Love, In Spite Of Death
It was two in the morning when my little brother convinced me to move in with him in Brooklyn. See, I’d been living, rather unsuccessfully, in Boston for the past six years with no life goals and a steady routine of drinking myself into a stupor each night. People were always telling me to move to New York and I would always find a reason to justify my life in Boston.
“I don’t need to move,” I’d said, “I don’t have any job prospects in New York and Boston is so cheap.”
We weren’t even drunk when he asked me.
“Jeremy, get your shit together and live with me.”
“Ok,” I said. “I’ll do it.”
And I did. Within two months, I left everything and everyone I ever knew and loved in the city I was comfortable in and moved to Brooklyn with one month of rent in my bank account and zero ideas of what to do with my life. I was terrified and excited all at once. Within weeks, I found a job, made friends, and became absolute best friends with my brother, Adam. The following 10 months would prove to be the happiest of my entire life as Adam and I grew closer and closer. We’d spend every day together, walking from Brooklyn to the city, exploring, trying new food, and enjoying each other’s company. I’d knock on his door every morning to make sure he wasn’t too hung over, occasionally with an extra breakfast sandwich from McDonald’s in my hand, and we’d talk about life, girls, and what to eat for dinner.
Then he died. Completely unexpectedly and suddenly of a rare tumor in his coronary artery. His death was instantaneous and painless and there was nothing to be done when I found him. The time after his death was a complete haze. I drank every day for thirty days straight and cried at the drop of a hat. I not only mourned his adventurous and warm personality, but the person I was around him as well. He was, and will remain, the only person I could be completely myself around. Adam and I transcended the bond from brothers to best friends. The thing we talked about most, though, was girls. Throughout our time in Brooklyn, we got ourself into some damn complicated predicaments with damn complicated girls. The main predicament was Jackie and Sheena. Jackie was the object of his affection, and Sheena was mine. We were in the same boat, where the feelings we held for these girls were far stronger than the feelings they held for us. Adam and I would be on our couch, writhing in mental anguish over these girls who wouldn’t text us back.
“God damn it,” he would say, “I texted her four fucking hours ago. What the fuck?”
“Bro…” I would trail off, “she’ll text you back.”
The funny thing was, whenever things were going well with Sheena, Adam would be miserable with Jackie — and then the situation would flip-flop. Throughout the entire ordeal, we always had each other’s back. See, Adam always was the type of person who doled out the gritty truth, whether you wanted to hear it or not. He was optimistic, passionate, and a goddamn straight-shooter. At the same time, he was a hopeless romantic with a truly caring heart. He gave off the impression of being a tough guy, but would smile as he talked about how he had finally found “the one.” Of course, he had found several “ones” in his lifetime, and I don’t doubt for a second that he believed every girl he met could be the love of his life. Meanwhile, whenever I was feeling sad, he’d give me the toughest bout of tough love possible:
“Jeremy, this girl’s making you feel like shit. So just dip out and find someone else — it’s not like you don’t get girls. Don’t be a bitch.” I’d laugh, throw my phone on my bed, and we’d spend the night eating greasy food and watching TV. The months with Adam and his relentless advice, followed by his experiences with women changed my perspective on dating completely. The answer was always shockingly obvious, it was always just covered in red tape. Adam’s way of life was: if she makes you happy, go for it — if she doesn’t, bail.
So that’s how it was for a very long time; I’d bring someone new home, give them the short tour, then have them meet my brother. To her, it was a harmless hangout, but to us it was an excruciating mental obstacle course to see if she could prove to be an adequate lover for me and a suitable friend for Adam. We were a package deal.
Whenever I think of Adam’s death, I think about the week he spent before it happened. He had met a girl who made him feel different. His smile radiated whenever he talked about her and she seemed to get him. They ate wings together, talked for all hours of the night, and generally enjoyed each other’s company. One of the last text messages I received from him was about her.
“I like this girl so much. Seriously, come meet up with us.” I was completely exhausted from a 10-hour shift at work and all I wanted to do was go home and sleep, but I knew this girl was important, so I trucked out all the way uptown and met her. I remember I was walking with my friend and I saw Adam on a bench with his arm wrapped around someone.
“Huh. That’s funny. I’ve never seen a girl in his arms before.” It turns out she was special, she was the one. We walked around for hours and I did most of the talking — every once in a while, I’d glance over at Adam and his beaming smile. The kid had done it, he was finally in love. Within an hour of meeting her, I approved.
My little brother’s last few hours were spent with the girl of his dreams. The moment she burst into my room and said the words I had always dreaded to hear, “Jeremy, Adam won’t wake up…” I felt a sense of comfort. Even as my world fell apart in front of me, as paramedics and cops swarmed my room, as I called my parents to tell them their son had died, as I packed up my little brother’s clothing to never be worn again, I felt comfort. He had died achieving everything we always talked about: finding that person in the world who is your other half. Now, months later, the pain is subsiding and my tears will turn into laughter as my mind settles on some of the more ridiculous aspects of my brother: how he would call sandwiches “sammies” or “Arnold J. Samsonites,” how he would always be naked around the apartment, how he would get dressed to go out and ask “hat or no hat?” and, no matter what I said, always leave with a hat on, and the face he would make when he asked me if he had anything in his teeth. He will always be a part of my life and every single woman who comes into my life will always go through the Adam test. I’ll forever ask myself what Adam would have asked me: does she make you happy or not?
There’s something about a brotherly bond that most people don’t understand. Perhaps it’s scientific and just happens to be because we are genetically the most similar to each other, but perhaps it’s something else. Sometimes brothers move past the brother phase and become best friends. I’ll always attribute it to us being kindred spirits, whatever it was, we just got each other. I loved the kid with all my heart and will always take his subtle lessons with me wherever it is I end up going. Most importantly, his death will never haunt me — it’ll always be a reminder that some people will find what they’re looking for.
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