Through the desert, in Clyde’s black car, we drive. Bonnie smokes nervous in the front seat, the air peppered with the frustrations that are causing her to leave. Clyde is silent and still, but it feels restrained, like he’s fighting back his twitching because he knows we have somewhere to be. Brad looks out the window, distant. Distracted. I look down at my lap. There are empty cigarette packs around my feet, and I nudge one. Brad’s white shirt is punctuated with cool blue stripes. My dress feels like the disappointment of any bride who didn’t wait.
Clyde switches on the radio, but I don’t know the song. It changes to Peaceful Easy Feeling. Bonnie switches it off.
The dust plume that rises in the wake of Clyde’s car casts the scent of dust and sunlight over us. It looks like it’s 10 in the morning, by the red sun. It isn’t long before we pass Denton and pull up to the statue in the sand, and the clouds start to form.
Clyde’s mouth is open slightly when I get out of the car. He looks at Brad and Brad looks at the ground, his hands in his hair. The wind catches it, and blows it around. The only one among us with hair long enough to touch his face is Clyde. He pulls it back and ties it there with an elastic I stowed in his pocket. How I’m married to Clyde is in small and unnoticed gestures that allow him to stop thinking for one moment about things like elastics and holes in his jeans and gum in his pocket so he can remember the count of time before the car comes to plow into the body of a young boy who will marry his last child someday. Knowing everything means never caring where you left your keys. He could make the wind stop, he could freeze his hair like ice, he could make an elastic from nothing, he could not give a shit either way.
But there’s one in your pocket all the same, Clyde Barrow.
Bonnie crosses her arms. I know she’s mad but she came to witness us. In the sunlight, she hardly squints like Brad and I do, the dark of her eyes filtering light the way they were meant to.
“This is it,” I say, softly, as if no one already knows.
The sky darkens and I hear a starving groan of thunder. Brad kicks the statue’s base.
“I wonder how far it goes down,” he says.
Made of marble, maybe, or worn granite, the head of a man sits half-buried in the sand, like a head fallen and rolled from Mt. Rushmore, or the Statue of Liberty. The mouth is slightly exposed on one side, lifted worn and graying beige to something that might have been a cruel and somewhat feminine smile. The nose slopes down and touches the sand, straight and high-bridged and somehow Roman. The eyes are blank pockets worn to hollow cups by the sand and storms. Brad’s hand touches one as the rain starts to fall.
“I wonder if he’s looking or not,” he says.
Clyde chuffs and takes his shirt off. He throws it, balled up, in through the window of the car. When the downpour starts, I know why he did it.
The rest of our father is buried in sand, the heat rising from the stone comforting as the desert cools in the increments of Brad’s apathy.
Bonnie drenches, her hair flattening and her black slip sticking wetly to her like the skin of the sea creature she is, and she retreats to the car and switches on the broken windshield wipers that’s Clyde’s never thought to change. I make a mental note as they swipe ineffective Brad’s rain that tastes like tears, to change them for him.
Clyde stands still and watches us, his smile small and tight. We go looking in long hours down dark hallways for our father, Brad and I. What is it about our legacy which we can’t let go? How many times…?
“How many times you gon’ kill this sumbitch, Red?” he asks the two of us. Brad and I glance at one another. I think he’ll answer and I can tell by his face, he thinks I will.
Clyde vanishes behind the door of his car, painted matte black and blotchy. I used to think maybe he’d drive a nice car. I think about the poem I wrote about Brad and how it meant we’d end up here someday:
I feel grit on my hands and
In your stiffened hair
As I stand on my toes and
Steal a kiss.
You shy for a moment in the
Shadow of the monument,
And then comply,
Wrapping your white arms,
Bending your wind-beaten brow,
Lips parting to let my sly tongue in.
We stand still and knotted,
Braced against the wind.
The final act of his ungrateful children.
I remember the words, and feel Brad remember them in the insistence of the heavy rain on us. His shirt slicks to something the color of his skin around his shoulders and we meet for a kiss. It’s warm in the hollows of his mouth, the way a house is made a home.
“Say you love me, Evie,” he whispers through a flash of lightning.
Through the floor of all things, I remember my first nightmare, in the dark of a place I didn’t know the word for yet. Brad hangs, limp in a void, his skin pierced and threaded through with rope and iron barbs. His head rolls to one side and another, his voice finds me in the quiet dark.
I reach my hand out to him, unable to speak from the fear of what might bind him there, and in that way. He’s too far to reach.
“Eve, are you there?”
“J. Joel,” I manage to choke.
His eyes open, blood-filled hatred blue and white, wide in the black.
“You married now, Eve?”
Through the floor of all things, I find my father clearing for me a place on his lap, telling us which is his favorite, his smirk apparent. The close and locked feeling of the room clears my head of all questions of consent, and I fall into a doorless place where my eyes will learn as Brad’s will to assess the best way out of anything.
In the rain, remembering all nightmares are the inheritance of a sin, I cling to Brad’s arms and we speak with circling tongues on skin in silence.
We should be sick.
We are sick.
I pound my heart’s message to him through stuttered breath. We ne. Never. W. We never worry. Worry about otherli. Lives. I fumble with buttons stuck in limp and soaked cotton. I never think of ever being without Brad.
Because he’s here. He’s here in dreams. Because you can’t be without what you’re made from. Because he’ll find me, find me always, and be the boy in every dream I plummet into love for, the place to hide from the screaming monsters that stay off the road of him. I’d always know the feel of Brad beneath the feel of anything else; nightmare sick and dream fascination. Full of threats and pockets carrying all my hopes, significant and inexplicable.
My tears mix with the cold rain of his on my face, and he brushes my hair back. My dress feels weakly textured and clung too close to me. My skin underneath might fester in a sunless world, and he strips it from me, pulling warm hands over my damp skin.
“They tried. To take us. Apart,” I insist to him through teeth gritted and balled fists of his hair.
No they didn’t. Evelyn, no they didn’t, and who the fuck are they? Where does this come from, this vehemence at your separation? What are you talking about when you say it? No one tried to take you apart, not you from your brother or him from you. Evelyn, what do you mean?
And he never argued once, or questioned why. Is it the world, Brad? Is it demons or monsters? Is it us? Is it justified? I whimper in confusion, and his hands get hard. He leans me back into the sand, and it sticks to me like a crust. Shirtless and his white jeans sticking with mud at the knees, he opens the fly and slides into me, his expression an assurance that once he does, maybe it will all make sense. Shocked and wide-eyed, his mouth a hard line, my fingers at his cheek make a claw when I get to his shoulder and I leave a raking of red lines there. Just to prove you’re fucking real, Brad. Just to prove all your hair-flipped blue-eyed insistences wrong, when you looked hard through me and said, “I want to be your man, Evie.”
He ducks from my grip and throws my arm to the sand under his. Maybe it’s sin itself that keeps us apart. Maybe it’s the sin itself of knowing he’s my brother, that we’re blood brothers, the same DNA and the same alleles and the same hair that won’t stay clean for more than a day. By blood, by storms. We’re the same because we’re made of dreams, pushed into the world from the same place, made by the same parents. But what makes dreams but a dreaming mind?