And when two people have loved each other
see how it is like a
scar between their bodies,
stronger, darker, and proud;
how the black cord makes of them a single fabric
that nothing can tear or mend.
- Jane Hirshfield, "For What Binds Us"
When Eduardo's words start clearing up for the first time, he's seven years old and at home, playing football with his cousins in his front yard. But the clouds overhead are dark and beautiful and he's staring up at them while his cousins call to him, "Hurry up, Edu!" in Portuguese, laughing.
This is when he notices the marks against the collarbone - blurry and black like a rorschach blot - tingle for the third, and second-to-last time in his life. He looks down, but of course he can't actually read them, so he hollers to his cousins, "Be right back!" before dashing back toward his house. He runs back up the porch steps, pushing his way into the kitchen, and into the safe confines of his home.
His mother is cooking dinner, happily and bustling around. "Mãe!" he calls, and she turns around with a broad smile.
Eduardo can't stop grinning, either. "Mãe!" he says, again, running up to her until he's parked right in front of the stove with her. "Mãe, it's done! It's finally done!"
"Oh?" His mother glances over his collarbone. "What does it say?" she asks, humoring him.
"I can't see it!" Eduardo tugs the collar of his shirt down with both hands so half of his tiny little chest is on display. "Mãe, what does it say?"
His mother's eyebrows furrow. "It's in English," she says, pursing her lips; but she knows English, so her eyes widen for a fraction before settling on Eduardo, with something soft.
"You're a very lucky boy," she tells him, smiling. She cups his face, strokes her thumb against his cheek. "And one day, you're going to be a very lucky man."
Eduardo beams back.
Mark had suspected, ever since he was five and his teachers called him a prodigy, that everyone else around him was hopeless.
When his words clear up, he knows it to be true.
Eduardo doesn't walk around with I need you displayed for everyone to see like a tattooed heart, though maybe if he had the choice, he wouldn't mind. It's not against the rules to show others what your words are, since it's not tailored just for the words - his mother has said, "I need you, Edu," when he's helping her around in the kitchen, and his classmate has said it when he'd been helping her with an art project. No, it's the moment of the thing, and everyone knows that the moment is more likely to be lost if you're standing around with someone and can't ignore the way their shoulder says,Wanna go for a drink? Then you try to avoid saying these words, either because you don't want to come off as desperate, or this person isn't actually that cute.
Still, it means little to him while he's in Brazil, until his father says that they have to move. To America. Where all people speak is English; and suddenly, he's just not thinking about the meaning of the words now, but the language, and America must be where his soulmate is.
He says as much to his parents - his mother laughs, and his father even smiles. Eduardo is eager, excited - for a new country, new language, all the possibilities. And, most of all, the chance that he will find the one - the one who has already staked claim over his skin and body and heart - who will need him, and whom he'll grow to love.
Eduardo gets into Harvard, which is much more to his surprise than to anyone else's. He laughs as his mother shakes his arm between their hug, and his father even spares another one of his rare smiles across the dinner table. "You are so talented, Edu," his mother tells him; and he remembers one day, you are going to be a very lucky man - he has never forgotten it since that day.
He shrugs and says, "Talented like the other five percent," in English, a language he's long adjusted to. His mother laughs again and his father tells him to not slack off just because he got into the best school in the world; but it's his father, so Eduardo takes it as advice and says, "Thank you, Pai."
Later, his father takes him aside and congratulates him properly, says that college will be one of the best years of his life. Eduardo doesn't count on it, but he has seen the words on top of his mother's wrist and on the side of his father's pinky, greyed out because they've already been spoken. He has seen the way his mother will interlock pinkies with his father (when he was younger Eduardo used to demand them to do it with him, too) and the way his father will touch her wrist, sometimes, gently.
So he believes in them, and believes in love, and knows his father's words are sincere. "Thank you," he says, again.
And then he starts college, up in cold Boston instead of warm Miami and even warmer São Paulo. He has never been up in New England before, but he's visited London for his father's work and Belgium for vacation, so he is ready for these differences. The clouds over him are always pallid, and Eduardo learns to love them.
Then he meets Mark Zuckerberg.
It is not the weirdest way to meet someone, but across the room at the AEPi party Eduardo spots him - curly-haired, hands stuffed in hoodie pockets, dawdling in a way that suggests either he's incredibly awkward or thinks he's too good to be here. Mostly, he's alone, which is what Eduardo notices.
Eduardo joins him, pausing by his side and saying, "This isn't the worst theme they've done, you know. There was Greek night once, and I saw way too much of the brothers than I ever wanted to in my life."
To his surprise, Incredibly Awkward/Too Good gives him sort of a half smile, like the silver lining of a cloud you can see when it's angled in front of the sun just right. "You didn't need to tell me that, now I'm imagining everyone here half-naked in togas," he says.
Eduardo laughs. "Eduardo Saverin," he says, tilting his cup up in greeting.
The guy's mouth twitches again. "Mark."
Later, Eduardo meets Mark's roommates, Dustin - who is also an economics major, but likes programming, like Mark - and Chris, who is hard to figure out, but nice and funny. Eduardo doesn't realize it until a month after meeting them, but Chris keeps rubbing his hand over a place on his thigh, and Eduardo realizes immediately what it must mean.
"I think Chris's soulmark is on his thigh," he blurts to Mark one day, when he's sitting on Mark's bed studying. Mark is typing on his computer at his desk.
Mark doesn't look up. "Well duh," he says. "It's pretty obvious."
"Yeah." Eduardo wonders why Chris is so anxious about it. Eduardo himself doesn't own any low-collared shirts, though a good part of that is for the fashion choice. There was this girl he knew when he was thirteen who always wore a glove on one hand, and there were bullies at his old school who would stuff other kids' heads into toilets, but never force them to show their words.
Eduardo wonders idly where Mark's is. He thinks about asking, but Mark will either say no - the most likely - or he might even say yes, and show Eduardo, and Eduardo will have to go through the rest of his life knowing what Mark's soulmate will say to him. He's not sure if he can handle that.
So he doesn't.
"The whole idea's kind of stupid, isn't it?" Mark says. It's spring semester and Eduardo is walking back from - well, Mark's class, since he's the one who decided to meet Mark here.
"You go through life interacting with a bunch of people, and then one day someone will say something and it's supposed to make you realize you're in love with them." Mark rolls his eyes.
Eduardo shrugs. "I think it's romantic," he says.
"Romantic." Mark snorts. "Yeah, real romantic - you know what the divorce rate is around here? Fifty-two percent."
"Maybe they all married the wrong person," Eduardo suggests casually.
"Or maybe they were so hung up on expecting their relationship to work that they didn't stop to consider that it wouldn't."
He does have a point. Still, Eduardo doesn't mind so much, and says, "Then that's their fault, not the." He gestures around to his chest, before belatedly realizing what he's doing.
Mark's eyebrows furrow. "What do you - " he starts, and then, "Oh. Is that where yours is, then?"
He looks very curious. Eduardo shifts under his gaze, and says, "Yeah."
He doesn't know why, but he half expects Mark to command him to unbutton his shirt, right in the middle of the sidewalk, where other teachers and students are walking. Mark fixates him with another curious look, before continuing on, as if Eduardo hadn't done or said anything significant.
"Mine's on my palm," he says. "It's fucking annoying if I'm typing and it starts itching. Who comes up with this stuff?"
"The universe does, Mark," Eduardo says, though his mind is reeling. If Mark's words were on his palm, Eduardo should've noticed by now - or not, since Mark is always typing, palms down, or has his fists stuffed in his pockets.
It's so obvious. It should've been obvious.
Mark glances at him. "Stop teasing me, Wardo." His tone is light, and there is something in his eyes - a spark of interest, lingering like he wants to figure Eduardo out from afar, like a predator and prey, or Mark and a new project. Eduardo doesn't mind.
The back of Dustin's shirt slips when they're playing Call of Duty and Dustin had raised his arms in victory from sitting on the back of the couch, throwing him off balance and sending him crashing to the floor. Eduardo and Chris (Mark is in his room with the door open) check to see if he's injured.
"I'm okay, I'm okay," Dustin's saying, but his shirt lifts up a little. He always wears high-rise pants so Eduardo hadn't thought much of it - but on his waist says, I wouldn't mind sleeping with you again.
"Er," says Chris.
"I'm - what? What's going on?" Dustin glances between them, before feeling at the sliver of skin where Eduardo can still see sleeping. "Oh, shit."
"It's cool, man," Eduardo says. He offers out a hand and helps Dustin up. "Hey," he claps Dustin on the back, "that basically confirms that you're getting laid at some point, though, right?"
"Yeah." Dustin chuckles. "When my parents saw it for the first time - god, I can't even explain how awkward that was." He snorts. "I feel sorry for any eight year old who's got the f-bomb tattooed on their forehead."
"Good thing we have concealer." Eduardo doesn't like it so much because it makes him scratch at his skin and ineffectively peel it off, but it's waterproof so people can still go to the beach without having to worry about their words showing.
Mark hasn't looked up from his desk. Eduardo half-worries about leaving him out of this thing that he and Chris now know, but then Dustin calls, "Mark! Cat's out of the bag!"
"What?" Mark says, without removing his gaze from his computer.
"Dustin's gonna get laid in the future," says Chris.
"That's a surprise."
"It's his soulmark," Eduardo offers.
Mark doesn't respond. Eduardo wonders if he just doesn't care - Mark, he's learned, hears everything, but only picks and chooses what to acknowledge.
"You know," Chris says thoughtfully as they round their way back to the couch, "it could be literal, rather than metaphorical. Like, maybe you literally slept with them."
"I hate you, Chris," Dustin says genially, grabbing for his controller. "You always know how to crush my spirits."
"It's what I do best," Chris says.
(There is a class in Harvard on them, an endless research on the nature of the marks and how they connect to spirituality - or otherwise - in the universe. Some researchers say it's nature's way of pushing living things together, because there are birds with patterns on their back that look like the bark of the trees that breathe them in; there are lines at the ankles of panthers who can't kill a tiger, butterfly wings cusped like the inner channel of an angel's trumpet. There are studies that suggest every living thing is connected; that despite the wars and battles and fights, we are connected - by love, by nature, by a fate we cannot choose.
There are studies on the human response to them, the hiding, the secrets because we want to experience that love. Nobody wants to expose it. Everyone has the hope that, despite fifty-two percent, the person who we are supposed to love will love us back, with all they have, unconditionally. We all wait, and wait, and wait for that love, to grab us and shake us like a hurricane, to never let us go.)
It is May and Chris asks, out of the blue, "Do you think a lot of them are gendered?"
They're getting lunch at the Kirkland dining hall; Eduardo looks up from his peas as Dustin pokes at his chicken, saying, "Yeah, I think the drumstick's a boy, and the wing is a girl, and the thigh - it's probably fluid, feels like something different each day - "
"Stop it, Dustin," Chris says patiently. "I'm asking about the soulmarks."
Eduardo remembers, when a kid in his class who always wore a hood had accidentally let it fall one day and there were the words, I like you too, Kyla on the skin of the kid's neck. Except, the kid's name was Patrick, and Eduardo hadn't understood at the time.
"Maybe," Eduardo says to Chris.
Mark picks at his dessert. "There's a lot of flaws with the system," he says, pragmatically. "Like, what if your soulmate dies before you meet them? What if you get one that outs you and you don't even know it yet?" Chris shifts at this. "What if you don't even meet them?"
"You're supposed to meet them, Mark," Eduardo says, rolling his eyes. "That's the whole point."
Dustin says, "You know, my parents' are in Hebrew." He grins. "And my uncle, he's never had one in his life."
"Maybe he's a late bloomer," Eduardo suggests.
"Could be," says Dustin. "He says that he just doesn't have a soulmate, though. Says he's better off without one, hates all the fuss for it, anyway."
He kind of sounds like Mark, except Eduardo knows that Mark has a soulmark. Not just because Mark has told him, or the way Mark's body tenses like piano wire whenever he has to meet someone new.
But because Eduardo has watched Mark while he was coding, while he wasn't looking - the faint black lettering hidden under the curve of Mark's hand, with an outline that Eduardo can't quite place, barely visible from Mark's bed. He has watched the way Mark curls his fingers over his palms, again and again, like he is maybe trying to scratch at the words he'd rather not see.
The day Erica Albright breaks up with Mark is the day Eduardo hears the words for the first time.
"I need you."
It does not burn against his skin, does not tingle like a fuse being lit. It is dull and unchanging and makes Eduardo's heart skip a beat. And he realizes, for the first time, that maybe he has been hoping too much for Mark to say these words. It hadn't occurred to him that nothing would happen if Mark did.
But Eduardo says, "I'm here for you," because he is. Regardless of the words, or the universe, he is still the boy that Eduardo is in love with.
Mark says, "No, I need the algorithm."
Then it is November and Eduardo is at an AEPi party again. This time it's Caribbean Night and Mark comes in shorts and a hoodie and asks Eduardo to come outside. Eduardo does and Mark pitches him the idea that will revolutionize the internet and the world, in the autumn cold biting at their ankles like birds on a tree.
So maybe Eduardo doesn't care about the site as much as Mark does; but then again, that's what the money is for - it's for Mark. Eduardo watches as Mark codes and codes, and Eduardo barely manages to persuade him that, Mark, sleep is good for you. Mark had said, You're CFO, but more often than not Eduardo's trying to get Mark to do something other than putting Eduardo's money to good use.
Eduardo thinks of it as a metaphor. Mark hasn't said it to him again, but he does need Eduardo, now - without money, Mark wouldn't have the servers and the Linux boxes and whatever else it is that he needs for his website. Without Eduardo, Mark wouldn't have this opportunity. In the mirror Eduardo's words are blacker than before, because Eduardo had spent all of winter break up here in the New England chill, with Mark. But this is Mark needing Eduardo. This is Eduardo being a lucky man.
Thefacebook goes live and Eduardo takes them out for drinks. Mark is the most popular kid on campus, and when they go to the Bill Gates conference at the end of the month, some girls say, "Facebook me," and Eduardo is ecstatic.
"Have you ever heard so many different good things packed into one regular-sized sentence?" he says to Mark, and the smile Mark sends him dimples under the pale honey-golden light.
And this is it, even though he finds the cease and desist letter, even though Mark answers, "No," to him without even a second to hesitate. This is it, because even though thefacebook is more Mark's than anyone else's, it is Eduardo's money, Eduardo's name on the masthead, right underneath Mark's. It is the two of them, and it is even better than I need you.
Christy tells him from the get-go that her words run high at the side of her ankle. She invites him to take her boots off. He does, and reads, You can do so much better than me.
He laughs. "Do you think you can do better than me?" he asks her.
Christy tugs him forward with the collar of his shirt - he's wearing concealer, always does when he's around her, and hasn't told her where his mark is yet. Hasn't told her that no matter who his soulmate is, no matter if she needs him, he already has Mark and thefacebook.
Hasn't told her that he's incredibly, incredibly bad at saying no.
"I definitely can," she says against the side of his neck. "But I'm with you right now, aren't I?"
He lets her kiss him. While sex isn't as good as seeing as Mark say and this is my CFO, Eduardo Saverin, it's pretty close.
Then it's spring break.
Eduardo tells Mark again and again that they need ads to monetize the site - the business - and Mark persists with, "No," each time.
Eduardo drags him to the ad exec meetings anyway. It turns out to be a fatal mistake, as Mark ruins every single one - literally all of them - and Eduardo half wants to throttle him by the end of the week. He also wants to kiss Mark, in sort of an unhealthy cathartic way. He does neither.
Then there's the meeting with Sean Parker.
"He's not a god," Eduardo says, as they wait at the table.
Mark asks, "What is he?"
"He's twenty-five minutes late."
"I think Wardo's jealous," Christy says, grinning.
It doesn't mean anything coming from her - but when Sean Parker arrives, Eduardo somehow can't get it out of his head. Parker is even worse than the articles had said, and Mark looks at him like Parker has said the words that creep along his palm. Eduardo glances at him, but Mark hasn't scratched at it.
He's on edge for the rest of the night, though, because here Mark has met someone new, someone he likes. And as much bullshit as he talks about the whole soulmate thing, it's not like Mark's shoved his hand in Eduardo's face and said, "Here, you can see my words, I don't care." Eduardo had always suspected that Mark has cared but liked to say otherwise so he wouldn't have to admit to it.
Mark asks him what he thinks on the way home, and Eduardo can hear the question of Sean, of Sean's ideas for Facebook, that are no longer just Mark's, that have never been Eduardo's. Eduardo remembers Christy's words, and tells himself firmly that he is not jealous.
"That reminds me," Mark says, looking up from his desktop. "We're gonna need more money, Wardo."
Eduardo nods, gesturing. "Yeah, no, I agree, more servers, more help—"
"I'm interviewing two interns to Palo Alto, and we're going to have to pay them something."
Eduardo has to consciously replay Mark's words in his head. Palo Alto doesn't even sound foreign on his tongue, like Mark has thought about this for a long time.
Still, it is Mark, and it is Facebook, even though it's all the way to fucking California. Eduardo has already jumped countries, made it into a prestigious school, and into an even more prestigious club, and the universe is still finding higher places to bring him.
And it is Facebook, and it is Mark. Eduardo hands over $18,000 after only a single second thought, and Mark beams at him across the room, between everyone else like they are the only ones here. Sean Parker might have more connections, but Eduardo is the one standing here with Mark.
Over the summer he plans on working at his internship, but the people are awful and nobody takes him seriously, so he quits on his first day. He calls Mark and tells him so, tells him that he's going to focus on trying to find ad execs and try to generate revenue. Mark says okay.
The words are etched so deep into his skin that Eduardo doesn't even think twice about them anymore. When he steps out of the shower and glances into the mirror, I need you is black and splayed over his chest, its home.
Eduardo tugs on a shirt and continues on with his evening.
He tries not to notice the gap, wedging itself between him and Mark. It's the geography, the distance, being a whole country away, he thinks. Sure, sometimes Mark doesn't pick up his phone and each time Eduardo brings up how he's doing with the ad execs Mark makes this irritating noise until one of them changes the subject. And he can't see Mark every day, can't see the way he balls his hands into fists or stuffs them into his pockets or the curve of his eyelashes when he accidentally falls asleep at his desk and Eduardo has to shake him awake. Can't watch Mark turn back on like a computer being booted up; and before Facebook, would ask Eduardo if he could grab him a beer, come with him to a conference, look over the algorithms in his code. Eduardo waiting and Mark walking out of his class expectant, but his version of happy as they'd head back or to someplace else.
The gap is big and wide.
And then Mark doesn't show up at the airport.
Eduardo tries not to think too much of it, even though he'd known it would rain. The words on his skin do not make him feel any better. He waits for an hour, then calls a taxi, and gives the address that Mark had mentioned offhand during one of their phone calls.
It is still raining. Eduardo waits on the front stoop.
His skin is getting colder and colder.
Then Sean fucking Parker opens the door.
Eduardo pushes down the wave of anger that surges through him. His hair is sticking to his face and every inch of him is soaked and there are girls who are not interns and look like kids in his house. And above all, Sean Parker is here, and -
"Wardo," Mark greets, slanted grin.
"I waited an hour for you at the airport," Eduardo tells him.
But all Mark wants to talk about is Facebook, the Wall, Facebook. Apparently Sean Parker is setting up meetings and talking to Eduardo like he thinks he owns this place, and Eduardo does not feel like he belongs here. He does not belong here, with these interns he's barely met, two teenage girls with a fucking bong, and Sean Parker.
"Want to talk to me alone for a minute?" Eduardo says to Mark. It's not a question.
Facebook runs on Eduardo's money and Mark's brain and heart and fingers. The house is in Mark's name out of Eduardo's pockets, and on the masthead Eduardo's name is right under Mark's, the same way on the bank account, Mark's is under Eduardo's.
This is supposed to be their house - the site is supposed to be theirs -
"Did you hear what I just said?" Eduardo demands, as Mark rambles on, seemingly talking to himself.
"The connections, the energy - "
"Mark - "
"I'm afraid if you don't come out here, you're going to get left behind," Mark says.
"I want - I want - I need you out here."
Eduardo's skin has not yet dried, but the words that have been embedded deep into his skin and soul, the three words that he has memorized since he was seven years old and his mother taught him the first bits of English he's ever learned, the words that have meant everything to him all his life, tingle hot against his chest. It is like being branded, lighting up every single one of his nerve endings.
No one ever mentioned out here.
"Please don't tell him I said that," Mark says.
No one ever mentioned that, either.
"What did you just say?" Eduardo whispers.
But Mark doesn't notice. He never notices.
"It's moving faster than any of us ever imagined, and - "
Eduardo freezes the bank account the next morning.
On the flight back to New York, he thinks about telling Mark. That Mark has said his words - for the second time - and that they have burned, like fresh ashes finally dusting into grey. In the Palo Alto mirror they had looked all dull and silver, serif and italic beneath his neckline.
He should tell Mark.
But as soon as he gets back, hoping for some sleep, Christy breaks in and nearly sets his apartment on fire. And Mark is furious with him on the other side of the country, ranting about how Eduardo could have jeopardized the entire company, permanently destroyed everything I've been working on and Eduardo's bed is up in flames and he struggles to hear Mark's words over the sound of the fire extinguisher.
"I'm sorry," he says into his phone, grabbing it back up. "I was angry and maybe it was childish. But I had to get your attention, Mark."
"Wardo." Mark's voice is somehow so bright over the tinny speaker. "I said I've got some good news."
Eduardo pauses. His blood is running cold and warm - from his girlfriend nearly burning his place down, from being yelled at by the boy that he loves, from the words on his skin yearning to find its owner.
"What is it?"
And they've got the half million dollar investment. And Mark - Eduardo's soulmate Mark, the one Eduardo will tell about the letters arced under his collar - says, "I need my CFO," and it's just as good as the third time.
Eduardo owns over a million shares of stock in his and Mark's company and they are sequestered near Mark's desk, celebrating privately. Eduardo has a bottle of beer in one hand and his jacket is hanging off the back of Mark's chair.
Mark says, "You gotta come back."
Eduardo asks, "Remember the algorithm on the window at Kirkland?" The first time Mark had said those words - foreshadowing something better, maybe. It is a party for a million members he will come back to, a million members on the site that he and Mark built together. He should tell Mark - Not yet, he tells himself. This is not the time. They will have a million members.
Mark answers, "Yeah."
"Yeah," Eduardo says. "I'll be here."
There is a roaring in Eduardo's ears that screams for him to tell Mark but Eduardo is not listening to it.
He is not listening to it, or Sean Parker, or the boy he is supposed to love, sitting in the chair in front of him telling him to kick himself out of his own -their - company.
It is a lie. It has always been a lie. For the fifteen years Eduardo could know them, the words on his skin have lied to him. Mark does not need him. Mark had said the words, three times. Mark has never needed him.
"I'm coming back for everything," Eduardo whispers, because he is coming back for his broken heart, every piece of it.
As he walks out of the Facebook offices, he does not believe in love, does not think he is a lucky man. He will carry these lies around with him for the rest of his life.
Mark will never know. He does not deserve to.
(Years later, Eduardo says, I was your only friend in the deposition room and Mark's palm burns, curled into a fist, against his cheek, underneath his fingertips.)