My brother and I couldn’t be more different than chalk and cheese. He’s fair-skinned and gawky while I’m bronzed and supremely athletic. I’d go for a kayaking arvo while he’d pore over camera magazines. He’d think about stuff while I’d do them. I’d chat my head off while he’d be quietly observant. He’d raise one eyebrow while I’d gesticulate wildly.
My brother turns 33 tomorrow, and despite our differences, we’ve been pretty much geographically close to each other since birth, whether or not he really wanted to be in the first place. We got sent to the same kindy and primary school, and when he was old enough to decide he wanted to be somewhere different, he stuffed up, and ended up in the same secondary school, junior college and university. Only difference being different courses in different faculties, and a different division and vocation in the Army.
As you can imagine, he’d always be underestimated and underrated by others, not least because he was always understated in his infrequent utterances. Our parents were worried sick when it was his turn to go to the Army. How was the pampered baby of the family going to fare in boot camp? They asked.
They needn’t have worried. Apart from a serious injury where he broke his middle finger so badly it was at 90 degrees to the rest of his fingers, and which meant he could pick up fried eggs with one hand, he excelled. In his room are two plaques from the Army. One for being top Marksman Class 1 in his company, the other for being top Marksman Class 1 in the entire School of Basic Military Training. Give him a rifle and he can pick you off from a mile out, and then maybe get to pork Rachel Weisz.
He’s always had a technical bent that’s short of obsessive. When we wuz kids, he’d take everything in the house apart – the record turntable, the grandfather clock, his watches, the electric fan (this one nearly got both of us kewwed), and then have only about a 50% success rate in putting them back together.
But if there’s anyone who excels in thinking outside the box, it’s my brother. Way outside the box. So far outside the box no one will take him seriously.
“Put a recording of the beeping sound they use for blind people at traffic crossings, but on a busy part of an expressway. See what happens. Heh heh.” is one of the ten thousand miles outside the box musings he’d have.
But for mine, his quirky sensibilities are appreciated. When once he had to visit me in prison, he brought biscuits, instant noodles and cigarettes wrapped in dark opaque plastic, because he said, you don’t want the other inmates to see what you have and rob you five minutes after you leave the visiting area (because I had complained that I was robbed five minutes after he left me the day before, because (he said) all the stuff was still in supermarket plastic bags).
He never asked how the fuck I got into that mess. Just visited me daily and brought me my stuff and arranged for me to get out, trying his darndest to lift my mood by shitting me about trying to hire / hijack a helicopter to help me break out.
Chicks dig him too. Even if they’re most of the time the butt of his deadpan pranks. Once I got him an internship at the place I worked at, and one girl asked him for the tenth time for the password to unlock the screensaver on the computer. One eyebrow raised, he deadpanned without looking up, “The password is asterix, asterix, asterix, asterix. Make sure it’s four asterixes”.
We don’t talk much, me and my brother, but I’ll be wishing him birthday wishes when he gets online tonight.
Fiona Xie tries distracting my brother from the back seat some time in 2001. His response? “Better sit properly and belt up. Or else you might become a human torpedo”.