AFRAID OF MYSELF
are you afraid of?” he asks.
“I’m afraid of you,” I said, and kept on walking, pretending not to notice his hand on my arm, pretending not to notice the way that he looked after me. Hurt, like I had just slapped him and spat on him and like I had actually said that I was afraid of him, when he knows that what I really said was, “I’m afraid of myself. I’m afraid of what I will do.”
But I am afraid of him. Afraid of the way he knows me and afraid of the way he makes me know myself. When I look at him I see me, my mirror image, and it reminds me of a movie I saw once, where this pair of brother and sister twins were fucking on a couch and then the sister shot the brother because he decided he’d rather fuck Tori Spelling instead, decided that he’d rather have an uncomplicated blonde than a puzzle that looked exactly like him.
In the movie, the sister said, “We have a great deal in common. Parents. DNA. Bone structure.”
We have all that in common, too, but I’m not sure its enough to stop him from wanting to kill me, because that’s what he’s doing. Its not enough to stop me from wanting to touch him, from loving him in a way that I know he’s not supposed to be loved.
He wants someone else to look at him because he can’t bear to look at himself. He doesn’t get it that when he makes me look at him, he’s just making me look in a mirror. I mirror him and when he realizes that, he’s going to hate me, because he already hates his own reflection.
I already hate my own reflection, because sometimes I hate him. Sometimes I hate myself. Sometimes I just want to cry for both of us.
* * *
I looked in the mirror at my tongue, I tasted my blood, and I practiced not hurting.
The first time I cut myself it felt good. It felt like I knew what I was doing, finally, because pain was on a level that I could deal with. It was uncomplicated. It was mine.
It gave me practice at not hurting. When I made myself bleed I could sit in meetings all day and listen to people cut into me with their words like I wasn’t even there at all, just a ghost that everyone could see through. I could let him touch me and I wouldn’t feel guilt because I would feel nothing, no pleasure to be guilty over.
He would smile at me, and I would simply smile back, and beneath my clothes I would be bleeding.
* * *
we are when we’re together, and then, in the next instant, how flushed; how our
hands shake; how we weep without provocation.
We sit on the couch in a dressing room—his or mine, I couldn’t even remember. He says to me, “You have to make the choice, because I’m not going to force you into anything.”
Someone knocks, and Howie opens the door before I can say anything. He comes in and smiles at us, our clasped hands, our entangled fingers, our blond heads pressed together in front of the makeup mirror.
“Hey, Aaron. Didn’t they give you your own dressing room this tour?”
“I like it in here.”
He shrugs. “Nick, run-through’s in five minutes. You coming?”
“I’m skipping, Howie. Tell the fellas I don’t feel good, will you?”
He smiles. “You do look kind of pale. Make sure you have some OJ before we go on. And you take care of your brother, okay, Aaron?”
“I always do.”
After Howie leaves, my brother puts his arms around me and hugs me tight. “You have to choose,” he says against my neck, as if he’s not making the choice for me.
I think about Howie, on the other side of the door, and wonder why he didn’t do something. Then I realize that he didn’t even realize anything was wrong.
* * *
shower. I sit on the floor of the bathtub and let the hot water rain on me for
an hour or more. My heartbeat doesn’t slow.
Sometimes I think I can wash him out of me. Scour him out of my bone and my blood and my skin, my heart and the weak box of dirt that is my mind, if only I can get the water hot enough. But water can never be hot enough to burn away memories and the texture of the past, the feel of his hand on my arm, the weight of his eyes on mine and everything that he means to me, everything he is asking of me. Water can’t boil away the fact that I love him.
All it can do is make me raw and red and ugly. All it can do is expose what is already there.
* * *
sit too close to one another? Does his hand on my arm betray his intent? And why
do we cling so, as if our parting will be as final as death?
Sometimes I think everyone can see it. I feel everyone’s eyes on me, at all times—Mom, Dad, the Boys, media and managers and the constant parade of people who have something to say about the way I live my life. And him. His eyes.
Everyone is always looking at me, and I wonder how they don’t see. They don’t see the way that he touches me, like there is some secret beneath my skin that he’s trying to pluck out through osmosis. They don’t see that we sit too close to one another, that we laugh too loud, that we talk together in voices that are too hushed. That when we have to leave each other, we cling with hands tangled in each other’s hair, clothes, skin, like parting us would be the same as parting two cells of the same being, like cutting off fingers.
They don’t see that we are always whispering a constant, hushed lullabye to each other—you are my brother and I love you beyond all life and I love your mouth and your skin and your fingers and I shouldn’t love you the way I do. You are my brother.
You are mine, and I love you, and I need you, and I don’t care if its wrong.
But I do care.
* * *
didn’t answer. We wept and laughed and touched one another’s faces.
Mostly what I feel is terror, and sorrow. I’m afraid of what I want. I’m afraid of what he is willing to give me of himself. I am afraid of what he wants me to give him. I am afraid that if we’re found out, we’ll never be allowed to see each other again, that I’ll be seperated from him forever and that would be worse than being punished any other way. I’m afraid that if I give him what he wants, he’ll leave me afterwards. I’m afraid that if I don’t give him what he wants, he’ll say that I took it from him.
Sometimes, though, everything is so beautiful. Every inch of his skin is so close and so familiar, a landscape that begs to be explored, and his eyes on mine are streams, mirrors to be waded in. Sometimes he doesn’t ask anything of me. He’s just there, his hands on my face, giving me all of himself and looking into my eyes and laughing in exultant joy.
Sometimes, all I can do is hug him close and rest my forehead against him, because I know what it is to be loved completely.
But these times when he asks for nothing, I’m afraid the most. I’m afraid of myself.
I’m afraid that what he wants, I will give him. Its only a matter of time.
lines in italics from Kathryn Harrison’s The Kiss.
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