The Game: Joseph Made His Move

When I was a kid, I used to think he could move mountains with one flick of the wrist. That he could change the time of day or even the seasons if he wanted. He was tall, with a build that lifted him to the heavens and established himself as a skyscraper. He cast a shadow longer than two football fields, three airstrips, and the entire length of Long Island itself. When I was a kid, his shadow was my stepping-stone. And I walked through it, as any younger brother would. Blonde hair, blue eyes—the cross-county hallmark of the Giorgio family. Of course, with all credit going to my mother as my father sat in a corner pouting over his darker toned features. Yes, we all resembled my mother. Walking out in public was a circus act; Long Island was our stage and starring center-ring was the Giorgio blonde-brigade of four. But before my younger brothers and I had even taken our first glances at Montauk or Orient Point, Joseph had already taken two years worth. My mother had her own reasons for the name Joseph, but he was always Joey to his friends. I settled on Joe early on, mostly because a hulking two syllables of a name left my toddler tongue in knots. Fortunately for me, the nickname stuck at home. I never really could wrap my head around his personality. Joe was always so stubborn, formulating the perfect mixture of rebelliousness and sarcasm that created an inevitable attraction between my mother’s forehead and the walls of our two-story Manorville home. Screeches and shouts that pierced my mother’s ears evaporated as Joe’s friends approached our wooden porch steps. Why had they received gentle conversations with hushed undertones? It was as if he was wearing a mask at home—one of insincerity and downright arrogance. I guess I was just naive then. That isn’t to say that Joe was a failure at being my older brother. He was rough around the edges; that couldn’t hold more truth to it. His fists, scarred and bruised over each knuckle, led him into fights often. But with those fists Joe defended those dear to him. And that was us. He safeguarded us, as a sentinel or overseer. With him around, high school was a stroll through the East End Wine Country. And his friends were treated as family. From paying off their mortgages to giving 3am rides from Jones Beach to the Hamptons, I was convinced Joe’s heart was larger than life itself. But let’s take a few steps back to think. Was there ever an instance in which you sealed every window, every crease and crack of the outermost world in an effort to just secure yourself? To recollect the indelible things, that is important moments—the birth of a nephew, a daughter’s graduation, the death of an older sibling? These things ingrain themselves into your brain, the pleasant cases that is, to be called upon for an enduring smile that will prompt you through your 9-5 Monday morning shift at the office. But the other cases, the ones that are so often sidestepped, eat away at your psyche until you’re consumed by the memory altogether. Allow me to take the road less traveled by, and you may decide the degree of difference it makes. Yes, Joe did die. April 6, 2011—Stony Brook University Hospital. Three o’clock. It was raining that Wednesday afternoon. Cause of death—I’d prefer to let it pass right over my head. To close my eyes and pretend I really don’t know. Two years ago, I didn’t want to. But that’s not the way life works and we’re burdened with the unimaginable and the worst so often outmaneuvers the favorable. I do know, quite well to be honest, and I’ve yet to come to terms with it. So for my own sake just close your eyes and let the waves of pretension take hold. Joe was 19 at the time, with his birthday just four short months away. A four months span of time meant the depart of his teenage years. It meant the beginning of a new semester, and an advance toward additional credits in business. Joe would’ve wiped his feet on a new doormat that read, “Adulthood: now I can be taken seriously.” But he never did get that far and it’s sad. Unbearably sad. And I write this now at 19 years of age. It’s a Wednesday afternoon, just past three. Over two years later. I won’t deny the surrealism of the entire thing; it leaves me asking question after punishing question to myself. But I was never one to really believe I’d get an answer. Not a direct one that is. I know I’ll get my answers eventually. I’ll see Joe again in some other lifetime. Off eastern Long Island. But for now he’s just toying with all of us. Testing our patience. Testing my vitality, as he always did. It wasn’t over with his death. No, the game’s just starting, and it’s my move. Game on, older brother.