Andy writes the only letter he’s ever going to write.
In your room, the living room of your parents’ house, I was touching the rug and it was late. 6 pm. Christmas Eve, 2007. Tulsa was gone and who the fuck knows where Jenna was. And the tour bus melted with the snow on the West Side Highway and I puked on the seat anyway.
Who’s driving this thing?
I ended up on the floor in your parents’ house. You had your feet on either side of me saying it wasn’t too late, Andy. And I remember thinking you are so full of shit, Charlotte. You never say that unless it’s ABSOLUTELY FUCKING TOO LATE.
Your mom had those glitter poinsettias out on the counter, the red ones. I sprinkled some in your hair, and it pissed you off, and then fucking Ted Koppel came in out of nowhere, and I was on your floor like I fell there, your feet on either side, and you had your hands on my fucking shoulders.
He got real small and gray and blue and the room got dark. Everything got quiet. And he said the number and the day, and I think it was August 2nd. And I remember knowing that isn’t my birthday. But I felt your hands dig in to my shoulders, and you said, it isn’t too late, Andy.
You’re so full of shit, Charlotte.
I threw a bunch of presents around and slammed the door when I left. I never slam doors, it feels like. It feels good. It felt good, to slam your door. Walk out into the dark. Light a smoke.
You don’t know me and I don’t know you. That’s what I thought, standing there. Because you’re a skinny piece of shit junkie faggot. Because there’s a way it’s gotta be and this is it. Because I knew it, before he even said it, that it was always gonna be me. And what the fuck do you know? It’s not your problem, Cubano.
You came out to get me, maybe say something that was less fucking stupid, and we talked about going back to New York. Back to the hornet’s nest. You had a boy’s hair when you sucked my cock on your front porch. It was so cold I didn’t think I’d be able to cum, but you kept your hands tight and your breath steady and it felt like saying goodbye.
How does it feel to be the last one to suck a dead guy’s cock? Good? I think it would feel good, like a scar or tattoo. Maybe something they’ll be able to see when they open up my coffin. Your lipstick, or a handful of your hair.
I went up to the roof to kill myself.
You and me, Charlotte, never gonna go down like that together. But I know you’re my longest goodbye.
And just like that, he’s gone. A void in the hallways that people may or may not notice, vapid of the acid of his stares and the sharp lines of his freshly-shorn hair. Gone to some place that you and I can never follow, because we are boys and younger and the wing of him couldn’t cover us forever from the rain.
The echoes of Andy will bear us along some stream of thought toward the future of ourselves, where we become the mythical creatures our fathers insist are men; men because they’ve spilled the blood of other men.
I wonder sometimes if the fathers of us ever stopped to consider that what makes a woman is the bearing of a child and what makes a man is the murder of one. We can love the memory of Andy but never the boy himself, not until the plane bears his casket home to his mother, who attends his funeral alone.
The images of Andy come home after he does, beamed to us over the waving bands of Gabriel’s stolen television, we surround him holy and resolute, the full measure of our sins evident in each billowing flag held high over Saigon. Every girl in uniform, Gabriel among them, his high and small Cuban ass shoved nonchalant into his sister’s skirt, crosses herself and utters a last prayer for him to find his way safely into her dreams.
Andy takes his only plane ride to the Watchtower so the rest of us never have to. He gets off the plane and the smears of Adam’s snow settle thin in his hair, the red wind blowing sand against his glasses. He cries when he knows this was always his home, and the misshapen things that greet him in the desert do their best to assure him of his parentage.
No, Andy, you’re a dragon. You’re the last of a dying breed, you’re Eden’s youngest son. Andy, don’t cry, you belong with us.
The shock of the truth will mark him always, the slim veneer of Adam’s hands will leave forever on his skin the mark of a dead man, when he was so young and full of the promise of a thousand summers unlived. We’ll keep Andy with us and feed on the spiderwebbing hope he exudes into the room; a sickening assurance that we have the biological weapon that will breed for us the army we will raise to win the next war. The soldier of pure blood.
When I look at Brad, it’s easy to see that genius is what defines a dragon; a merciless ingenuity that contorts the presentation of simplicity and fact.
Right, but if it were…
Andy keeps all of his knowledge that he’s drawn like blood from a thousand bloodless books a secret in a dark room of himself. I stroll close to take a look at just how well read he is, and the light in his glasses glints back the screen of his many computers running quiet.
The blank and whitish squares were the first things I knew for certain existed in 1965. Blank, his mouth a perfect line, his face looks cartoonishly shocked while we share the knowledge that look obscures: whatever war there was, we lost on purpose.
This close to a truth of this nature, I’m a genderless urchin with no family who believes families are taken by fire. My eyes burn and my throat sticks to itself. My chest feels tight and tender. I wriggle free of whatever I was before and slip easy into my black button down, shed my dragon hair, and feel, below the earth, a sense of loss that’s comforting to know that in the end, we’ll be alone.
There won’t be anything left standing.
I tug at people’s sleeves, but no one wants to hear it, least of all Andy. I tug hard, single, say, “TELL ME WHAT I WANT TO HEAR,” and nobody will play, but Andy.
What’s a dragon mean, Andy?
Floodwater rushes down the streets of Dummy Town, glowing a sick phosphorescent green, the same green everything is anymore inside me. I know to not drink the water, or I’ll die. Die of the one thing I need in a desert. No bombs exist without irony.
We lost the war on purpose.
Slaughter is the only word I can think of to describe it. A dragon is a creature who is complicit in a slaughter, who can comprehend the act of slaughter itself to be one of necessity and never one of poetic justice or slow-motion beauty. Andy repeats it several times with me, like an episode of Sesame Street.
SlAUghter. SLAUghter. Suhlaughter.
I ask him to show me the meaning of the word, and he shows me himself, skinny and nerdy, being shoved bloody to the ground at a young age by a boy with a crew cut and a fat face. The boy pounds and Andy wriggles, laughs, calls him a cock-sucker, and the boy pounds harder. Andy laughs more. The boy pounds harder. Andy could get a few hits in, and the boy pounds harder. There’s a shout, and the fight is ended by a tall letter jacket in an amused voice.
“Get lost, cabron.”
The fat-faced boy rises, wipes his mouth, and gets shoved back with black hands in leather sleeves. He calls the jacket a nigger before he vanishes.
Gradient, humble as any angel, lifts Andy up by his armpits and looks him in his face before cussing hard and patting his cheek to wake him.
“Jesus Fucking Christ. Hermano? Hermano?”
Andy’s eyes flutter open and he says something stupid like, “You wanna start some shit, too?” and Gradient laughs so hard he almost drops the skinny boy.
What kind of fucking pride is this?
I want to ask, but I know. As few dragons as there are; if not for angels, there’d be none at all.