Monday, October 10, 2011

The doctor and the accountant

My friend Ryan is a doctor. He is also a brother, but I rarely see him in this role since he and his only sibling, Chris, live many miles apart. Each time I see them together I am struck by their similarities: tall, athletic, intelligent, talented, polite, humble and kind. They both seem to be the first to listen and the last to speak with confident, knowing voices. They treat each other with at least as much respect as they treat their friends.

Years ago I was walking with the two of them and a friend to downtown Chapel Hill. I must have been focused on the friend because I remember turning back to the brothers and finding them tangled like rabid shoelaces on the ground. The other friend and I halted to gauge the circumstances of the bizarre image. They threw no punches and said no words. They were not upset, but they grunted every few seconds like Greco-Roman wrestlers as they rolled along the paved road, over the curb and onto the grass. With their knees settled on something soft, they gave each other a long moment of rest until Ryan lunged for a temporary advantage. They continued like this for another four minutes until they rumbled dangerously close to the hood of an unknown parked car. They separated without a word to each other and seemed indifferent to the reactions of their company. They were hypnotized.

"I don't have a brother," I stammered.

After a few minutes of limping off their nicks and brushing off the dirt, they explained that they wrestled on a near-regular basis without any provocation. Their simple explanation was wholly consistent with their honest personalities. I did not press with questions.

Ryan returned to Chapel Hill this weekend from his medical residency in Brooklyn for the Carolina-Louisville game, and his brother did the same from his accounting job in Charlotte. We partied enough Friday night to postpone the tailgate until after the noon game. We cooked hot dogs, burgers and sausages and drank home brews while we listened to Wake Forest upset Florida State on my car radio, which fell silent after the game ended. I checked to see if my battery was dead. It was. I called AAA, and we began an hour-long wait. Ryan took a trip to the dormitory bathroom. We found a flying disc in my trunk and threw it around.

"I wonder if I can hit Ryan from here," Chris said as he eyed Ryan's return from 240 feet away. He threw a wide-arcing backhand toss that flew for at least five seconds before plunking an unsuspecting Ryan, whose eyes were directed downward at a set of stairs, square in the stomach. Ryan picked up the disc and ran at Chris. Had I known what would happen for the next five minutes, I would have begun recording immediately. I got the hint minutes later when I saw the two tangled again in the mulch beside the parking lot. Ryan freed a hand to grab a littered, plastic salad tray with lettuce and tomatoes, dumped it on top of Chris, and whopped him on the head with it until it snapped into pieces. An elder fellow tailgater walked by with a concerned look.

"They're brothers," I said. "One's a doctor. The other is an accountant. They'll work it out."

He nodded. I will embed the rest of the skirmish below.

1 comment: