We Share Everything by Tiffany Michelle Brown
When my brother, Damon, fell out of a tree at the age of eight, I fell out of my chair at school. Screams poured from my mouth like angry bees, causing Penny Williams to break her pencil in two and Mr. Biggs, who taught in the classroom next door, to pop his head in.
I clutched my leg with my eyes squeezed shut. I was afraid that if I looked down, my leg would be cracked in two―neatly, like the broken limbs of a porcelain doll. Of course, my leg was in one piece. But I couldn’t stop screaming.
I stayed in the nurse’s office for the rest of the afternoon. Any time I showed signs of discomfort, I was given a lollipop. Needless to say, I left school that day with a limp, a multicolored tongue, and a sugar high.
Damon wasn’t there when the carpool van picked me up. That’s when I knew.
I asked Mrs. Robbins to stop at the store on the way home. In the rearview mirror, her eyes were confused, then sympathetic, then the van stopped. In the home office aisle of Target, I picked out a pack of Sharpies in Damon’s favorite color, blue, and I used my allowance to pay for them. I smiled when I climbed back into the van.
At home, I rushed upstairs and there was my brother, laid up with a neon blue cast hugging his leg from foot to knee. He’d fractured his fibula in two places, a hefty price to pay for sneaking out to the playground instead of learning about fractions. I drew a picture of me screaming on the rippled plaster of the cast, and Damon laughed. “You and me,” he said.
“Me and you,” I answered back.
That’s how it’s always been―me and Damon, Damon and me. We’re the beach and sandcastles, peanut butter and pretzels, summer heat and sprinklers—a completion of one another. My mother always said she had twins because there was too much of us to fit in one body, and that always seemed about right. Where Damon left off, I began.
Growing up, it was hard to be away from him for long periods of time. I was infamous for phone calls to my parents from friends’ houses asking them to come and pick me up, because sleepovers just weren’t for me. In reality, it was because I wanted to creep into Damon’s room and listen to him tell ghost stories all night. Though he spun tales of rabid cats and zombie mice, I always felt safe and warm in the same room as Damon.
I never thought I’d love anyone the way that I love him―partly because of our crazy, psychic connection, and partly because I made a conscious choice early on to adore him. It seemed like a good idea at the time. But now, I’m starting to regret my choices.
I should stop looking at this picture of the two of us, but the yolks of my eyes are glued to our happy smiles, matching glasses, and the way we look like we’re stuck together. It’s our first day of college, the picture snapped between trips out to our parents’ cars from our new apartment to fetch our lives stuffed into cardboard boxes.
Damon is beautiful in the picture, the all-American boy with just the right amount of mischief in his eyes. Our cheeks are pressed together and our hair creates a blond halo around our heads. My eyes are dark like birch, his light like sea foam, but they both reflect the light the same way. It’s a moment in time, but it captures how I always feel around Damon, connected and complete.
This is the love part. I can see it so clearly in the picture. And it’s enough to make my eyes water.
I tear my gaze away from the photo and watch the dry desert landscape whoosh by. It looks parched and dead outside, like a giant came in with a striped straw and sucked all the water out of everything. It makes me uncomfortable, like I have a rock in my gut.
I rub the edges of the photo and wonder if Damon can feel what I’m feeling right now. My left hand has been throbbing for hours, a horrible, painful heartbeat. I’m pretty sure he can feel that, but I’m not sure about the rest. Can he feel the acidic spite in my chest? I hope so. I want him to feel so much. I want him to feel every jolt of this Greyhound bus, every mile that rolls away into nothing, every time my heart wrings itself out, the weight of that rock in my stomach increasing.
And then I regret how I’m feeling, that I’m pretending I don’t love my brother, that I think anything could ever really come between us. I sink into my seat and sigh. My heart aches, and I wish I could turn the dial on a pocket watch and rewind time.
We were so perfect before Brad ruined us. He ruined me first with his love of Hemingway’s short stories (“They’re his most evocative work”) and his rough fingers that could both catch a football and unhook a bra with ease.
I didn’t believe in it at first. I thought he was just another greasy fullback who only cared about pepperoni pizza, sports, arm candy―and Hemingway, I suppose.
I went on a first date with him, because a few of my close friends composed his mini fan club and they wanted to live vicariously through me. I went on a second date with Brad, because when he held my hand, it was like he was holding all of me in an embrace, soft but resolute—and that was both strange and thrilling. I went on a third, fourth, and fifth date with him, because when he looked at me, I saw myself, broken and beautiful and reaching for something more.
When Brad and I finally went to bed together, he broke me in two. I saw stars. I drank the moon. His breath made me dizzy and the next day, I was sure everyone could see his fingerprints on my skin.
“You finally slept with Brad,” Damon said the next morning over coffee in the student union. It wasn’t a question.
I smiled. “You’re a perv.” And then, “What did it feel like?”
“A buzzing in my stomach,” he said. “Happiness.”
I took a sip of my coffee, remembering Brad’s mouth on my skin. “I am happy.”
And I was. I was deliriously happy, because it was first love. Water tasted like wine, though I was too young to drink. I excelled in my classes. Being naked felt comfortable for the first time in my life. My friends started asking if I was on Xanax because I was so upbeat all the time.
“You’re glowing, you know,” Damon said when Brad and I had been dating for about six months.
“Shut up,” I said, biting my lip.
“You are,” Damon said. “Are you pregnant?”
“Who knows,” I said, “but I doubt it.”
The air conditioning shuttered on.
“Seriously though, it’s good to see you happy,” Damon said.
“And to think it’s from a guy.”
“I know,” I said.
Two weeks later, the buzzing began.
I was up late one Wednesday night, studying, when I felt a soft, warm vibration in my stomach. I imagined dragonflies nesting there, singing to me with the flutter of their wings. It made me laugh and I could no longer concentrate. Naturally, I waited up for Damon. When he walked in the door, I simply said, “I know.”
He frowned. “You know what?”
“You slept with someone,” I said, grinning and pointing at him. “Who’s the lucky girl? Is it Ashley? She’s been all over you this semester.”
Damon didn’t say anything, just flashed a devil may care smile. “Wouldn’t you like to know.”
I threw a pillow from the couch at him. “Tell me.” When he didn’t, another pillow. “You have to!” He shook his head. “I’m going to find out who it is,” I threatened.
Over the next few weeks, I watched Damon like a hawk. Who was he interacting with? What girls couldn’t tear their eyes away from him? I asked Shelley and Jessica and Ashley if they had crushes on my brother, but I was met with nothing but frowns and denials.
During that time, the buzzing intensified in both frequency and ardor. I vacillated between feeling elated for my brother and frustrated that he was being so guarded. He’d never shut me out before. We weren’t supposed to shut each other out. Why was he being so secretive?
“Going to the gym?” Damon asked over a weathered copy of Leaves of Grass one night.
“Yep, I need to work on my backstroke,” I said, a pair of goggles strapped to my forehead. “And then I think I’m going to grab some Thai food with Margot after. Want anything?”
Damon shook his head.
“You staying in tonight?” I asked.
“Yep,” Damon said. “I have a date with Whitman.”
Oh, I know you have a date with someone, I thought. And I’m going to find out who.
Outside, I crossed the street and sat down behind a tree, just out of view of anyone entering our apartment complex. I ate Oreos and waited, something in my gut telling me that Damon would ditch Whitman for some brunette in a heartbeat. My money was on Whitney, a shy but beautiful girl Damon had been “studying” with lately. I liked her and thought they’d make a stunning couple.
When Brad’s car turned into our parking lot, my stomach tensed and I heard the ocean rush through my ears. My boyfriend looked around and ran a hand through his black hair before entering the complex.
I waited a full fifteen minutes before I dug my key out of my pocket. My sandals felt like bricks as I crossed the street and climbed the stairs. At our front door, I imagined bursting in to see the two of them watching a football game, a bowl of pretzels between them. We’d all laugh at the misunderstanding and then Brad and I would work together to wear Damon down and force him to tell us about the girl he was seeing. I smiled at my stupidity and then pushed open the front door. The living room was quiet.
I almost left the apartment—and I wish I had. Because I can’t erase the marriage of their breaths from my brain. I can’t forget how Brad held Damon, soft but resolute, just like he held me. They moved like the sea and I could almost taste the salt.
I felt their happiness while I watched them through the crack of the bedroom door. I felt Damon’s passion bloom in my stomach. The dragonflies buzzed viciously. The sun shone inside of me. And while I watched my brother and my boyfriend have sex, I was happy. Because Damon was happy. And we share everything.
I had to feel something else. Damon had to feel something else.
In ten quiet steps, I was in the kitchen. Thirty seconds later, my left hand met a scalding burner. The kitchen towel between my teeth kept me from screaming, so I heard Damon’s yelp from his bedroom and then Brad’s voice asking him what was wrong. I snapped off the burner and ran to my room, my palm sizzling. I took a soda out of the mini fridge in the corner, counted to five, and then wrapped my hand about it. A sob that was lodged in my throat escaped, and then I bit back pain and mixed emotions.
Outside my door, I heard whispered conversation, my name, careful footsteps, the front door close, and then silence. A minute later, there was a knock on my door.
I shook my head, tears streaming down my cheeks.
“I deserved that.”
Yes, you did.
“Is your hand okay?”
It wasn’t, but I wouldn’t let him comfort me.
“We’ll talk tomorrow, okay?”
I wasn’t sure if I could ever talk to him again.
“You and me,” Damon said, but he sounded defeated.
That night while Damon slept, I packed a bag. I went to the bus station and bought a ticket to God knows where. I told the cashier to give me a seat on the next departure, and she told me to report to the bus at the front of the line. About an hour ago, I finally glanced down at my ticket stub. Apparently, I’m going to Kansas.
It’s been eight hours and five hundred miles, and I still don’t feel any further away from Damon. My left hand is covered in blisters and radiates with heat. My leg throbs the way it always does when either Damon or I are stressed. I’m terrified of the buzzing that I know will invade my stomach any moment now, because why would they stop seeing each other what with their biggest obstacle riding a bus into the sunset? Maybe they’ll allow me a few days of peace, but I know the dragonflies will be back eventually.
Most of all, I miss him. And I hate that. I miss the man who completes me and who’s also ruined my life. I stare down at the picture of my brother, my other half, my twin, and wonder if I’ll ever know what it feels like to be alone.
© Tiffany Michelle Brown, 2015
Tiffany Michelle Brown is a writer, archer, and whiskey enthusiast who lives in San Diego, California. She earned degrees in English and Creative Writing from the University of Arizona and has since published short stories with Penduline Press, Black Denim Lit, Shooter Literary Magazine, Romance Magazine, Line by Lion Publications, and Popcorn Press. To follow her adventures, visit tiffanymichellebrown.wordpress.com.
We Share Everything was read by Sicily Rockmore on 2nd December 2015 for Magic & Moonlight