I have a brother who died before he reached his first birthday. I think I ran into him at the airport. I’m waiting this one afternoon for a flight at DFW that keeps getting delayed every hour. I sit and put on my earbuds and listen to a random selection of Electronica, Jazz and shit. There’s a point where the tunes in your head synchronize with eye focus and everything drops into a general blur. I zone out like that for a minute when I see him sitting across from me. My brother. I know it’s him because he looks like me, only a year younger. Less grey in his hair, fewer wrinkles around the mouth. Sleepy self-assured eyes. A face that don’t give a shit. I never really liked the phrase “comfortable in his skin” because I’ve never been comfortable in mine. But he is, the way he sits, the way his work boots sprawl toward me. I have my sunglasses on, which is how I size him up without him knowing.
I notice a silver cross around his neck, the kind that is both tribal and religious. There are four or five tiny black tats on his hands, and though I can’t see it under his clothes, I suspect he wears the Guadalupe Virgin over his heart. I can tell by the gentle curl of his lips that they’re more accustomed to speaking Spanish than English. He has his own invisible music playing in his head and judging by the cadence in his nod, I guess it’s the boleros of my Mom’s old records. He is all the Mexican I have tried to be but can’t.
Then in that languorous haze I see into his heavy-lidded eyes and his essential nature lays itself bare. I’m a Sunday man, he says inside, I kneel when the Father says to. I love my women, I sin against them and never apologize for it, except by loving them more. I know all the ways of loneliness, and all the ways to avoid it. I’m a nightbird, my eyes attuned to the nuances of darkness, and it’s in that place I hide my saddest dreams, my delirious vices. Pain is grace. I don’t know how not to do something, only that not doing it brings more regret than I can bear. Trouble’s bitten me so many times, it’s left black marks on my hands, marks that commemorate loss and love and maybe an unborn child or two. I’ve seen death more than most, so count on me to be present at your last breath. That’s how our blood must have it. I am lived-in, a lived-in man. Your brother.
He cuts me a single glance that lasts as long as it takes to say his name, and his look says, ‘cause I’m dead, I got permission to fuck my life up and still outlive you. A woman’s voice says something over the intercom and he gets up and walks to his gate. And I get up and walk to mine.
copyright 2015 Octavio Solis
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