The twin brothers had been through a lot over the years. But they always stuck together, although one might wonder why. They headed down I-81 in their grandpa’s old faux wood-paneled, shiny black 1972 Buick Estate Station Wagon. You know, the type of car everyone made fun of back then but now was considered a cool classic? My, how times change.
People are so funny.
They’d only been driving about two hours, and had another three or so to go before they crossed the state line into Tennessee. Jarrod, the younger by four minutes, was getting all antsy like usual. Jonathan knew it’d be only a matter of time before the whole trip became unbearable.
He drove while Jarrod sat, window cracked, smoking his umpteenth Camel wide. “But Jonathan you can say that all you want, you always do,” he said. “That doesn’t mean you’re right. You always act like you’re right and I’m wrong and everything’s my fault.”
Jonathan kept his eyes on the road and said quietly and measuredly in his best comforting voice, “Jarrod everything’s gonna be okay, you wait and see. There’s no one to blame here anyway, who says everything’s your fault? That’s you giving yourself grief again; has nothing to do with me. Can’t you just relax for a couple of hours? Let’s have a good time. Besides, you really need to just think of the overall scheme of things for yourself. Do yourself a favor. Things could change overnight, but you gotta try to have some patience.”
“Yeh easy for you to say. Patience. I can’t take it anymore, I know things aren’t gonna work out for me. They never have.”
Jonathan was so used to this line of conversation. They’d had it a million times, probably more. He could write it and sell it to some Hollywood screenwriter God knows it was all so predictable. “We have to take things one day at a time Jarrod, we’ve been over this a million times. You gotta try and keep it together. We have to be strong enough to cope with things. You never know how things are gonna play out.”
“Well you say that, but you know I have bad self-esteem. I can’t help it.”
“You can help it, and it’s okay. Why be so hard on yourself? You don’t have to be ya know. When you’re so harsh and critical of yourself and everything and everyone around you, it really puts a damper on things; on your happiness.”
Jonathan looked over at his brother, puffing away. He was so fond of him, but so troubled by him too.
“Yeh well you can say all that but I know you’re just trying to make me feel better. And I know you think I’m being a big jerk. You always act like things are so rosy and just look at you. What do you have to show for yourself anyway?”
They pulled off the freeway into the comfort station. “We’ll use the bathroom and get some snacks from the vending machine here, okay? Stretch our legs for a bit. That ought to make you feel better no?”
“Well can we buy beer there?”
“No,” Jonathan said, trying to repress his laughter. “They don’t sell beer or any booze or anything there. You’re not gonna get any relief from drinking right now anyway. It doesn’t do anything in the long run. It doesn’t fill the hole man, won’t stop your agonizing about things brother. Besides, remember when you said you were gonna do things different from now on?”
“Well we’re gonna need some beer.”
“Jarrod we can’t get it here. Why on God’s green earth can’t you wait til we get to Bristol? You can have all the beer you want when we get there. I told you that over and over.”
They pulled into a parking spot where there was an array of cars with a variety of out-of-state plates. Travelers from everywhere going only God knows where. Jonathan got out and made a beeline for the restroom, while Jarrod walked over to a picnic table. The day was a pretty one, and he sat down with his backpack and pulled out a tuna fish sandwich that Jonathan packed for the trip and took a bite. He watched the people coming and going and recharging for their travels ahead; the perfect picture of Americana. People smiled and some waved at him when they passed by, and Jarrod tried his best to smile in return.
Damn southerners, always so friendly.
He finished his sandwich and took out his stash from his backpack. This’ll tide me over, he thought. He discretely rolled a doobie so no one would take notice, and got up and took a little walk in the woods, lighting up with his Bic.
Jarrod thought about his life while shuffling around slowly in the woods. Why didn’t his brother ever just shut the hell up? Probably cause he hasn’t suffered like me. He’s always had it so easy. Jarrod sucked on the joint. Yeh, and he never stops with his yammering either, just gets on my nerves, all the big talk. He looked over and saw Jonathan by the entrance to the building, yukking it up and laughing with some folks. Why was it always so easy for him?
Jonathan made way back toward the car, and when spotting Jarrod, quickened his pace. He walked up into the woods shaking his head. “Jarrod come on, put that out, let’s go. We gotta make some road time here.”
“Wait a minute Jon, let me finish this.”
“You don’t need that now, let’s go.”
“Well if you let me smoke it in the car you wouldn’t have to wait. Why do you always have to be starting shit with me?”
Jonathan was flumoxxed. He knew anything he said wouldn’t help. His brother was so stubborn- always has been always will be.
“Jarrod let’s go and try and enjoy the rest of our trip. Once we get there you can go your way and do whatever you want,” he said, knowing full well that Jarrod NEVER went his own way; was always crawling up his ass.
Jarrod sat Indian-style on the ground. “Jarrod I told you, you can’t drink and smoke away your angst. I’ve had about enough. I’m exhausted from watering and feeding you. You’re gonna have to mellow out and stop messing with me already.” He couldn’t stand feeling the martyr, but wasn’t it always this way?
Jarrod looked up at him, taking his last hit. Jonathan knew it was his time to stew.
He looked down at his brother. “I’m sorry, okay? You know how much I love you. I just can’t help but wonder. Don’t you ever have a moment when you’re just glad to be alive?”