My brother has always had lots of pictures to show me when he visits me, of all the places he has been. He's been to 57 countries and has made a point to capture each trip on video and on camera. This time it was Bali
. Pictures of him and one of many motorcycle buddies (my brother Brady is a hard core
Harley man) in cheap hotels
with flowered swimsuits. Pictures of them in various states of cheap drunken stupor
and adventure. Pictures of them truly enjoying life.
Brady is forty and has yet to get a tattoo, but he did get some henna tattoos in Bali. He also bought fresh pineapple on a stick at the beach that had been carved into a corkscrewed work of art and sold for 10 cents. They rode motorbikes down dirt roads on an island that had no streets and whose main mode of transport was anything on four legs that could tow. Their taxis were horse drawn carriages. The women there are all dark and mysterious but some of them are svelte and others are teen mothers; one picture shows a girl carrying a baby slung in a blanket around her shoulders while another shows two couples sitting in the sand drinking beer, the rusty tans peeking out from soft, hooded sweatshirts and from the legs of cut off shorts. The teeth of all the people there are white white white (when they have them), and the men's faces are cut from aged leather, their hands sinewy with bleached nails cut short.
As he walked from suitcase to suitcase in the place he was staying during his visit to me, he showed me several articles were bought in Bali, including a thin silver cuff bracelet that stayed on his wrist even when he had taken off his watch to shower. Its design was a simple repetition of waves pressed in black. This bookmark, he'd say, was made in Bali. This ring, Bali. The more he said the word, it became this beautifully commonplace thing that had attached to it a fondness I have not known for myself. I may never travel the way my brother Brady has traveled, but he knows that we both understand movement, we both have short and shallow roots that have been bred in us from our upbringing, from the always present knowledge that there is a whole other world out there. We were each going to get to see it in our own ways, in our own time. For me, right now, my way is to leaf through his pictures and remember the place Bali.
Brady was 15 when I was born, and a few years later he left home for his own dreams, joined the Army seven years later and moved to Germany sometime after that, where he still lives and has a family. So our sibling attachment began as adults, our love for one another has always been an adult love, the love of two grown children who never lost contact, even after miles and years went by. It's odd, by the norm, but it has worked for us. This morning I was keeping him company while he packed, sitting outside to smoke a cigarette. He came out, handed me the bracelet from Bali and asked if I would like it. He formed the silver around my wrist since it is smaller than his and told me it likely needed to be polished soon. Then he went back inside.
This was how we said "I love you," this was how we understood each other, in these small and neverending gestures that span the remainder of our lives.