Speeding Car, Loaded
No more one sided conversations that in truth were mutually dynamic. He did most of the talking, Brad, who was thirteen years my senior. He died at age 39. My mom died within a year, her heart broken and her lungs conquered by the most aggressive cancer the doctors at the VA Hospital had ever seen. She died there. It is near Fort Monroe, just up the street. Poe was stationed at Fort Monroe once. Maybe Poe once lay in a bed there at the same hospital sick from morphine or alcohol.
The conversations were mutually dynamic because I did not just listen. I was his audience. His biographer. I was his student of life's curriculum. "Watch out for that street. I saw a guy get dead there. Don't even know why." We would drive some desperate streets with hookers and junkies, and he would take pride in his life, his success after kicking heroin the first time, his well kept lawn, his room addition which we put up in one day. Blap! Blap! Blap! Done! Room. "Hey man, let's move the TV in here." We built it right on the back of the house and did not even bother to remove the water faucet sticking out of the wall. "It's an advantage," he said, "You get thirsty, just stick your face under the faucet. You don't even have to go in the kitchen." Before he sealed the whole thing off, the walls to the slab, mice would sneak in. Buff, his slobbery but lovable cocker spaniel was too busy reconnoitering the back yard for varmints to be available for duty in the room addition. So it was up to us. Two BB guns and two hard attitudes. Search and destroy. "There's one," he would say. Pop! Pop! Crank, crank, crank, crank. Pop! Pop! "Die mouse, or if you only sustain injury, return to your friends and convey to them that the cheese in Brad's refrigerator is indeed a suicide mission."
My brother spoke roughly, using 'fuck' very often, but sprinkling his sentences with words like 'insipid,' 'insidious,' 'clandestine,' 'raptures,' 'apocalypse' and many others, sometimes sending me, an English major, crawling to my dictionary. The day I told him I was going to major in English he asked, "English? Don't you already know that language?"
He succeeded in business. He built a construction company out of a pack of convicted burglars and then into a million dollar a year business. He and his junky friend. His friend sold all the compressors and nail guns one day and put all the proceeds immediately into his arm. Next time Brad saw him, he was beside a busy road collecting aluminum cans, shuffling along with a cane, one whole hemisphere of his body seemingly lifeless. Brad didn't stop his truck to say hi. He kept rolling. He kept rolling fifteen years without dope, a do it yourself kicker. He did the same thing with cigarettes. He even cursed me for smoking cigarettes. He allowed himself an occasional shot of coke, sending twenty thousand amps straight at his heart, readying himself to bolt out the door into the wrecker with his Uzi pistol. He drove for hours, leveling himself out with pot. He drove that wrecker constantly, day and night after his years in construction. He nearly destroyed his back with the pace he kept framing houses. He had to seek work easier on his back. A wrecker was perfect. Just drive all day smoking weed, which he loved to do anyway, ! blasting speaker after exploded speaker with Slayer or Black Flag, Bad Brains, Corrosion of Conformity or Suicidal Tendencies.
He had a mind for politics and held strong opinions. A favorite subject of his, of course, was gun legislation. He would slam a clip in a weapon for emphasis when he expounded on gun issues. He studied issues thoroughly. He read about history. He read the Bible. My equable and often lethargic stance on these issues frustrated him at times. "You know the ATF can kick in your door and blow your face off at any time and get away with it? Think of it. Do you want that to happen? You want the government to take everything you have?" he grilled me one night like that with startling intensity. He got right in my face and poked my chest with his finger. When my eyes widened and my mouth dropped open, he smiled and rubbed my head. "You don't care as long as it don't happen to you, huh? You just want to be there when it happens to somebody else so you can cover it. You want to be in that liberal media."
Brad engaged in drug use with the same competitive spirit that pervaded everything else he did. I could never beat him in chess or anything else. He would stare at the board for a full half hour before moving. If I rushed him, he would fix me with his blue eyes. The lines in his forehead would form 'Z' shapes sending one brow unnervingly high. He played Monopoly as though the properties on the board were truly his and you were truly trying to take them from him. It was the same with partying. When he did drugs he had to outdo everyone. The potency of street heroin had increased greatly in the years since Brad stopped using. Brad knew this, must have thought of this as a challenge when he chose to shoot up again.
I begged him to wake up as he lay in critical care. I told him we would go for a ride right then, to take off that silly gown and drive us to Nags Head for some subs. I told him we could ride up to New York City again, and he could drive Road Warrior style. I promised I would leave the map at home.
Potentially, might be ...