Oh Brother, where art the tuna fish
Obviously I still haven’t finished the cleanup of my entire home yet, because if I had, there would have been a miraculous, life changing post written a long time ago. I would have realized the impossible possibility of living and moving in a space meticulously planned.
Not so much.
I still come home from work and immediately feel a sense of panic as I come in the back door and look at the kitchen. Now, granted I haven’t followed the organizing book, The Magic of Tidying Up, to the letter, but I figured it would still be better than this.
My laundry still doesn’t fold itself, nor has my kitchen cleaned itself from the breakfast mess I made from the morning. The garbage still smells even though I use those deodorizing bags with febreze built into the plastic.
You’re nothing but a big fat bag of LIES Glad kitchen bags. I can still totally smell the moldy asparagus in the bottom of the garbage bin despite your efforts.
Even though I’ve officially gone through the closet, there are still odds and ends that are scattered around. I have no idea of where I should place these items, items such as random notebooks with notes from college, a laminating machine left by an old roommate and keys to missing padlocks from years ago.
Right now at this very moment in my room, sits a pair of black boots.
At first, these boots perplexed me. They were too big to be mine, but too small to be Jackson’s. Eventually, I realized they were my little brother, Ricardo’s boots.
Ricardo, or Ricky as he goes by now, lived in my house for a couple weeks. Myself and Jackson were both deployed through the Army overseas and needed a house sitter while we were gone. What better option than a younger sibling right?
I determined the boots were his. I sat on my bead and thought what I should do with them since they obviously couldn’t stay in my closet. Ricardo now lives in California, working in aviation as a Marine.
Oh your brother works in finance?…well mine fixes fucking JETS!!!!
I held the boots and memories rushed back to me.
Out of four siblings, Ricardo was my only “whole brother,” conceived from both my mother and father. I think this allowed me to despise him twice as much growing up.
Ricardo forged his path into adulthood in his playroom at our house, just off of the living room. He played with dinosaurs and Spider Man figurines, all in his own little world.
He also earnestly believed he was the Green Power Ranger as he molested my Jasmine barbie doll in his miniature fold-up couch.
I hate to admit it, but I’m the reason he gave up playing Pokemon when he was little. I told him, once he got into middle school, the older kids would kick his ass if they knew he played with them. Little did I know, nerd culture would be cool these days.
How that kid survived childhood, I’m not entirely sure. We had to share the same bedroom upstairs at night and I am still baffled I didn’t smother him in his sleep.
Often times, I’d get out of bed, look at him, snoring away, and I’d pinch his nose to make him breathe through his mouth. I’d then shove him on his side, to help him breathe a little bit better of course.
The snoring was nothing though. At about 5 years old, he developed the habit of making a noise with his mouth I’m sure all little boys made. This noise though, gave me brain aneurysms.
“PPPPSSSHH”, he trolled through his lips and teeth, “PIIISH, PIIISH, PSH, BIFFSSHH, PEW, PEW.” His cheeks puffed out with air permanently as he sucked and spewed wind.
So help me Lord though, I’m positive none of the other little boys in the entire universe, were as well versed in the “PuhfiSHing” sounds as he was. It never stopped. I’m not being facetious here. It carried on for years.
Sometimes you didn’t even know he was doing it. You just kind of felt this irrational rage that something was happening to you, that you didn’t enjoy, but you couldn’t figure it out what it was.
In the background you’d hear it and look around to see what unfathomable demon was tormenting you from the inside out. I’d look corner to corner of the room until I’d settle my eyes on him and watch him crashing transformers into each other, hearing that PSSHH, psh, PSSSSSSSSSSSSHHHHHH, PCHSSSSS coming out of his little dumb lips.
I couldn’t take it.
“Goddamn it Retardo, STOP FUCKING MAKING THAT FUCKING NOISE,” I screamed. “Shut up and turn that fucking Godzilla movie down for fuck’s sake”, I pleaded. “I’m trying to watch Buffy the Vampire Slayer and you’re ruining the whole fucking thing.”
I realize what a horrible word that is now, (retardo), and would never use it today, but at the time I was a little dumbass myself.
I had to mentally convince myself not to strangle my brother on a daily basis. The noise he made was worse than water boarding. I’m telling you, put that little shit into a room for about 24 hours with top Taliban leaders and those jihadists would tell you where all the bombs were hidden.
I yelled at him to shut up again and he looked at me all Children of the Corny and said,
“Don’t call me that.”
“Or what?” I said.
He looked down and began to play again with a dump truck. He then said, “You need to shut up, fatty with no friends mcfatty.”
“What did you just say to me you little turd,” I asked.
“My name’s Ricky now, I want to be called Ricky, not Ricardo or Retardo, it’s Ricky.”
“No, not about your name,” I said. “I’m talking about that other thing you said.”
I muted the TV, scooted off the edge of the maroon loveseat and prepared for mortal combat.
He didn’t even look up and said, “Well, what I’m saying is, you don’t have any friends because you’re fat…and ugly, now leave me alone….PSSSHH, PSHch,” he said.
I let the statement sink in.
“I hate you so much Ricky,” I said.
He then chucked the yellow truck at my face. Toy farm equipment in those days were made out of real metal and weighed no less than 10 pounds.
I held my nose and determined there was no blood as of yet coming out and with the speed of a vampire from True Blood, I lunged at my little brother.
For some reason, as a teenager, I STILL hadn’t quite developed the skills to ball my hands into fists yet, so I mostly slapped at the flat surfaces of his body and pummeled the ever living shit out of him. He then grabbed onto my hair. My glasses flew off of my face as we rolled around in his playroom. I heard ripping sounds of my shirt threads bursting, as he pulled on my shirt collar. He soon became slippery from my frothy saliva spewing all over him.
I watched brown hair swirl through the air, having been pulled from someone’s scalp, maybe mine, maybe his.
“I’m getting the tuna fish!” I screamed in between biting and hitting him.
“Go, go Power Rangers!” he yelled as I pinched him as hard as I could.
Now, I digress from my story, but fish isn’t usually a fear trigger for most people, but Ricky is deathly allergic to it. The kind of allergic, where he had to carry an epipen with him everywhere he went in case some fish accidently touched a potato chip he ate at some restaurant.
We rolled into the living room and grappled for a few more seconds and then separated.
I crouched in front of him panting, and said, “I’m going to get the tuna fish, and shove it down your fucking throat, then your throat will swell shut and you won’t be able to breathe, and then you’ll die and you’ll go to hell because you haven’t been baptized, you asshole.” I pushed him out of my path and ran towards the kitchen.
I ripped open the refrigerator door, searching the shelves for the tuna fish cans; in oil, not water, because fuck water, that stuff is nasty.
“No, no, no,” Ricky begged, trailing after me.
Well of course I wasn’t going to kill him. And he certainly wouldn’t go to hell just because he hadn’t been baptized. If anything, he’d just go to baby purgatory, in limbo with no body, just a tiny baby head floating around in white space because duh we were Catholics.
Ricky came into the kitchen, eyes glossed over with tears. I had the tuna in my hand, my eyes turned toward the electric can opener.
I’m not really sure why, but suddenly I felt immensely ashamed of what I had done.
Maybe it was when his bottom lip quivered and he stood there shaking. I remembered taking his little hand when he was a toddler and leading him down stairs to give him his breathing machine and inhalers. He was kind of a sickly little kid with asthma. At one point, the doctors did tell us he was going to have to go to special ed. Also, never trust doctors.
I thought of that sick little body coughing through his treatments and I rushed towards him, not to hit him again, but to hug him.
We both sobbed our I’m sorries, and sniffled back into the living room, silent.
I finished the praying mantis/substitute teacher episode of Buffy, and he watched Godzilla fight some stupid looking moth monster.
A handful of years later, present day, I look at the boots he left in my closet and shake my head at the memory of assaulting an 8-year-old boy.
I then think of the last day Ricky spent here in Fort Wayne a few months ago. He is now a United States Marine and lives in California usually, but he came to visit recently. I was able to spend about two days with him.
In that time, I was able to see him in a different light than that of a shithead brother, seven years my junior.
Ricky was now a father.
Unfortunately, Ricky’s wife Miranda, his stepson Braxton, and son, Alexander, would be living in Illinois for the next couple years. Ricky would have to go back to live in California to finish up his enlistment. Illinois was a lot cheaper and Miranda could go to school easier in Illinois. She had just gotten out of the Marine Corps.
The night before Ricky left for California, he held Alexander in his arms.
“Why don’t you put him in his playpen, he’s asleep” said Miranda.
“No, I want to hold him,” said Ricky.
He walked around mom’s living room, rocking the baby, smelling his skin, remembering him just as he was then, small and quiet. He would be much bigger the next time he would be able to see him.
I won’t see Ricky for another couple years. The next time he is due to come visit, I most likely won’t be in Indiana. I have training for the Army that I can’t miss.
When I look at his boots he left behind, I sit on my bed and it’s too easy to brush aside thoughts of our scuffles and mean words as kids, in favor of the picture I will hold nearer and dearer to my heart until we meet again.
My gregarious Ricky, little Rudy, as I like to think of him, no longer tugs on my every nerve. In his smile, you can see his family he has built, taking up the whole of his life.
Even though my book says I need to get rid of things, the boots are staying until I can give them back to him.
One thing I can do though, I will make sure to eat all the tuna fish in the house before he comes to visit again.