fraternal affluence

About 4pm yesterday I received an unmarked call.  This often means it’s my brother as he withholds his mobile number when calling, but it being in office hours I gave a formal answer anyway.  “Do you have any plans tonight?” he asked.  I told him no, not minding that I was clearly playing second fiddle to a better option.  “Well I’ve got two press tickets to go to the theatre in town if you fancy it?”  The line was crackly as he was in an early learning centre of some kind with his son, but we stumbled through it and arranged to meet an hour before the show for dinner.

My brother has grown into London and its affluence much easier than I, propelled by professional and domestic success through well defined focus, dedication and probably more hard work.  Seldom do I eat out, especially in midrange yet still classy West End restaurants, but my brother was almost at pains to stake his ease in such environments. 

More than simply at ease: he was languid and sprawling in his manner and communication to waitresses – wanting to appear in consummate control, needing to seem to his incidental brother that this was his natural habitat, his domain.  He often lunches long with high profile figures, expensing flamboyant meals and wine.  I didn’t understand the quickly reducing liquid level of his wine glass when he didn’t appear to ever sip.  It was surreptitious, neat and nipped; and I was behind.  He dictated our pace, his ever paranoid eyes clockwatching for fear of being late back to the theatre, but not to excess.

When we had met at the theatre, he had tried to collect his special tickets but been told that the relevant desk wasn’t open yet.  We had bumped into his colleague, a pretty small blonde televisual woman and her husband.  My brother’s frighteningly direct manner has often appeared excruciatingly over sincere to me, affected somehow, and when he trowels on charm it’s impossible not to interpret the distortion to smarm.  I wonder if this is to do with the longevity of my interpretation though.  And whether it’s not entirely accurate, because people do seem to react well to him and this manner – perhaps as it’s an accepted part of him and how he conducts himself.  Maybe the smarm effect on people isn’t as strong as it appears to me.

Dinner was fine and we trotted through amiably enough, speaking of our work – I think he’s surprised at how long I’ve managed to keep this going, how it isn’t yet an abject failure – and also briefly of family.  He’s always keen to impart our parents’ latest views of me and how they spoke to him last in a telephone call.  I never reciprocate this because it never seems apparent to me, my parents and I don’t speak so much of him.  However, it’s possible I’m considered much differently, the sensitive distant loner son who nobody knows that well.  Perhaps.  Each interpretation of my current state via a fifteen minute telephone conversation could be afforded more scrutiny than I presume.

At the end of the meal I forced my own debit card onto the little plate with his, despite his protestations that he’d pay, as he often does, knowing his obviously superior solvency.  Sometimes it’s nice knowing that nobody knows how I’m doing, what I’m earning.  Other times it can lead to faint, possibly even unintended patronising.  We left the bright restaurant, bidding goodbye to the cute young maitre’d – who my brother had pegged as an out of work actress, then walked back down the street to the theatre, coincidentally collecting his colleague and her husband en route.

After the show, my brother bumped into several people he knows – more colleagues and old college friends.  Towards them he exudes smarm, to me, perhaps charm to others, and is well received.  I stood in the foyet waiting, while his voice rippled up the stairs below.  His dominating voice has always had the power to ripple penetratingly within buildings.  It’s not deep and booming, masterful or commanding.  Simply loud, posh, erudite and confident.  Wodehousian.  Much about him is.


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