His sister-in-law managed not only to change the relationship with his brother, but erase everything that had come before.

October 5th, 2013, 11pm

It was 19.8°C. The wind was calm.

His brother hung up. He hung up. He lived closer to them now—to his brother, his wife and his kids—but the physical closeness simply highlighted the emotional distance. He hadn’t visited, not in the year he’d been on the West Coast; not even when he’d gone up to Portland, one town away from them. He spent the weekend drunk and full of Thai food bought off the street. He hadn’t even called to say he’d be nearby.

At what point, he wondered, is this my fault? When a relationship finally peters out, do you blame the inciting moment? The first offense, the initial break? When do you start pointing a finger at the person who never really tried to stop the slide? When a boat sinks, is it because something punched a hole in the hull? Or because the people aboard just didn’t bail water fast enough?

He walked to the small bar cart in his dining room and made himself a martini. She wouldn’t be home for another hour, so he probably had time for two.

The inciting moment—at least for him; his mother and father each had their own hull breaches—was when his brother stripped him of the best man position at his wedding. The bride’s mother had pressured his brother to bestow that title on the bride’s own brother, a chubby frat-type who spent the ceremony mopping his brow and sweating out beer from the previous night’s post-rehearsal dinner bar crawl.

He had acted cool through the whole thing, claiming somewhat truthfully that weddings and the rituals around them meant very little to him; he was happy to be there celebrating his brother in whatever form that took, he said. And his brother asked him to give a best-man-like speech at the reception and he had given one from the heart and meant it. But those around him argued that dis-inviting your own brother from the best-man role was totally significant in a totally bad way and did not portend well at all for the future relationship between his brother and the rest of his family.

They were, of course, right and the memory of the wedding now pained him.

He sipped his martini and attempted to read a book by someone who still wrote them. There was a time when sitting down with a challenging book took no more will power than brushing his teeth. Now and more and more, he gave up and picked up his phone to play a game in which he must defend a space station by building guns and bunk houses for soldiers.

His brother’s wife—the Ice Princess they called her—had recently and openly declared that she wanted nothing to do with his family. His mom had been there the weekend before visiting the kids when everything finally boiled over. Mother-in-law and daughter-in-law screaming in the driveway. It took a few days, but eventually he called his brother.

“What do you want?” he asked.

“For everything to be easy.”

“How do we do that?”

“I don’t know.”


His little brother never asked for help and he didn’t ask now. His little brother had never been communicative and he wasn’t now. But his little brother had also liked them hadn’t he? Some things don’t change, but some things do; the past isn’t always so stable that it can’t be struck down and rewritten to accommodate a new ending.

His space station fell. He walked again and again to the bar cart.

David Wade said thanks.

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Matthew Latkiewicz

A jack of some trades: youwillnotbelieve.us

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