Sophomore year of college. In a beyond-whirlwind month of his life, my older brother Kelly had moved to the town where I was in school, and then realized financially, emotionally, and otherwise, that he needed to, at the age of 24, move back home to live with our parents. For the first time in both of our lives, that was the month that I became a shoulder for Kelly to cry on, rather than vice versa. While we can still bicker with the best of 'em, and he loves to push my buttons for sport, we are irreversibly close thanks to that period of crisis in his life. Since then I've had my own crises and the shoulder to cry on has been swapped, and I find him mentoring me now, at the age he was then. But what follows is a lighter memory of that time, after some of the dust had begun to settle in his life.
Shortly after he had swallowed the weight of the fact that he had to move back home, and do so rather expediently, Kelly rented a storage space and we looked at my class schedule to figure out when I could help him move out of his apartment. I borrowed a truck from one of my classmates, and we were on our way.
I will pause here to tell you one of my favorite parts of this memory. Kelly was on the phone with our mom, and when she realized we were going to move his stuff out of his apartment without the help of anyone else, Mom asked Kelly, "Is Bailey strong enough to lift all that stuff?" To which Kelly replied, "Are you kidding?! I'm glad I have Bailey to help me, her arms are huge!" Which is a true statement, and I do unabashedly love my arms. Okay back to story, if you haven't already decided to stop following my blog on account of my arrogance.
After my "Word & Image" course (one of my all time favorite courses in my undergraduate adventure) on that cold, drizzly Friday morning, I drove my friend's truck to Kel's apartment, where he had coffee and bagels waiting, God bless him. Kelly is a very good caretaker, he never lets me or others go hungry. I remember specifically that we put skim milk in our coffee in our travel cups, and strawberry cream cheese on the bagels, toasted in his toaster oven that would soon be shipped to a storage garage.
The three bulkiest items of Kelly's that we moved in one load across town were his 55-gallon fish tank, an equally bulky as well as heavy fish tank stand that he and our dad had constructed years before, and his full-size mattress. We maneuvered all three down a wooden, outdoor spiral staircase to the truck.
Come to think of all this, I do not remember helping him move in to his apartment. If awkwardly juggling a 55-gallon fish tank down a spiral staircase in the rain is highly memorable, then one would think it would be difficult to forget doing the same in the opposite direction. Hmm.
We placed the two fishy items side by side in the truck bed, and then balanced the mattress on top of them, with its edges hanging over the sides. Now, while aesthetically pleasing, clever, and all that jazzy etc. that such a placement of these items was, said placement suddenly had our post- and current-collegiate selves scratching our heads. You see, the balancing act was stable while the truck was sitting, parked cutely in the gravel lot, but what to do when we send those wheels a-movin'? Which brings us to our second Hmm.
Well our current- and post-collegiate minds (keep in mind, this post-collegiate mind went on to be at the top of his law class...) came up with the solution that Bailey would lie down in the bed of the truck, and hold onto the mattress with her arm. I repeat. Bailey would lie down in the bed of the truck, and hold onto the mattress with her arm. Geniuses we are, I tell ya. It was a short drive to our destination, we figured, and besides, it was only slightly raining, there was no monsoon here. What the hey.
So I slid my butt into the remaining sliver of space behind the fish tank and stand, and laid down. Kelly latched the tailgate, being careful not to pinch my precious cargo self, this cautious tactic being kind of a moot point considering we were about to drive across town with me hidden in the bed which could at any moment be smashed from behind (sorry for the graphic imagery). Kelly started driving, poking along as slowly as possible on the little town roads. My pale wrist reached from the bed like a fake corpse from a coffin on someone's front porch on Halloween, to scare the trick-or-treaters. We hoped that the hand clutching the mattress would only evoke eyebrow raises and prayed that the road would be free of police as we made our excursion. Things were going smoothly--well, a little bumpy for me--and then we stopped.
I assumed we had approached a traffic light or stop sign, until I started to get that paranoid feeling of being buried alive in my claustrophobic, coffin-esque travel slot. A couple of minutes went by, the drizzle picked up a bit, I waited for the officer to unlatch the tailgate and ask for my driver's license. Then, from Kelly, "Are you okay?" "Yeah. What's going on?" "Railroad crossing." "Oh...can I have my coffee?" My priorities really rarely change. Busy morning at work? Great, let's pause first and get ourselves caffeinated. Slow morning at work? Great, let's have some coffee for a treat. Find yourself lying in a truck bed with a mattress for a roof? Interesting...Okay, moving on, who would like some coffee?
The conclusion of our adventure was that we got to the storage facility without losing the mattress, our licenses, or voting privileges; without me being crushed by another car, and without crashing my friend's truck. The mattress and fish tank stayed in the storage garage for a while, Kelly got back on his feet at home, returned a year later for law school, and to this day when I visit him, he gives up his bed to me and sleeps on the futon in the living room. This, I like to believe, is his way of repaying me for risking my life and being rained on with only a mattress for shelter. The mattress was once over me, but now when I visit it is clear who's boss, as I sprawl myself over it.