carnival life

It had been several months since I’d last been in touch with my brother Peter.  We go through periods like that.  Especially if he’s *not in a good way* or trying to hide something from me.  Sometimes I just don’t know where he is or how to contact him.  He’s had at least a zillion phone numbers in the last half dozen years.  He steals a phone off some bum (his words not mine), or *finds* a phone.  Calls me on those and asks what his new number is.  Or he gets a pre-paid track phone, each one with a new different number.  He keeps losing those or breaking them or… they get stolen off him by some other bum.

Sometimes we don’t talk for a period of time because one or both of us has reached our saturation point with the other.  We live such completely disparate lives it is nearly impossible to understand one another.  I try not to, but I do judge him.  He has taken a perfectly good mind and healthy body and abused it to a mushy pulp, a complete waste of a life.  And I get angry with him for all the idiotic choices he has made over the 48 years of his existence that have brought him to the nefarious caricature of a human being he has become.  He, on the other hand, cannot understand how I have become such a judgmental hoity-toity douche, having come from the same family, same humble beginnings, cut from the same cloth.

Anyway, I forget what prompted this last sabbatical, but I know I was coming to the end of my patience with the illogical meanderings of his journey.  A few weeks ago I officiated at a funeral and the burial was at a very small very old cemetery in a rough section of Brockton (as if there is any other kind of section of Brockton).  I’d heard via the grapevine that he’d moved out of the rooming house he’d been living in in a nearby town and was living somewhere in Brockton.  So, while waiting in the procession I texted the last few numbers I had for Peter.  He responded quickly and after a brief back and forth he gave me his address and invited me to stop by.

Curiosity killed the cat.  I wish I could have been satisfied to know he was still alive and left it at that.  After I finished my work, I punched the address into my GPS.  I was heartened momentarily as I drove, noting that the neighborhood didn’t feel or look grimy, run-down or unsafe.  Until I came to his address.  The house was leaning awkwardly and could have used a coat of paint or five.  The front door was ajar and seemed to be precariously hanging off one hinge.  Peter popped his head around the door smiling, sliding his way out so as not to disturb the door’s delicate positioning, waving happily at me, and came to meet me at the curb in his stocking feet.  I was dressed for a funeral.  He seemed dressed for a day at the dump.  He didn’t seem to notice our disparities and proudly took me by the arm to show me his abode.  Rickety stairs lined with hypothetical walls of broken plasterboard wound up and up and up.  Gaping holes where discolored diaphanous cobwebs poked through made the stairway look like insulated moldy Swiss cheese, only less appealing.  I followed Peter as he passed hallways and closed doors.  He chatted happily as we went, telling me he rented a suite on the top floor for much less money than he was paying for a single tiny room in that rooming house.  Of course the story went something to the effect that he was in a much better position here thanks to his canniness, street smarts and superior skills of negotiation.  The rooming house, in my humble opinion, seemed like a good place.  It was clean and safe, he had his own room and a landlord who cared about who lived there.  This place screamed “CRACK HOUSE” even to someone as naive and inexpert as me.  We arrived at the top floor, where we were unable to stand upright due to the slanting roof.  This space had never been finished, unlike the rest of the house that had at one time been finished and was now just dilapidated.  Planks and studs and hundreds of sharp ends of nails stuck out perilously everywhere.  This was what he termed his “sitting area”.  A short way across a landing was exposed plumbing.  Or, as Peter nicknamed it, “a future bathroom”.  A moldy, dirty clawfoot tub lay on its side next to a toilet of similar quality.  Pipes and tubes jutted from floor and wall were closed off with dirty rags and rubber bands.  How I kept myself from gagging (never mind outright vomiting) was nothing short of miraculous.

At the center of the house, where we could finally stand up straight, was Peter’s bedroom.  Lined with a soiled, revolting, filthy rug, which was festooned with cigarette butts and burn marks, the room stank of malodorous rankness.  The air was stagnant and I breathed through my mouth as I stared around the room in abject horror.   A naked bed with metal frame and verminous mattress with stains all over it sat at an odd angle in the middle of the room, a dirty sleeping bag lay carelessly atop it.  A broken end table/nightstand lying on its side, bleeding fragments of pressboard was the only other *furniture* in the room.  The detritus of unclean living.

To say my skin crawled would be an astronomical understatement.  It required every bit of control I had to keep from sprinting headlong down the stairs to my car.  Never mind the herculean effort of forcing and maintaining a blank non-judgmental expression on my face.  I left as quickly as possible, shaking with disgust.  How does anyone live like that?!

A few days later I got a text from Peter, “Hey sissy!”  I cringed.  Thankfully, he got right to his point.  He, desperately (according to him) needed a ride on Monday to Chelsea (20-odd miles from his place) to pick up his check, which he assured me he could cash on the spot and out of which, he promised me, he would give me gas money.  In a deja vu kind of fashion, he told me via text (the same story he has told me repeatedly over the years) that he had not eaten in 3 days and that he didn’t have a dime to his name.  He explained in technicolor detail how he would have to spend the remaining days until he got his check and could eat again.  I was thankful this was all taking place via text so he couldn’t either hear or see my eyes rolling.  Monday was July 3rd and I was actually not going to work because of the holiday, so I could, without too much disruption to my life, give him the ride.  He responded with fulsome appreciation.

At some point between that day and Monday Peter texted me again.  Great news!  He wouldn’t need the ride after all.  He’d gotten himself a terrific job, a great gig, that was going to turn his life around (at least financially).  This news was too exciting for him to share over text, so he used his precious last few phone minutes to call.  I really tried to prep myself.  “Get this…” he said, “Remember the Brockton fair?” {Indeed I did.  A carnival of ignominious inferiority catering to the unwashed masses.  Unsafe in the 1970s}  Well the great news was that Pete got himself hired as a carny with the Brockton Fair!  From the exuberance in his voice you would have thought the guy won the lottery.  He was going to be making sausages and running games, calling out prizes (Winner! Winner! Big One!!!) and maybe even operating the rides!  If he was really good at it (which he had every reason to believe he would be), he might even travel with them.  Who knew where this could go?!

I got off the phone a little sick to my stomach.  Not that I had wanted to chauffeur him so badly on Monday, but the thought of him being a traveling carny felt like a new low even for him.  I shouldn’t have worried overmuch though.  Sunday night I got a text from Peter.  He was going to need that ride after all.  The carnival thing wasn’t going to work for him.  Apparently, those carny guys work long hard hours, which isn’t exactly up Peter’s alley.  I mean, they expected him to do actual real manual labor?!  He’d rather just have a ride to get his check thank you.



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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2 Responses to carnival life

  1. Kris says:

    Oi, family. What can I say? They make their filthy beds and seem to enjoy sleeping in them. The more you try to raise them up, the more they pull *you* down. Peace, Hali.

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