“Mark, I just found out Jill is cheating on me,” Tony’s voice says on Mark’s answering machine. “Call me back.”
Mark knows he needs to call his brother back, but his hands have become paralyzed. He stares at his phone and his immobile hands, and he cannot decide what he should say to Tony.
Mark does not remember a time before his brother was born. In his earliest memory, he is at the zoo running from exhibit to exhibit, and his brother is running behind him on his short legs. He recalls his mom telling him to slow down so his younger brother can catch up, and he remembers being surprised that he had forgotten that he was the older brother.
Mark never thinks of Tony as younger than him because he has never taken the older brother role in their relationship. Yes, Mark had driven Tony to his first date, and he had also bought him stylish clothes which their parents had not approved of. However, that was only because Tony had not been old enough to drive or work. Mark had never given Tony any brotherly advice, mainly because his brother never seemed to need it. Tony had this air of certainty surrounding his decisions which had always made Mark jealous. He recalls when Tony had told him about his decision to move in with Jill. Mark, who had been married for a couple of years at the time, was prepared to give Tony a plethora of advice. However, before Mark could offer one word of wisdom, Tony changed the subject.
He hopes that Tony had called only to inform him of Jill’s infidelity, just as he had informed him about all the major events in his life, and not to ask for feedback. Mark is scared Tony will ask “should I stay with Jill ?”, and he is terrified that he will hear on the other end of the phone, “did you suspect that Jill was having an affair?” Mark can barely make good decisions about his own life, and he does not want to be held responsible for the decisions in his brother’s life. Mark keeps staring at the phone, and he knows he needs to call Tony. He wants to stare at the phone forever, but he realizes at at some point he will need to eat, shower, and sleep.
Mark sighs, picks up the phone, and dials a familiar number. He wishes he could avoid making this call. As soon as he hears “Hello” on the other end of the line, he says, “Hi Liz, I need some advice.”