Letters to my brother, bah-bah black sheep
We didn't exchange many of our personal stories as we grew older. I only have the roughest idea of what your life was like since the onset of puberty. I'd have to say that in many ways we were more different than alike. Looking at our parents, I feel I can claim the flag of black sheep of the family. I wonder if you would agree or say that my coasting along without causing too many bumps in the family dynamic would cast you as the black sheep instead.
I know you started smoking cigarettes around age thirteen because you told me. I watched you snatch up a half smoked butts from the side of the road to smoke while we walked together. I your buffer for nefarious activity. Mom certainty wouldn't expect me to go along with you doing something wicked.
You were obsessed with pot. This is why I bought you tapestries with marijuana leaves and new pipes for Christmas more often than not. You knew all kinds of crazy shit I didn't understand. Once, you made me walk with you into the woods to see the pot plant you were growing in a patch of sunlight. Later on a deer ate it--we assumed. In some of your remaining paperwork and memorabilia, there is a packet of Morning Glory seeds and printed notes on how to extract something or another to get high. You studied and informed me on how to grow shrooms. (I can't even write this stuff without wondering if I am making any sense!) Mom put this covertly in her speech about you at your funeral as you being a scientist.
You spoke to me about your addiction to pills and how it was to kick that. Explaining our father's addiction to heroin via his addiction to pills. Enlightening me on this drug culture I was ignorant to. How one thing leads to another like a rock rolling down hill and starting an avalanche.
During our last conversation you talked to me about your heroin addiction. I was shocked that with all your knowledge and disapproval over our father's problem, that you would have let yourself fall so far. I said to you, "How could you do that? You said you would never do that!"
I've been depressed, maybe not as depressed as you. I can't quantify sadness, especially not with a dead man. But to this day, I don't understand what made you feel like you had to self treat or avoid your pain with drugs. How could you think that was wise? Especially after all we knew and had seen from our father. Or maybe you just didn't care?
When you were sick and detoxing off pills, I wanted to shake you till your teeth rattles and demand, how could you? How could you put our mother and me through this crap again? How could you be so much like our father? You were better than him! Smarter than him! And at the same time I felt this insane panic because I knew there was nothing I could really say or do to make you stop or smack some sense into you. And so it simply came down to telling you, "I love you. Mom loves you. Please, don't hesitate to ask for help or come stay with us if you need somewhere to go."
But going back before everything spiraled out of control--I never knew what to say to you about your enamor with 'drug culture'. (I sound like a total newbish snob, don't I? So sorry.) I mean, you were right in speaking to me like I was ignorant. I was. I tried to listen all the time thinking, 'How is this cool?' while you were probably thinking, 'My sister is such a newb'. I knew I couldn't dissuade you. We were stubborn in a similar way. I also know you were glad I didn't have these demons to wrestle with. You never offered me anything, never pushed, never judged and I tried to do likewise. In fact, if I so much as had a glass of wine--you seemed disappointed, concerned and would take me aside to tell me how horrible it was to drink. When you found out I had smoked pot, you offered to smoke with me, and when I refused--you never asked again.
I never drank until college and the first time my roommates badgered a bottle of SkyBlue into my hands, I sat there and cried while I sipped it. One of my roommates, the same one that stood outside the stall door and talked me through tampon insertion (you so wanted to know that), also had an alcoholic father. When she told me I needed to let go and try to drink, that it wouldn't make me my Dad, I trusted her. She was right. She didn't laugh at me while I cried. Not sobs, but a slow drip of tears and a horrible burn of guilt.
The times I drank and drink, even to this day, are few and far between. I've never been so drunk I blacked out, puked, or forgot where I was. I don't think I am capable of that kind of loss of control. There is always a part of myself holding me back that I am glad of. A part that remembers our father shouting at our mother, passed out on the couch, repeating the same endearments over and over again to me while holding my hand with his breath reeking. I wonder why you didn't feel this same way.
But I'm not a complete newb.
I once drank an entire bottle of wine with before mentioned roommate and spent a blissful span of minutes rolling around in the grass on a hot spring night laughing uproariously.
I see you are not impressed.
Well then, let me share the story of the second only ever party I went to in college. I suppose I should mention the first. It was my very first night in school and I and a small herd of girls felt like we just had to attend a party. We clamored onto the bus and went downtown to shove our bodies into a small dirty apartment and turn our noses up at prepared red cups full of beer. Then we left. Not very exciting.
My second and last party was in the spring of my senior year hosted by one of the classmates from my methods courses. All of us were invited. That means the 26 or so students that had shared five of my courses for the entire semester and, better yet, it was walking distance from where I lived. They even got the one mom in our class to go.
I didn't donate money for a keg since I didn't drink beer. So I brought whatever booze was laying around our apartment collecting dust. I think there was some brandy and snopes. Shit, I had probably bought for the underagers I knew and never bothered to drink myself.
So I'm sipping at that when someone offers me boxed wine. I love wine. So I drink a little wine and feel a buzz start behind my brow. Next came the brownie. I'd never eaten a pot brownie before but I loved brownies, so what the hell. Yum.
At this point one of the boys from my class staggered over reeking of beer and seriously explained to me how I had to do a keg stand right then.
But, I don't drink beer.
No, no, no Autumn. You don't have to drink the beer. Everyone is wasted. All you have to do is pretend. I will hold (the hose) in your mouth but I will not put beer in your mouth. They will think you are fucking awesome. I will not put the beer in your mouth. I swear. No beer in your mouth.
So I agreed. Another classmate held my left leg and Jason held the other and I was upside down in a room of people with this keg hose thing in my mouth held by druken classmate the first. Then they started counting and everyone was counting. Meanwhile, I was just upside down with blood rushing to my head and, as promised, no beer in my mouth. Eventually, I twitched signaling I had swallowed so much beer I could not take it anymore--as if. Everyone cheered--either totally believing I was a virginal master of keg stands or not. It was no mystery to my classmates that I did not go to the bars, did not party and did not drink. What I did was read a lot--before class, during breaks, and afterwards as I wove through a hall packed with human bodies. I think they all took much relish in that night's corruption of Autumn.
Then another classmate started passing around a joint and I am like, what the hell, why not. Not only would I have my first keg stand, albeit faked, I would also have my first circle smoke. (If circle smoke is an accurate term even!) Soon after I start drifting and then coming to and shoving pretzels in my mouth like machine gun fire. I was so...toasted, stoned, drunk, ingloriously drugged that I couldn't even get my coat on without Jason's assistance. I had to give myself directions about how to put my arm into my sleeve and then my other arm. Eventually, we wound up outside with me running down the street laughing.
That was my only party.
I don't think I ever shared that story with you but I can imagine your amused expression if I had. When you looked at me that way, I always felt like the younger sibling who didn't know how the world worked or what life was really like.
I wonder how we went in such opposite directions from our shared experiences and what, if any difference, it would have made to you if we had not.
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