"It takes a special kind of kid to be able to do this. Being in Jazz for Juniors taught Daniel
how to organize himself and get his homework done so he can go out and play at night," said Ruth.
Last year Daniel
was honored by being the only six-grader invited to play in the Western Region Music Festival.
This is what the courier said about my brother, Danny. I don't get it. First of all, here is Danny doing his
Second of all, the child was one of several sixth graders to make it in.
I wrote a nice little essay about my brother, Danny. This is it, with all the dashes and apostrophes taken out
for some reason:
My brain hurts. Im studying for my finals. Michael, on
the floor above me, is having an even harder time studying for his final, because he is a freshman and has never had
to do that before. Normally, wed be okay.
But theres this noise.
The banging behind it wants to be a sort of broken, jazz-rock fusion on his new, very loud drum kit. There are sporadic, spastic fills shaking the time back into a slower drawl, chasing to catch up with
the sax. Or what might be a sax. Later, I found
out it was a tenor sax mouthpiece on a soprano, but it sounded like a room of varying sized farm animals with flatulence:
the bleating, the hooves, the whole ordeal . . . and the radio is on.
A classical music station, of all things. Some modern piece, with no time
signature. And somehow my eyes widen at this new addition to the trainwreck in
the room that shares a wall with mine he has started talking to himself. No,
singing. Wait, that cant be singing, unless he thinks hes Louis Armstrong . .
. good God! Well, its one or the other.
Focus on the math, I plead to myself futilely.
This was my brother Danny, circa one year ago today. Age eleven. Hasnt changed a bit. The room with all
the sounds of Mount Vesuvius and its screaming fleeing corpses-to-be still shares a wall with mine, and still has its door
eternally off his hinges. And theres more.
The kid talks in a whiny voice, as if he wants to appear younger than he is, as if he thinks it is adorable to be a
five-year-old personality in an eight-year-old body when youre actually twelve. He
leaves his radio on WMNR Fine Arts Radio to introduce culture into his gerbils life.
He talks to his gerbil. A lot. And
believe me, sound carries. He gets dressed and showers with the doors open, until
someone screams, and even then, he just kind of giggles and walks to the door with this air of nonchalance and closes it most
of the way until it creaks back open again. Im not done complaining yet. Somehow, anything that annoys him about me or my brother Michael, a sophomore, is
all we do. For example: All she does is use the computer. Perhaps that can be attributed to the fact that I am a senior in high school taking hard classes. Maybe. But, no, hes a cute seventh grader
and his math paper (I dont understand either) demands the computer more than mine because I can stay up later. So I go to the basement and waste my time, having done all my homework except one paper, on the Playstation. But All I do is use the Playstation. Somehow,
he has decided after crying for a half an hour that it was not the computer he needed for his math homework, but, in fact,
the Playstation. So, I obediently get off, hand him the control, and go back
to the computer, to the sounds of dont touch it!
I was having an important conversation! Leave my away message up! Oh, fine. This might not be ethical,
but I took a chance at reading one of these important conversations. It basically
consisted of two people talking, one trying to tell the other he couldnt talk, the other (being Danny) speaking with every
word no more than two letters long, about absolutely nothing relevant. Dont fret. I got rid of the important conversation to allow myself to write up my comparatively
unimportant college résumé that neither Danny nor my parents seemed was deemed worthy of this computer.
Ill breathe now.
Flashback to a car ride. I had just performed at the Rich Forum this summer. Were in my mothers mammoth Dodge caravan. My
mother is at the wheel, my father is in the passenger seat, Michael is behind my mother, Danny is to his right, and I am sitting
as unobtrusively as possible in the back, twiddling my thumbs and thinking about nothing in particular. Its hard to describe exactly what Danny was doing. He was
drumming with his palms on everything in sight, first fairly quietly, gradually crescendoing and expanding its surface. The growly talk-sing he was doing that night in his room, that he does every night
in his room, was relocated to here, except he didnt know all the words. And every
once in a while, it would morph to just talking, and he would be talking to himself, hardly aware that anyone else could hear. At ten-minute intervals, Michael or I would make some kind of comment under our breaths,
very quietly, about how annoying he was being. This prompted Danny to punch Michael
in the shoulder, about twenty times. Hes not too strong. Michael, in self-defense, punched back, aiming at the shoulder. Instead,
he hit Dannys face, causing his nose to bleed and giving him two black eyes. To
this day, my parents still say the hospital was wrong and it was, in fact, broken. Oh,
the joys of misplaced sympathy.
Which brings me to the dream. Last year, I was sick for over half of the
school year. This was because I was allergic to trees and didnt know at the time,
but I digress. Most of the time it was survivable enough that I could go to school
with my own box of tissues and just feel miserable, but every once in a while Id get it where I almost physically couldnt
do anything but sleep, blow my nose, and cough. One night, I told my mother,
Mom, I know you dont like me missing school, but I have had it. Tomorrow, I am
going to catch up on a little sleep, and then go to the doctor. She wasnt too
happy, being all for 180-day attendance records, but she gave in and said I could do it.
That night, October 15th, I had one of those horribly vivid dreams you get when youre sick.
Danny had died. This was the biggest smack in the face ever. His life would stop right there; there would be no more continuum, no more smells or colors or tastes. No one would ever be able to tell him to stop playing that horrible drum kit, or to
stop talking to himself or the gerbil or whoever was around incessantly. Instead
of seeing the kid who told me I did certain things all the time, I saw the four-year-old who supplemented the traditional
security blanket with security bars of soap and security double-A batteries. Now
hed see which one of us could give the other an All he does statement. All he
does is lie in that box underground.
I woke up that morning forgetting the true reason I had stayed home. The
first thing I did upon my mothers yell to wake up was to tiptoe shakily from my door to the one adjacent; the one sharing
a wall with mine. I looked in to see if Danny was there, to see if he was really
dead. He wasnt there. Of course,
I didnt know he was at school. I didnt know anyone was. My mind was lost in its own universe of newspaper obituaries of little four-year-old boys with curly blond
hair and toy guitars. Daniel Aaron ----------, died at age eleven for unknown
reasons. Never knew that anyone loved him.
When he slammed the door open after getting off the bus that afternoon, screaming the first line of Jump Jive and Wail
over and over without tiring, I had not yet been informed that he wasnt dead. No
one had said to me, that was just a dream, because I couldnt distinguish between dream and reality, I was so scarred. Everyone thought I had hit my head on something, I was acting so strangely, offering
to bake him cookies and help him with his French. I never help him with his French.
It didnt last long, but the reality will last forever. There was a time
when I thought Michael was the devil incarnate, and Id sit with Danny on the bus, kindergartener with fellow fifth grader
and draw comic strips where we, the superheroes defeated Michael, the villain. Now
Im the villain. Now Dannys the guy tied to the chair. I just wish hed stop making that weird, distracting noise. And talk like he was his own age, and admit
that my college application is more important than his sideways smiley faces.
Or at least close his door.