My brother called me from the road. He's been doing this since I was 12 years old, but I've never gotten used to it. I like him to have a house, so I can go over to it and see how long his dishes have been in the sink and look out his windows and tell him secrets. It's just not the same over the phone, but since I haven't had a particularly solid address in 4 years now either, I can hardly complain.

My brother and I chatted.

I said, "Sam called everything off," because this is my big news, as it generally is, that some boy has taken off on me again, the way I take off on them, the way I keep moving to avoid shit, and I'm not really sure if I'm telling the people I'm closest to that this dude I was in love with left because I want them to be sympathetic or because I want them to know they can expect to see me around again.

Sean was appropriately sympathetic. He said, "These long-distance things can be really hard"

I said, "Yeah, especially when one person thinks they're in a weird kind of long-distance relationship, and the other person things they're going to be a rock star some day soon."

The idea of being a rock star does not appeal to Sean. It doesn't appeal to me either, though I think I could stand the fame and the money better than he could. I have no idea, of course. I think the toughest thing about it would be the isolation that takes place, not knowing who you are because too many people have somehow recorded you displaying one aspect of yourself and try to tell you that that's all there is to you--though perhaps the parties, the travel, the possibility of blowing all one's money on books and pretty dresses, and the chance to have it matter when you say you hate the United States Government, that might make up for it, at least for a while.

We talk about Slayer, and their light bulb staring existence, and I say I really can't see anyone I enjoyed fucking getting paid to act like Beavis all the time and loving it for real.

Sean said, "my news like that is that the van is dead."

Sean does not get smitten with falling in love, as I do, other people are not his drug. He just traded a shitload of working hours to buy this 1979 Volkswagen bus with a pop-up roof and the engine at the back. It was orange, and gloriously hippie--so he described it to me, I never saw it, never experienced it's having a stove and and sink and space for the kids to sleep.

The problem with the van, Sean and the guy who sold it to him were sure, was that it was missing a gasket, a simple part to replace, and then it should work fine. It was a Volkswagen, who cares it it hadn't run since the mid '80s, it was a Volkswagen for Chrst's sake. But the problem turns out to have been the engine head. I'm hazy about the details, but basically, he thought that this bus would run with the simple replacement of a rather small part, but actually it requires the rebuilding of the entire engine.

Sean and I have had innumerable conversations like this. Since I was a kid, we're gotten our hands dirty and played with tools, popped hoods and taken apart transmissions. This was his thing, but I liked to dabble, I liked to know what he knew. He's shown me differentials, steering columns, distributors, and engine blocks. I used to wake him up to get to work on time by asking him to explain how something worked. Would an EMP disable a car? He wanted to tell me. When I went to Germany I took an old shirt of his that he wore when we'd worked on cars together--it was stained with motor oil and transmission fluid.

But no matter how many pieces I see moving, no matter how many times I sit in the driver's seat turning keys while he looks under the hood, no matter how many times I hear the depressing sound of an engine trying to start, but not quite turning over, we never seem to get anywhere.

We like to look at broken systems, my bro and I. We like them to be well-designed and royally fucked. It's especially good if they tease us, for weeks, or months, with the possibility of working like a dream. We dwell in possibility.

There's a chance the guy who sold Sean the van will pay him some cash for the work that he did. He's and honest guy like that. I think about my light bulb-staring, face-making rock star lover. I thought the problem was that I never got to see him. But the problem was that he lived entirely in his own head, and I didn't have the time or the permission to rebuild it. We just represented promising, but ultimately disappointing, piles of scrap metal for each other.

Sean has to go and pack up all his shit and hit the road again. I hang up the phone and go back to bed. As I drift off to sleep now all I can hear is the sad, syncopated whine of an engine trying to start, but never actually turning over.