It’s 11:59pm. I miss a phone call.
“Oh it’s Zach, it’s only Zach,” I say loudly and facetiously to my lovers.
I call my brother immediately.
“Zach, you there?”
“Hey, hi, I just wanted to like talk or something,” the drawl in his voice is permanent so I can’t know if he’s drunk, just affectionate, or both.
“For sure, what’s up?”
“You like at a party or something? You busy?”
I explain that I’m not. Loosely. Through a few dropped calls, we establish that he’s lonely and that I’m available to talk.
“It’s just that back home,” he means San Diego, “I’m a God. You know what I’m saying?”
“And you’re a– in Berkeley you’re a puppet.” He’s told me this before, how he’s a character, how he performs. But he adds something new:
“I’m a clown. And everyone laughs at the clown. But the clown cries you know. This is just an allegory. I mean. I’m — a metaphor — I’m using poetry, here.”
“Right, you’ve got a tear painted on your face…” He keeps talking like he doesn’t hear me.
He mentions feeling better than everyone, how maybe he’s a sociopath. “But I have empathy. I love every fucking living thing on this planet.” He’s just surrounded by morons. People who can’t even distinguish a rectangle from a square, or solve a crossword puzzle. He reads The New York Times every day.
“Hey, Sam, can I ask you something? How many people died in the Syrian Wars?”
“Uh,” I guess blindly, “30,000?”
“That’s cute. One hundred ten thousand,” he says.
“See, I don’t know anything. I’ve been asleep.”
“Right, everyone is clueless.”
“I’ve realized lately that I’ve been out of touch with reality for most of my life. Now, I finally fucking care. I want to know everything. All of art history and science. I want to understand things like I’ve never understood them before,” I say. I mean it, too.
When we talk I giggle loudly. It’s good, his voice is good. Other people don’t sound like themselves on the phone, but I just hear my brother in the hot piece of plastic against my ear. He mentions how the Illuminati or maybe the overlord lizard-brains are monitoring our call, trying to intercept it, how he’s been really into conspiracy theories, “But I’m just high, it’s fun to talk about these things. I’m just augmenting my brain chemicals or some shit. Hey Sami, I’m going to drop a bomb on you, k?”
“You know when you were little, I was like 3–” he’s wrong, he had to have been at least 6, but he remembers things from age 3 so I don’t blame him for thinking it could have been then, “–I overheard you talking about your alien thing, Anastasia.”
“Venastasia.” I correct, and wonder now (and not a moment earlier) what the other people in the room think of my side of the conversation.
“Right. I just think there’s something about us.”
He asks me to lucid dream with him. When we were young our grandmother told us stories of sharing dreams with family far away in Michigan. She told us how our uncle, at 7 years, would touch people in the grocery store, and they would start crying. “Either she’s fucking crazy, and it’s in my genes so whatever,” I imagine his squinty self-deprecating laugh, “or there’s some extra-dimension bullshit going on.”
I have asked myself in the past if I were crazy, and I know the ache and frenetic sadness that comes with that. Even though I hear my brother saying these words, asking me if he’s crazy, I’m not worried. Somehow I’m confident he’ll be fine.
We finish our conversation with these thoughts, “You’re the only person I can really talk to about this, Sam. You know you share more DNA with me than anything else in the world.”
“I think about it every day, Zach.”
“Meet me in your lucid dream, in the café on Mars.”