I awoke to a message from my brother. He asked me if I’d come and hang out. I didn’t see him as human, barely a brother so absent that he was.
I went out, I could tell he’d been crying. Like the charge of the air before a storm. I could tell.
He was turned away from me when I pushed open his door. Towards the corner of the room, furthest from the doorway he was looking. Stretching, on one leg, putting a decorative ticket into the highest reaches of the room’s corner where the ceiling met the walls. All exposed wood, not logs like our shack all the way down south that our father had built. It was the common wooden plank. Not rich, not poor, treated and mysterious with its imperfections ingrained in the wood. He heard me come in, but continued with his one legged attempt at blue-tacking artwork into the highest reaches of his room.
I could say I wondered what had been making him cry. But I could tell, I could usually tell. We’re siblings, we know enough about each other, our lives and their inner workings. Family is secret, dad had had to tell us once upon a time. Probably over a candle lit dinner. Not for mood, or want of atmosphere but because in those days we lived at the shack. Without electricity candle wax creating molten red and grey streams. By the end of the night dad would pull out his swiss army knife and remove any wax droplettes from the table, a pointless repitition. Like a nervous tick, he would do that without fail.
The bottles that held the candles aloft like an extension of the olympic torch would be mottled with the waxen formations. Like volcanic refuse, melting, running, drying in layers. Once set, not easily removed. Like an armour, a tiny model, the bottle a mould for a strange protective casing.
Mother would teach us to make dribble castles those summer. Build your foundations with sand. Then using the wettest sand you can find, the sort that occurs at the bottom of a deep hole that you’ve dug on the beach. Then taking the wet sand, as is runs and slips through your finger, you pour it. As if it were wet cement, in need of more sand. You dribble the sand. And it piles upon itself magically. Dribbling, and defying gravity. I stood there. Looking at my brother, looking at him balancing on one leg, pushing the paper to the wall with his two thumbs, and I thought of him as a candle, I thought of him as a castle. A turret. Older than I by some four years, solidly built, isolated at this time. He was himself locked away in this tower. Alone, only to send for help, for comfort and company in the form of a sister. How could I help? I was to be the stone in the river. You see the water rush over, that is time’s destuctive errosive nature. And yes, you are rubbed smooth, rolling uncontrollably. Sometimes rapidly feeling un-grounded. But when the stream dries up, the stone remains, and for him, during this passage of time. Regardless of his emotional head over heels. I was there for him.
I said Hi.
He said nothing. But nothing does not come of nothing with loved ones. Because you choose to bring something. And you don’t need a reward or a reasoning. You bring the explainable, and you chance offense. Risk the dangers, beyond life and limb or social stigma. The basics of conversation, your expectations. You put your yardstick down, into the muddy water and you hope that there aren’t any repercussions that will be yours to suffer.
We stayed like this a while, his back to me.
I perched on the foot of his bed. There were fishes on the covers. Blue and black streaks were the water. And the fish, large and tropical. All staring back with un-comprehending eyes. Judging. Looking out at the world as if it were a morsel. Darkness in those eyes, were mirrored i’m sure in my brothers. Dark rings of anguish that ebbed from his faces features. Poor guy, I really am afraid to get to know him.
He tired after twenty minutes. I wore him down with my silent good intentions.
We talked and I told him a story of work. I’d been called that day by Jen. Jen was the morning receptionist and I came in usually just after midday to replace her. So she called at 11 and said in a perplexed tone.
“Hey… So you know the bucket that catches the run off water from the air-con”
“Yeah” I said.
“Well the bucket is full, and it stinks and I think there’s an octopus in there, I’m going to put the bucket out the back, can you throw it away?”
I laughed and said “What?!” and “OK…”
The line went dead.
Sure enough when I arrived at work and relieved Jen, she took me out the back and pointed to the murky bucket.
“I just didn’t know what to do” she said.
I looked over the bucket, it was full and it reeked.
The water was a murky grey.
I got a stick and tried to swirl the water around and get a better look.
It wasn’t an octopus it was a squid. A bit larger than i’d seen in whole-sale fish stores but my mind began working out reasons for this circumstance to have occured.
My brother interrupted the retelling.
“The people, the patrons of your gym are psychotic, rich elitists. Everyone’s crazy and hides it but these guys get a kick out of pranks like this” He was shaking his head.
“The same guy that deals with million dollar investments is the same guy that does a shit in the shower room I bet, and he thinks its funny. Honestly I’m worried for you working in a place like that, people are unhinged maniacs”.
He felt like he’d already cracked it.
Jen at the time asked me if I thought the “octopus” had come out of one of the pipes, or crawled into the bucket from the ocean. I wondered what kind of fabulously augmented version of reality this blonde bimbo hailed from. But I suppose she was in a mild state of nonsensical shock.
“No, I think someone put it there Jen, you know… As a joke”. I said laughing.
“Oh, yeah. But who”.
Who indeed I thought to myself. There were only maybe 15 people that had come in that day. There were no cameras in this part of the gym, its close to the change rooms and everyone that’s a member we know well enough to be on a first name basis.
The smell of the squid, made me think it’d been there for a day or two. So that opened up the possibilites somewhat.
All of this I told my brother, and he got to work trying to crack the case. Mystery solver, complex problems of the classic who-done-it. His eyes had lightened by now, and they smiled with his lips pursed into a confused contorted a half smile.
He lauged at Jen, the character Jen. How she was unable to throw the squid away herself, the fact she called it an octopus and thought that it’d come out of one of the pipes. What did she think was in all the pipes? One day your filling your water bottle then BLAM, new pet goldfish.
“I guess it just slipped through the cracks” he mused aloud
“What an idiot”.
“and why did you have to bin it? How could she NOT do that herself?” – there was still a trace of anger or sadness in his voice from before. His frustrations were expressing themselves in his immersion.
“She didn’t know what to do, that’s all”.
He asked me “so what did you do? Did you just throw it into the bin, all wet and gross?” He pulled a face.
That cracked me up, remembering that poured the contents of the bucket over the grate of a drain and seeing that the squid hadn’t slipped through the small bars I got a plastic bag and put the squid in it. Then I went across the road to the park and put the squid on the ground. It was a popular dog park, and it felt funny to release the squid back into nature.
My brother looked at me, shocked.
“you’re as bad as the psychopaths of your gym” he said.
“you’re just continuing the cycle!”
“I can imagine some poor dog walker now ‘what’s this?! A squid? How did it get here… don’t eat it buddy'”.
So the plot thickened I suppose and in all of these stages you wonder how, when, where and why.
Who bought the squid and brought it in, in a gym bag.
Was there intention? Or were they just opportunistic. Sacrificing their dinner of squid rings for a cheap thrill. Murky waters of laughter.
Or was it Jen?! I mean surely she isn’t that naïve OR useless.
Why the bucket? Why the gym?
Its like shitting where you eat.
Its jarring reality. Its thought provoking. Its fear mongering, from fish mongering.
Who did it. Why. When. To what ends.
I had work early the next day, and promised my brother I’d play it deadpan until somebody brought it up. Then we’d have our suspects.
And to date there has been nothing. That was months ago and yet I remember it like it’d happened earlier today.
Me standing over the bucket. Emptying it, then going across the road with the joke and continuing the mystery.
We’re all doing this. Feeding into one another’s poor constructed perception.
I didn’t learn anything so much about my brother that day, instead I feel like I showed him a little of the humanity we all share. And maybe that helped.
Emotion like that, helps you sleep.
Let the rent open up, and the lava flow so then in the aftermath we have a comparable peace. And time will unveil in its red and grey run on. Folds, wrinkles and rivers illuminated overhead. As we burn down, the light of out lives. Cause for our own demise. Whatever you do, don’t leave a mark on the table.