I call my brother at 1 AM to wish him happy birthday.
When he answers the phone, he sounds tired, absolutely weary-
which is not something unusual-
he always sounds like this nowadays.
I tell him the usual: Happy birthday,
how have you spent your day,
did you have a good time.
He answers with the same lack of energy.
He tells me the sodium in ramen
increases my chances of getting kidney stones.
He says, Don’t eat any more of that shit.
I tell him about a video I saw on Twitter
of a whale whose calf had just died
from being poisoned by plastic waste in the sea.
The whale dragged around her dead baby
for days, filling the oceans with her song of mourning,
perhaps hoping it would wake up.
Jesus, man, my brother says. That’s fucking awful.
His voice grows heavy and thick,
like he’s choking around the pit of a gigantic peach.
It’s a little too dramatic. A little too intense.
I sit in uncomfortable silence, wondering when
my brother became so passionate about whales,
or the state of pollution in the world’s oceans,
why it hits him so hard, a sack of bricks weighing him down
to the depths, like most things do nowadays.
I’m reminded of another phone conversation I’d had with him,
a few months earlier.
The small talk had reached a dead end,
and without warning, I suddenly found myself blurting out
Do you remember the night when Dad beat Mom right in front of us
Do you remember standing there, frozen
And what could he say to that? How do you save
a conversation, a memory, a brother?
The silence consumed us whole, stretching vast
even after we hung up.
Somewhere the whale keeps singing.