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You do not learn from your mistakes.

When he tells you every move to make you believe him; when he tells you you are best unseen, you do not hesitate and believe him. He is red and you watch him. He takes you under and out.

You do not forgive him when he takes the only pure thing you've ever known away. But as the years progress, you remember the words he has told you, embrace them, take them by the minute and weave them through your fingers. You find new red, new gold, and you do not feel selfish when his words echo behind your ears again. But you, you still feel him, through your veins and fingertips and the sweat dripping behind your knees.

As soon as the buzzer goes off you can see the light disappear from his eyes. He has been conquered - but you, you are not the conquerer. You are the destroyer, the thief, and you remember you have no light either. He had once told you your strength was just that. You wonder if he believes it of himself.

At the time, you pull the other aside and try to get a good look at him. Try to get a good look at yourself. He had said that you were the same, that the other was better even - but you are the one who has stolen his darkness before he ever had a chance to extinguish the light. He glares at you under the restroom lights and demands, What the hell are you looking at, and you say, You, because he is he and you are you and you think that if the tiles stop reflecting, fluorescent faded from view, that not much would be different.

(You try it and you hate the way he kisses, almost exactly like you, bitter and ruined and like his cock, and you begin to have second thoughts.)


You have tried to separate the two, to see the red from the gold. As the days pass you grow weary and hate your father. The past feels like a ghost, the present a cloud you can't see through your own light.

Once upon a time you worked for something that you could touch. At the time, sport was something that touched your fingertips, not deep down inside where the mirror could break at any moment and shatter the facade you've built up for yourself. You encountered spirits that told you how your brain worked, when the world would end, when losing was a peace of mind and winning was climbing a mountain. Now losing is being buried six feet underground, and winning is, for a second, forgetting to breathe.

You break off your wings and try not to cry.

Every moment on the court is waking up. Every moment off the court is a nightmare, a limbo that can't be erased from your memory. Sometimes you try to bite the skin off your teeth, the blood from your hangnails. Instead the world turns and your blood runs hot while you are asleep, jolting you in a sweat as soon as your feet touch the ground.

He lets you decide how to fuck him and your sweat turns cold, for a second. He does not touch you as you guide your hips down on him, watching him grunt, maybe wanting him to scream. But you are not too hard because your hands are shaking and the ice sleets through you and pricks behind your eyes. You want to believe he is himself, he is someone else, he is you - but your head spins with silver and you don't know who you are.


On your worst days you believe the rumors, whispers that you've never heard, that you are second-rate. You are skin and bone and nothing more than the fog sweeping by ankles. He picks you up like truck tires on a dirt road and makes you believe that there is meaning in falling asleep.

He gusts into you with side along glances and finger brushes promising sex. You take them and do not mind his teeth against your ear, like he is trying to learn every part of you, absorb you. The world around you speaks of him like he is a god taming the others, but he grips onto your shoulders and rides hot on your cock. You are the water under his fingertips. He draws out your highest tides.

He talks of victories and summer mornings and shogi. You believe him when he tells you that you are first, you are better, and you cover his whimpers with your mouth and let him bite into you. You spend lunches alone fantasizing about what ifs and maybes and skulls buried deep underground, under his skin. You touch him like he might break and he fucks like he wants to break.

You are close to holding his hand when you realize you are not first, or second, and royalty sounds more like the stories your mother used to tell you to get you to fall asleep. You wish you were asleep, the way you see their gazes meet, sun against moon, and you are the side the sun forgets about. You want to say, Hey, I'm here now - but are you? Or are you only what he wants you to be, what you wished you were?

As soon as the illusion breaks, and you watch him split, you wonder if he has ever been there at all. Or if he has been somewhere else, with him, thinking that he is you when you are already gone. You run to the restroom and try to forget that he's ever been there, that you thought you could compete, and you splash water on your face and want to dig your nails into your bones.

A door opens.

You try not to turn around, but you hear the soft whisper of your name, in a tone that already knows you. You want to spit out tobacco, but you keep your mouth closed as you are told are you okays and half-asleep apologies and stories that will keep you awake. There is a hand on your cheek and you have you remind yourself that you are not looking into a mirror. That when you try to see hate and all you get is pity, that the face you are looking at is not you.