There are two brothers in dinghy boats but one is farther out to sea, past the wreckage of what will come, has come for them, depending on which memory you are borrowing at the time. Do not call out. It is safer to imagine you don't see them, bobbing once-twice over the swell, hands the crests of little waves goodbye. The brother that belongs to the ocean would crawl inside your skin and refuse to leave, and the brother that remains would thrill to find him there. It is a magnificent storm. Think of how it would feel to drown, to draw breath after breath of water, the salt burning your eyes wide open. Do not call out.
There are two brothers in dinghy boats but one is farther out to sea. Let's call them Becket. And because the older Becket is the farthest gone we'll consider him the braver, the faster, the better of the two, and therefore the most likely to appear at the edge of the razorlined chasm between you and me, humming old tunes that everyone will feel guilty not to know. Becket is thinking about his brother carrying a piece of him greedily inside his chest. He is thinking that if only he had the energy he would unhinge his brother's jaw, slide his hand inside his brother's throat, and repossess himself: the lost corner of a largely unremarkable painting that is nonetheless incomplete, badly torn, on its own.
There are two brothers in dinghy boats but one of them is farther out to sea, or just here, just next to you, depending on which Becket you are. For the moment between two breaths it was all so peaceable -- you inhale and I will exhale, you open your eyes and I will close them -- but each Becket wants to be the other one. My name is Becket and I didn't ask to be your gravestone. Like I wanted this, Becket, I fucking swear to god. They are together and they are not together. They are both clinging to the same scrapped through life, and they hate each other for it.
Your name is Becket and somewhere just behind you your brother is wielding his easy laughter like a knifeblade, slicing across every place you ever touched until everything comes up hysterical. How much he loved you, baby boy. How much he left of himself in all your old places, rubbed raw along your gums and the hidden folds between your toes, so that even when he is gone, he is not gone. Your skin comes up new every fourteen days. You expected something different, something more of him, but you never learned to estimate what he would do to stick and stay. For so long he was simply there, a step ahead of you, that you never thought of what he'd be like at your heels.
Let's say God on his Almighty Seat has found himself darning holes in the universe to pass a slow Sunday afternoon. He's done most of them, moss-green thread whipstiched through a stack of small messes, when he is abruptly called away. Things come up, you know. Chores fall through the cracks. It's not as though a few little holes ever killed anyone.
Let's say the Devil is played by two minds. We'll call them Becket. Big dreams, soft hearts, quick to anger, slow to learn -- they're brothers. The one on the left is trying to let go, and the one on the right will not let him. As they wrestle, you can tell they have each written a letter to God in the privacy of their own bedroom, and that they know from holes in the world.
You are fighting kaiju with three brothers named Becket. Two of the Beckets you've met already, but the Becket across from you keeps reaching over -- your chest, your hips -- with hands you've never felt before. But he's on your team, and you're ahead, you're finally winning, and yet somehow you feel as though the kaiju looking back at you are less dangerous than the way these Beckets are smiling. They all have the same smile, big and easy, practiced, but it looks different on each of them. On one Becket it's desperate. On one Becket it's heartbroken. On one Becket it's terrifying.
You are fighting kaiju with three Beckets. One is a ghost, one is his brother, and the other is your current partner. All of them have seen you crying with a red shoe balanced on the center of your palm. Your partner Becket reaches out to throw a punch at the monsters standing outside. To them he is a wrecking ball, but to you he is… a wrecking ball. This is it, Becket says. Go! It's what you've always dreamed of, which is to say nothing you ever wanted, but there's no time for that right now, one of the Beckets is moving your arms again. You're probably supposed to know which one.
Two brothers are fighting in the swell of the ocean. Two dinghy boats have vanished off into the darkness, bashed on the rocks until naught but driftwood, while the frenetic pair bobs up and down in the water. You see them from the corner of your eye as your own riptide drags you under. You are thirteen years old. Your heart is in your shoe is in your hand. You have never experienced anything this cataclysmic or gut-wrenching with another person. Your mother is still closing and closing and closing her eyes. Your father is still telling you to run. There is a man rising towards the sun like a beacon. He is looking down at you in a devastating impression of everything you need. Wait; he is saying hello.
You are at a suburban American kitchen table with two bowls of cereal, two glasses of orange juice, two brightly colored place-mats decorated with cheerful cartoons. You are sitting on the countertop, your feet dangling, your small red shoes hitting thwack-thwack-thwack against the cabinets, and the room is lit only with the grey-ish light of early day. There is a boy outside drawing in the frost on the window. Is he drawing for himself? For you? Smiling faces and stick figures with swords, a name that starts with Y -- you cannot tell what it means, but you know he can see you, and he's drawing for you to see, even though you don't know who he is.
You see it as an undertow, a vicious current, the drift. You're in the ocean again, and you draw a breath, and if you were stronger you could swim, but maybe one part of your mind decides it's one part of his mind decides that strength is meaningless like this, anyway. Then you're in it again, pulling choke after choke of saltwater into your lungs. It's a mystery, each moment, each memory, each time you feel your fingertips smack against the clean air of the surface before you fall -- are dragged -- back down.
You're in the ocean again. The rain is pittering, pattering against the surface. You're in the ocean. Swim up now. Swim up.
Suppose for a moment that the mind has two hearts, that the mind has been whipped and stripped, flayed open, for the sin of dragging behind it the weight of its brother. The mind is shrieking about long term sustainability while, in the far corner, the mind is caterwauling its grief. Can the mind survive this? Does it even matter? The world will end either way, after all.
Suppose for a moment we are huddled inside a shelter, waiting for something to bring the roof down upon our heads. You'll get through this. It's just a nightmare. Don't chase the rabbit, we'd say, if weren't so afraid to raise our voices.
Think of drowning. It is coming for you, that last gurgling gasp like the first clean sip of a spring day. The storm is brewing, thicker and starker with every hour, and your dinghy rocks and rocks on the roughening ways. There are shadows moving below you in the water and they are waiting too, like the shouts you can hear farther out to sea, like the shuddering metallic footsteps that fall, and fall, and fall. Who are you, Becket? Who are you? You were crumbling into something and then -- then you found yourself swimming the other way. The clouds aren't so dark as they appeared. The lightning is far in the distance. Somewhere, you can see something that looks like sunlight, or maybe its brother.
This time it's a hospital room. You've lost your nose. Let's say someone has cut off your nose. There was staggering pain and sharp disbelief and now you have awoken to know there is a part of yourself you will never again --
No. Let's not do it like that. Not all pain is the same pain. Anyway, once was enough.
After the world doesn't end you go to the 7-Eleven for a candy bar, something to drink, maybe a couple of condoms. What's that gritty taste along the back of your tongue? You lick the roof of your mouth, over and over, until you've convinced yourself you've lathed it into a more comfortable shape. Condoms are expensive now. There's flavors of candy you never expected and you spend ten minutes with your fingers trembling over each option, bubble-gum chocolates and green tea dough bites that must taste terrible. Candy in flavors no God ever intended and little pieces of rubber priced to insanity: this is what you did it for, right? Right? The fluorescent lights flicker over the little display. You stare at the numbers next to the box of condoms until tears blur your eyes. Until your saltwater gratitude slides into your mouth. Until you choke on it.
Like tomorrow, today, or tomorrow, or tomorrow. He said once that this was what it meant to be a brother, to take the other's flaws, to swallow them, and you think he probably didn't mean it so literally. There are knots on the back of your hands from cracking your knuckles against your thighs. You know he thought of that, of throwing punches, in those choke-swallow-drown breaths right there at the bitter end. He doesn't fit into the knots the backs of your hands any better than he fits between your ribcage, underneath your eyelids, so you eat your thick meals, dig yourself in amongst pasta and potatoes. You are swelling to make room for him under your sweaters. He is sticking to your ribs as your throat works around a swallow.
You and your partner are rutting against each other in the welcome shadow of a filthy alley. The bricks are rough and the air is crisp and in the dragged-out lull of the darkness it's easy to forget what being alive used to feel like. Someone licks a salty line up a patch of available skin. Is this all it ever was? Just some cosmic handful of souls grinding together in obsessive need, be something, do something? He smiles at you, and you can't tell which smile it is. You can't tell which Becket has which Becket by the balls. Someone's hands are moving but there's no knowing what belongs to whom. Remember: do not call out.
The dinghies are set for collision, it's so obvious now, two boats and two storms and only one way this can go. He's a mile away, or six feet, the sea rises and falls and he's here and gone again, screaming, sobbing, who can say. It's too rough in these waters to make any decisions so let's -- the hospital room, will you? Imagine the hospital, with or without your nose, that part doesn't matter. It's just the room, and the stark white walls, and these two men looking at each other like between them there is an ocean of understanding. One is taller and one is shorter. One is older and one is younger. One is laughing and one is crying, and if you close your eyes, if you merely listen, you believe you can tell which of them is which.
Two brothers: each of them wants to be the other. Two brothers: each of them wants to be themselves. It's time to let go now. The haunt or the haunted -- you want a choice? You don't get a choice, you get two brothers. Here are two Beckets. Don't you dare pick one. This is how you go insane: you step between two souls competing for one body and try to make enough room for them both. There is not room. Becket or Becket -- you can't be either one. All you wanted to do was bridge a few of the gaps, patch over the rough spaces, swim these treacherous waters until you reached the other side. You wanted to refill in an emptying well, but this is a flood you've found. Do you understand now? This is a flood.
Here is your name and here is your shoe and here are the things you had to leave along the way: the scrape of reckless laughter at the back of your throat, the muscle memory required for wide-eyed wonder, the ability to sob your losses anywhere. You traded that half-shod and terrified in the middle of a ruined street, didn't you, so don't you dare chase the rabbit. You send that bastard straight to hell. Here is your first fuck and your last goodbye, here is the way your mother's hair tickled the side of your face when she sang you to sleep, here is your father's soft touch and your other father's hard resolve and don't you follow it, you are too strong to follow it, you are not Becket. You hear me? Here is your shoe. You are not Becket -- I said, do you hear me? Here is your motherfucking shoe, come on, come on, let go.
There are two brothers in dinghy boats but they are not in dinghy boats, they're inside a control room where their every motion makes the building shake. You're there with them -- no, you're one of them -- no, you're the other one -- no, you're alone. Let's go back to the hospital room. Let's pretend you're thirteen and you are sitting on the examining table, your feet dangling, your small red shoes hitting thwack-thwack-thwack against the cabinets. And there are the brothers -- no, they're not brothers -- no, they were brothers, but they're not here anymore. There is a man outside making faces through the window, and he is much more father than brother, and you are wearing his big dark jacket and your small red shoes, and what are you doing in a hospital room? Don't you know it's the end of the world?
Breathe in. Come on. Again. Suck it in until it hurts and don't let go for anything, not for today or tomorrow or yesterday, yours or mine, whatever. This is how you survive a drowning -- by overfilling, you hear me? You get it? You better flood yourself until there's no room for all that water, until you puff up like the balloon you abandoned to the clear sky on the last day of your first life. Remember that? Remember that thin white string slipped out of your hand without your even noticing, and you turned and laughed that reckless way you can't anymore to see it float away? Let go of it like that. Now, all right, who cares if it's him or me, it doesn't matter anymore, anyone can fall. Let go, let go, it's now or never, haven't you learned anything from --
Someone's holding the funeral while you're away, but you aren't really away, you're right here. You're right here, at the front of the procession, your hands are on the dirt on the gravestone on the empty coffin, and you're thinking: fuck. You're thinking that you've been to another funeral like this one, only you haven't been, you've been to being at another funeral like this one and it wasn't, anyway. That time was dirt gravestone empty coffin but you don't feel like that did, like you are two souls badly stitched into one body, like you are straining to contain yourself. You feel like you are too small for your skin, too small to be staring down at a hole in the ground where they'll never bury your second father, and you want, suddenly, to laugh. You want to laugh with the joy of it, with finding a dividing line, until the saltwater burns an ocean into this ground in memory of sacrosanct souls lost.
Let's say God is the distance between two minds and the Devil is the distance between two minds. Here, it's simple: you and me and your dead brother are all swimming in the sick stillness of the water after the storm. There's all this driftwood everywhere and you are crying and your brother is laughing and you are laughing and your brother is crying and I'm over here, doing both. Look at me, the both of you. Look at me, just for a second, just until you remember how to stop looking at each other.
Your brother is in a car with a beautiful girl, and she won't tell him she loves him, but she loves him. And you feel like you've done something treacherous, like poisoned her lipstick, like carved ruin into the whorls of his fingertips, and it's now or never, like always. Your brother is in a car with a beautiful girl and you're trying to forget how much you love them, the air in their lungs and the blood in their cheeks and how simple they would be to drown. It'll be so much easier to let go if you can just slip away from them but you've been trying all this time, to drift off like a lost balloon, to wash away in the flood, and they're leaning towards each other over the gearshift now. There's a box of condoms priced high with the promise of tomorrow sitting in the backseat and when their lips touch you will wrench yourself away in their moment of distraction and that'll be the end of it, finally. Yeah. You'll do it. Any second now.