I’m not sure when I finally accepted that he wasn’t coming back. He’d been different lately. Distracted, moody, distant. We’d always had a great relationship, or so I thought at the time, and despite the big difference in our ages, we were still brothers, and he always sort of looked out for me. Mom was so depressed she barely left her bedroom for longer than it took to microwave up a cup of tea, spread some garlic and butter on a piece of overtoasted bread, then tuck another dog-eared romance novel under her arm and disappear from our lives again with the quiet click of the door pulled shut behind her.
David was my anchor. He was the one I looked up to, the one I let myself believe in, mostly because he was the only one who stuck around most of the time. Dad was a traveling salesman, a “regional rep” for some company selling medical supply equipment or something like that. His trips started taking longer, and longer, sometimes a week or even two. He said competition was up, so he had to start traveling farther to find new clients. We never seemed to have a lot of money, so I guess we had to believe him. Maybe needed to believe him.
Looking back, I guess maybe we should have seen it coming, but when you’re eleven years old, you don’t really expect it. I think Dave knew, suspected at least. He and Dad seemed to get into more and more fights, mostly about how we needed him there, how it wasn’t Dave’s job to run the family, it was HIS. I don’t know if the fights helped or hurt. All I do I know is that one day, Dad packed three suitcases into the back of his beat-up old Subaru, told Dave to take care of things while he was gone, then looked at me with a strange expression, ran his fingers through my hair, and with a kind of sad little smile said, “Try not to forget what I look like.” I thought he was kidding around.
That was a year and a half ago. Continue reading