Background: My younger brother was in a car accident a couple of weeks ago. He’s fine now; good as new. I was really terrified when it was happening, though, and I didn’t know what exactly to do with myself so I made this.
Pardon the recurrence of vomit. I can’t really explain that.
I was shooting the shit at a cheap Mexican food place with K and D. You were in one piece but a little shaken up. J had been driving you; he was unhurt but a little shaken up. On a scale of 1 to 10, they asked you, how bad does it hurt? You must have been asked the same question by thirteen different scrubs, you said. It was laughable. You laughed 6.5 every time. You should have just sharpied it onto your forehead, I told you, laughing.
Sometimes things happen as unexpectedly as free guacamole or a front bumper stuck too far out into traffic. But these are the collisions you learn to deal with.
It was the other lady’s fault, her insurance covered everything. Cops came. Dad came. He took you to the ER, where they told you the impact from the airbag had scratched your cornea and that it would take just under a week for the swelling in your eye to go down. J went back to his house and called me. I left two of my five rolled tacos uneaten, drove to Dad’s, and waited for you to get home. He brought you to your bed; I cleared a space to lie down on your floor and listened to you talk about your transcendently hot ER nurse until we both fell asleep. She was the one question that night you couldn’t answer with 6.5. We laughed about it.
My head in the toilet bowl, I heard your 6.5 become 7.7 become 8.9 and keep growing from there. Dad grabbed you from your room and carried your quivering body towards the garage. Between spurts of vomit I shouted confused pleas to come with you two. Dad didn’t have time to say no before he was gone. He drove you, shrieking, back to the ER and I kept barfing. The heaving eventually stopped; I wiped stomach acid from the corners of my lips and stumbled back to your room. There were three couches and two empty beds in Dad’s house. I lied down and slept among the disembodied computer parts, Sherlock Holmes books, and binders of Pokémon cards strewn across your floor.
Nothing happens as unexpectedly as the repercussions of the first unexpected thing: the guacamole reemerges, the unspilled blood from the car accident clots in the lateral orbitofrontal cortex, you are suddenly asked to speak publicly about something you will never understand. The next morning I woke up with Dad sitting next to me. He explained everything very softly, his huge hand running through my hair every now and then.
I had never heard of that part of the brain before.
Three empty beds, now, and a piece of paper with a letter where tomorrow’s eulogy should be.