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.

Sugar-Coated

Words on paper; black words on white paper, to be exact. Words, formed of letters, each individually meaningless shape coming together with others to create forms that the eye, or maybe the brain behind it, recognizes and understands. Words, meaningless things, really, when you get right down to it. Words are used to express every trite emotion in the book, every cliche of humanity. Words are nothing more than sounds rolling off the tongue, sticking between the teeth like bits of food that weren’t brushed out properly. Words are like phlegm, coming up the inner-tubing of the body and coughed out messily, loudly, sometimes violently. Words are just like any other bodily function – they serve their purpose, but they’re not to be discussed, not to be praised, not to be loved.

Of course, it isn’t so. If words are like food, they’re like the richest dessert, the most delicious cream-filled, frosted and glazed piece of chocolate cake that ever touched your pallet. If words are like bodily functions, then they’re like the satisfaction of a wide yawn, the comfort of a stretched muscle, the lulling sound of the pulse beating softly in the ears. If words are nothing more than sounds, then they’re like the sweetest music, the most¬†poignant, the most touching of all pieces ever composed by man.

Words are never simply anything. They’re never simply, for they’re never simple. Words are mazes, sentences are labyrinths, paragraphs are cities and pages are countries – novels are entire universes, poetry galaxies.

In the wrong hands words can be dangerous. In the right ones, they can save lives. Falling from the right pens, words can change the world. Dripping from those poisonous ones they can destroy it.

Words on paper. Simply words, or rather words, complicatedly.

Monica Loved Max

Many stories begin with the words “it all began when…” Many stories are unrealistic by their nature, but that line is one of the worst ones to begin a story with. Nothing begins at a certain moment. Very rarely can we see the point in time when a transition begins, when a story starts in our lives. Looking back, we can never pinpoint the moment the tides changed in our favor or the exact time we fell in love or the precise instant when we changed.

No, most often, we realize as we look back that something has been changing or happening for quite  a while.

So it is for me. I don’t know when I realized I was in love with Max, nor do I remember when exactly I fell in love with him in the first place. I remember when we met, I remember how we got to know each other and I remember being more and more drawn to him. Then, somehow, sometime, I realized I was in love with him.

“Mon’,” he’d say. “Why are you looking at me like that?” He was so clueless. He never understood the looks I gave him, the looks with which I was trying to fathom if in his gaze was an emotion anything like mine.

It was never a subject between us – the emotions we felt for each other. right from the beginning of our friendship we acted as if nothing could or would ever happen between us. We confided all and beyond in each other, told each other the absolute raw truths about our opinions and feelings for others and we quickly knew each other better than anyone else knew us.

But I loved him. Somehow, hearing about his liaisons with other women, about his love and respect for his father and his opinions on how children should be raised – it all made me love him. He, the person he was, made me love him.

He never got to know it, though. I never worked up the nerve to break that unspoken rule of pure friendship between us, and then he decided one day to explore more of the world. The last time I heard from him he was going to take vows of silence and join a monastery so he could understand the practice of religion in such places and write an essay about it.

So while I can’t say when it all began with Max, I can definitely say that it all ended when he hugged me goodbye, kissed my forehead and smiled at me at the airport. It’s sad, though, how easy it is to pack years of equal friendship and one sided love into a few short and simple sentences. You’d think it wouldn’t be possible to fit a world of emotion into the short statement: I loved Max, and he was my best friend until one day he left. But you can.