Tuesday, October 21, 2003

Playing pool against Andy last night, we both again got to witness something at once supernatural and hilarious. Ever since we were both teenagers, he has always beaten me. This outcome is inevitable, unquestionable, as predictable as any other constant rhythm in our lives.

At the end of one game last night, having cleared my own balls, my only shot left was a clear shot at the 8-ball into a corner pocket. I aimed, fired and the cue ball literally hopped along the table, actually jumped over the 8-ball leaving it unperturbed and sunk into the corner pocket by itself. I lost, of course, and somehow neither of us was too surprised.

He knows that if I am ever beating him, if I am too far ahead, all he has to say is something encouraging, pointing out clearly how well I am doing. This will almost guarantee that I will miss my next shot. I can play well if I am acting on instinct (he and I are both great players, confidently taking on others in contests in bars) but as soon as one of us invokes that higher consciousness, that sense of self-reflection which over-analyzes, over-thinks, ties up instincts into knots, he and i both know that it is over for me.

So it is too with my younger brother Antonio except that the roles are reversed and instead of billiards, the contest between us is one of brute strength and will. He is only two years younger than me which was an enormous gap when young but negligible now at our ages.

My brother and i like to wrestle with each other even today. There is no doubt that he could beat me if he only would allow himself. He is a tattooed, ex-gangster who has been in and out of jail, who has had to defend himself against real and brutal attacks. Me, I'm a softened intellectual type. The mismatch seems laughable and yet when we wrestle, even as he seems to be gaining control, he is held back by a realization (I can sometimes see it in his startled eyes) that this is his older brother he is battling, who always bested him as a child and who even now will inevitably, assuredly win. And so I do.

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