We’re crawling together through the deepest darkest jungle, chasing dragons. Our dragon-chasing tool is humble, yet powerful: an unfurled paperclip. Jordan, my younger brother, has seen the dragon in its lair and I have no reason to doubt him, as he’s nearly three years old. I’m soon off to kindergarten and so it falls to me to lead the expedition.
We slink amongst the hulking animals of living room furniture to find the tiny entrance to the dragon world: two miniscule black tunnels, each sitting below a pair of rectangles. The grown-ups call them lightning sockets, but we know they’re dragon caves.
We’ve been warned away from these dragon caves, told they are dangerous, but now we’re old enough to understand that the grown-ups probably store their treasure in these caves and don’t want to share it and that’s probably also why the dragons are there—guardians of the treasure.
Some of the dragon caves are blocked by three-headed serpents, which snake and slither off under the hulking couch and chair animals that hardly move during the day. The long wily serpents have their tails in ornate lighthouse towers, all topped with brightly glowing lanterns.
Jordan has told me that the dragons look like a blue spark. We crouch before the awesome silent cave, our tiny spear quivering in challenge to the dragon coiled within its richly hidden abode.
We know that baby dragons are often blue or sometimes yellow and have a habit of suddenly leaping at our fingers from brass doorknobs. Clearly dragons love metal, and our necromancer’s baton must have the beast salivating for battle.
I can’t quite recall now if the dragon chickened out that day or if it was us, but the battle did not transpire. Perhaps we agreed to return at night, thinking this might give us the advantage, fighting darkness with darkness in darkness.
But through countless adventures, and forts and bike rides we formed a bond one only comes to truly understand years later.
Jordan turns fifty-years-old today. He’s the person in my life I’ve consciously known the longest as my capacity for memory largely begins with the arrival of my brother.
I’m told that I tried to hit him on the head with my toy hammer upon his arrival home from hospital into my world. But of course if the only thing you have is a toy hammer, everything looks like a baby’s head.
I fed Jordan money from an early age, dropping coins into his orange juice—an American buffalo and some honest Abe copper. My mother went on her own dragon hunt with a Popsicle stick. Those soiled coins stood watch in our bathroom for a long, long time, a warning not to eat money, a reminder of just how dirty and fascinating treasure could be.
Jordan and I chased our treasures into “the factories,” where we would, forbidden, ride our bikes and dive into gaping dumpsters off of loading docks, dodging roaring trucks and thundering locomotives to pilfer rejected toys and once a palimpsest of Swedish writing and bled-through pictures of blonde goddesses without any clothes on at all. Many people hide their treasure in the trash.
Today marks fifty years of adventure and we’ve both found treasure in luminescent wives and dragon-seeing children. We still wear our wolf-suits, and when no one is looking are carried away to places where the Wild Rumpus is forever madly dancing in ecstasy and mirth.
Jordan is a man with vision, a man who is at once an artist and an entrepreneur. He works his ass off, but he’s a fantastic friend and one of the funniest people I know. When we were kids he had a drawer of balsa wood for creative projects and I had a drawer of capacitors, resistors and switches to engineer inventions of all stripes. In our world where design has come to lead engineering, perhaps we’re all coming into our own by organic design, ripening like wine approaching true drinkability.
Some day perhaps we will finish our musical, set in the garage of our childhood home. Or maybe we’ll change the world, or maybe we’ll just hang out, quietly.
Happy Birthday. I love you Jordan.