A little more than a week into his absence Peter’s number appeared on my phone early on a Saturday morning.  With equal parts dread and relief I answered, expecting to hear his voice.  But it was the tiny mousy voice of a little girl.  She was completely incoherent and mumbling a mix of gibberish and baby-talk.  I could not make out a single English word.  I sprang to wakefulness, demanding sternly, “Where is Peter? Where is my brother?!”  The babbling stopped and was replaced by a horror-movie-like other-worldly giggling.  I could feel panic rise, but reason prevailed and I hesitantly asked, “Mary?”  “Yeah” she giggled drunkenly.  After several minutes of more muttering nonsense, I found myself talking to her as if gentling a skittish animal, or talking to a very small child, telling her to talk like a big girl and asking her specific closed-ended questions.  She wasn’t sure where Peter was.  She thought he might be sleeping.  She was calling from Brockton somewhere.  And was asking me to give her the number of an emergency detox nearby.  My heart palpitating, I ran downstairs to the computer.  Why does it always take so long for the computer to wake up?!  I found High Point (I shit you not) Treatment Center and began to say the phone number slowly for Mary (as if she would have a pen and paper ready).  But halfway through my recitation the phone went dead.  I tried calling back, but got a recording saying that the phone could not accept calls.

I went to work with a very heavy heart that morning and prayed in earnest, though I wasn’t sure what I was praying for.  All through that day and the next I tried his number, hoping against hope that I could reach him.  My mind wondered again and again whether he was sleeping or if he was actually dead laying there beside her on some street in Brockton.  I thought about calling High Point, but knew they weren’t there.  I considered calling the police, but I’ve done that before and I know how that goes.  The police, when you call for this kind of thing, can be mean and shaming.  Not all of them, no.  But the ones I’ve spoken with when looking for my homeless, drug-addicted brother.  They get an immediate irritated edge, responding defensively as if you are asking them to do something beneath them, completely wasting their time.  They ask angrily what the hell you expect them to do, how the hell should they know where your scumbag brother is.  With a side of “you’re better off without him anyway” attitude thrown in for good measure.

As if coaching my kindergarten T-ball team is not excruciating enough, worrying over Peter made the weekend seem very long.  He texted me late Sunday night.  “i need help” was all the text said.  Before I could respond he added, “not life threatening.”  There was not much I could do at midnight on a Sunday night.  His phone was out of minutes, but he was able to text.  It was pouring rain and he was huddled under his bench wearing a plastic garbage bag.  I told him to meet me at my work first thing in the morning.

I got the call from security early the next morning that my {awkward pause} brother {?} was at the entrance waiting for me.  He’d come in the main entrance to the building, standing in all his glory in the front lobby, and even though I wasn’t expecting salutiferous, I was taken up short by his bedraggled filthy appearance.  He was still soaked through the several layers of clothing he had on, dripping mud from his cap and hair, still wearing remnants of the trash bag.  He looked at me indignantly as if to say “what did you expect”.  I brought him to my office.

I set a blanket over a chair for him to sit on and he stripped down a few layers, leaving squishy wet shoes and jackets to dry on the floor.  Cleo wouldn’t go anywhere near him, his fetor being repulsive, she skulked into her kennel beneath my desk.

He launched into a vitriolic tirade about Mary.  He thought he could help her, he said, he honestly did.  But her drinking and drugging were beyond even his ken.  And shockingly (to him) she was not above prostituting herself, in addition to paying cash, for drugs.  Apparently, while he was in la-la-love-land, she was sleeping with anyone and everyone for even the suggested possibility of anything stronger than aspirin.  Peter was utterly disgusted and heartbroken.  By the time he finished his diatribe he had grimy tears streaking his weather-worn face.  A truly pathetic sight to behold.

A pang of sympathy overrode my irritation with him.  Despite the fact that, in so many ways, he created the hell he was currently living in, he simply cannot function as a grown up human being.  It’s like putting a 3 or 4 year old in charge of an adult’s life.  Didn’t work in 10th century in England.  Certainly won’t work now.  You might as well ask a squirrel to bake croissants.  It’s not even a good idea.

Peter told me he’d been sleeping on the side of the road, under benches in parks and once or twice in an ATM (until the police kicked him out).  You lose the ability to consider and plan for the future when you are forced to  meet your emergent basic needs on a minute by minute basis. One is simply not free to ponder tomorrow when one is literally and figuratively being pissed on by humanity, the weather and oneself presently.  I asked hesitantly about his case manager and he shrugged, “They’re not very helpful.”  Well, that, plus his popping in and out and disappearing and losing paperwork and using drugs didn’t help his credibility or anyone’s desire to actually help him.

He cleaned himself up a bit in the bathroom next to my office, he dozed in the chair while I did some work and then I brought him down to the cafeteria to get him some lunch.  I ignored the shocked looks and the awkward stares (as well as the lurching embarrassment in my stomach) as I introduced him to people.  We sat at a table by ourselves a few tables over from where I generally sit with coworkers and friends.  They glanced over at me occasionally with helpless but intended supportive looks on their faces.  I wondered what they were saying.  Peter ate like, well, like a homeless guy who hasn’t had a decent meal in forever.  Which he was.  Halfway through his meal, he stopped his rapid-fire-shoveling of food into his mouth long enough to meekly and apologetically thank me for not being ashamed of him.  I felt a stab of guilt.  Because I actually was.

I packed him up, got him a little more food, and sent him on his way.  I’d dubiously given him phone numbers for a few more places to call for housing.  He felt fairly certain that he could find something, between the numbers I was giving him and the leads I’d helped him with last month.  Looking exactly like a hobo, dressed in every article of clothing he owned, worn in a patchwork of ridiculousness and carrying his styrofoam boxed lunch in a crude makeshift satchel, he cheerfully set off once again.

bridge over troubled waters

bridge over troubled waters

About halitentwo

i am. god is. we are. as soon as i write something about me i change, am different, evolving. i am trans. i am a parent. i am a partner. i am a human. i am attempting to live a well-lived life in the spaces in between, beyond definition, fluid, dynamic, omnifarious and always changing. hopefully growing.
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7 Responses to brother

  1. I give you a ton of credit. This sounds like an incredibly hard situation for you and for him. I’m so sorry things are like that.

    • halitentwo says:

      Thanks. I really feel like writing about it has helped me gain some perspective somehow. I don’t feel as wrung out by it. I used to go over and over and over it in my head and make myself crazy about it. Now I just write it down. I really appreciate the support.

  2. Kris says:

    So sorry to hear. I hope his life takes a turn for the better, for both your sakes. Take care, Hali.

    • halitentwo says:

      Hiya Kris! Yeah, maybe it will. And maybe it won’t. I’m learning a bit from him I think. He isn’t torn up about his situation most of the time. He finds glimmers of hope all over the place. He has a good feeling about his future. So why should I tie myself up in knots?

  3. Jamie Ray says:

    I’m glad he is ok and able to get a hold of you when he needs to.
    I hope he finds safe shelter and stays away from the police and jails.
    It is hard to accept that he is never going to change in any meaningful way. I don’t know if I could do what you are doing knowing that (my friend Kate keeps track of her brother Paul who is in and out of the psych and jail system and does not give up).

    • halitentwo says:

      Thanks Jamie. I think you are right about the positive being that he knows I love him and accept him and that he knows how to get in touch with me. That’s about as good as it gets I think. And I also feel like my expectations have always been the problem. Now I don’t necessarily expect him to make any meaningful changes to his life, so I just go with his flow. He calls upset, I offer a supportive grunt. He calls happy, I offer a pleasant-sounding mmm-hmmm. It’s really all I can do.

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