Thursday, March 16, 2006

The wind and the baby

New England winds can be harsh.

Sometimes, I mute the TV and listen to it, building from a low rumble, then unleashing its power like a speeding 18-wheeler, and my house creaks and groans in protest. It blows empty recycle bins hundreds of yards down the street, and rips away roofing tiles. Even when I'm driving at 60 MPH, it nudges my car east or west with its angry strength, and I wonder where its fury comes from.

Wednesday, March 1, 2006, 6:04pm
Steve's house

"We're having a baby," Chris shouts over the phone. "I'm gonna be a dad!"

I admire my older brother. Not because he cheated on his wife--though I wouldn't have minded nailing Amanda myself-- but because he confessed to Janet. He told her everything, even though he thought she would leave him. He couldn't live with the secret.

Janet forgave him, even took the blame. "I must have been such a failure as a wife," she said. You probably think that she let him off easy, but she didn't. She knows that Chris is a good man, that he would never do something like that unless he was tortured out of his mind.

So they went to therapy, and Janet was diagnosed with depression. She went on Prozac, and they had sex again. First it was bad sex, quick and tearful, as she learned to trust him again. Then it got hotter, and nastier, and pretty soon they were huddled off in a corner at every family function, her sitting on his lap, whispering in his ear, oblivious to all other conversation in the room.

The wind and the baby make my mind wander.

It was 1982, I think, and my brother Greg was about 8. We had a storm door that didn't close all the way unless you pulled it tight, and mom was always badgering us to make sure it was closed. "Slam that door," she'd yell.

It was a windy winter day, and mom had opened the front door to let the sun in. One of Greg's friends rode by on his bike. "Bob. Bob," he shouted, bursting through the storm door and rushing out to meet him.

He didn't push the door tight, and a gust of wind grabbed it, flinging it wide open with its cold, raw energy, easily snapping the flimsy chain that held it in place. The door smashed into the porch light, which cracked into pieces and fell to the bark mulch below.

Mom reacted instantly, sprinting out the door, grabbing Greg by the arm and dragging him back into the house.

Greg always tells me that I overreacted when it came to mom. He said she wasn't that bad. He wasn't saying it that day.

"You broke a $30 light! You broke it," she shreiked. Do you have $30 to replace that light? Do you?"

"I'm...I'm sorry--"

She cracked him across the mouth. The sound was far more frightening than the light breaking. She hit him again, squarely across the nose, and blood flowed. He turned to look at me in horror, and I recall thinking that it looked like he had a red beard.

Chris and I were just kids, not nearly brave enough to stand up to mom, so we just stood and stared, hoping she'd stop. Eventually she did.

Fifteen minutes after the beating, I saw him at the kitchen table, writing, and I figured he was telling mom how angry he was at her. So imagine my surprise when I saw him scotch taping a sign to the front door, sniffling, a thin trail of blood still oozing from his right nostril:

Family, please do not use this door, or make sure it is closed! Love, Greg