Occasionally, though, he did let somebody help. Stephen Sondheim, of all people, had pointed my brother in the direction of J.D. McClatchy, editor of the Yale Review, who would publish a poem called “Atlantic City”—again, posthumously.
But my brother never tried to have a career, which was something I always admired about him but also something that stopped him from having some necessary ambition to have a writing life.
Still, maybe he was the real artist after all.
I don’t know, because we never talked about it. I don’t know what he thought about how real artists see themselves.
We never talked about the things I talked about with other people.
We watched movies and read books and talked about them, and we watched the family go up and down on a ride we weren’t on and talked about that.
Or we gossiped, and like anyone who gossips, neither one of us walked away from the conversations with any real sense of connection, just enough facts to get us into the next conversation. Enough talk to remember each other.
We didn’t reveal what wasn’t already public domain and we didn’t look away, when we were looking at something together.
When my brother was looking at his twin, he saw the alcoholic and the homosexual who was miraculously able to maneuver long-term relationships which had always felt to my brother as such a task of heart and mind that he spent most of his life outside the long-term.
I see my brother in the painting that represents long-term loneliness as someone in the arduous task of pulling an ocean liner to a shore. And when I look at that painting and see my brother alone and vulnerable under so much weight of his own creation, I shudder with the thinking that I have always been thinking when it comes to the subject of my brother and romantic love (and it’s hard for me to say this without a smug irony) that one of the things my brother saw when he was looking at his twin was the fact that he couldn’t have him. The sex I had with my brother was over, but to my mind, it was still happening somewhere in Kevin’s own time.
The twin waits for the other twin to stop thinking.
And because that unrequited something kept imperfecting the frequency, my brother and I never really there for each other when it really counted:
when my mother died and he was hospitalized afterwards;
when I broke up with my lover of many years and needed to get sober;
when I met Andrew and was afraid to have him meet Kevin because it was the first real relationship in 15 years and I couldn’t let Andrew fall for the thing in Kevin (something softer than physical) that resembled in any way the thing in me.
Kevin had the facts about my meeting Andrew, but my brother and I weren’t in the habit of talking about our lives as they were happening. We found the language in the after-it-happened.
We found talk rummaging around in the results.
Somehow, being born together magically activated something called the “virtue” of being a twin and gave us permission not have to ask anything.
Of course we knew what the other one was thinking.
We were twins, weren’t we?
And because we were twins, how could I not know that there would be a night like this:
he picks up the guy that leads to the door
that leads to the stairs
that leads to an unmade bed in the center of the hot night of his hot death after the stranger leaves him alone with his heart just before it stops.
How could I not know that my brother was going to be dead before I was?
Richard, my ex, called soon after Kevin’s death to tell me—as though it were important somehow to know—that it felt as though a piece of me had died—not all of me, just a piece. (Which piece, I wonder?)
And for every twin whose twin is dead, there must be the nagging—or is it misplaced?—grief of not being absolutely sure who to grieve, which of the two had, in fact, died?
But I was sure.
Kevin was dead.
I was alive.
When I was a twin, Kevin was alive.