Brad,

I don't know what to call us anymore.  We were once twins, and now I don't know, except that of everyone, it's to you I turn with anything I think might become a hard truth.  I know I do that, and I know you break my heart, but brothers can be like that.

It's from you that I learned my identity was something I was allowed to keep, abuse, define, deny, and anything else.  I exist because you did, and you exist because I did.  I watch myself touch flames I once studiously avoided for how people might think me dangerous, or think me something even worse, like a cliche.  When I reach out for those fires, I see you roll back your sleeve to expose the skin of your forearm, covered with blonde hair and lightly tanned from the mid-western sun.

You reach your hand into all the same messes as I do, but reach with your other hand into my chest to squeeze the muscle of my heart.  Somewhere along this violent road, between Martin and Marilyn, between Donny and Freddy, we became such... quiet animals.  I feel your fist around my heart.  Do you feel mine?  Your hand in my chest is the weight that assures me I am not lost and I still have meaning.  That things like the scent of my childhood toys will be used as a key by you to unlock parts of yourself.  That you fit into my clothes. That I will always know why your hands begin to shake.

I used to blame John for the quiet, until I realized that John's spirit was something we have inside us, regardless of his arrival or not.  That we were always quiet.  Inside John, it turns brown, the way blood oxidizes.  But inside us, before it's found the light, it's burgundy, and might be the white noise of our blood in our shared womb.

It was this shadow place, hot from where it was buried so close to the center of the earth, that once terrified me enough to avert my eyes when you would peel off your sweat-soaked clothes to reveal where it radiated from you.  I stopped looking away this summer, when I adopted our mother's name and stopped smiling.  Diana looked into it, and then rested against it, and then tried to swallow it from inside you.  Humorlessly, we did this, under the stones of the desert of your soul.

I go now to my files and type words I know will find you instantly.  Ungrateful.  Unruly.  Lightning.  It makes me feel safe to know I can find you through a language we made ourselves, the way twins sometimes have a language.  I feel your spine straighten with each time I press careless the Enter button, like you can see me summoning you, and you are looking inside yourself for the thing I might need.

Right now, you are wearing your black-framed glasses.  Your spine is straight.  The sleeves of your shirt are rolled up from where you were reaching just now with me into flame.  It's the color of sunstroke.  You haven't shaved in days.  You've been trying to kill yourself since long before I came home to you, and nothing about my arrival made you love life anymore than you already did.  Pussy doesn't save boys like us.

Being your sister means knowing at all times who you are, what you're wearing, and what you're feeling, and simultaneously being convinced that none of those things could be real.  The symptoms of never belonging to you, always being the evidence that I do.  It's delicate, and it ends in places that are marked with NO THRU TRAFFIC.  We doubt the same, we fear the same, we withdraw from one another the same.  We bend so far backward, I think I am convinced we must break.  We circle in on one another so tightly, I think I am convinced it's my tail I keep catching in my jaws.  But if we don't, and if it isn't, then... we're probably beautiful, and terrifying.

Yes, we are both quiet animals.  Yes, we are liars and we are poets buried under treacherous mountains of pretending to be things we are not.  Yes, we are rape victims and charismatic performers and nihilists.  Yes, we are birds of unspecified genus.  Yes, we are extravagant nail-biters and hysterics and soldiers of fortune.  Give me your heart, and I will weigh it against mine, and when we find it's the same, I think neither of us will be very surprised or impressed.

But we're not blind, or stupid, or unwise, unless we want to pretend we are.  Given enough circles, and enough violence, and enough fear, the animals inside us get quiet.  We get quiet enough to step backward and look across the dark burgundy heartbeat at each other.  We get still enough to know each other.

All of this feels meaningless.  Is that real, or our nihilism?  This feels disconnected despite my best efforts to the contrary.  Is that real, or our paranoia of letting anyone else close to us?  Can you feel it when I put my hand here, Brad?  Do you feel this?  Can you see me from there?  Was this letter about me, or you?

No, this is real.  I can see you're a quiet animal.  I can see you've escaped to a room to be alone.  I can feel your pulse reading every subsequent word in this sentence increase because you're turned on by the fact that I might be taking us somewhere.  I can feel you swallow.

Do you remember the first dream I had about you, where we were naked and standing on the opposite sides of a mirror?  I know the mirror broke, but I can't remember who broke it, now.  It must've been you.  You were still sitting in my bathroom, refusing to move when I needed to shower, smoking cigarettes under your hand and letting your clothes get soaked like you were trying to prove something.  That there would be no glass between us, maybe.  Thinking about those memories used to hurt, but they don't now.

Anyway, my point is that it had to have been fucking difficult to kill yourself and not have me know about it.  You and John, both.

The first time you tried, I wasn't even home yet, and I knew.  We had led the same paths to the same lives under the same circumstances - those around us trying desperately to extinguish whatever light we had inside, and us trying subsequently to hide it.  We were both saved incrementally by the family we would come to call family in time.  Young weeds, is what I guess I would call us.  Growing in dark patches under the porch.

After Ian and Clyde declared me the mother of all poets, I felt you cringe.  Your skin crawled somewhere low and irritating, just under your testicles.  That  old feeling you get when you can't decide if you want to kiss a girl or bury her in a shallow measure of dirt.  It feels different in me, but the same.  Everything between us is different, and the same.

John had a wide-eyed fascination, touching a place in our dark unconsciousness with one of his long and delicate fingers.  His quiet mutter asked me, "What's this, Evie?" and he drew the pad of it along a ridge of something that might've been cartilage or scar tissue, and I shuddered, and he put his finger in his mouth.  His finger, or the psychic equivalent thereof; a digit lightly furred from many machine washes and forgotten under the leaves of autumn in the rose garden.

But you drew back, away into yourself, where I couldn't feel any of your violent reaction.  The patron saint of poets, yeah right.  They don't get saints or saviors, they just get dead.

Between you, my brothers, the following conversation ensued:

But don't you think-

No.

I find it kind of... 

Good for you.

Because you know it best, if anyone knows it at all.  There's no fucking god-damned poetry in suicide.  And don't you think I know that?  No, Evie, I really don't.  I think when you watch those fuckers swing, there's a part of you that thinks of the cause for which they are swinging, and that's nice and all, but there is no guarantee that we go anywhere in this world, except in the hearts and minds of a bunch of strangers.  You sound like you're saying you think the dead need PR agents.  They do, because we can't ever know what they really felt or really thought, but we can pretend it was for us.  

You receded far across the desert and it's subsequent wastes.  You receded from Jack's touch.  You receded from Clyde's playful jabs.  You receded so the ground of the river cracked dry in places you stopped walking, and I came after you. 

"You're killing yourself, aren't you?" I asked, and you replied with a hawk-eyed nod. 

"I'm going to watch," I told you, and your cringe deepened to touch the base of your spine, because now I would be your biographer and inheritor of your final message.

And if anyone knows how to kill or create poetry...

Blah, blah, blah.  The bathwater was warm, and your hands were certain.  Certain, fucking certain.  I climbed in with you, and the water spilled over the sides and soaked my clothes.  It reddened over a brief time with your blood.  Your eyelids turned a violently purple shade as your skin paled, and you sweated, and you shook. 

Are you scared?

No, why should I be?  Isn't something beautiful supposed to happen to me?

I don't know.  I never know for sure.

Helluva time to lose your fucking know-it-all attitude.

Tell me what you're scared of.

That... that... if I die, you'll stop believing in me.

You think I'll give you bad PR?

I think if I die and go to this wonderful place Adam says exists, maybe you'll let me hold you.

You're going to die so you can make out with me?

Fucking cliche, right?

Only if I say it was, right?

Right.

The human body dies.  It dies careening into a vacancy in the air, colliding with it rasping and sputtering.  There's a drawn out sigh, loud and theatrical, and the body fucking dies.  Your head lolled down low on your chest.  You died.  For eleven seconds I wondered if I should do the same, as the bathwater cooled around my waist.  Then I felt the jerk in me, from the pit of my stomach, that is John's neck tugging violent his weight against the hanging rope.

My first thought after that was, "This was a set-up."

When I walked resolute next door to John's room, my clothes soaked, I ran into Drama, who looked at me with a stern eye and said, "Hey, what's up?"

"Brad died violently, and John died alone," I told him, writing forever your obituaries in the Gray House Holiday Newsletter.

"I'll get them to the river," he offered, and I nodded, numb inside but for a vague feeling of illness in my stomach, the same feeling I get when I am certain I've gotten lost in a meandering suburban neighborhood.  I've come off the screen.  I've driven off the map.  Reality has been torn loose and is flap-flap-flapping against a white screen.  How.  Fucking.  Embarrassing. 

But you rose up inside me like a hot and early dawn.  You rose up in those same frozen wastes as Ian and Clyde, the poet of you damned to confront me again, John following after in your shadow. 


-Annik

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