My aunt’s boyfriend was neither smart nor kind, but he was tall and with a good amount of hair, all things considered. That was more than enough. That was all that it took for him not only to become a part of our lives, but placed at its very centre by the adults in the family. To this day it disturbs me how small we were; how easily we shuffled or were pushed to the periphery.
Eventually, they married. Then divorced. I don’t know where he is now, but it doesn’t matter.
This story is about what happened before all that. This is about that one time with the brick.
He stacked the brick on a set of rough wood planks, and left the setup in the parking lot behind my parent’s store. For about a week, you could find him back there, s-l-o-w-l-y bringing his arm up past his shoulder then s-l-o-w-l-y easing it back down again to touch the brick with the base of his open palm, feet planted wide, knees bent, cheeks puffed out and sucked in by big, exaggerated breaths.
Just like that for days and days. Preparing. Getting ready. “Training.” All this (need I say it? He had absolutely no martial arts training whatsoever), because he was bored and because people had stopped paying attention to him and because Jackie Chan was huge that year.
Rumble in the Bronx? A classic even still.
But Jackie Chan wasn’t all that tall and his hair was only OK. And besides, boyfriend knew that he could do it – break that brick straight in half – because he not only did he believe in himself, he’d never stopped believing in himself, no matter what. He was, in other words, a winner. Number 1!
And wouldn’t you know? Could you guess?
YES. Of course the stupid motherfucker broke his hand, and badly. The brick remained totally unscathed because OF COURSE IT WAS. The second best part? Boyfriend kept his busted-up hand wrapped in dirty bandages for weeks until he finally went to a doctor, who admonished him for waiting so long to get his “work accident” attended to.
The day after he broke his hand, the brick was gone. Gone like it had never been; as if everything surrounding it had never happened. Even the wood planks had been disappeared. No one needed to tell us that under no circumstances were we ever, ever to talk about the brick again or about martial arts or about Jackie Chan (who, in any case, used a stuntman sometimes, the wimp, or didn’t we know that?). No need to embarrass ourselves, talking about something that didn’t happen, right? Also, these bandages are from WORK ACCIDENT.
Sure, asshole. But why couldn’t you just keep them clean?
Time makes fools of us all, no matter which direction it comes at you from. Telling you all this now, about the brick, after so many years, makes having lived through it doubly worth it, even if I’d give most anything not to speak of him, as if he’d never been. As if he’d never happened.
Like I said, fools of us all.