During the summer, my breakfast rarely coincided with that of my brother. After finishing his senior year, he rarely emerged from his bedroom before noon; his breakfast came nearer to the time of my lunch. I was therefore surprised when he joined me one Sunday at eight in the morning. A coming rainstorm had clouded the sky that day, and it was necessary to turn on the light in the kitchen despite multiple large windows. He entered the kitchen as I was pouring milk into the blender.
“Hey.” His voice was raspy from sleep.
“Hey.” I turned away from the blender to face him. He had neglected to shave for weeks, and his hair had been flattened on one side by his pillow.
“Is it cold in here?” he asked, opening a cupboard in a vain search for nourishment.
“Put some pants on; it helps.” I could never quite get used to seeing him in his boxers.
Unsuccessful in his search, he shut the cupboard as I jerked the freezer open.
“Keep that open,” he mumbled. I returned to the blender with my frozen fruit while he reached inside the freezer for a box of toaster waffles. I measured out two thirds of a cup of frozen berries and dropped them into the blender.
“Want a waffle?” he asked.
I shook my head. “Too many calories.”
He dropped two waffles into the toaster. “What’s your limit at now?”
I opened the refrigerator for the Greek yogurt. “1050.”
Three quarters of a cup of yogurt went into the blender. I opened the cabinet above my head for the oatmeal.
“Can you hand me my meds?”
Next to the battered bucket of Quaker oats with a crumpled rejection letter from Columbia hidden at the bottom stood three garishly orange pill bottles in a straight line. His name stared me in the face on each custom printed label, together with drug name and dosage.
“Which ones?” I asked without looking his way.
“Just the Abilify.”
I picked the middle bottle from the line and tossed it to him over my shoulder.
As he went to retrieve a glass from the cupboard at the far end of the room, I dropped a handful of oats into the blender and started it. The sound from the blender drowned out that of the tap running and my brother gulping a mouthful of water with his sour purple pill. I watched as the blender blades shredded and mixed the liquids and solids into one very cold, very purple smoothie that sent chills to my fingertips when I drank it. The blades came to a stop and the sound ceased as his waffles popped up from the toaster. He picked them up and stumbled to his seat at the kitchen table. I followed suit with my smoothie in hand.
“Why do you have one of those every morning?” he inquired through a mouthful of waffle. “They’re so cold.”
“It wakes me up.”
“Splash water on your face if you want to wake up. Then you can at least have a breakfast that tastes good.”
I shook my head. “I already did my makeup.”
Yellow waffle crumbs fell onto our mother’s orange Italian tablecloth as he tore off large pieces with his front teeth.
“Sam, don’t you want a plate?” I struggled not to sound disapproving.
“This is fine.”
I continued to slowly drink my smoothie as he pushed the last chunk of waffle into his mouth and returned to the cupboard. He retrieved a box of raisin bran and set it down on the table. As he went to the refrigerator to retrieve the milk, I stood up with my smoothie and walked to the alcove next to the cupboard. The wooden shelf fastened to the wall was filled with cookbooks that I had begged my mother to buy for me years ago on our weekly Sunday morning trips to the local bookstore. There was a book for breakfast and one for dessert, one for British cooking, Mediterranean cuisine, and even German food. Sam and I would pick out a recipe every Sunday evening and gather all of the ingredients needed. Though our mother took over when it came time to prepare the dish, we managed with our young, self-satisfied minds to convince ourselves that we had played a crucial role in the preparation of fine cuisine. The pages of the books were now starting to yellow with time; most had not been opened in years.
“What are you looking at?” Sam’s words came out muffled in between the spoonfuls of raisin bran being stuffed into his mouth.
“Remember these?” I gestured to the neglected cookbooks.
“Yeah,” he grunted as he poured himself a second bowl of raisin bran. I felt my hand starting to hurt from the cold of my smoothie.
“We should make one of these recipes for Mom’s birthday.”
“I dunno.” His flat tone made it evident that my suggestion had been fruitless. “I’ll probably just buy her something.”
I redirected my gaze toward the photographs from our early childhood taped neatly to the wall next to the shelf. I was a toddler in most of them; Sam had already started kindergarten. I thought of the former babysitter who had once hung them up. She hadn’t been able to tell the difference between Sam and me in the pictures; we had had the same wide nose, dark eyes and deep red lips. We had even sported the same dark brown helmet haircut; I hadn’t yet been given the chance to worry about my looks.
Sam rose from his chair and trudged toward the door.
“Hey.” I stopped him on his way out. “What got you up so early this morning?” My hand had now gone numb from the cold of my smoothie.
He turned to face me. “The drilling from the construction outside woke me up.” He started to turn away again. “I’m going back to bed now.”
I watched as he left the kitchen and vanished from my sight.