More Than That

The Guitar Player

Autistic. That’s how they labeled him.

Not everyone got it, I don’t think, why he wouldn’t look at you when you spoke to him. Why he wouldn’t say “hi” back when you greeted him. Rude. Unfriendly. Weird. Yes, that was my brother. His expressions were a mystery, a blank page in a book.

A musician. He could be up all hours of the night and into the daytime playing his red electric guitar. When he walked around the house, when we sat down to dinner, he wore the guitar strap around him as if it was a part of him. He clung tightly to his lifeline. There must have been a spark that went off in his brain repeatedly, as if he were a computer calculating formulas for numerous combinations. And whenever that spark went off, it would quickly ignite the fourth of July. He would let all his emotions ventilate into the strings, sounding perfect the first time without fail. But as if that just wasn’t good enough, his fingers would quarrel with the guitar, bickering with one another, adjusting over and over again, tasting the different sounds they could make until they would come to a compromise. A satisfying reminisce that he could internally applaud.

He would preach the strangest things…things that at first I wouldn’t understand. Like he was speaking an alien language, he would explain these thoughts to me. l would feel enlightened by his views. One night as we sat up together in the dim light of the living room, looking at the floor he told me, “Everyone has felt sadness before. You won’t always agree with why someone feels sad, but if you can at least understand what it’s like to feel sad, you can begin to understand that person and their situation.” This was the task my brother assigned me.

My brother is the brown haired one sitting with the guitar in his Seattle apartment. He needs a haircut. He thinks about me, I know, because he will send me music to listen to. He will text me about Top Pot donuts because he knows they are my favorite. My brother is the successful one, the man who overcame so much bullying and hardship. He is the one who keeps his stories to himself, but not his opinions. He is a composer, a musician, a mentor, a friend, a fighter, a brother, a son.

They labeled him as Autistic. But he is so much more than that.

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