Vince lives with his mom sometimes, and in my brother’s basement other times. He’s 40-something, stick-thin, with long, stringy hair. He’s a good guy. I know this because, among other mundane chores, he pulls weeds and shovels snow for my bother. He was the only person apart from immediate family who visited my bro when he was in the hospital.
When he hears me enter my brother’s kitchen, he comes up from the basement, hacking cig smoke out of his lungs. His flannel shirt and painters pants hang loosely on him.
“I see you’ve been painting.” (I was never sure if his painting job was real or a hope.)
“Yeah,” he yells. Decades of hard rock have shredded his eardrums. “Somebody’s gotta do it.” Then he launches on a screed. This time Vince’s rant is more hopeless than usual. “I blame my parents for the way I am. My dad was depressed too. My case worker says – ”
“That’s an easy out,” I say, “blaming your parents.”
“Nothing ever changes…” and he goes on, blaming the world for his state of mind and life circumstances. His voice rises. If I hadn’t known him for five years, I’d be afraid. He says, “Jesus isn’t here! God isn’t here!”
Several responses cross my mind. I say, “Vince, you know what I’m thankful for?”
He focuses on me. “What?”
He is silent, processing this foreign, pattern-interrupting concept. Then he says, “That’s the kind of thing you’re supposed to say. I know you’re trying to help me.”
“Are you saying I am a liar?” I asked.
“Oh, no. I know what you’re trying to do.”
“You’re telling me I lied to you?”
“No.” He’s getting frustrated. He busies himself with rinsing paper towels for re-use. “Yeah, well, you know, two steps forward one step back. What doesn’t make me stronger makes me angrier…” and off he goes on his rant.
I made him hit the pause button for a moment there. That’s something.