"what would you like to drink?" asked a young red haired waitress in a brightly colored neon blue apron. Me my mother, uncle, other uncle, aunt and a few other family member who were are too distant for me to properly name, were all huddled around a large metal table in a crowded diner. The seats cushions were sparkly and plastic, the waitress wore bright red roller skates, the silver wear was misshaped and large and at each table stood a small juke box.
“can i get a milkshake?” i asked hesitantly awaiting my mothers disapproval but not today. Today was a day of celebration, of joy and teary eyes. Waves of excitement and anticipation could be felt and not just at our family table. For it seemed that the entire room was just as thrilled as us for this momentous day. The impulse for some one next to our table to stand up on there table and scream, “Yes” at the top of there lungs would have seemed completely ordinary.
Around the table the faces of my family were of an odd mixture of gleeful and anxious anticipation. Were Were all Waiting for Derrick to arrive and to fill the vacant seat at our table. Derrick, my brother, my idol and hero. He Appeared to my nine year old self like a superhero. He had protected me from “meanies” and taught me how to fit in school. He had many of times given me support and advice when no others would. He was a shining beacon of everything that is good.
The last time i saw him he had long blond hair that rested just atop his shoulders. It was divided in small bands by the occasional bead or knot placed randomly through out his hair. He had been wearing a tye dye shirt that was much to long for him and covered in many dirt spots. His blue jeans were also covered in the same muddy grime that had been rubbed on permanently from the numerous trips he made into the woods. We were both in the public playground on our block, he had looked happy in memory and i was screaming at the top of my lungs as he pushed me on the merry go round.
He was seventeen and i was five. He had brought me to the park this weekend rather then going out with his friends, which wasn’t a rare occurrence but it was exiting all the same.
He stopped the merry go round and looked at me sternly. His blue eyes looked at me with such sincerity that i felt almost frightened. Was he angry? had i done something wrong? Was i in some sort of trouble? Was he in some sort of trouble?
“listen bro, i just wanna let you know some thin” He began, his lips dry and his gaze fixed on me as though i were the only person in the park, in the world.
“pretty soon I’m not gonna always be here, ya know. I’m gonna be movin’ away-“
“where?” i asked.
“Pretty far, so far that I’m probably not gonna be able to see you for along time-”
“I don want you to leave big bro” i Exclaimed to him.
“listen i-” his words stuttered and out of his eyes came tears which he quickly wiped away. ” I know this is gonna be tough but you got to be strong lil bro, you got to be strong for me and for your mom. Can you do that?”
I thought for a long moment, looking at my brothers reddened cheeks and answered wearily. “yea i guess”
“ok good. and lil bro” i looked up at his tall figure, his head slightly covering the brightness of the sun. ” i really love you and want you to know that.”
The front door at the entrance of the diner opened to reveal the person which we were all hoping to see. It was Derrick. He was fitted in a large grayish brown coat that matched his pants in pattern and these were tucked into tall black boots that seemed tight enough to suffocate his leg. His hair had been completely buzzed off. His face was gaunt and his eyes seemed to recess deep into his skull. Apart from that he had a giant scar that began at his shoulders and went to the top what used to his ear.
I looked at him now differently, almost in fear. Had i changed or had he changed? He seemed to me like a completely different person. Utterly alien to the brother i had known so many years before. derrick barely spoke and when he did it was with short blunt words. His temper would rise quickly and often. And his eyes, his eyes seemed almost dead, floating in empty space. He could look directly at you but his eyes seemed to staring into a different world. I could no longer look into his eyes and see the superhero i had once seen so many years before.
The brother i had once admired and thought to be the pinnacle of goodness in the world had been pulled down to the dark gutters of earth with no hope of return and i was alone.