I imagined, that I would run into my brother. It’s been sixteen years since, I last seen Jeremiah. He calls often offering me slurred, I miss yous’ and promises that break when we end the call. I used to play with his words as if it was opposite day switching, I miss yous’ for I love yous’ and broken promises for actual meetings. I know he’s drowning in sorrow unable to bring himself to say, “I need you.”
I thought about my upcoming meeting in a couple of weeks in D.C. and if chance would have it that I run into him. He lives there, he was raised there and something tells me, he will die there too. I imagine walking with my co-workers spewing legal terminology, spying in the crowd praying that Jeremiah doesn’t surface above the crowded city streets.
I imagine men and woman crowding the cross-walks, staring at their phones, walking their dogs, running for the bus, the cab or uber. Statue-like homeless people on every corner. No eye contact, just a fluid stream of bodies slamming into each other, through each other, and around each other, just a means to an end kind-of-day.
I imagined Jeremiah as one of those bodies on that busy street. On cue, I will play my part in a conversation with my colleagues, “The judge entered the judgment because the plaintiff failed to serve parties in time. Can you believe he forgot. It’s what–a 100 day deadline and he forgot,” and I would fling laughter in the air, “100 days, what the hell was he thinking?”
At this Jeremiah playing the part of a homeless statue on 15th and New York Avenue comes alive, holding a coffee mug wrapped in the sky that reads, family ain’t shit, written in the clouds, “Hey baby girl, got a penny to spear!”
My laughter turning on me, drowning out Jeremiah’s request, the noisy city, the to-do lists and all I could see was the clouds pouring down. My laughter growing until it all came to a halt. The universe granting me a millisecond that seemed like an eternity to consider, how to save my brother.
My mind ran through the first time we met, I was nine and he was twelve; then the smile we shared; the meal we had at the seafood restaurant uptown; the jobs that were close enough to have lunch; the conversations about Dad, his ambitions, and jail-time; the loss of employment; the accusations about infidelity; the girlfriend; the divorce; the every other weekend he had with the children; the fights with family; the eviction; the– “penny to spear?”
The sound of the city picked back up; horns, car doors slamming, heels beating the concrete and my own laughter coming out in a chuckle. I reached in my pocket and turned the penny around in hand, In God we Trust, was my answer to: How to save my brother.
I placed the penny it in the cup and shelved the smile in my memory.