Jason and Michael

There are things that get resolved, and then there are things that don’t. Michael and Jason are, and have always been, once of those that don’t. They are brothers, you could say, but they don’t like thinking of themselves that way. They prefer referring to the fourteen years they lived in the same house together as a situational accident that nobody could have predicted and, thus, prevented.
They shared a mother, it’s true. They didn’t share fathers. If that were the only problem they had… well, things probably wouldn’t have turned out the way they did. But they did, and things are the way they are now, and that’s that.
Of course, both Jason and Michael don’t realize how ridiculously similar they are. It’s inevitable, you might say, that brothers who live in the same tumultuous household for fourteen years end up using the same turns of phrases, or, taking shots of vodka with the same exact swoop and shake of the head as the burn goes down. It’s inevitable, you might say, and you might be right, but the thing is that Jason and Michael spent most of their time during those fourteen years trying their hardest to be as different as people with similar genes could be. Sure, alright, maybe not all fourteen years were spent that way. There must have been a few years, at the beginning there, after Jason was born, when they weren’t around each other all that much because one of them was in preschool and the other was at their mother’s breast. There must have been a while when Jason even looked up to Michael, and maybe wanted, in a vague and faraway kind of way, to be like him.
But the thing is, Jason got over that awfully fast. It wasn’t just that Michael tormented him, although that must have played a factor. It wasn’t only that right from the start the boys had incredibly different temperaments. No, there was something deeper there, something mysterious and unknown, and it was this that forced them apart. Trying to get them to play nicely together was like trying to force the minus sides of batteries to touch each other. It was like telling the moon to go and dance with the sun for a while. Their mother gave up pretty soon on the idea of their ever being friends.
Then she gave up on them altogether.
Here are some of the things that Jason and Michael have in common now. Neither one of them blames their mother for any of the problems in their lives. They both use the same exact sentence when they try to describe her to people: She had a hard time of it, they say. Other people try, some less tactfully than others, to call BS, but neither one of the brothers will accept any criticism. They see her every weekend – Jason on Saturdays and Michael on Sundays – and they bring her flowers and they kiss her cheek and they look at her with eyes that seem to have regressed to tender childhood, and they don’t blame her.
Another sentiment they have in common is this idea of utter and complete independence. If anyone tries to help them into a parking place, for instance, they will get very annoyed, very quickly. When they’re sick, they pretend they’re not and show up for work anyway. They insist on lifting heavy things for their significant others, even now that they’ve both got the beginnings of bad backs, and cling to this chauvinistic notion of chivalry as an unbreakable rule.
Even their taste in music is similar. If they talked more often – ever, really – they might realize that they’d both drifted away from the vastly different and extreme genres that they used to like and have both fallen in love, at a later stage in life than most people do, with the tuneless musical poetry of Bob Dylan. But they don’t talk, so they have no idea.
Their significant others tried meeting each other for coffee once. They both had a vague notion that it would be a good idea to somehow intervene, perhaps even initiate some sort of reconciliation between the brothers. But an hour into their conversation, the two women were angrier with each other than they’d ever been with either Jason or Michael. They parted bitterly, each of them convinced, for the first time, that her partner had a reason for acting the way he did.
Jason and Michael don’t talk. I wonder, sometimes, whether they’d even recognize each other now. In the grocery store, for instance. If they both reached for the same pack of frozen fish fingers of that brand that their mother always bought.

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6 thoughts on “Jason and Michael

  1. Erin M says:

    Ooh, I LOVE the tone and characters in this one, Ilana! Really, really solid and interesting piece! =D

    (One tiny thing: do you mean the south poles of magnets? I realize that’s more cliché than batteries, but you can actually get the negative ends of batteries to touch with no problem. Maybe something like ‘trying to get the current to flow from the negative end of one battery to the negative end of another’? That’s pretty clunky, obviously . . . Anyway. Just something to think about?)

    xoxo

    • You’re actually absolutely right about the battery thing – I was thinking of magnets, but for some reason I couldn’t remember how to call magnet’s ends, or sides or whatever. So I said batteries.
      Thank you for pointing it out! I hope you know that I’m truly – seriously, I mean it – always glad to get these kinds of notes and any criticism you might have. I respect you as a writer and reader, and I know that your opinions are always worth thinking about.

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