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  • Robert Farago

O Brother, Where Art Thou?

My first hallucinogenic experience

My brother’s text came out-of-the-blue. His wife’s stepmother had “entered late phase hospice care.” Huh?

My brother and I communicate about as frequently as Kim Jong-un and Amnesty International. My brother’s wife dislikes me with a passion only slightly dimmed. And I’ve never met his wife’s step-mother.

Not to put too fine a point on it, why was I supposed to care? How?

Manners Maketh Man

My brother (not shown) has never been interested in my life. Our relationship went straight from merciless childhood teasing to the void.

Occasional meetings (e.g., a recent Thanksgiving gathering) do nothing to bring us together in anything other than a geographical sense. Still…

I texted my brother a brief reply: “Condolences – may she have a smooth pain-free passage.”

It wasn’t insincere. My heart’s not made of stone, and I can no more hold a grudge than I can hold my tequila.

But my reply felt… insubstantial.

Like a Bridge

After I pressed send, I considered the possibility that my brother’s text was an attempt at bridge building.

Getting up close and personal with mortality can be a wake-up call, thawing connections that’ve spent decades in cryogenic suspension.

Then again, maybe not. The story of the scorpion and the frog springs to mind.

After a couple of days, I texted back Frazier Crane style: “Do you want to talk about it?”

My brother texted that his step-MIL had died peacefully and “we are gathering in FL this weekend.”

Good talk! That triggered a bad memory…

Take Your Ch-Ch-Chance

It was 1975. My brothers were living together in an elegant East Side brownstone. For some reason, my oldest brother invited me to his birthday dinner.

I knew none of their friends and none of their friends were friendly. When we all sat down for dinner, each place had an ornate dinner plate with a small blue speck in the middle. Mescaline.

I was in high school. I’d started drinking and smoking marijuana, but I’d never “experimented” with hallucinogens. I figured my non-drug reality was fucked-up enough as it was. And yet…

I wasn’t going to pass up a chance to “be” with my brothers.

The next thing I knew

I was alone in a field. I had no idea how I’d got there. But there I was. Just me and a butterfly hanging out in a strangely technicolor world (especially for a colorblind teenager).

I remember feeling relieved that I was in the company of such an benign creature, given the clippings of really bad trips that my mother left on my bed.

Float Like a Butterfly

The butterfly landed on a tall, brightly-colored stalk and flapped its wings in time with my breathing, its wings changing color with each cycle.

Was I the butterfly? Was it my “spirit animal”? Or was something dark about to be in play?

A gust of wind carried the butterfly away. I watched it disappear, flapping its wings with no apparent effect on its direction. Not that it seemed to care.

I felt sad for the butterfly and utterly alone. Abandoned. Lost. Friendless. Not an unfamiliar feeling, then or now.

When I “came down” I was alone, sitting in the dark in a chair in my brothers’ living room.

I wanted to tell them, tell someone what I’d experienced. Not finding a sympathetic ear, I left, dazed, confused and exhausted.

Poor, Poor Pitiful Me

Years later, when I heard Little Feat’s Voices on the Wind for the first time, I had a flashback.

I know it sounds crazy, but Linda Rondstadt singing the refrain was that butterfly zig-zagging into the ether.

“Though you are surrounded, feeling quite alone, there’s a light to guide you home.”

I like to believe that was the butterfly’s message. I’d also like to believe it’s true that there’s a home for me, somewhere.

Says the man who’s selling his condo, embarking on a motorcycle tour without a final destination.

Now What?

I don’t know what to text to my brother. How was the funeral? How are you feeling? Did you read this post?

I’m opting for silence. There comes a point in a relationship when silence is the the best way to establish your worth – to yourself as much as anyone else. Sometimes the only way.

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