Let me get this straight. The idea is, Lord willing and the creek don't rise etc., that I will one day be having proper adult conversations with this guy, having known him since the time he could sit on just my one knee and bewitch me into slurring nonsense words into his neck folds? What a trip it must be growing older, old. No wonder adults are always announcing to other people's children their size upon last meeting. That we are all casually transforming, decaying; how to ever really get over that?
Nick's brother, Mike, and my brother, Dan, both live in the D.C. area now. Though we were in town mainly to hoist the baby around, I was happy to be able to enjoy brunch with Dan not once, but twice during our long weekend visit.
I am annoyingly skeptical of the institution of going out to brunch mostly because I would rather be barefoot in my robe on a late weekend morning, lazily making a hash of whatever we have lying around, or making pancakes from a box, the first few still goo in the center, the last few mostly carbon, and listening to NPR. Also I am shit at day-drinking, a staple of the languid brunch out, usually it finds me folded into a sweaty couch nap, my afternoon erased.
But brunch out is what's done with the young and the urban and I don't think there's much to accomplish by refusing it on principle. Nick always orders something sickly sweet and I declare it the Road to 'Betes or a Nap on a Plate and then I end up eating half of it after I demolish whatever healthy thing I ordered. On Monday, I even had two overpriced mimosas and was able to spend the afternoon being a person on two legs. I think the bracing November chill and the half hour walk home in the sunshine sobered me right up.
My brother and I might seem at odds - he's an engineer for the military, he gets emotional about college football, he may have voted for Bush in '04. But when he rolled up to the breakfast place with his hair a few days unwashed, still shimmering with the thrill of having barely made a Metro transfer, I felt like his twin. Later as we walked in comfortable silence around Eastern Market, he clasped his hands together suddenly and remarked that he just decided he would spend his evening watching Key & Peele clips on YouTube and the prospect pleased him and that was all and then silence resumed. Nick laughed and looked at me like, he is you you are him.
Mark, the baby, is so beautiful it seemed wrong to hold him too close lest he absorb my mortal failings through his perfect skin. And yet I, and Nick, and everyone, needed to hold him as much as we can. When he is not squalling with red-faced rage, he can manage a gassy half-smile, and obviously preferred Nick to just about anyone else. I did not take this personally because it was too exciting to hold him up, Simba-style, wait for his eyes to find Nick, then watch as he cracked a sly grin in my husband's direction.
I predict that Mark and Nick and Mike will share the thieves' cant that Nick and his brother have always shared, despite their personalities being the sun and the moon. And I suspect I may always be an outsider among them, but I think Mark might need me for that. One day his dad and uncle will be dominating the room with one of their high-energy, reductive polemics and Mark will shoot me a look like, are these people for real? And I will shrug from where I'm sitting like, right?
At the end of it all we drove home, through Maryland and West Virginia and Pennsylvania in the rain, without our brothers or sister-in-law or the baby whose face I've set as my phone's background, not necessarily as a statement or tribute, but because it was taking me too many swipes to find it and I needed to look at it at least once per hour.
We were back to our tribe of two, small but exquisitely at ease. In the places where the FM tuner scrolled frantically through the entire dial without finding a signal, like a demonic possession, Nick had me read to him articles that I had saved on my phone for later.
And he got to hear about Haiyan, about whooping cough, about Benghazi, and I got to hear my own voice filling our car as it sped through rural blackness.