My brother Aiden is really my half-brother Aiden. He's 13 years older than me and lives out in New York City. Something about the guy I'm kind of seeing, Henry, reminds me of Aiden. It's something about his face or the way that he looks at me. It's not like an incest thing, more like comforting; I like how it feels to kiss his cheek.
Aiden started seeing Terry for therapy the year I was born. There were also group therapy sessions, with my father and my mother involved. In the early seventies, Terry, my father and others who shared a common interest in the connection between spiritual and mental health began meeting to talk about life experiences which had changed them. Their wonderings took shape in the form of a religion that became the framework for these group sessions. "The Society for Evolving the Self-Matrix" was for understanding those experiences that seemed serendipitous and transcendental.
The Society and other things made Terry and my father close. When I watch old men in the café where I work they have these fraternal relationships that jump out at you when they hold the door for one another, or pass a steaming cup of coffee. You can see the bonds or familiarity that have come through time. It's an invisible intimacy that comes from a long and intricate past. When my father divorced his first wife (Aiden's mother) and fell in love with my mother, Terry saw it all happen, helped him through it. When my parents decided to get married, Terry, who had become an ordained minister, preformed their wedding ceremony.
I was too fucking cold. I got up really quick and had a rush of blood to my head. Sal and Anna looked up at me, both of them grinning, still snuggled under the blanket. I said, "Um, I think I'm going to go inside." They said all right and gave my legs a kind of half hug and I touched them on their heads. I went inside through the back door to brush my teeth, hearing them still laughing through the thin walls of my house. My eyes were blood shot.
Terry thought I didn't like him, and maybe he was right. I was really too young to remember what I thought of him. I think he talked to both my brother and my father about it. I knew he wanted me to like him; he was like part of the family. I think I couldn't relate to him because he was old.
My brother was able to talk to him, and I think therapy and The Society helped him a lot. I couldn't identify then with Aiden's drive, but Iget it now. I was only 7, and he had finishing community college in Santa Monica and was heading out to Vermont for school. I didn't even know where that was.
I got home, and crawled into my bed, my nose runny and I was still shivering. My mind was reeling and I still felt stoned. I kept thinking about this tingling in my arm and I was sure I was having a heart attack, which got me started on my fear of esophageal cancer. Finally after agonizing and rolling over again and again, I drifted off into sleep.
It was a heavy sleep, and I woke to my alarm at 8:30. I was still out of it. I hurried out the door, shivering in my down coat and shorts all the way to yoga class. Aiden was the one who made me start doing it. I look at him and his life seems so together; I can't help but attribute it to little things he does, ways he's in control. He and his wife Mae, who is really fucking awesome, live in an incredible building in Brooklyn. Mae is about 7 months pregnant. They go to yoga together.
What I like about yoga is it helps me relax. When I'm staring at the floor propped up by my arms my mind feels clear and I'm not worrying. Even when my arms start shaking from my weight, I feel like my sense of self is tight and I am powerful. Then I walk out and I feel great for a minute, and while I am closer each day to being able to touch my toes, I start to worry again within an hour.
There was one day, just months after Aiden left for school, where my mom crashed her car into Terry's living room. She was going to see him for a therapy session, and I was at home with my dad watching TV and eating dinner. He was sitting on the couch and dozing on and off, I was kneeling on the floor with my plate poking at some take out Chinese food. The phone rang and he nudged me with his foot.
"Jake buddy, can you get the that?" I did. I scurried down the hallway towards the phone sliding the final few feet on the smooth hardwood and reached up to grab it. I mashed in the rubbery talk button and said, "Hello this is Jake, who is this?" Terry's voice was calm and cool.
"Hi Jake, this is Terry, how are you?"
"Good." I said
"Can I please speak to your father?" I didn't say anything, just ran back to the living room and handed my dad the phone. He opened his eyes and wrinkled his forehead, looking at me while he took the receiver.
"Hello?" He looked alarmed and then calm and then alarmed again. He was so candid with Terry. He hung up the phone. "Hey Jake get your shoes on we need to go get mommy."
We drove over to Terry's place, a very deco house in the Hollywood Hills. It looked normal, except my mom's car was crashed in it. There were police and an ambulance, but no one was really hurt. My mom was crying and her make up was smeared, there was a little blood by her hairline. Everything was chaotic and my dad took me inside and gave me a glass of lemonade from Terry's refrigerator. "Wait here for a sec, ok?" I did. Twenty minutes later Terry came in, he was smiling and he sat down with me for a minute. I didn't say anything to him and just looked at the glass on the table in front of me, it was at my eye level.
"Don't worry about it Jake, your mommy's fine." He was still smiling, "I hated those windows anyway." He stood and gave me a pat on the head, and walked out. I learned later that my mom was on some medication. She passed out or lost it in the driveway for a second, and came too in the living room. She doesn't take anti-depressants anymore.
Terry had an ex-wife and two kids. Their separation happened long before I did, and I had never met them. I know that it was really hard for him and he struggled to find meaning in it. It was in part responsible for The Society and his and my father's friendship. Terry said that he had heard a voice from inside, one day while driving down the Pacific Coast Highway, and pulled over to the side of the road and began sobbing. It was comforting, left him feeling whole again. He sent her a letter explaining that he had come to terms with everything and bore no grudges; he hoped she would understand why they wouldn't see each other again.
I knew about all of that then, but still I didn't think it was weird when Aiden came back from Vermont and moved in with Terry. I was 9 years old and I didn't think it was weird when Aiden told me that they were sleeping together.
"In the same bed?" I asked.
"Yes, Jake, in the same bed." Aiden responded.
"Do you have sex together?"
"Yes, we do."
"Do you put your pee-pee in his butt?" I asked incredulously. We were sitting in my bedroom; he was watching me while our parents were out to dinner.
"Yea, I just said we're sleeping together." The room was softly lit, he was sitting on my bed and I was tucked in up to my chin. I threw the covers down.
"Ha-ha-ha!" I laughed out loud. This was hilarious. He looked at me like I was a creep.
"Shut-up." he told me, I tried to but it was hard. "Terry and I are in love, Jake." He was addressing me, suddenly it felt serious but I couldn't get my head around it, it was just my brother.
"Do mom and dad know?" I asked him
"Yea." he said, "We've talked about it a few times."
"Okay." I said. He stood up and walked out of my room for a second, I pulled the covers up and laughed a little to myself. He came back in and tossed something onto my bed.
"Here." he said, "You should have these." Then he closed the door a little bit and said, "Goodnight Jake." Before he shut the door. It was two copies Playboy and a deck of playing cards with naked ladies on them. I looked through them for at least an hour before I went to sleep.
I walked to the café where I work, hoping I would run into Henry and it would seem casual and maybe we'd chat for little a while. He wasn't around so I got myself some tea and sat in the back and read to do some queer theory reading for class. It started to feel tedious so I switched gears and made myself a to-do list, which turned into a list of things I want to change about myself before May. May is important because in May I'm graduating college and then real life starts or something. I think that I need to defeat my hypochondria and anxiety before then. I don't think it will happen.
Aiden can't make it to graduation because Mae will be having the baby around then. It's okay though, I missed Aiden's wedding because I was studying abroad in Cape Town at that time I talked to him about it when I found out I got into the program. He said that ceremonies weren't important to him, in this way that meant: you understand that we love each other already, right? That was what he meant when he said, "Welcome to our home." The night I slept over at his and Terry's house. We were standing on the driveway of their house in the Hollywood Hills, Aiden was right in front of me, Terry was waving in the doorway. I looked up at their house, all deco with its raw wood beams jutting out of the mountain; I could hear my dad driving away down the street.
I had a lot of fun that night. I think Terry was trying to get me to like him; Aiden had mentioned something about it to me before. It was the sort of thing everybody vies for in their lover's siblings, I just wasn't prepared for it at the age of 9. I liked him a lot though that night. It was the most fun I'd had with a 73 year old ever. My brother was beaming and we played board games and stayed up late. As I went to sleep on the couch, Aiden pulled the covers up to my chin, and gave me a kiss on my head, "Night bro." he said as he wandered into the bedroom.
They were both really good to me. When I turned 10 they came to the party together. It was at Ed Debevic's, a 50's themed restaurant that has since gone out of business, where costumed performers would dance on the tables to songs like "YMCA" every half hour. I was feeling really happy as Terry and Aiden came around the corner, each with a present under their arm; my father went to the bathroom. They handed them to me and told me to open them. They had each purchased me a Barbie on Ice Barbie and Ken doll. Terry's dolls smiled up at me with dark skin, Aiden's were white. Terry made a joke about race and political correctness that went over my head. My dad came out with the cake. My friend Annelise got sick and our waitress jokingly smeared ice cream on my face.
I put my book back in my bag and picked up my coffee cup, walking for the door. I placed it in the bin and stepped out into the day, shivered as I walked towards campus.
After class I lay down in my bed and decided I was having an off day. Whether I was more preoccupied than usual or just hung up on my mood was debatable. I was feeling self-conscious again, like I was stoned or something; I seem to feel this way all the time now, but I remember when it was less common.
When I came out to my parents in high school it took three tries. The first time I was sitting in my room all night, secretly smoking pot and staring at my ceiling worrying about how everything would change. I decided I would write my mom a note, it was simple, it said: "Mom, I am gay. I love you." I was going to leave it in the bathroom where she would see it before going to bed. I stood there staring at the note on the mirror with the door locked for ten minutes breathing heavily. Finally I ripped it up and flushed it in the toilet and went to bed.
I tried to do it at dinner one night out at a Greek restaurant. I acted so unstable all of the meal that my dad asked me if I was all right. I said I was feeling light headed and had to go walk out side for a bit. I walked around the block 3 times and went back inside. Nothing else happened that night; I ate my gyro in silence.
It finally happened three weeks before I moved to Wisconsin. My parents were sitting watching TV in their back room. I walked in behind them, I was pale but they could not see me. "Mom, Dad, I'm Gay." I said. My mom didn't miss a beat; she turned around to look at me.
"Oh Jake, it's alright!" she said stretching her arms out for a hug.
"Woohoo!" my dad said, though I would learn that he felt hurt by the fact that it took so long for me to tell him. In the moment I felt a lot better, but I was still shaking, introspective, self-conscious.
Now I feel that way when I'm doing something as stupid as composing a text-message or meeting new people. It's debilitating, but feels completely natural, normal even. I think of Aiden when he graduated from high school picking me up and joking with his friends, charismatic and popular, he was the senior class President. I think of Aiden sitting in the car with Terry leaving my 10th birthday party. They held hands and smiled at me, my grubby fingers curled over the car window. He looked at me over his sunglasses, so dynamic, "Bye bro." My dad put his hand on my shoulder and gazed into the car; his eyes were somber.
"Bye fellas." He said.
The week after Terry died my parents and I went on a short vacation to Palm Springs. Our hotel looked out over the palm trees and we could see all the people basking in the sun inside their poolside dream world. My dad hates to travel anywhere and mostly stays in the hotel room. He was sitting in bed sulking. My mom wanted to go down to the pool and we'd gotten into the elevator when I realized I'd forgotten my towel. I told her I'd meet her in the lobby and jogged back to the room. I put card in the lock and opened the door. The door to the balcony was open and my dad was hunched over, looking out over Palm Springs, he didn't turn around.
I walked towards the door and I could hear him crying. I wasn't sure what to do. I stepped outside, the tile was hot from the sun, and I could feel blood rushing to my face. Before I did anything my dad spoke, "You've never seen me cry before, have you?" I hadn't. It was silent for a minute; he just looked straight ahead, "I miss Terry a lot. I really loved him. And I know Aiden did too. You know it's hard, being a father, being a friend." He paused, "It's hard. In some ways, I feel like I lost them both." He turned and hugged me tightly, giving me a kiss on the head, and then he walked past me into the hotel room and lay down on the bed. I picked up my towel and walked to the elevator. As it descended towards the lobby, I felt self-conscious and wondered about my dad.
Crossposted at Find (Y)our Way, a blog created by students in my advanced LGBT studies course at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, dealing with issues of Bisexuality and Asexuality - the disappearing letters from the alphabet soup that claims to characterize our community.