"Seriously, bro. You should just come. You don't even have to raft if you don't want to. Just hang out around the camp with us, have some drinks and some laughs. It'd just be good to have you there."
I felt bad. I knew this was something that he loved doing and I hadn't at least given it a shot, so when he asked if I would be interested a few months ago I said "yes" almost immediately. I called The Rivermen and paid for my trip the day my brother called and told me the trip had been booked.
I knew I would have a good time. That wasn't really the question. I thought I would go hang out, have some laughs, and then survive the raft trip. I expected it to be something that I was glad I had done, but glad it was over. I thought the whole time I was out there I would be thinking about how I just wanted it done so I could say I did it. So, I was surprised when I really loved it.
Being a hermit, it's strange for me to find myself in a mix of people that I might not normally hang with. When I find myself in that situation, I always say that I'm going to keep my mouth shut and just have a good time, but that never lasts for long. Sooner or later, I'm making fun of pretty much everything, and it's usually funny to everyone except the person who's getting picked on. Not, that I don't take my beatings too, I just seem unable to shut up sometimes. Oh well, so be it. I went rafting with my brother and some other really good company, and it was all a good thing. It was important for me to be there.
You know, for years I have drug my poor Van Halen loving brother to concerts that he had no interest in seeing, simply because I am a hermit and don't know anyone else to go with. Over the years he has been forced to see The Afghan Whigs, Radiohead, Silversun Pickups, Wolfmother, and Ben Folds. While he's usually a good sport, these are all bands that he couldn't care less about. There was one exception though.
I had tickets to see Ben Folds at The Newport Music Hall. I was excited, Paul was tolerant. We showed up early and the opening band hit the stage. It was a group I hadn't heard of at the time named Train. They were really good. I hadn't heard any of their stuff before, though some people in the audience were singing along. They were all jangly guitar pop, and sounded clean, so Paul was instantly hooked. We kept looking at each other saying "These guys are great" with smiles and appreciative nods in the loud club.
We were packed in on the floor with hundreds of geeky young men and sensitive looking art students, standing out like a sore thumb. The whole night I had been noticing that I no longer fit in with the usual concert goers and was slowly becoming the older guy that happened to like some cool music. Not exactly what I was aspiring to be.
Train ended their set, and my brother turned to me with his hand in the air and said "Those guys were awesome!"
Normally, I'm not a high-five kind of guy. It's never been my thing. Standing in that club, feeling like a geeky old guy, high-fiving was even less an option for me. I left my brother hanging.
As his hand came down, I grabbed it awkwardly and have him the man-hug mix of clenched hands and a pat on the back, but the damage had already been done. He had been left standing in the middle of a floor full of kids with dyed red hair with his lonely hand in the air.
I try not to lie to my brother ever. I've never done anything bad to him intentionally, though my own selfishness has hurt him over the years. So while it's a little thing, it's still something I think about from time to time, and I thought about it this weekend while we were out.
After the raft trip, we load back onto a bus with our gear and a can of beer and start riding back to camp. The bus was loud with mostly young men recounting their trips down the river as they downed cans of cheap lite beer. It would have been the perfect opportunity for a high-five, but there were none. Maybe this is because they have really lost their place in society outside of sports. Maybe because it's just fucking difficult to look cool when in the act of a high-five. But I wondered if my brother was holding back because of that night at the Ben Folds show.
Maybe he was sitting there in his bus seat, forcing himself not to stand up and start high-fiving everyone within arms reach. Maybe he actually stood, and then looked over to where I sat and then remembered I was there before retaking his seat. OK, probably not. He probably doesn't remember a thing about that. He probably doesn't know that I killed the high-five that once dwelt within his heart.
So, after arriving back in his house I gave him a hug and thanked him for everything. If it hadn't been for him, I never would have been in that beautiful place doing such an amazing thing. I wouldn't have had the chance to get to know some of his friends better. I made a point of making sure he knew how amazing it all was for me, and I'm going to make sure I remind him of it all again soon. And if we're sitting around the fire pit at his house or out somewhere at a restaurant or bar recounting the weekend, and he wants to high-five, I'll be right there with him, the sound of our slapping hands cracking through the night.
You're goddamn right I will.