That was the first thing I noticed about my older brother when we sat down at the coffee shop - his skin tone was not fully of Han Chinese stock, but rather the coppery hue of someone from Southeast Asia. Indonesia, Fiji ... it's hard to place precisely his ethnicity, and the reunion was strange in so many ways.
I'm dreaming again of course - high-intensity R.E.M.-sleep that sends my imagination into overdrive nearly every morning. It's strange, how the mind accept the reality within the dream-world, however removed from our actual lives, as 'real' in the moment while the dream is in motion. There are a few persistent locations I've revisited multiple times in my dreams - familiar spots that (far as I know) do not exist in the real world but remain very real to me for seeing it so many times, in so many dreams. Familiar, comfortable places where I palaver with old faces, and sometimes new.
Darker. He's a half-sibling from my father, and after a long separation by events beyond either of our control, we were finally seated in front of each other after nearly two decades apart. Oddly enough, during this conversation I begin to 'remember' shared stories of our imagined childhood together - being teased by other kids ( within the east-Asian community, dark skin is associated with 'lower class' and 'cheap labor.' I guess some things - right or wrong - aren't all that different across the Pacific) for having a dark-skinned older brother, now feeling guilty for being ashamed of him. Children are cruel everywhere, but I felt a wave of intense guilt for playing along with the jeering schoolyard bullies instead of siding with my own flesh and blood.
He waves it off dismissively, with a rueful smile. We're family - we witness each other in our worst moments, and it's easy to condemn petty, vicious and thoughtless actions that punctuate our interactions ... if we don't have the character to forgive each other, what is the point? We talk about the precious few shared memories before our lives diverged across two continents, life-stories that took arcs both similar yet different as he wrestled with his own demons and enjoyed his own triumphs while I did the same.
I don't ask about his mother - I suppose at some level I don't really want to know - and he doesn't volunteer anything. There's an unspoken code that perhaps all twenty-year-separated-siblings agree to abide by, the cautious intimacy that comes with shared bloodlines and separate childhoods. At 40, he's old enough that adolescence is a distant memory, and we are able to laugh about events that seem so momentous to our teenage selves - and we talk in the sort of relaxed familiarity about our parallel lives in different worlds.
"It's good to see you again after all this time. Let's not wait another twenty years to do this again."
"I think I can promise that."
We embrace ...
and then I awoke.
Strange. Strange to exchange such an intense, intimate moment with someone who doesn't exist ... a wisp of imagination coalesing into a face and voice.
He said, "Go where you have to
For I belong to you until my dying day."
So like a fool, blue caravan
I believed him and I walked away.
Oh my blue blue caravan
The highway is my great wall
For my true love is a man
Who never existed at all
Oh he was a beautiful fiction
I invented to keep out the cold
But now, my blue blue caravan
I can feel my heart growing old
- Vienna Teng, "Blue Caravan"
Time for a 5 mile run along the beach to clear my head.