You sit in front of me, and I can’t find it in myself to speak.
For how much I know that silence can be kind, I know it can also be made cruel.
Build rust onto one's vocal cords until the words that come out taste of nothing but iron. Bringing forth no softness. No, because softness always meant weakness for people like me.
Perhaps, I could start like I always had.
Mention some obscure fact I read in a magazine. One that’s hidden, collecting dust, in my closet filled with football gear now.
Like: “Hey, did you know there’s a statue of Vincent and Theo Van Gogh in the Netherlands?”
Here, I would have rambled on how it’s almost impossible to tell which one is which. You see, they’re both clinging onto each other so closely, it almost feels like they become one. As if the figures blend — bleed — into one another. One of the figures has his head resting upon the other, while the other appears to almost kiss the first one’s temple.
On his lips laid devotion; his tongue scritta paper tattooed by affection so strong it bled onto any letter he wrote.
This was Theo.
This was Vincent’s younger brother whom he loved so much. This was his brother whom he painted Almond Blossoms 1890 for as a present for Theo’s wife, Jo, after she gave birth to their son… his new, still too small nephew who bore the same name as him.
I imagine how the guys on my football team would react to such softness; for them, brotherhood laid its foundations in violence. Scritta paper replaced with sandpaper.
Hey, since we’re on the topic of art as gifts, I want you to know I still have all the drawings you gave me in a box. Their edges are long worn out, and the colors seem more faded every time I look at them. I’m much too scared to hold them these days...
—There, a voice just now, instilled in me sometime during adolescence, tells me I’m being a “drama queen.” But… perhaps that voice was always there. It simply got louder as I grew older.
Then, maybe — (can we stay on the topic of art for a bit more?) — I’ll make a comment about how you played the viola before… before this. I could then confess that I sometimes sit in my room and listen to classical music with violas, wondering how you would look if you were in a group like that. Wearing a stuffy collared shirt and black dress pants.
I could recall to you how I still remember the excited tone in your voice the day you first brought the viola home from secondary school. How every movement of your palms as you took its wooden body out of its case spoke of gentle reverence.
And maybe, I could tell you that your hands — at that precise moment when you held both neck and bow — reminded me of two mourning doves. Like the same ones we used to stare at in the morning while waiting for the bus to take us to primary school. They would fly across the telephone lines of the viola’s neck, wings carefully spread and poised on the bow.
I wonder if your hands are still mourning doves waiting to be freed… I wonder when mine started expecting to be caged.
Am I being a drama queen, again? Too soft. Too soft.
Bring back the rust.
… Do you remember that time I had to stick bandages on your arms because your cat scratched you? I do. I remember the manner in which your bottom lip trembled with your voice. My own voice was still weighed down by sleep and selfishly laced with annoyance, because it was morning, and you had woken me up. I told you to “man up.” I bet you don’t know, but those were the first words Dad told me the first time I fell off my bike. I carry them like a boulder.
You said — through sniffles — that I sounded like some character I forgot the name of.
I think the character was a detective.
I don’t know why you would compare me to such a character.
I was never good at seeing what was right in front of me.
Will you let me change the bandages on your arms again? Though, this time, I know the damage wasn’t done by your cat.
Did you know that, in school, they asked us what would be our one wish if we could have it come true?
I know, I know; what a generic question. The type you would always make fun of. Let’s say you would have answered with “money” or “a new brother.”
I would have laughed at that. I can’t remember the last time you told me a joke.
Hey, mysterious school genie? I wish you’d turn me back to when I was sixteen. Pimples, voice cracks, and all that awkward phase. I would do it again if it meant I could do it right. I promise you, this time I will.
I promise I’ll be the Theo to his Vincent.
I promise I’ll do it.
We’re sitting on the same dinner table but it’s like we’re worlds apart. My vocal cords still sit in my throat, heavy with rust. The lines between floor tiles aren’t small spaces anymore, but instead chasms. The sun reaches through the kitchen window and, I swear, it looks like a halo lies on your head. It makes me want to cry (even though I can’t do that anymore).
You’re laughing at something on your phone, now. The house seems to swallow the sound. It’s a greedy thing; I would know. You would, too.
We were weaned between these beige walls, after all.
You stand up now, and I can only look at your back as my hand twitches.
Minnie… you’re wearing long sleeves, again.
Mom and Dad said, last night during dinner — a dinner that now means three people instead of four — that you do it for attention. Like when you wore those skirts and that makeup for the first time.
I never thought Mom’s food could leave such a bad taste in one’s mouth.
I never thought I would hate what long sleeves now stand for.