The Darjeeling Limited

The past few days, I’ve been watching the Wes Anderson films. Bottle Rocket, Rushmore, The Royal Tenenbaums, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou. Tonight, I’m watching The Darjeeling Limited.

The movies chronicles the journeys of three brothers who are travelling, by train, through India. It is the story of how the three reconcile after a year of silence that proceeds their father’s death and their spiritual and physical journeys to discover themselves and each other.

The movie means a lot to me. All of Wes Anderson’s movies resonate with me, but this one, in particular, touches a part of me that is sensitive.

I’m an only child. I have two half-sisters, but I don’t have any siblings that I share all of my blood, all of my genetics, all of my life with. Gail is my oldest sister — 19 — and my youngest sister is 15 years my minor — she’s only 8. Her name is Morgan. They too are half-sisters. Our mother has been married four times and the three of us all have different fathers.

I don’t know what it’s like to have a brother. I don’t know what it’s like to have another man in my life who I live with, compete with, grow with, mature with, fight with, argue with, and team up with. While other boys in my neighborhood were in their backyards wrestling or playing ball or building forts adorned with signs that say “No girls allowed,” I was standing alone, barefoot in the grass, with a ball and nobody to throw it to.

My father attempted to fill that gap in my life as best he could. We wrestled on the living room floor, played catch, talked about girls at school. I appreciate his effort and I love him all the more for it, but that isn’t a father’s role in a boy’s life. We both knew that.

I’ve always wanted a brother, though. Sometimes, I thought that maybe I did have a brother. I was convinced that he had been taken, removed, abducted. Perhaps by his own volition, even.

* * * *

Baseball cards on the spokes of the wheels.
Sit atop my handle bars, on parade in the
Wave to the people, wave to the people.

Bloodied my lip in the backyard,
muddied my slacks in the backyard,
studied the way the blue meets the green in the backyard.

And when the sun kissed the horizon,
we’d spend the night writing poetry on walls with crayons.

I’m the one who got the beating.
I’m the one who ended up being
the scapegoat
for all our silly games.

* * * *

My stepmom’s sister has two sons, Tom and Eric. When I was a kid, living with my dad and stepmom in Joliet, I used to go over to there house all the time, just to hang out. I helped Eric with his paper route, Tom helped me understand the importance of relief pitching. They came to my house to swim in my pool during the summers, we played street hockey and baseball the rest of the time.

They were the closest I had to brothers at the time. I don’t even talk to them anymore. Not even when we’re sitting right next to each other.

Last year, I was homeless for six months. I lived in my best friend’s family’s guest room because all of his family wanted me to stay in DeKalb, rather than move home to Yorkville. His name is Tim–I’ve known him now for three years. Tim has three brothers: Ryan, Aaron, and Joshua. These four guys are tight. They’re bonded together and are inseparable. They have each others’ backs and are always the first to stand up for one another, even though I have seen them get into it themselves on more than one occasion.

The time I spent with them… There are mixed reviews from both parties represented. I know my presence wasn’t easy on them and, for that, I am eternally ashamed. I’ve never meant to be a burden on anyone, I’ve never wanted to be, and I hate it when I feel like I am. At the same time, I think my presence was partially a blessing. At least I hope it was. Tim and I always felt like brothers before I moved in. We hung out all the time, had deep heart to hearts, and yes, fought and argued. But we always had each other’s back, too. I think everyone knew that if they wanted to mess with Tim, they had to mess with me too. Of course, Tim also had three other brothers to back him up. So it’s fairly obvious that no one really messes with Tim.

Sadly, just like my step-cousins before them, I don’t really talk with them anymore. The saddest part of that saga, is that our lack of communication isn’t for lack of trying. We’ve just drifted apart. And as much as I wanted them to be in my life, as much as I wanted them to be brothers, we’re at different parts of the road.

Jeff is another man that I consider a best friend. We worked together a few years back at a Christian bookstore in Oswego. He and I became really close during our time there. Business was usually slow and when it was, he and I would walk around the store picking up books, chatting, and reading excerpts to each other. We learned a lot together, our faiths grew together, and we came to understand the real meaning of having a relationship with Christ in that store. When Jeff got married, he asked me to be his best man. It’s funny — as much as I was hoping he would ask me, I kind of figured he wouldn’t. Just because he has brothers and friends he’s known longer than he has me. But he asked me. Of course I said I would. And I did.

After his wedding, though, he started fulfilling his role as a husband and family man and we, too, drifted apart. Fortunately, he and I are drifting towards each other again. So many things have transpired in the year of silence and we have so much to catch up on, but, like The Darjeeling Limited, I’m looking forward to the spiritual journey it will take for us to discover ourselves and each other.

Now, I have three more brothers — my Bros: Tim, Dustin, and John. These guys mean the world to me. Tim and Dustin are both married, John is engaged. Dustin and his wife are even expecting, right now. Their daughter will be born in the next few weeks and I’m looking forward to being an uncle, even if it is only by association. We all have different goals for our lives and none of them really match up. If all goes as planned, the three of them will be living in Illinois, a few hours away from each other, and I’ll be living in Ireland, almost a full day away from my brothers.

As much as I don’t want it to happen, I imagine we’ll drift apart too. And like the three brothers in The Darjeeling Limited, we’re all going to have to make the effort to stay Brothers, “the way we used to be.”


Where Were We...?

This morning, I woke up the same way I always wake up: slowly, painfully, and with an attitude of regret. I stumbled my way into the bathroom, threw back the shower curtain, started up the water, and, while I waited for it to heat up, I stared at myself in the mirror. The disheveled hair, the bewildered look on my face as I squinted under the bright lights just above the medicine cabinet.

There’s something wrong with the drain in my bathtub — in that it doesn’t drain. It doesn’t matter how much Drano I pour down there or how many times I’ve plunged it, the water will not go down the drain as immediately as it should. So, every morning, I stand in the shower and let the water rise until it’s almost up to my knees, then I turn off the water and dry off. On a positive note, the water accumulation does sort of act like a timer. “That water is up to your knees! Time to towel off and go to work!”

My morning oatmeal is tasteless, at best, but I still eat it. I have a unique way of enjoying my breakfast — I hold the bowl of oatmeal in my left hand and my spoon in my right and I watch cars pull into my office’s parking lot from my living room window. That’s right — I live across the street from my job. What’s nice about it, though, is that I walk across the street and I’m at work.

My work routine is always the same, too. I don’t mean to mimic Office Space or whatever, but a lot of the rituals the main character talks about in his daily work schedule are true to life. Much like him, I spend the first hour of my shift drinking my Earl Grey, checking my emails, and staring at my desk and pretending to be busy. Then, once I tire of listening to my coworker chomp and chew and swallow whatever the hell she’s eating, I put on my headphones and drift into a world of background music.

The entire day is a blur of advertisements, emails, proofs, and post-it notes. At the end of it, I look at the bins to see what I’ve accomplished and I never fail to find that, really, I’ve accomplished nothing. The bins were full when I walk in, the bins are full when I walk out.

Most nights, I go to the gym immediately after work for a couple hours. Then I drive home, surf the Net for a while, watch a few episodes of “How I Met Your Mother” and call it a night, only to be greeted by the rising waters in my tub the next morning.

* * * * *

Today, at work, a few guys and I moved desks around — giant, oak desks. Why? Company didn’t want them anymore. Drawers didn’t slide out all the way and they had scratches and dings on the surface. So we hauled them out to the dumpster. I mean, sure we could have donated them or even put them on the corner and waited for someone to pick them up (which, in this neighborhood, would take all of a few hours), but we just threw them away.

I took one piece of the mighty oak desk, lifted it over my head, and chucked it against the corner of the dumpster so that I could break it into smaller pieces that would better fit inside the dumpster. And as I watched, with much glee, the mighty desk explode into several pieces, something inside me untied, enabling me to leave my life even for just a few seconds so that I could see it for what it really is (or, more accurately, isn’t).

I never thought I’d be here at this point in my life. I know that’s sort of a cliche thing to say and all, but I can’t think of another way to say it. When I was in high school, my future was mapped out. After university, I was going to be married at the ripe age of 23, living in Ireland and working in a coffee shop or going for a Master’s degree. There was no other option for me. I knew what I wanted and I knew all the steps to take to make that happen. The only thing, though, is that dreams seldom match up with reality.

Before you know it, you’re done with University, living alone in a town that you despise with a dead-end job that means nothing to you, and little to no money. The dreams that once shone brilliantly in the front of your mind are still there, but dimming and recessing into the darker corners of your brain over time.

As far as I can tell, Ireland is still there. But it seems like it’s drifting into the horizon.

Granted, I’m only 23. I realize that I still have most (hopefully) of my life ahead of me and that no dream is too far gone. But it’s terribly difficult not to lose faith, not to lose hope, not to lose my grasp of reality and slip into some middle-class, middle-aged, work-induced coma.

All around me at my office I see people who have already fallen victim to that disease. These people who seemingly have nothing to live for anymore because they’re zombies! Staring at their computer screens, staring at their desks, staring at post-it notes, never blinking, never thinking. Everything is boiled down to science and routine. It’s like we’re living in the matrix, to quote an old friend. We’re all plugged into this way of thinking–this… survival mode, if you will. All we’re doing is surviving! We’re not truly living, we’re just barely scraping by! We work and we work and we work and live in these fake, phony professional lives that never add up to anything.

I want out. I want to unplug myself. I want to remember what it’s like to breathe without life support keeping me hanging on.

I want to throw out all the customer proofs that clutter that my office, all the computers, all the printers, all the cubicles, and smash the desk that I cozy up to from 9am-6pm everyday into tiny pieces against the corner of a dumpster and just leave it all.

Then, I will walk across the street back to my apartment, watch a DVD, and write a blog about my shit life. But that’s why I live a shit life, isn’t it?

What else would there be to blog about?