My brother and his family surfaced in Seattle today, so I met them downtown for lunch. I walked them over to a cheap Chinese restaurant. I think we could all tell right away that it wasn’t going to be very satisfying. I considered herding everyone back outside and taking them to the nice little Vietnamese place, but decided for some reason that we’d already invested too much in the place. We’re sticking with the original plan!

We stumbled through the ordering process, everyone hesitating. At the cash register I made a half-assed attempt to pay, but Chris beat me to it. So I made a show of dropping money into the tip-jar instead. We sat down and when everything was ready, someone dodged the cheap pagoda and panda bear decor and handed us our food on styrofoam plates.

Chris explained why Russians use the same word for both cabbage and broccoli while I picked at my fried rice with a plastic fork.

There was just one fortune cookie among us, sealed in a plastic wrapper. It remained in one piece, though Masha had picked it up and was knocking it against the table. I was thinking about making a big show of opening it, saying, “This fortune will have to apply to all of us.” But while I wasn’t paying attention, it was cracked opened with little fanfare and fed to Masha.

Natasha glanced at the fortune and set it aside.

Chris picked it up and read it. “This is appropriate for us right now.”

He held it out in front of me. “Your wit will prove invaluable today.”

I nodded my head dully and contemplated what role wit was playing in Chris and Natasha’s move back to the U.S.

Natasha looked at the fortune again reading it carefully. She didn’t know what he meant either.

“Whenever we get together,” he said, referring to him and me, “we start talking about everything.”

I suddenly realized what he was saying and laugh, “Right, but we really need the three of us – you, me, and Justin – to really get going . . . and maybe dad to egg us on. We can always bring him over to the dark side.”

And Chris added the final stroke to our painting, “Then mom gets really disgusted with us and says, ‘I need to get out of here.'”

The little picture that Chris and I painted wasn’t really fully developed, but Natasha knew what we were saying. The last handful of times we’ve been together, our dry commentary on nothing in particular has transformed into the three of us pointing out how unbearable we must be.

The other thing about Chris, my dad, and me (not so much Justin, I think) is that we all have stories that we like to repeat over and over as if no one had heard them before, and they usually don’t really have endings.

. . .

Categorized as Before