Sure, we are both full grown men, me and my brother. But when your little brother doesn’t call you back after you’ve left at least two voicemails regarding dollar beers and tacos, you start to worry. Especially if your brother lives alone and has unreasonable allergies that could send him into anaphylactic shock.
I call again.
I pace around my living room, involuntarily imagining the worst. Is he all alone, gasping for breath, wondering if anyone gives a shit about him? Has he been dead for days, decomposing in some dark alley or cafeteria that serves peanuts, shellfish, or pineapple?
Then I see it. He’s left his favorite beige baseball cap on the couch. A tangible reason to go to his house. There’s nothing dramatic about returning a hat: I can make sure he’s alright without him having to know I’m making sure he’s alright. I pick up the hat and get a faint whiff of sweat. Makes sense, since he always wears this hat. If I remember correctly, the hat was originally white. Then it hits me. If he always wears this hat, why isn’t he wearing it now? Is it because he’s dead? If so, this could be one of the last things of his that still smells like him. I see a vision of myself clinging to the hat, crying at his grave as I whisper, “I don’t know why I never told you, but I loved you, little brother.”
I drive to his house. I glance down at the cap on the passenger seat. It just sits there, facing forward, like it has its own sense of resolve. I park and approach his door. Please God, who I promise I’ll start believing in today, please let him be alive. Let him be safe, healthy, totally fine.
I knock. The responding silence speaks for itself. I feel my palms start to sweat against the canvas of his hat. I knock again. Still no answer. A lump forms in my throat. Sympathy anaphylactic shock? Please, God. Don’t let him have died alone. The door opens. It’s him. Standing there and being alive.
“Hey,” he says.
I clear my throat, and I tell him. “You left your hat, dude.”