Perhaps I’ve waited too long to write this. It’s an understatement to say that things have been strained between us for the past few years, and I have only myself to blame for letting my issues go unspoken for as long as I have. And perhaps it is too late to make amends, but I’ll try anyway, if only to keep the family from falling apart completely.
It’s no secret that Dad’s death hit me harder than it hit you. I know that you resented him, his modesty and sternness, his Old World work ethic, and how these attributes impacted our youths. I know that he was hard on you. Overbearing. I know that he pushed you in directions that you didn’t want to move in, that he railed against your desire for something bigger. You were, if I remember, “too big for your overalls,” and “too much of a dreamer,” but can’t you see, brother, how highly he regarded you, despite everything? You were smart. Talented. And though you resented his limited world view, and his blue collar trade, you took to the work like a squid takes to water. And I toiled quietly in your shadow, the second son, who would never be half the plumber that his older brother was. It was no surprise to anyone in the family that- although I’d expressed interest- he chose you over me to carry on the family business. It didn’t matter that I loved him, loved the trade. He never even saw me.
You swore to Mom through gritted teeth that you’d honor his memory by keeping the business alive. But how did you repay Dad’s faith in you? By erasing his name before his body was in the ground. “Antonio Mario and Sons” was his legacy. How do you think he would feel, should he decide to come back and walk the earth, to look upon that shiny new sign above the shop, devoid of his name?
“Why? After all I sacrificed? Why would they so quickly erase me?”
You were a tyrant in those first months after his funeral. And I know why. In your mind, you’d failed. You’d been saddled by a common man’s low-rent dream, and you struggled and thrashed beneath the weight of it. And having no outlet for your rage, you turned it on me. And do you know? I’d have accepted that for the rest of my life if it meant that I could continue working the trade beside you. I know it’s hard to believe, but I looked up to you. I really did. I’d have followed you into Hell.
And I did. You dragged me right down the drain with you.
I’m going to say it: I fucking hate this place. It’s goddamned ridiculous. I’ll admit that when we first showed up, I was completely blown away by the possibilities. Mama mia, I’d thought, just look at all of the pipes here! We’ll be rich! We can grow the business! Maybe we can start franchises! But I learned quickly how perilous it was here, how absolutely lawless. How even the turtles here – even the turtles, brother – were complete sociopaths. Everywhere you turned, another plant, or mushroom, or… spiky roly-poly, meant us harm. How men walked the streets, hurling hammers as if were a completely natural thing to do. I mean, yeah, back in Brooklyn there were always rivalries between the carpenters and the plumbers, but do you remember how we solved our differences? We started bowling leagues. We didn’t try to bludgeon each other to death. We’d all end up dead or in prison! That’s why there are laws!
Oh, and speaking of, the government here is a complete sham. How can the princess ever hope to govern her people if she’s always getting kidnapped? She should be in her throne room, writing and administering the laws of the land. But I’m sorry, Mario, she’s always- always– in another castle. And why? Because the army is so incompetent? I don’t think so. Have you even met Toad? He’s a stone-cold killer. He’s fast, and sharp, and entirely devoted to her. He’d never let her disappear. Unless she wanted to.
You know what I think? I think she likes getting kidnapped. And I think she gets off on being saved all the time. She gets off on you coming after her, with your rugged good looks and your swagger and your exotic accent (where did you even get that, anyway? We’re from Bensonhurst, for God’s sake!) I’m not the only one who thinks that, either: I overheard some of the courtiers at the palace whispering about how they suspect that she’s even in cahoots with Bowser. That she leaves the patio door unlocked at night so that he can slip in and carry her off without having to go through the Mushroom Guard. I swear, Mario, they’ve got a thing going. He kidnaps her, and you show up and beat the shit out of him in front of her, and ride off into the sunset on your “mighty steed,” only to go through the same rigamarole a week later. He knows you’re coming, too, every single time. Why would he keep it up if he knew that he was only going to be pummeled and humiliated every single time? Because he likes it. Because he’s into cuckholding. Don’t act stupid, you know what I’m talking about. I’ve seen the porn you watch.
So he gets his humiliation, and she gets her white knight fantasy, and you… you get to be the toast of the Mushroom Kingdom, giving the middle finger to your weird-ass Daddy issues. And I get to live in your shadows, a joke, an afterthought.
Well, no more. I’m packing up. I’m going back to 86th Street, and I’m taking over the shop. I’m going to honor Dad’s memory, because he was a good man. Too good for a son like you. There’s no dishonor in honest work. There’s no shame in wanting a quiet, simple life. Maybe one day, I’ll meet a princess who loves me. And we’ll build a little kingdom of our own, in Bay Ridge, or Dyker Heights. And we will be humble, and we will be content.
Farewell, brother. Keep chasing your stars, and remember that I wish you nothing but happiness, in whatever form that takes for you. I dearly hope that our paths will one day cross again.