random quarter: my kabuki

February 1, 2012

one. kabuki is my older brother's nickname. he got it in high school. i don't remember how.

two. he was born on october twelfth in the year nineteen sixty-eight, four and a half years before me.

three. he died on march twelfth in the year two thousand three.

four. he was older than me for thirty-four years. now i am older than he. forever.

five. in high school, on the nights he would go out with his friends, before he left, he would stand in front of the mirror in the foyer, marvel at his reflection, grin his cockeyed grin and exclaim, "i am a goddamned good-looking man." this habit of grand self-reflection continued on through college and adulthood. while at a&m, his corps unit commander found this habit incredibly amusing. as did i, even though i'd roll my eyes and bitch about his stupidity.

six. the reason two of my friends became involved with each other is because my brother had dared the boy to go over to the girl and smack her on the ass. the boy, who is actually quite shy when it comes to stuff like this, was just drunk enough that he could do it. and when the girl turned, her hand raised to slap his face, she stopped short because it'd registered that he was pretty cute and she'd better not slap him. and they dated for what seemed like a decade. and then they got married. and now they have two of the cutest kids i've ever seen. not the cutest, of course. those would be my other brother's children. but close enough.

seven. i used to hate when he would come and stay at the house when my parents were out of town, because all he did while there was get drunk and trash the place, and i'd be the one doing the cleaning up. it never occurred to me that he was there because he was trying to be the good big brother, knowing his baby sister didn't like being home alone. i'd always thought he'd just wanted a house of his own rather than an apartment and that he wanted to take advantage of my folks and their place while they were away. i'm well aware it could still be the latter there. but i like thinking that he was trying to do the right thing.

eight. the reason i can't be sure if it's that right thing bit is because he had this incredibly uncanny knack for showing up within an hour after their departure and vacating the premises within an hour of their arrival.

nine. he could befriend anyone in a matter of seconds. literally. anyone. he could be standing in line at mcdonald's talking to the guy in line behind him, and they'd be acting like they'd known each other for years by the time they'd placed their orders.

ten. he used to wish i was more like his friend's younger sister and less like me.

eleven. the best memory i have of him isn't a good one at all, really. he'd been in houston, on a binge. my mother'd become quite certain that he wouldn't be home for christmas. my father was in his office, working. my mother was in the kitchen, getting breakfast ready. i was taking turns keeping them company. and my brother shows up on the doorstep at around eight a.m. i'd never seen him look so fragile, as though it hurt him to breathe. and all the years of my being angry with him, all the hatred i'd felt for him got shoved out of the way, because all i could think was my bubby's hurt. it didn't matter that he'd done it to himself. he hurt. he looked broken. and for the first time in a very long time, i'd wanted to make it better.

twelve. the worst? the night he passed out in the upstairs bathroom my brothers and i shared, in the bathtub with the water still running. he'd flooded the house. i yelled at him. he laughed at me. it was like looking at the devil.

thirteen. he was almost always the last person to get the christmas shopping done. when we'd spend christmas in colorado, on christmas eve, he'd come back to the cabin from skiing at two or three that afternoon to shower and change, then he'd go back to aspen to shop. we were never allowed to go with him. he would always, always have the best presents for us.

fourteen. he had the best laugh. it's hard for me to recall it now in perfect clarity, but it was like his whole body, every feature on his face laughed with him.

fifteen. he also had a very short supply of patience. he could not tolerate stupidity in others.

sixteen. he was bigoted. sometimes i had a bit of trouble stomaching how opinionated he could be.

seventeen. he gave me a bottle of ralph lauren's romance for women for christmas. i can't remember if it was the winter before he died or the year before that. once in a while, i'll think i should change that fragrance, and i do. but i always come back to it.

eighteen. he hated how crass i can be. i embarrassed him often because my mouth is so vulgar.

nineteen. he helped my mother wash my mouth out one day. she'd threatened to do it when she got off the phone. he didn't see a point in waiting, so he dragged me over to the sink, yanked my head back and downed what seemed to be half a bottled of dawn in my mouth. i could not stop foaming. so gross. and it didn't do a damned bit of good. obviously.

twenty. he was the easiest person to shop for.

twenty-one. he had AMAZINGLY BAD tastes in music. some of it so pathetic that no record station around in a thousand mile radius would take it back. so i'm stuck with bon jovi, two live crew, eazy-e, taylor dane and whitesnake.

twenty-two. he could not sing. could not carry a note. the man was tone deaf. oh, but he'd try. and he knew he sucked, so he'd just grin at you, come stand right next to you and serenade you right there. and if it was me who was receiving the serenade, there were a lot of kidney shots being snuck in there. my shots. his kidneys.

twenty-three. he was spoiled and lazy and stuck on things having to be just so.

twenty-four. he'd owned a motorycle for all of three days. my parents found out and made him sell it immediately.

twenty-five. in one of those blissful moments where mama's three children aren't tearing into each other, we decided we were going to create a castle made of cups, one that spanned the breadth of the den and reached to the height of its ceiling. kabuki was in college. i was in high school. my other brother was in an intermediate grade. we gathered around in my mother's living room, full of so many things from her mother's. so many things we needed to be mindful of. so many cups. that's what we were mindful of. how many would it take to get to the top and how wide could we get it.and then when we'd finished, the best part, the thing that made it all worthwhile, flicking on the fan and watching the blades send the cups flying.

and there. there's my brother. marvelous, seemingly formiddable. engaging and inspiring and eager to fly.

this (rq post) was a (two-timing) matlock project. learn about that here.


  1. Wow, a lot of different experiences with your brother, but I guess you don't wanna say that you miss him?

  2. You made me cry. But that's o.k. because it was a good cry. Now that my tears have dried, I am at a loss for words, except for these two: Moving post.

  3. wow ... just wow ... I too am at a loss for words ... and this truly was a very moving post

  4. Great post. It made me want to know more about both of you!

  5. What an amazing post! I love getting to read more about your family!

  6. Wow they are inspiring words....See you.

  7. No matter what why or how, he was too young to leave. I am so sorry for your loss. I'll bet he knows how you feel and somewhere he's grinning and patting himself on the back for being such a good looking guy!

  8. A wonderful tribute to your brother! I'm sure he is watching over you.

  9. An honest yet loving tribute to your brother. I love the word Kabuki:-)

  10. Awesome post- thank you for letting us in on such a personal aspect of your life. He sounded like a really interesting and complex guy.

  11. Crying here. He is surely on your mind and in your heart right it an anniversary of sadness for you?

    Or just an anniversary of loss of someone so incredibly large in your life?

    This was a touching, tender and honest post.

    And I can't imagine how painful it must have been to write this at all.

    Sending you a hug and a tear in memory of complex and fascinating man.