He wasn’t meant to live on the streets. He was raised in an upper-middle class family. He grew up in a nice home and he had nice things.
He is gifted with wonderful talents. He sings beautiful melodies with a deep baritone voice. He writes his own lyrics—thought-provoking and soulful stories set to his original tracks. He is an artist and words are his medium.
He went to college on a baseball scholarship. Boy, could he pitch! Did I mention that he is talented? An athlete, an intellectual, an artist.
He also is a loner. He loves philosophy and gets frustrated with the mundane. He is brilliant and recites verses out of the Bible as well as studies the fundamentals of various other religious beliefs.
He loves nature and animals. He is vegan and literally will not kill an ant or any other living creature.
And, did I mention that he is drop-dead gorgeous? Tall…a little taller than six feet, a beautiful smile, high cheek bones reminiscent of our Indian heritage. He is a looker and the girls swooned over him when we were growing up.
He is my big brother—about two and half years older than me. His name is Chuck (Chuckie to me.)
I haven’t heard from him in more than three years. The last time we communicated he was doing time for stealing a few cans of beer. It was his third-strike.
I can’t imagine my brother in prison. He has the gentlest soul of anyone I know.
He corresponded with my mom and me while he was in Chino for nine months. He wrote about how he was going to live with my mom upon his release, and he described the good times ahead. He was set to be released in the fall of 2012.
The letters came to a halt about two months before he was to be set free. We heard no word, and my mom waited anxiously. Should she come to California to pick him up? What should she do?
And, fall turned into winter and winter turned into spring. And we have never heard from Chuckie again.
He has been fighting the drug demons since he was a teenager. I don’t know his story exactly, but he started smoking pot and doing various other drugs in high school.
He went into rehab in college, and he got clean and sober for many years in his twenties. He moved to Jackson Hole, Wyoming, where he sang and danced in the local playhouses and lived a simple life of sobriety.
And, sometime in his thirties, he decided to move back to our hometown. He worked for my father, managing a family-owned motel, and he quickly resurrected his old drug habits.
I don’t really know where I am going with this story except that with a little sobriety under my belt, I am feeling for the first time in my life. And, I am very sad about my brother.
A few years ago, I had a probation officer friend run a check on him. His last known address was a homeless shelter in Los Angeles. He had just been in court the week prior and was released from his prison probation.
I tried contacting the shelter and his case worker, but I couldn’t reach anyone. Unfortunately, I was in the midst of my own downward spiral when I began a half-assed attempt to locate him.
So, yes, my brother is beautifully gifted—talents out the wazoo, model appearance, smart, artsy, athletic—the whole package.
He also was insecure. He was lonely. He longed for a fulfilling relationship with a woman. He is human. And he is addicted. (I don’t know if I should write in the past tense or present, as I haven’t spoken to him in more than three years).
Addiction has afflicted my family for many generations, and it has left no stone unturned. And, as I write this, I am angry.
I am angry at addiction and what it has done to our family and millions of other’s.
I don’t know what happened to my brother after leaving prison. The thoughts run wild through my head. I never visited him there. I was too self-absorbed in my own world and I am sorry for that.
I wish he would call or communicate with us. I wish I could wrap my arms around him and tell him that he is loved.
The last time I saw my brother, he appeared on my doorstep and asked if he could stay for a night. And he did. A night off the streets, in a nice bed with a roof over his head.
The next morning Chuckie thanked me for letting him rest here. And this is what he said.
“I am not built for the streets, Ne. I really love nice sheets and a comfy mattress.”
And he walked away…back to the streets.
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