Last night I had the strangest dream. I was talking on the phone with my brother Josh, a person I've never gotten along with, whom I haven't spoken with in years. We were all adopted in my family and I can still remember when he came. A skinny boy of 3, always smiling with the most nervous and tinny laugh, his little legs next to mine in the car as we drove away from his foster mother's house. He carried his nervous laughter into adulthood, where humor became his armor of confidence, every person the butt of his everlasting joke. That person often being me.
This tiny boy grew into a man. A man who became a Marine. He served in the Iraq wars, killing people, calling them his "kills" as he'd been taught to dehumanize them, to distance himself from the men only doing the same as him on the opposite side: defending. The chasm between us grew wider and wider, as I was a medic serving in the very same military. He called the Arabs "towelheads" and "sandfleas" at Christmas dinner. There I was, sitting to his right, flinching, remembering my Arab half. Thinking of all the blood spilt on both sides.
But in this dream we are not distanced. We are on the phone talking; eating sandwiches together. We are sharing our lives in ways I'd only dreamed of; natural, comfortable, connected. I tell him how sad I am at the way things turned out. At the way things turned out. My brother doesn't get defensive. He doesn't laugh me off. I can hear him munching on the other end of the phone, moving his sandwich from one hand to the other, he takes another bite. He says something soft and understanding, so unlike him. So unlike him from the very day I met him, sitting next to me in his dinosaur tot t-shirt in the car, that strange tinny laugh gone.
My son is waking up in bed next to me, I feel myself surfacing from sleep. Hanging up the phone, I can hear my brother's voice fading, I know. I know. And I'm sorry about that.
I swear there were crumbs on my pillow next to my head when I woke up.