“Are you ready to go out?” My brother looks at me dubiously. I am in my new strawberry colored, linen tunic from my favourite designer and the usual black leggings.
“As ready as I am going to be,” I reply. I arrived yesterday in a long linen dress. Perhaps he thinks I should put it on again.
“I never know with women’s dress these days,” he says.
It is odd not hearing a strong opinion, pro or con. I remember him saying once on
some opera trip in Europe, as he looked over the bevy of women in their tasteful black dresses and gold jewelry or pearls; “I hope you never join the Black Brigade. It’s depressing.”
“Never!” So far I have kept my promise. I love colour. It’s an easy promise to keep.
That was years ago, of course. He can’t travel any more, though he still manages to lead a fairly social life; having people to tea, going out to dinner, always with someone along to help. He still gives his opera talks twice a week in the well-appointed viewing room with the large TV screen, used only to watch opera DVDs.
Today we are going to the grocery store. I help him into my low-slung car, quite a feat for both of us, and back cautiously out of the driveway.
“Go that way,” he says, pointing north.
I turn the other way, still that urge to assert my independence.
“You’ll have to make a left turn this way,” he says. He waves his hand as we cruise up to the light. “Turn here.”
It used to really bother me, all these directives. This time I just turn here. He is my Big Brother, and we are both getting on. Really, what does it matter?
“The traffic is so bad,” he says.
I look down the street. There are lots of cars but they are moving. What is the problem? “I am used to driving in Toronto,” I point out.
I am here on this visit in London because Colin, his constant companion and best friend, is away at a conference. I come every year now and this time note that he is much better able to totter around, though he cannot stand for long and is still very weak. I do the cooking. We eat, drink some of the good wine from the wine cellar, talk about opera, ballet and theatre, and sometimes reminisce. He says he never really got to know me growing up. Ten years is a big difference. As we talk, it is as if we are doing that now. “I never knew you loved ballet!” He says. “When did that start?” “How did you get to know all these interesting people?” (This as I mention the arthritis specialist, a doctor at a big downtown hospital whom I knew first as a well known leather guy in the gay leather scene.)
“Well, I was a judge once, at the Mr. Leather Toronto competition.”
His grey eyes widen behind his glasses. “Really,” he says.
That evening we watch a strange combo opera/ballet of The Portraoit of Dorian Grey. Act two was quite exciting as Dorian slithered and smoked his way into sin after sin, quite explicitly. For some reason Dorian is a counter-tenor.
“I thought you might like it,” my brother says. He smiles.
I am not sure if it’s because he knows I like counter-tenors or slithering through dens of iniquity. I don’t ask.