’t, well, the greatest)

Like a good sister, my first impulse was to cover for him. I immediately erased the message and dialed him on my cell phone. His voice mail immediately picked up, which probably meant he was making another call. Okay, Scenario One eliminated.

So I waited a minute and called again. No response. Then I texted: “Everything ok? Ddin’t get to phone in time sorry”


I returned to Wife Swap (God, I hate that show), making sure the volume was turned up on the answering machine and my cell phone was at the ready. After about ten minutes, my brain began to re-engage in Worst Case Scenario Mode, and I called his phone again.


This time, I left a voice mail: “Hey, what’s going on? Are you in a gutter somewhere? Let me know you’re okay. Sorry for calling a hundred times.”

By the time my parents returned, I’d decided to let my Mom make the first move. If whatever had happened to Brother was serious, she probably already knew. But they hadn’t seemed to rush home, so maybe they didn’t know. So I played it cool. After awhile, she spoke.

“Your brother called.”

“Oh?” (thinking: was that nonchalant enough?)

“Yeah, his phone broke. AGAIN.”

“Oh?” (thinking: you little cocksucker! I thought you were dying! I was ready to lie for you to the police, motherfucker, and it turns out you just broke your fucking cell phone? For the twelfth time?!)

Yeah, he called us from the Verizon store. He needed a new one.”

“Oh.” (thinking: you dumb little shit! I was genuinely worried about you!). “Yeah, he called here first but I didn’t get to the phone in time. He sounded mad.”

“Yeah, he was. But it’s getting fixed. Or something.”

“Oh.” (thinking: If you were here, I’d smack you in the back of the head with a hot toaster, you jerk).

Sisterly love is a beautiful thing.

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