By Cameron Matt
I anxiously watched the warm blood rush from my right hand as my grip around the bottle of cheap vodka grew stronger, and the fist my other had formed became as tight as the muscles in my wrist would allow. I sat quietly, listening, waiting to hear the words I knew were coming, uninterested in what the scum across the table, who claimed to be my brother, had to say. His words went in one ear, and immediately out the other. I couldn’t comprehend the incessant apologies; each became less significant as I found myself focusing, merely on the furiously flowing concoction of alcohol and anger writhing through my veins.
I’d spent countless Sundays alongside my neighbor and best friend, intently watching our home team, the Denver Broncos claim sweet victory, and other times, bitter defeat. The end of the week was a mutually holy time for the both of us, regardless of the outcome of the big game. Week after week, I’d find myself alongside my long time brother, eyes glued to the television screen, enjoying the game we loved, most often with a cold cup of cola in one hand, and a plate of one of my grandfather’s homemade meals in the other. Over the years, we grew older, times changed, and so did we. Tradition reigned true though; the savory Mexican food- always Mexican-the games, the weekly couch seating arrangement, and the camaraderie, all remained unchanged.
Moments after I’d received a text reading, “We need to talk.” from my Mother, who rarely got ahold of me via text, I found myself becoming increasingly more terrified of what was to come. I sat in class, beads of sweat sitting on my brows, and my foot consistently fidgeting from the ground and back. The more I sat in my own thoughts, the more the weighing of the possibilities became overwhelmingly frightening. What had I done, and how was I going to get out of it this time? I walked through my front door, dismayed to see my mom waiting on the sofa. In one hand she had her phone, and in the other was an empty pill bottle. I meekly took a seat, and waited. Confused, I pleaded and pleaded that I wasn’t responsible for the crime that’d taken place in my home. She reassuringly insisted that she hadn’t suspected my brother or myself. All we knew was that missing from the medicine cabinet, were numbers of Valium, Xanax, and Vicodin. Soon after, my aunt from three doors down returned my mom’s call, proclaiming that she too, was missing a variety of prescription drugs.
Fairly immediately, it became clear to myself as well as the rest of the family what was going on. A college dropout (twice), and a benzo addict who’d been in and out of rehab, Cole seemed the likely candidate. More concerned for his health than for the regard of immediate accusation, I pressed Cole on the matter. Denial: as could’ve been expected. Soon after, the adults pursued the investigation… nothing. The assumption that his belongings were searched high and low was fairly applicable. The parents found nothing. For a two-time felon, Cole had done a damned good job of keeping out of trouble this time. Tensions ebbed, and within the course of a week, it’d been forgotten. No hard feelings…this time.
As a known bender-of-truths, I was no stranger to accusations from within the immediate family. “Let’s have a cigar,” my father insisted. The Matt boys know, a stogie with dad was always one of two things; celebratory, or the opposite. Unsure of the conversation ahead, I waited patiently for my father to prepare his smoke. I rocked back and forth on the porch chair, feeling a brisk gust of cool afternoon air press my forehead with every forward jolt. After some time, the tension was split. “Did you use the card to buy a $300 watch?” was uttered firmly from his mouth, as the thick rich smoke of my Cuban cigar wafted its way into my nostrils. I allowed the smoky rich aroma of the tobacco to control my nose before I had gathered a response. After a while, it’d become pretty apparent that I wasn’t the culprit. And so another investigation was underway. This time around, I’d avoided involvement for fear of disconnect from whoever within our circle was to blame.
Days passed and I’d forgotten the issue in whole. Unsurprised, I found myself more wholly invested in the case than I had hoped after my best friend had become another leading suspect. After extensive research, and many calls to and from the bank it seemed more and more likely that he’d gained access to our credit cards. I abhorred the very thought that it could’ve possibly been him as I realized I was missing a credit card from my wallet- the card that happened to be tied to my parents’ accounts.
I’d gone against my parents’ wishes and acquired the necessary information to track the package. Cole. They knew; they had to have known. Disgusted, my stagnant anger turned to action. With a package ID and a rage swelling up in my stomach, I made the drive to his mother’s home about 15 miles away. The regular ear-piercing squeak of my brakes gave me more of an uncomfortable jolt than usual as the fury I’d felt before slowly became unease. I felt sick with anxiety. I was afraid to find the watch in the mailbox for its due delivery. I departed my Jeep and with every step towards my destination, an upset growl rose from my gut. At the mailbox, knowing I was going to be deeply disappointed, I chuckled to myself and sent a short prayer to the God I don’t believe in. I prayed I would find an empty cavern, or a short stack of bills if anything. I took a deep, pure breath, blemished with curiosity and opened the mailbox. There, in front of my face, sat the symbol for betrayal. Caravelle New York grinned its shiny teeth at me. Overcome with a disgustingly uncomfortable blend of confusion, anger, sadness, and regret, I sent my fist soaring into the face of the closed mailbox. The punch left my middle and pinky fingers torn, and my mind no less despaired.
A week later, Cole had confessed to his family after not finding the watch- he also promised to pay the $600 worth of stolen product back. The six hundred dollars however, only covered the cost of the opiates and benzodiazepines his father had found crushed, ready to be abused on and inside of his desk. Late one weekend night, my brother and I received an essays length text from the liar. It read “My brothers,”- I never wandered past those two words. Cole was no brother of ours, it obviously wasn’t addressed to me.
I’d eventually agreed to talk with him about what he’d done and what he was going to do to make things right.
I no longer held any emotions regarding Cole rather than the bitter anger of betrayal. I trudged in the door, half furious at myself for agreeing to speak with him, and the other half outraged at that bastard for having the nerve to beg forgiveness. I sat down across from my former kin and immediately he’d extended an alcoholic peace offering before we started a conversation that wouldn’t have gone over well sober. Good move. Typical Cole. Good move. Each minute passed, and the content of the apologies meant less and less. Most of all, I was fighting the urge to lose my cool. I felt like a father- I wasn’t mad, I was disappointed. Tears rolled from his eyes like each droplet was a desperate cry for forgiveness. Not long after, they involuntarily streamed from mine, but not from sympathy, no. I wept over the family that he single-handedly derailed. I looked away for only a moment and it seemed the world had gone back on itself for just a glimpse. One second, I stared at a black television screen, dauntingly hanging in a dim lit room. And for another, all was well. In the blink of an eye, the bottle in my hand turned to a red solo cup filled with Pepsi, night turned to day, half of the family was on the porch sharing stories, and the other half surrounded Cole and I on the sofa as the Broncos game played uninterrupted on the screen. It was January 19th, 2014, and Denver was beating the Patriots 26-16 late in the 4th Quarter of the AFC Championship.
All I have to remember Sundays by are three scars on my left hand, foolishly given to me by a mailbox, and a golden Caravelle brand watch that continues to gather dust on the desk of my dormitory. The end of the week doesn’t share the charm and charisma it used to. Sunday wasn’t holy anymore. Maybe I’d try church next week.