Thick glass between us, my brother and I each reach for a phone receiver. Mom and Dad behind me. His voice is chipped with static. We have thirty minutes to talk starting seven seconds ago.
I paint my five-year-old goddaughter’s nails, roll gloss across her lips. Pink plastic slippers light when she walks. Here, she tells me, I’m a prince.
My brother tells me his lawyer will be here tomorrow, in the meantime he reads books.
I read an article. Tips for a Better Life. 3. Smiling releases endorphins. But the mind cannot differentiate a real smile from a fake.
My goddaughter runs. I find her, slide on the shoe that fits. Again. This time both. Each time, we dance and she kisses my cheek.
My brother won’t explain how to make dice out of cereal. But they roll them, adding up each turn. A game called Ten Thousand. I smile, not knowing how to be anything other than a little brother.
On a plane, the world is so knowable. I can boil it down to elementary geography. Clouds sky sun. I like to think it’s this simple. It makes it easier to fall asleep in the air.
I never tell my goddaughter goodbye. I say, I’ll see you later.
She hands me two cookies and I leave with pink glitter on my beard.
On the last day of sixth grade, someone asked if we’ll have recess in junior high. We all looked up at Mrs. Swearingen, who couldn’t put into words that we weren’t coming back to this.
Our phone call ends before we finish saying what we want to. I mouth I’ll write.
Mom says, if you flip the receiver upside down and speak into the opposite end, they’ll hear your goodbye on the other side.