My mother hasn’t spoken to her brother in fifteen years. The argument had something to do with his wife, a five-foot-tall P.I. who used to be a toll booth operator on the border. I hated the way she treated her three-year-old stepson but kept quiet because she took me shopping and bought me a slutty dress to wear to my bat mitzvah. At that time my uncle owned a sports bar called Slamba’s, which he has since sold. I have one memory of the bar. I’m seven and my uncle is babysitting me and we spend the afternoon playing billiards. This was before the smoking ban. He takes his turn with an unlit cigarette jammed into each corner of his mouth. Then he lifts me onto the pool table and I kick the balls around. The night he had it out with my mother he stormed the kids’ room and hoisted his sleeping son onto his shoulder. In the doorway, he turned around and screamed: Your family is fucking cursed. I could see my mother through the crook of his arm. She was standing at the far end of the hallway, at the top of the stairs. She was laughing.
I had a friend in college who got caught napping in A.D. White’s bed. Or so he told me. He also kept a diary of letters to a son he wanted to name after himself in the future. We lost touch and I hear he’s a doctor now. But he slept on the floor of my apartment for a summer and talked in his sleep every night. Things like love is a long sad laugh. That part of the story is true. I witnessed it. And one night he got so drunk that he lay down in the street and started screaming and trying to make snow angels. It was July. When I finally got him up the steps to my apartment he unzipped and took a piss on the patio. He kept trying to walk my dog. Then he tried to kick the side view mirror off the neighbor’s car. She was a single mom and we had to call the cops on her twice that summer. He got up at nine a.m. the next day and walked to work in a laboratory two miles away, uphill. Like he’d gone to bed early the night before and recharged. A year later he confessed to me that he wasn’t in love with his girlfriend but he knew she’d be devastated if he left her. Two years after that he asked her to marry him and she said yes and then he asked if I wanted to go on a road trip and I said yes. Three weeks later he went on vacation to Europe and I never heard from him again.
My aunt is a public defender in Rochester, New York. Before she went to law school she was married to a doctor, and before that she was a supermodel. Photos from her portfolio are taped to every mirror in the house. She never mentions her ex-husband. I know that his oldest son is two years younger than my aunt. After the divorce went through none of them ever spoke to her again. She keeps her brother’s wedding announcement taped to the inside of her front door, above the deadbolt. She has blacked out her sister-in-law’s face and written WHORE above it with a Sharpie. She wins most of her cases but she thinks the job might be turning her into a racist. Her best friend, a 75-year-old nun, lives across the street. They sit on her living room floor and smoke weed on the weekends. My aunt’s sole unwavering belief is in the idea of karmic justice.