The night is dark and the window opens unto only more of the same, blackness. My eyes are open, so open that I can see beyond the room and beyond the green lawn outside the front door and further down the street and around the corner and many miles and many freeways ahead of me.
I see him, in his small chamber. Not a sacred space cultivated by love and attention and smelling of sage and musty sex. I can smell the burnt spoons and the burnt foil and the rotting garbage that is never attended to. I see his hunched form, so pathetically large and small at the same time. I hear the soft buzzing of the single light, how can such a small bulb emit so much energy? How come I can hear it worlds away, here in this small blackened room, my wife next to me sleeping, undisturbed by the vision of a crumbling man. A man alone. A man that weeps without tears.
The burden is mine alone. In the hours before light, while the moon creeps across the sky, I know that he is awake too. I feel his heart racing…racing so fast. Not from lovemaking or any other activity, he has sat on that bed for hours, days perhaps, pissing into jugs when he feels the need. He only moves his hands and arms. From his chest to the plastic bag to the glass tube to the lighter, then back down to his chest as the rush comes over him and takes him on a ride away from sadness and those unstoppable tears and that pain that never seems to quiet down. Those couple of seconds, that buzzing ride, is the only respite he will have until the need comes once again. And it will come. And he will answer.
I am startled out of thoughts, my wife jumps, grabbing onto me from habit. I walk quickly to my cell phone on the other side of the room, picking it up off the desk. I do not recognize the number.
I hear an automated voice.
“This is a collect call from a correctional facility. If you wish to accept the charges, please press 1, now.”
I press one. So he is there, he is finally in the place I hoped for him to always avoid. He is not in the filthy chamber I imagined, but in another made of glass and concrete and populated with the cruelest of eyes. Even more decrepit, lacking even more warmth. Truly windowless. This is it. He is there and I listen to his silence, see his brown eyes darting back and forth, looking for my shape and hearing only the buzzing and beeping of an institution and the automatons that inhabit it.
I feel sorrow, pity, and pain. I hear his breath in the phone, it is erratic. Neither of us speak.
Why do I spend so much time, so much energy and attention on my brother’s needs? On his wishes? It is the middle of the night, his dreams take the space of my own. His nightmares fill me. His unconscious shapes and struggles, they hold my eyes open in the darkness. Do I fear his death more than my own? How long have I tried to protect him? From himself…from my visions…from my daydreams…
He is cold and shivering, surrounded by brick walls and with far more enemies than friends. He is trembling, and I know that his trembling is the result of another frightening vision. He has seen the monster. It rushes towards him, and it is terrible and ugly and distorted, but it is his face. His body that has bulged on the top and shrunk at the bottom. He has seen himself, the terrible vision of a man never known. A man that demons calls their servant. I stand right next to him. I watch him and his friends as they are attacked by a group three times their size. I hear the sounds of bones turning to pulp. I hear the soft whistling that accompanies pain.
I feel his fear, his loneliness.
I fall down into a dark abyss. I let myself be consumed in an immense void that seems to open up from within the center of my being.
Death itself roams the rooms of my house, it tramples the green lawn outside, it takes the brother I once had. Fear is upon me. Total fear. My body is a sweaty cage.
He is alone, and he weeps.
I’m escaping…I’m escaping…
“Hello?” he says.
“Yeah, I’m here. I was just thinking about you.”