Brown Eyes Like My Brothers

family isn’t just blood. i can’t stress this enough. dna is not all that makes a family. people who aren’t grown from the same parents can still be cut from the same cloth.
i’ve been working on this entry since october, but recently my nana passed away and the situation seemed to drive the above point home. really, she was the mother of my sister’s father, a sister i never call half-sister unless i’m asked to explain how i have a third set of grandparents, cousins, aunts, and uncles. so my sister’s grandmother, not biologically related to me, but i spent more of my childhood in her home than in either of my biological grandparents. they lived close by, my mother took us to visit every sunday night. her death hit me much harder than my maternal grandmother, who i maybe saw 10 or so times in my life before she died last april, because she and my mother didn’t get along.
i have a biological brother. we’re very different and i don’t trust him with many of the details of my life. he’s said and done a lot of shitty and stupid things (most recently, putting gum on my car door handle at our maternal grandmother’s funeral). if some crisis arose, i’d be there for him as i would be for anyone in my sphere who sincerely needed me. i’m not a total asshole. i keep the peace, if just to avoid the river of shit i’d get from my mother if i didn’t buy him a gift on his birthday. i know it could be much worse, so i deal. but he’s never encouraged or supported me like my ‘real brothers.’ i have two of them.
ethan is a writer, director and actor with innumerable handy talents. i’ve never seen someone produce so much out of thin air or be so ferociously single-minded about chasing their dreams. everything he creates or works at, he does with the utmost care and attention of any master of a delicate craft, with a few blasts of dynamite thrown in for good measure. i don’t think he knows how to half-ass anything. he introduced me to the game series fallout, which has probably clocked more hours of my life than any other waking activity. when i was first learning, he would spend literal hours on the phone with me, talking me through what each button, switch, or toggle did, and through every side quest like a fucking life coach. i’ve paid people to teach me things who weren’t as thorough as ethan was about making sure i knew how to both play and appreciate fallout. his enthusiasm is infectious.
i’m not always comfortable being touched or even making eye contact. this applies to almost everyone, regardless of how i love them. it frustrates me because i wasn’t always like this. it makes me feel very disconnected. but ethan is a blessed exception to this rule. he can’t always be trusted not to do goofy big brother things like force-feed me cheese or try to poke his sunglasses up my nose – even now i know he is plotting his revenge against me for an awful high school prank – but still, i feel 1000% protected to hug and be hugged. i can look him in the eyes without flinching. it’s safe for me to be me near him. if that’s not family, i don’t know a fucking thing.
patrick and i first met in person after school one day, and again in our friend’s basement while their band made their first cd, but once we started talking online, that was it. we were on aim constantly: before and after school, weekends, into the wee hours where us internet nerds get real weird with it. i can’t recall the sheer volume of our different aim screen names, let alone each conversation. i often hear the boomers prattle on about how technology is ruining human relationships, put away your phone blah blah bullshit but us younger folk know the unique freedom that comes with sharing ourselves online; you’re alone, but at the same time amongst throngs of fellow tribesman, buzzing to and from bright, glowing hubs. at least, that’s the internet at its best.
pat and i decided early on in these chats that we were ‘twins.’ we liked the same stuff, we were on a similar wavelength. arrested development fans, picture gob bluth and tony wonder as teens typing “SAME,” all caps, in a classic 90s chat room. but unlike those blissful idiots, let me tell you, patrick is a fucking genius. i’ve never seen him try a thing and not be brilliant at it. he is thoughtful and kind, with an almost zen-like grace about him. i’d pay good money to understand a tenth of what he knows about the world. he was, when we first met, and still is a perfect sounding board. i type out all my insecurities and fears, and he challenges them, firmly and kindly, and i’ve never felt judged once. he is the consummate gentleman in that and countless other ways. he’s also a sharp-witted and pragmatic bastard, but in that loveable ron swanson way. actually, that describes ethan pretty well, too.
i’ve been going through a rough patch for a while, as evidence by oh, every sad-sack post i’ve made here. i don’t handle loss well; every time it rips the rug out from under me, it gets harder to rebuild my self-confidence and worth. survivor’s guilt. i’ve backslid hard into being terrified of being thought…so many things. selfish, foolish, dramatic, not good enough, et cetera ad nauseum. it all stops me from crafting what i want because i don’t think i deserve it. who do i think i am? i’m not special. it eats at me daily. and because i struggle not to hate myself, i often don’t give myself enough credit for the things i do accomplish. i was in a car accident two days before a trip cross-country to visit ethan. luckily no one was injured, but i was still very shaken up. add in the stress that comes with the aftermath? it was not the headspace i’d hoped to occupy right before vacation, to put it mildly. i spent those two days before our flight in other people’s passenger seats, flinching at every set of illuminated brake lights i saw. and yet, i got on the plane, landed, rented a car in an unfamiliar city and drove around it and straight through to another state and back without incident. if all that happened to someone i love, i’d be proud of them. i don’t know what scares me about feeling proud of myself, why i can’t seem to quash the worry that if i start feeling worthy on any front i’ll be swiftly proven otherwise by a better-informed authority. i should take credit for it. though, it didn’t hurt that ethan was there (and of course my boo brittany, as well). anything that could’ve gone wrong, i know he can handle. he’s absolutely the type you want in your corner when the chips are down. i am humbled knowing he’s in my corner.
it could be we’re all like this. anytime i receive a compliment, from anyone, i’ll say thank you but my default reaction is to assume they’re just being polite. when ethan tells me i do have talent, when pat says he knows i can do something, or brittany tells me i’m awesome, it does help. my god, i can’t tell you how much it helps to have the validation of people i hold in such high regard. i am incredibly fortunate to have not only them, but a beautiful handful of important people who see me as i am, naked and vulnerable, and remain supportive. this was not the norm among my genetic family. i desperately want their belief in me to be enough to believe in myself. these people are decidedly not bullshitters, i know this to be true. but it also hurts – my not truly believing it. it’s what stops me. i want to tell myself, hear it, and have faith that i am made from the same star-stuff as these fucking supernovas. i see my brothers, working hard at exactly what they want, at the very least giving it a real shot, and it makes me want to find the energy to do the same. i want to be as fierce, passionate, and brave as they are. and bless their fucking hearts, they tell me i can be. maybe i can’t believe it myself in the moment but they’ve never wavered in believing in me, and i try to remind myself of this at my low points. that this is what i’ve been scraping and clawing my way back for – to grind like they have been, to build something; to one day marvel at how i carved myself from stone to statue.
so. these guys don’t know this story, but. when i got into jr high i briefly switched from glasses to colored contacts. from then and through high school i tried a few: a brighter green than my natural, a blue just to try it, and finally, brown. and the reason i chose brown was that quite a few people i loved back then, who felt like family, had brown eyes. ethan and pat among them, and truly most notably, being the last of the brown-eyed folk still in my life from back then. i eventually went back to wearing glasses (much less maintenance required, and less likely to burn your eyes out of your sockets when you forget to wear gloves while chopping jalapenos in cooking school) but at the time it was my so-subtle-it’s-almost-imperceptible-and-thus-no-risk-which-is-how-i-like-it way of feeling part of their family. because they were and remain, most assuredly, part of mine.
i  can’t capture or convey every nuance of the influence they’ve had on me, the moments of courage i drew from them, or all the rich memories we shared, but i daresay i tried in this, the longest blog lead-up to lyrics. these men, more than most i know, deserve everything that is good in this world and in abundance. and i hope they know i think so.
anyway. if i want to do the thing, i better do the thing. so here are some lyrics.

the lyrics

i love the light in october
i’d start my days ready to see her
coffee on the weekends
or first period and last
in history and spanish class
my heart’s a monument to our past
i’ve lived to kick myself in the teeth
it’s been almost a week
since i’m laid low on the sidewalk
i disturbed the burial dirt
now i’m stuck rebuilding this hurt
and i can’t get through work
these nights, when i dream i can’t
dream you’d forgive me
it reminds me
when i was younger
how i wished i had
brown eyes like my brothers
and i know it wasn’t all bad
because of that
but she’s still the missing limb
that i think i always will
regret severing
will always hope
grows back again
i love the nights in october
it makes me want to go bowling
back in the parking lot
on the trunk of your car
drunk on the stars
and these tarot cards
the time it stacks like i’d feared
and then it’s been another year
one spin further from where we’d been
with these bricks strapped to my chest
i’m trying my best
to keep ahead of the wreck
and it reminds me
when i was younger
how i wished i had
brown eyes like my brothers
and i know it wasn’t all bad
because of that
but she’s still the missing bridge
that i think i always will
regret torching
gas can in hand
this is not what i planned
this is not what i planned
these nights when i dream
i can’t dream you’d forgive me

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