Our family went to Macaroni Grill as much as we could. My mother was a fiend for that place, especially the spinach dip. She loved being allowed to draw on the tablecloth. She loved the dark room, the candles, and especially the red wine.
As I got ready for our dinner night out, I ran through my collared shirts knowing my mom wouldn’t let me wear the dirty T-shirt I had on. Unfortunately, I was to find that none of my nice shirts were clean. What if I just throw a sweatshirt over it, I thought. I looked through all the sweatshirts but they all had stains on them too. I had to go to the last resort.
“Hey Jimmy, can I borrow a shirt for tonight?” My brother was at the bathroom mirror, shaving the muskrat mustache he had been growing “to keep him warm during the winter.” I never liked going to Jim for anything, It was like showing weakness during an everlasting war.
“What’s wrong with the one you got on?” he said, referring to my Boston Red Sox shirt with spaghetti stains.
“Mom won’t let me wear this, you know that. C’mon, just let me borrow a plaid shirt or something. You got like 10 of ‘em”. I jabbed his chubby side with two fingers and he slapped my hand away. He squinted his eyes for a second before they lit up. He scurried to his closet. He came back and handed me a silky black button up.
“It’s too small for me now, you should wear it tonight”, Jim said with a smirk.
I wanted to question the smirk, but honestly I didn’t have the time. I put one arm into the shirt while examining his sneaky smile.
He licked his lips trying to hide the smile. “Better hurry up”. Jim ran out the door towards the car, stumbling on the stairs. I finished putting on the shirt, slipped into some jeans and followed him out into the car that my mother had already started. My sister followed me out the front door, still combing her hair.
On the way to dinner, my brother continued to giggle. But once we got there, he seemed to forget what was so funny. We got to the front table and met with the greeter of the restaurant.
“Table for three?” she asked.
“Actually four,” my mother responded, gesturing to all three of us kids as if the woman was stupid for not noticing all of us.
“Oh, my apologies. I didn’t think he was with you guys”, she said while gesturing to me.
We sat down and all the anxiety in my head faded. It became a regular night out. My brother was kicking my shins under the table and my sister ate all the garlic bread before any of us got a chance to try it. Jimmy tried to entertain us all by asking how much we would pay him if he ate the whole block of butter. A regular family dinner.
I got the same thing I always got, bacon macaroni and cheese. I’d much rather order the dish I was comfortable with, knowing it wouldn’t let me down. Besides, I always added a little variety to my tongue by mooching off my brother’s pizza whenever he looked away to peek at the pretty waitress. The dinner was well on its way. Before I knew it, I was on my third Pepsi and my bladder was ready to burst.
“May I be excused?” I asked my mother.
She nodded back, barely looking up from her salad. My brother stuck his foot out as I walked by his chair, causing me a slight stumble. I looked back at him and he shot me a wink.
On my way to the bathroom, I felt a tap on my forearm as I passed by a table.
“Excuse me, can I get a refill on my Dr. Pepper?” he asked me. The man turned back to his conversation before I even responded.
“Sir, I don’t work here.” I said back to him.
“Oh. I’m sorry. Honest mistake.”
We both laughed it off and I continued towards the bathroom. Then someone else stopped me.
“Hi, I asked my chicken to be extra dry, and well… you tell me. Could you say something to the chef. I wouldn’t imagine he wants a bad review on Yelp?”
I couldn’t help but laugh at that. Not only was she being super petty, but another person assumed I worked here.
“I’d say something if I knew him, Ma'am”.
The woman responded, “Oh, I’m sorry. I just assumed it you a waiter because you are dressed like all of them. You’ve got the black dress shirt and jeans.”
Huh? I looked down at my brother’s black shirt. It was buttoned all the way to the top. Then my eyes continued down till they met my light blue jeans. I looked around and to my surprise, I saw my doppelgangers delivering food and refilling drinks. I looked over at Jimmy. He shot me another wink, on que.
“You’ll have to excuse me”, I told the woman.
I headed back over to our table, I suddenly didn’t have to go to the bathroom anymore. I stood behind my brother’s chair. Jimmy was trying to hide his smile by taking a sip of his lemonade. I put pressure on the bottom of his glass, spilling a couple ice cubes down his shirt. He looked at me with a wet shirt and gritted teeth. He punched my arm and I punched his arm back.
“Will you two quit cuddling over there? Finish your meal,” my mom hollered across the table. I looked at him with a grin. He shared the same smile and grabbed a macaroni piece off my plate. He was proud of what he pulled off. But the real reason he was smiling was because, he knew I would get him back.
This memory of mine is years ago now. Jim’s off at college now. No longer living in the same house, put a halt on our endless war of banter. No more noogies, no more wedgies, and no more five stars. I can’t believe I’m saying it, but I miss the five stars. Being sentimental with my brother is out of our bro code. Which is why I’d never say it to him, but I miss being messed with.