Last night I met my brother in the Whistle Binkies pub. Descending into the gloom of the pub, I found my brother seated at a table in a dark corner, like the devil with a proposal. I had been very drunk, but at the sight of my brother I felt suddenly tired and sober. My brother cheered, flopped a tanned arm around my shoulder, and presented me to some of his friends as I was a celebrity. “Hey, this is my big brother Biggy! He’s such a funny guy, man, you should check out this guy!” He spun back into my face, bright with his doggy enthusiasm, and I could almost imagine a tail wagging furiously behind him. My brother was looking up at my face, into my eyes, and this unexpectedly placed me back in the home of our childhoods. Every night, my father would return to the house drunk, and my brother and I would battle to make him drink several pints of water before he fell asleep. At the old man’s cries and threats, my brother would slink back to the foot of the bed, just watching…
I then smiled, remembering that I had visited Tori’s flat earlier in the day and that she had introduced me to her husband’s brother. Tori was furious because her husband, Ricardo, had kicked her out of bed for the week in favour of his brother. Ricardo liked sleeping with his brother because it reminded him of his childhood, when he had shared a bed with half a dozen of his siblings. I asked Ricardo whether he slept facing his brother, so that his brother’s face was the last thing that he saw as he fell asleep, and Tori, who was consigned to the spare room, screamed.
“Why are you laughing?” my brother wondered.
He was unsteady on his feet, trying to grab at me.
But I was climbing the stairs out into the night. The past had impinged on me like a canvasser with a clipboard, draining me with its fuss, and I had suffered enough for one evening. Old memories were astray, like a wrongly released pen of sheep, and they were now trespassing over the tidy fields of my mind. As I crossed Hunter Square, I suddenly wished that I had asked my brother for some money – a grand or so to tide me over – but I was not strong enough to face him again.