Part one--CB's Gallery, The Bowery, 1998:
My big brother wants to hear me play. He's so proud
of me and brings a friend to my show. Another friend to another show. They're similarly unsavory characters, each nice to me and I guess good people but all clearly messed up. Mostly my brother. He introduces me as a musical genius (I'm not). Says he taught me my first guitar chords (he did). Says that I excel at everything I do (I don't). Says that even though he's older, I can kick his ass...but that I shouldn't try (I do). Kisses me a lot in front of his friends. I don't know these people. But when we're introduced there's an instant, unspoken bond. Like we're saying "you poor fucking thing…you love him, too". He says bizarre shit and blows all his money on pay-day dope and eating out and showing off and he becomes broke
and broken within a day. That's when he dies again. Dead to our father. Dead to whomever he has befriended or tricks into believing that there can be anything but despair lying ahead in their pairing. Dead to his red Eldorado dreams and to a woman who would make him whole, stitch up his heart and give his devil a chill pill. A woman he hasn't called in twenty years. A woman who was a girl when he was a boy but has since married a man that's not him. But I know he's sensitive and as we have a psychic-brother-bond I feel his pain and I DO love him and I have been an asshole to him many times and so I'm tolerant and thank him for coming although I
really wish he'd leave. I'm nauseous over wondering how he's going to embarrass me this time. I want him to disappear. I sing my songs unable to fully forget that my problem is just yards away....stealing the show....that my single greatest burden is right there. And I will spend my life intervening and trying to keep him out of trouble and I'm exhausted and I'm distracted. Partly because I'm concerned about his welfare. Partly because he's stealing from/mooching off of/destroying my parents. Mostly because he just won't shut the fuck up and I hear him above all the amplified noise I'm making. I close my eyes and imagine an audience of strangers at the Bottom Line and they're listening and they're considerate and they're consuming the musical feast I'm serving and I've checked back into my song. I'm alive and
connecting and exactly where I'm supposed to be. But then I hear the manic call of my name. The over-zealous clapping. The ordering another. That laugh. This is so unprofessional. This is so unacceptable. This is pathetic. This is never gonna end. I'm trapped. I wish he would go to rehab. Or to Florida. Or to jail. Or just die already.
Part two--Lincoln Hospital, South Bronx, 2001: A young African doctor joins Jenn and me in the small waiting room into which we were ushered upon arrival. His voice is shaking and his eyes are wet and he tells me that the reason he could not give me information on the phone was because my brother had suffered an apparent overdose. That although they had tried to resuscitate him on the ambulance ride over, he had died already.