My brother-in-law was in a bad car accident the other week. He survived. His scooter didn’t. Neither did six of his ribs. Which sucks for him since broken ribs make breathing difficult. And painful. It’s no secret that I’m not a big fan of my brother-in-law. As a matter of fact we both mutually dislike each other. But dislike is such a soft word. Abhor. Detest. Loathe. But quietly. And civilly. Like two brother-in-laws should.
I call my brother-in-law up a few days later. And ask him how he is. He sounds dazed. Heavily medicated. Slower than usual. “Be careful of those painkillers” I say sardonically. “They’re extremely habit forming.” Pause. He coughs. “I could come over there and take them off your hands. You know. As a precautionary measure.” I say jokingly. He doesn’t laugh. But I can hear loud Middle Eastern music playing in the background. “You should come over.” He says. “I’ve got some friends here now”. But that’s why I called. So I wouldn’t have to. Now I’m supposed to call and come over? Both? What’s this world coming to for Christ’s sake?
My brother-in-law lives at his mother-in-law’s. My mother-in-law. With his wife and their two kids. And whenever we show up with our little Mohican all hell breaks loose. Toys get broken. Feelings hurt. Blood is spilled. Screaming. Migraine headaches. And worst of all parenting tips. From my brother-in-law. Like he’s Dr. Phil. Or Dr. Spock. “You should really work on boundaries with D.” Yeah, thanks super nanny.
My brother-in-law sits on the couch and moans. Loudly. Louder than the volume on the TV surround sound 5.1 Dolby stereo system blasting National Geographic. Why on earth are you watching National Geographic? And he’ll put his hairy knuckles on my knee and ask me whether we’ve made any progress with the Board of Education on getting D. into a special needs school. And I’ll tell him a woeful tale of bureaucracy and ineptitude that falls into the “only in Israel” category. And he’ll moan again and then say: “Don’t worry. I’ll take care of it.” Like he’s the Godfather. And all I have to do is kiss his ring at his daughter’s wedding for my son to be magically transferred. And he’ll leave his hairy knuckles on my knee for a long time. A very long time. An extremely long and uncomfortable time.
I make myself a cup of Turkish coffee while the Tasmanian devils run beneath my feet screaming, yelling, crying, biting, kicking and laughing. I sit down next to him and we watch the lions in Africa hunt wildebeests in the Serengeti. And he’ll look at my coffee as it settles and say: “That’s not how you make Turkish coffee. You need to use less water.” And then he moans again and offers to show me his scar. Before I have the chance to protest he is painstakingly lifting his shirt. And it’s gruesome. Like some Halloween make up on Frankenstein. And then he’ll smoke a cigarette and I’ll be left watching the lions as they sink their teeth into whatever poor animal is too slow to escape.
My sister-in-law asks if we want to stay for lunch. It’s Saturday morning and they’ve got Jachnun in the oven. Jachnun is a Yemenite dish that is basically layers upon layers of dough. Which you dip in a tomato paste. And there’s a hard boiled egg on the side. It’s probably the most disgusting thing you’ll ever eat. Thankfully M. has celiac. And besides we’ve agreed to only stay an hour. One hour. Meanwhile we’d been there for over two. So I begin to gracefully decline. But M. intervenes and says we’d be happy to stick around for lunch. And she asks me to make an omelet. Because I make a mean omelet.
My brother-in-law starts eating the jachnun while I’m making the omelet. He groans and gets up. Salt? Pepper? Maybe some more sauce. No. My brother-in-law turns up the flame on the skillet. “You need to cook it on a higher heat.” He says before he sits back down again and groans. And I muster all my strength not to bludgeon him to death with the spatula.
My brother-in-law heads off to bed just as I finish cooking the slightly burned omelet. He takes a little white pill and shows me the case. Oxycontin. The holy grail of pain killers. I should know. I’ve been recreationally abusing pain killers since college. Xanax, Percocet, Vicodin, Clonazepam… you name it and I’ve abused it at one point or another for fun. But not for years. And putting that pill in front of me is like organizing an internship conference consisting of young blondes in Moshe Katzav’s jail cell. He tosses it on the kitchen table nonchalantly as I faintly hear seraphs singing “Hallelujah” in the background.
And then the perfect storm. M. takes the Mohicans to the soccer field. My brother-in-law passes out in his room. My sister-in-law and her mother go out for a cigarette. And I am left alone with that glistening pill case on the kitchen table beckoning me. Promising me I could take just one pill, couple it with a bottle of wine and then float through the night on a soft fluffy cloud. And be oblivious, for one night at least, to my minus in the bank, the kids in the playground that make fun of D. or don’t want to play with him because he’s different and my obesity. And my mediocrity. And my existential angst. And I keep looking for a sign that maybe I shouldn’t do it. Maybe I shouldn’t steal a painkiller from someone who is genuinely in pain. And all I see is a lion picking at the carcass of a poor animal. Because that’s life. Survival of the fittest.
D. falls asleep in the car. M. puts her hand on mine and thanks me for being such a lovely husband. And for making a great omelet. And for not nagging her about leaving every five minutes like I normally would. And she puts her head on my shoulder.
My mother-in-law calls M. up the other day. Which she does most every day. I was giving D. a bath. But she has her on speaker. She is watching the kids. My brother-in-law had apparently grossly miscalculated the number of pills he had taken. Or had taken too many too often. Or something. He was so out of sorts, she said. Dazed. And moaning. And in so much pain.
Now he needed to get his prescription refilled.
So they were off to the doctor.
And D. looks at me from the bathtub and smiles as he squeezes the little yellow rubber ducky.
And I think to myself that I’m the worst brother-in-law in the history of the world.