Gambling that a midnight serenade will soften his wife’s memory of finding him naked in the pool with their daughter’s nanny, my brother Tom insists I accompany him rhythmically. When I protest that I don’t own any drums he says, “Well, then get one of your beatnik buddies to loan you a goddamn bongo. I don’t think banging a couple of milk cartons together is going to save my marriage.” He tells me to be at the door of my building wearing a suit and tie at quarter to twelve and hangs up.
We roll silently, headlights off, up the Berkeley foothill in Tom’s luxury sedan and park several houses short of his. He squints up the street lined with Brown Shingles and Queen Annes toward his own dark mass of cupolas and bay windows, and I notice the orange streetlamp light has made his graying stubble a glistening rash. The sweet summer air mingled with his sweat and whiskey breath delivers an uneasy promise. Overhead, the stars are unobscured by fog or the light of the moon, which has set, or is yet to rise.
At the fence Tom chokes me straightening my tie. “Toom toom te-tah. Toom, te-toom tah,” he reminds me, before he and his acoustic guitar ascend and disappear. Then I am scrambling after him, African drum in tow.
The performance goes about how you would expect. When Tom reaches the chorus of Neil Diamond’s Forever in Blue Jeans (“it’s our song” he has explained), a light comes on upstairs. The window opens and Amy’s tear-streaked face appears.
“If you’d kept your fucking clothes on, we’d still have a family.” She sobs.
Her aim is miraculous, the universal remote hitting him square on the forehead. He loses his balance and for a moment is splayed on the lawn, Leonardo’s Vitruvian Man in formal wear.
Later, we sit on the hood of his car in a gravel turn-out on Skyline Boulevard, the city lights rushing to the darkness of the Bay below us. Twelve years older than I am, my brother is a self-made millionaire, a visionary entrepreneur. He takes a swig of Scotch and passes me the bottle, saying, “She’ll take me back.”