by Sara Jaye
Nighttime in Brooklyn was noisy. People hailing taxicabs as late as midnight, the roar of the subway, the sound of loud rock music or bad B movies coming from next door, the occasional gunfire and police sirens. Loud, ear-splitting noises from every direction.
Falling asleep to the quiet sounds of nature for the first time was almost unsettling. Too quiet, Luigi thought as he lay awake in his bed, waiting to hear a phone ring or a car's horn honk.
It was ironic; as a child he'd be so frightened by the noise he'd beg Mario to stay at the foot of his bed until the noise stopped, or he fell asleep. They became less scary as he grew older, almost comforting.
Figures I wouldn't realize how comforting they were until they were gone, he thought. Mario lay asleep in the bed next to his, snoring peacefully. At least that's still a constant. With this in mind, he closed his eyes and tried to fall asleep.
Ten minutes later, his brother's snoring was less comforting and more irritating. Luigi rolled out of bed and staggered over to Mario, shaking his shoulder.
"Huh...?" Mario snorted, turning over and giving Luigi a cross look. "What's wrong? Why're you still awake at this hour?"
"You're snoring again," Luigi stated flatly.
"Was not," Mario muttered. "Go back to sleep."
"I can't sleep, it's too quiet," Luigi said.
Mario sighed, sitting up and rubbing his eyes.
"Again? All right, sit down, we'll talk for a while until one of us falls asleep," he said. Luigi made himself comfortable at the foot of Mario's bed, not an easy task given the length of his body was almost more than the bed itself.
"Thanks, big brother," he yawned.
"Hey, we did this all the time when we were kids," Mario said. "Of course, back then you'd beg me to stay with you cause the noises were scary." Luigi blushed.
"Well, yeah, I was just a kid! I hadn't learned to appreciate it yet! I wasn't born brave like you, Mario!"
"I wasn't born brave either, little brother! I was just better at faking it!" Mario laughed. "Hey, remember the time when we were eight and nine, and Dad was late coming back from work? And there was that really bad storm?"
"Do I!" Luigi chuckled. "The power went out and I was afraid we'd be in the dark forever!"
"And Mom was visiting grandma in the hospital, so our older sister Marinda had to pry you away from the corner to help her find the flashlights," Mario added. "...Wait, we didn't have a sister. Marinda was our babysitter and we just called her a sister."
"You had a crush on her," Luigi teased. Now it was Mario's turn to blush.
"I did not! That was you!"
"How could I? I was just a little kid, girls had cooties back then!"
"And I was only nine!"
Luigi scrambled for another memory, not wanting their conversation to devolve into an argument about a woman.
"Hey, remember when we tried to make pizza out of bread crusts and tomato sauce and provolone cheese?" he asked.
"Worst pizza I ever ate," Mario said. "And we made a real mess of the oven, too. Mom wouldn't let us in the kitchen for anything other than meals for a week!" He sighed. "And remember when we were in high school and our science teacher lost his apartment?"
"He was sleeping on the gym floor one morning and I thought it was a homeless guy," Luigi said. "Then he begged us for our lunch money and you tried to hit him with your three-ring notebook!"
"After that we rounded up all the kids in our class to help him get his place back," Mario said. "And he paid us back by giving us our very first plumbing job when his sink broke."
"Oh, don't get me started on plumbing memories!" Luigi laughed.
"We sure had some good times in Brooklyn, didn't we?"
"The best," Luigi sighed. "I sure do miss it, don't you?"
"Yeah. I wonder if the landlord's sold our apartment yet," Mario quipped, but Luigi didn't laugh this time.
"I want to go home, Mario."
"What brought this on?"
Luigi drew his knees to his chest and rested his forehead against them, closing his eyes.
"I'm sick of fighting, I'm sick of Koopa and his troops chasing us, I just can't make myself feel at home in the Mushroom Kingdom. I want to go home." His voice broke ever so slightly on that last note.
Mario found himself at a loss for words. They'd been here a month, and Luigi often complained about wanting to go home. But that was usually during their quests and adventures, and after his quick thinking and Mario's skills saved the day, he'd revel in the praise heaped upon them by the Mushroom people.
This was the first time Luigi had expressed a desire to go home outside of a fight, and Mario felt like an idiot. He'd never actually considered his brother might actually be homesick.
Or that he himself might be, now that he thought about it. Sure, life was a nonstop thrill ride adventure now, but his heart still ached at the thought of their old apartment, their parents, their plumbing business. Tentatively, he reached out and put an arm around his brother.
"I miss it too, Luigi."
Luigi looked up.
"Really? You seem so happy here," he said. "The princess is crazy about you, you're always the first one to do something when Koopa's troops show up," he said.
"That doesn't mean I don't still wish we were home sometimes! It's not easy being a hero, Luigi, even the toughest drains we ever unclogged are a piece of cake compared to this stuff!" Mario said.
Luigi nodded, leaning closer to Mario.
"I wish I were as brave as you, and right now I just feel silly for being so homesick."
"It's okay to be homesick, little brother." Mario gave him a reassuring squeeze. "But right now our place is here. The princess needs us, and so do her people."
"I know," Luigi sighed.
"I promise, as soon as Koopa's out of the picture for good, we'll take the next drainpipe back to Brooklyn," Mario said. Luigi's face grew hopeful.
"You mean it, big bro?"
"I swear on a stack of double-cheese pepperoni pizzas."
Luigi smiled and hugged his brother tightly.
"Thanks, Mario. You're the best."
"Hey, what are big brothers for?" Mario hugged him back, ruffling the hair on the back of his head. "Think you can get to sleep now?"
Luigi yawned. He did feel like he might drop off at any moment, but...
"Maybe in a little while."
Mario sighed. Brothers. Still, I'm glad you're here. I couldn't do this all alone, Luigi.
They stayed up for another hour reminiscing. By the time they'd fallen asleep, Luigi barely noticed the quiet anymore.