Kept thinking of Paul Newman in Cool Hand Luke—tried to remember how the roadside escape went, and was that the one that led him, holed up in a church, soliloquy and bullets? My brother was on the shoulder of the service road, downhill from Greystone, in an orange jumpsuit. Across the street was the shelter for battered women. Growing up, our mother would always point it out. But then it wasn’t Paul Newman at all, as I got out of the car and started to walk towards my brother. I had a flash of our mother, in all her drama telling her three children we’d driven her mad and she was hitching it to Greystone, thundering out the front door we never used. I remember thinking, she was gone a long time. I took soft steps towards my brother, looked down at my feet, as though through a field of landmines; closed my eyes, as if in the pitch dark, I could touch him and no one would notice. I thought, I parked the car the wrong way, we had to drive past the bus, past the guards to get free. I hadn’t unlocked the passenger door. The car wasn’t running. I hadn’t planned a diversion. I wondered if anyone else would want to make a break. They couldn’t shoot us all, I thought, but only had room for a couple more. The guards started to yell, but I thought about when we were kids, we’d sneak out after midnight, go up past the hospital and wait in a field for the cops to drive by. We held hands as they turned their spotlight looking for homeless or patient escapees—no concept of consequence then. One guard nearly in a run towards us now. My eyes still closed, I could feel his impending violence. It was too late to run, too late to hole up in a church somewhere. And it was too bad, we were local kids, we had an advantage. The one guard forcefully tore my body away.
Today, I have that failure to communicate line in my head, and the image of Newman drunk, screwing off the heads of parking meters at the beginning, again and again and again. Past the shelter, up the hill, Greystone, and then the spot where my brother and I held each other. It was Thanksgiving break. I didn’t say anything. All my brother said was, don’t let go. And I didn’t, until I did.