You know why I liked living by myself? Because a closed door and drawn blinds ensured that alone time meant that I would actually be alone. Now, I have to apparently lock my bedroom door.
On a different note, how do you get someone to stop smoking? At this point, I'll tolerate Junior's weed if it means he ditches the Marlboros. In addition to his failure to recognize that no lights and a closed door is the universal roommate sign for don't-come-in-here-or-else-we're-going- to-have-an-awkward-rest-of-the-evening, he's raised my ire tonight by constantly hacking and coughing. Here's the conversation I had just now:
"Are you sick?"
"No, I just had a cigarette."
"Junior, why do you smoke."
"Because there's nothing like having a cigarette when you come home from work."
I should point out that he is highly susceptible to the sort of phrases and ideas that are bandied about as part of a lifestyle conceived by a marketer in order to sell something. Throughout his life, this has ranged from breakfast cereal to toys to Marlboro Lights.
"Do you even want to quit?"
"What have cigarettes ever done for you?"
"KOFF KOFF HACK KOFF KOFF"
And that was the end of the conversation. So it goes. The problem I have is that from time to time when I get hammered, I think that a smoke will go with those 7 or 8 beers just fine. In its temporarily pickled state, my brain gleefully follows the dubious logic that if my exterior smells like a bar, my interior might as well match. And then the next morning, I always think jeez that's the last time I do that, because I totally feel nasty. So in other words, I'm that guy. The guy who rails against smoking but who is ironically a social smoker. So I have a problem effectively yelling at him. The difference is that my tobacco missteps are so occasional that they're hardly worth mentioning beyond barely founding a case for my own hypocrisy. Same with the dope.
But all the same, I wish he'd knock off that goddamn coughing.
One night, I think this was the first or second night after we moved into the new place, I came home from bartending to find him camped out on the balcony getting high. And camped out is barely an exaggeration. He had a chair. And a black light. And a reading light. And his iPod and its speakers. And a towel. And his bong (on a side note, he refers to all of his paraphenia as his "pieces." We used to just call them pipes). And I went through the roof. Why couldn't he just smoke a joint in a chair on the balcony without making it such a big production? Why did I have to come home to find an array of blown glass drying on a towel on the kitchen counter? Why did I have to find a copy of High fucking Times in the bathroom?
In other words, I wanted to know why he couldn't just smoke pot instead of being a stoner.
I explained to him, with the rage of a 1,000 sitcom dads, that it is stupid to see this chunky kid who used to be a D-1 athlete take the time to set all this shit up on a balcony just so he could get baked. He, of course, didn't see what the big deal was, and as I realized immediately, I didn't actually realize what real big deal was either. I didn't catch it until afterI had explained to him, this time with saltwater running down my cheeks, that it was weird and sad for me to see this chunky kid all chinese-eyed and addled, talking about "pieces," and "baba kush," when what I remember when I look at him is the 7 year-old who fell asleep in his Sonic the Hedgehog costume after trickertreating. Or the 3 year-old who thought that the pregnant cat my dad brought home from work would eventually lay eggs. Or the four year-old who fell asleep on my dad's shoulders during the Electrical Parade at Disneyland.
In other words, what I really wanted was for him to be a kid again. And I say this with complete sincerity, unsmirking, without a gram of smarm: my heart broke.
As if that weren't bad enough, I found myself able to empathize with my parents over a whole catalog of hurt feelings. I could now appreciate the anger and disappointment they felt when I came home from my first semester of college, reeking of Keystone light and a 2.4 GPA. I understood the resignation in my dad's voice when I told him, no I'm not going to quit the band. And finally, the defeated sadness in my mom's eyes when I told her I had foregone with saving myself for marriage no longer looked like martyrdom. In these instances, I bristled at all the various manifestations of parental disappointment, because every fuck up seemed to be a matter of how I was reflecting on them, not how I was reflecting on me. At the time, I always thought, fuck, it's my life and my mistakes, and you guys weren't perfect either. I'm pretty sure this is exactly what goes through Junior's head the instant I begin to pontificate.
Once again, I wish I could be a big brother. I feel like I don't know how. More than that, I feel a little lost.
And by a little, I mean a lot.