This story is totally fictional. Like in life, there is unhappiness as well as love here, there is treachery, there is death, and there is sex. Eventually. But the build-up is slow, and if you are looking for quick wank material with lots of inches and OHs and AHs, this story is probably not for you. This is first and foremost a story of love between brothers.

The author apologizes for possible lapses in idioms and grammar, but English is not his native tongue. His origin will become apparent in the story.

No living creature was harmed and no tree was cut down to produce this story.

Constructive feedback will be gratefully received at winterboy69@yahoo.com. Flamers will be ignored.

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MY BLOOD SINGS IN BENDIK

Magnus Winter

 

 

We came into the world like brother and brother;

And now let's go hand in hand, not one before the other.

(William Shakespeare)

 

 

 

Chapter 1

 

I sit by my brother's bed watching him.

The room is brightly, coldly lit, and quiet, except for the eerie, wheezing sound of the respirator and the faint beeps from the monitors. The three curves on one of the screens zigzag ever forward, one green, one blue and one white. Numbers I don't have the knowledge to interpret change and change back. I look up at the monitors every minute, my brain says that it's the digital image of my brother I'm seeing, but I want the image to tell me something else, tell me more than his heart rate and the oxygen saturation of his blood: Tell me of his suffering, tell me of his dreams. If he has any. Tell me where his beauty has gone. Tell me why.

I see half his face with a plastic tube like a faucet taped into his mouth, I see his naked right shoulder, and I see the rubber cuff around his naked upper arm. I see the IV tubes needled into both his hands, the hands that lay immobilized on top of the sheets that cover his lower body. I see the skin on his chest in between the white pads with wires attached to them. His smooth skin is ghostly, almost the color of the bandages that cover the left side of his face, his left shoulder and chest. I see how his right nipple stands out like a scream in the silent icy desert of his skin, the color of a faded bloodstain.

I love him so much my stomach churns. I've failed him so bad my soul burns in hell.

Suddenly the faint rhythmic beeps turn into an unbroken wailing whistle. The upper curve on the screen flattens out and I scramble to my feet shouting incoherently. I run out of the room almost colliding with the stampede of people in white hurrying in. I run through the maze of corridors and passages until I feel the wind and the rain beat against my face.

 

***

 

I've tried to figure out if there was a specific time or a certain event that caused everything to go wrong, but it eludes me. Seems like nothing was ever quite right, throughout my childhood there was always something that seemed askew or twisted. I used to blame my mother's death for the disintegration of our family, but no, that's not the reason. My mother's death was just another straw to the camel's back.

It was my older sister who found our mother, out in the woods behind our house, both wrists slashed, body full of barbiturates. My sister was 12 then, I was 10. Our little brother Bendik was just 5, my sister and I tried the best we could to shield him from realizing the ugly facts of her death. We would constantly cuddle him and play with him and feed him the major part of our shared supplies of candy. I'm not sure it worked, I remember he once asked me if he was going to die soon, since we were so kind to him and smiled such sad smiles. And he looked at me with eyes wide open and said: - I don't remember her face. You'll forget my face too.

Also our misguided kindness made him fat. Not obese, just a bit too chubby.

My sister got more and more morose, and withdrew from the rest of us. Not that my father was much to withdraw from, I hardly remember him being present in my childhood as anything but a vague, out-of-focus cardboard figure. My mother once, on one of her spectacularly bad days, let slip through tight lips, cigarette dangling from the corner:

-      Husband my ass! He'll screw anything in a skirt! One of these days he'll find his penis with his breakfast bacon.

She then stared hard at my sister and warned her to look out. I didn't get the implications at the time, but I think my sister did. Actually, in hindsight, I think my mother slightly underestimated him. Skirts weren't required, my father would screw anything with a pulse.

So Bendik became more or less my responsibility. And it felt like a burden. And a trap.

 

***

 

He is stable again. They called from the hospital. His arrested heart is beating again, I can't keep myself from asking: Beating for what?

He is still in an induced coma, still closely monitored. His skin is still like milk, lukewarm to the touch, soft and silky. My fingertips are relentlessly drawn to what skin is available: His forehead, his cheek, his neck, his nipple. I brush his skin lightly, like feathers. Underneath his pale skin flows a pint of my blood, I want him to hear it sing to him. I focus my mind to penetrate like a beam into his core as I whisper my newfound mantra: I love you, don't die. I love you, don't die. I love you ...

 

***

 

I guess it was my own fault. I mean, the fact that he became too dependent, too clinging. Well, fault? I was just trying to be nice to him, to be a good brother. Protect him, sort of. However, I never really knew how to protect him. He was such a clumsy kid, so ungainly, so helpless. He was just too easy to bully.

He never fought back. Didn't know how to, I suppose. I watched him once in kindergarten, this must have been just a couple of months after my mother made her exit. My father had laid out the law that I was to take Bendik to kindergarten on my way to school, since the buildings were adjacent, and to get him back home as well. I had come to pick him up a little ahead of schedule, and I observed how two of the other boys obviously wanted the plastic train-set he was having his own private and quiet fun with. He wouldn't let go of it, so one of the boys knocked him several times on his head and the other hit and clawed at his hands that held on to the bright red locomotive. They yelled and screamed at him, and finally one of the pre-school teachers came over to settle the dispute. And all the time he never made a sound, not once did he hit back; he just looked at them blankly. Then he was aware of me standing there. He came slowly over, like he was walking in molasses, and hid his face under my arm.

On the way home he grabbed my hand. I saw tears rolling down his chubby cheeks, but no sound came out of him. I told him not to let the other kids hit him like that, said he should hit them back if they did this. He just answered no in his smallest voice.

Something nagged at my 10-year-old brain, something unpleasant that I did not understand. Something that made me want to get away. I tore my hand from him and shouted:

-      You're so stupid! One day I'll just leave you there!

I quickened my pace, not looking back. I knew he'd come stumbling after me anyway.

When I think back, some memories stand out like beacons in a barren landscape: Always me on my way somewhere, walking fast, and Bendik just tagging mutely along.

Until I'd had enough of him and told him to go home. I would turn around, squat down in front of him and grab him:

-      You can't come with us, Bendik. My friends don't want you around. We're going swimming, and you can't come. Go home now!

And he would turn from me and walk away without a word. Shuffling his feet, avoiding my eyes.

But when we got out of the water, I would see him sitting motionless a short distance from the beach. Waiting. Waiting to go home with me. My guilt would wash away my annoyance, and when my mates had disappeared, we'd start walking homewards and he would silently put his little hand in mine.

But his clinging would eventually suffocate me.

 

***

 

There is no change. He's still there on his back surrounded by the tubes and the wires, like a surreal painting, like a frozen 3D-copy of himself. I keep touching him, knowing I can't do that anymore should he wake up. Yet I have this impossible hope that he can feel my fingers stroke his skin, and that he will know it is me.

The police were here two hours ago, they dragged me away from him for an interview. Fat lot of good that did. I told them that I hadn't seen him for almost two years and had no inkling of his comings and goings. I don't think they really believed me.

It seems a scrap of paper with my name and phone number on it was found in his wallet when he was brought in. I knew that, that's how the hospital got in touch with me. I don't know why he had it, though; he hasn't voluntarily spoken more than two sentences to me since he was nine.

- As far as we can figure out, they said, - he's been involved with a rather questionable group of people. Unscrupulous, dangerous people, people suspected of being engaged in trafficking and the whole underground sex market. To what extent my brother was involved they couldn't say, only it seems he must have done something to piss these people off big time. What first had struck the police as an act of blind violence, now had, thanks to witnesses and informers, the hallmarks of revenge or pay-back.

My heart stood still. Oh, my stupid, stupid little brother. My torn ,broken, helpless little buddy. Will you ever forgive me?

 

***

 

Two days before my fourteenth birthday our excuse for a father uprooted us and moved us inland from our small town on the south-western coast. We were hauled off to an even smaller village, way too far from the sea, way too far north, and way in the middle of nowhere.

We weren't consulted. Our protests were swept aside with one pointed statement:

-      I pay for your keep, I get to decide where I keep you.

We hated it there, all three of us. My sister stuck around for two days, then she packed her suitcase and her backpack, and announced to the old man that she'd had it with all of us.

-      I'm sixteen, she argued, I don't have to put up with this shit anymore.

He tried to bar her way out, she scratched at his eye with her long fingernails and drew blood, and as he bent over swearing, she was out. I heard her yell Happy birthday, Magnus! from outside the door.

We never heard from her or saw her again. She ODed a year later, presumably along with her boyfriend, in a squat in Oslo, more of a dilapidated shack than a house, with no electricity or water. But by then my own anger and resentment had grown to such proportions that the news of her death seemed to just roll off me.

I struggled and fought to fit in, to make friends, to participate in those strange activities that seemed to be required. Like for instance skiing. There was never much snow where we came from, the winters on the coast were just grey and rainy, but up here you were expected to put sticks under your shoes and either run across a field as fast as you could, or worse, slide down some scaffolding that ended in mid-air and then land on your feet some 15 or 20 meters further down. It scared the shit out of me. Nevertheless I tried and I tried, and after several ugly falls and a broken arm I managed one standing jump, and my classmates finally stopped laughing at me. I was reluctantly accepted. I still missed the sea, though.

But these kinds of friendship are frail and fickle, you have to tread carefully to stay on the good side of them. The guys around my age all knew each other since they were born; they were all, almost as if by nature, knit together in small groups with a fierce internal loyalty and an equally fierce resentment of intruders. To get in with one of these groups you had to prove yourself, and you had to conform to the rules. And one rule said it's ok to bully outsiders.

Poor Bendik never got the hang of things. He couldn't quite get rid of his western dialect, he was too clumsy to manage skiing, he threw snowballs like a girl, and he was taunted and ridiculed for it all the time. And he still hadn't learned to fight. We were in a combined grade-1-to-10 school. I was in ninth grade and Bendik in forth, different buildings but shared yard, and though our paths didn't cross very often, I'd sometimes see him in recess: Usually on his own, either just standing there rocking from one foot to the other, or running away from something or someone. I always felt bad when I saw him in the schoolyard, bad because I was embarrassed by him, bad because I wished he could be someplace else so that nobody would see his helplessness.

A few times, I don't know if by accident or by his design, we would come face to face. I would see expectations in his eyes, or hope, like he was looking for salvation or something from me, and then I would see him crumble when I told him not to bother me when we were at school. He would look devastated when I turned away from him. But I had my own issues, I had made my choice: I would not jeopardize my chances of being one of the tough boys.

I cringe when I think back and realize my cowardly behavior. The hurt I caused him. The way I became a part of all the things that broke him.

Still, we had a certain fragile closeness when we were home alone. We would agree on a movie, we would on and off listen to the same music. He would ask me to check his homework, which most of the time was haphazardly done; he needed encouragement to be bothered with it at all. And we would easily join forces against that unknown man who called himself our father. A few times he tentatively tried to confide in me how the other kids bothered him and teased him and knocked him about, and I would listen. Listen, and feel the burden of my shortcomings as a brother. But I would also hurt him by criticizing his behavior, swear at him for being a pushover, and scold him for not even trying to make friends; and I would sometimes ridicule him for being a sissy. He never answered back. But I could see his face close the curtains and shut the door on me. And I would feel like shit again.

Everything peaked the last day before Easter vacation. It takes time to dispose of the Norwegian winter: the snow was still thick on the ground, but two days of brilliant sunshine had started the melting process, and water was dripping from the roofs. Spirits lifted and activities escalated, the promise of spring permeated our winter-sleepy bodies. I was with the small clique of boys that had accepted me, albeit peripherally, and we were parading the school grounds, strutting our stuff like young roosters. I can't say I was all that comfortable in this role, but I had recently become aware of something scary and unwanted in myself, something that I just wasn't able to cope with, and it was all the more important to be free of suspicion, to be one of them. Suddenly we came upon a melee of younger boys, whooping and screaming, arms and legs in abundance. And at the bottom of it all: my little brother, held down by two boys, slapped around the ears by another, as the last two pulled his pants off him. Then they left him bare-assed in the snow.

The guys around me joined in the cheering and laughing, then suddenly they stared at me, like they were testing me, demanding that I showed them whose side I was on. I felt hot and cold at the same time, I felt insects crawl all over my skin, but I couldn't for the life of me figure out how to get out of this. I think I must have given the guys some sort of halfhearted giggle, and then Bendik's face filled up my vision and I felt like dying: His eyes were flooded with disbelief and despair at my betrayal; his vulnerability stabbed me, his humiliation cut chunks out of my heart. I tore my eyes from him, turned on my heels and walked away. God, I'm a traitor! Strike me to the ground!

The gang followed me at a distance, but I heard them, their words tearing like barbed wire through my brain: Jeeezes, that was funny! and Well fuck me, that boy is such a wimp! Something snapped in my head, I turned and yelled at them:

-      That was NOT funny! That was my fucking brother and I didn't help him!

They gaped at me, then came rather subdued towards me with a lame Sorry! and Chill, man! But I'd never in my entire life felt more like an asshole. I ran off, away from school, away from my so-called friends, most of all away from Bendik's eyes that seemed to stick to my inner vision like limpets.

I came crawling back to our house late in the evening. My father was waiting in the dimly lit living room; he rose as I crept into the room, looming like some dark and unholy creature in a scary movie. There was a hint of resigned suffering in his voice. - He's hurt, he said, go see him.

The door to his room was locked. Music seeped out: soft 50s heartache-stuff from one of his weird playlists on newly discovered Spotify. I knocked several times, but nothing happened. I shouted to him:

-      Bendik, please! I'm really sorry!

Finally the door opened a crack. His face came into view, his eyes were puffed from crying. He wouldn't let me in.

-      You laughed at me, he whispered. In front of all of them.

He closed the door and turned the key. I was left there on the outside, mortified, feeling like everything I knew and cared for in the world had come to a termination.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 2

 

 

He is off the respirator. His punctured lung is healing. Now there is just a clear, skinny plastic tube in his nose that noiselessly ensures that he gets enough oxygen. The room seems almost a different place now, without the wheezing machine. His doctor told me they will start to bring him out of coma in a day or two. She thinks I should be there when Bendik wakes up.

I'm not at all sure he would want me to. I don't think it will be possible to bridge the gap between us, to cross out the hurt and the betrayal, to pretend the years of silence never existed. But I do so badly want it to be possible. I desire it, I crave it, my soul and my body yearn for it to happen.

I watch him. I touch his skin. In my mind I remove his bandages, I lick his wounds clean, I heat up his cold and soiled skin with my skin, I wash away his self-loathing with my tongue, I suck all his years of pain and humiliation out of him, and I kneel, and I confess, and I pay my penance to purify us both.

This is my only chance. I must do this now before the moment evaporates. I silently beg my father's forgiveness as I bend over and put my lips to Bendik's right nipple. I tease it with my tongue, I suck on it.

But it remains immune to my touch.

***

 

I never thought of my father as a real sexual being. Well, I knew theoretically that he had screwed around a lot, but he was always very discreet, and we were never confronted with his conquests and were never told about his escapades, except for a few dark and cryptic utterances from my mother. But there was always such a lot of sarcastic and insulting observations coming out of her mouth past the ever present cigarette, none of us really took them seriously.

It all changed during our first summer at the new place.

This was a bad time for me: My hormones ran wild in my body, my fear of having to deal with the fact that other boys turned me on a lot more than girls had a paralyzing effect on me. This, coupled with the overpowering feeling of guilt for having let my brother down, rendered me very badly equipped to deal with life. I became socially inept, passive aggressive towards my schoolmates, confrontational and quarrelsome at home. With Bendik still refusing to speak to me, my father had to bear the gist of my aggression. Which was like fighting fog.

I guess my father had some sort of plan, or some half-conscious idea of mending our broken and ruined family, because he started to bring women friends home with him. Maybe he though a softer influence would do us all good, only problem was that these women weren't really the soft kind. Oh, they would glue pinched smiles to their hard faces, they would speak in exaggerated, cheerful tones, they would sometimes bring gifts, like the wrong kind of candy or DVDs that no one really wanted to watch. But they had no true presence, no ability to reach us.

The meager supply of available local women was quickly exhausted, so my father went online. The whole summer was like sitting in on an audition.

To me all this seemed to happen in another dimension, I was too busy fighting my urges and trying to put a lid on my fantasies, but I was spectacularly failing, and would succumb to frenetic masturbation four or five times a day. Which did nothing but add to my guilt.

Bendik had built a fence around himself. Although he would give short answers when asked something, he never really spoke to us. When any of my father's female friends were around, he refused to come out of his room. Time and time again he would disappear from the house and be gone for hours, never telling where he went or what he did, always evading questions of his whereabouts.

Mid-August the first of a couple of shocks hit me. My father had a visitor again: a tallish, very beautiful woman who seemed slightly different than the ones before her. For one thing, she wasn't condescending. She didn't try to hug, didn't ask inquisitive questions, didn't fish for your soul. She seemed just pleasant and well balanced, and I started to notice her. Really notice her. Her hands. Her voice. And it hit me like a steamroller.

-      Dad! I said, oblivious to the fact that she was there. In the room. Listening. She's a man!

He just looked at me, a tiny, ironic smile curled his lips.

-      So? he said. Great tits and a big cock, what more could you want?

I looked around in panic, I was sinking, sinking into a dark and frightening hole. And I totally lost my grip when he added:

-      You of all people should understand.

He must have seen the horror in my face, the blinding explosion in my brain, the catatonia in my limbs. He looked into my eyes. Searchingly, but not uncaringly.

-      If you didn't want me to know, he said, you shouldn't have left your computer on.

That was all. No questions, no admonitions, no strictures. No advice. The woman, I mean the man, must have seen me looking aghast, the soft Hey! and the non-defensive, understanding smile that met me should have been reassuring. But it wasn't. I couldn't handle it. I fled.

 

***

 

It's day three, we're in room 3, and the hour is three bells into the dog watch. The Norwegian twilight is slowly darkening the window. Bendik is no longer in the Intensive Unit, he's been moved to a private room, still closely monitored. The lighting is softer, I'm allowed to play music in here, as long as the volume is kept low. The nurse asked me if I wanted an extra bed, if I still planned to stay with him around the clock. I haven't answered that question yet. For the moment the recliner is enough. I've been sleeping in a chair for days now.

I can count the hours I've been away from him since he was admitted on my two hands. My chest became hollow and my mind ached with emptiness whenever I had to leave his bedside, for food, for a shit, or for a shower. Good thing now is that this room comes with a private bathroom.

Except for a gauze patch still covering his left eye, his face is now in full view. The long slash down his cheek, stitched with what looks like pubic hair, needs to breathe, I guess. I wonder what the scar will look like when the wound has healed; will it mar his beautiful face, or will it make it even more intriguing?

He is still asleep. In just a few hours he will wake up. Then what?

 

***

 

That August must have been a cursed month. I rode my bike off the road and sprained my wrist the day before I was to start my tenth and last year in primary school. And of course it had to be my right hand. I was useless with my left hand, the only thing it was good for was variation when masturbating.

And then hell really struck twelve, though not primarily for me.

I came back from the movies pretty late, and there was a police car parked in our drive. My heart skipped a beat as I rushed in to find my father seated across from two officers, one in uniform and one civilian. He raised his hand signaling for me to stop and stay quiet.

I went all numb with fright and more or less collapsed into the chair by the door. My father's face was white with anguish and rage, his fingers kept picking at his shirt collar as if he had a hard time breathing. Their talk was apparently mostly over, because the officers got to their feet, shook my father's hand and softly told him to try and stay calm. They gave me short nods on their way out.

My father sank down and hid his face in his hands. I crept warily over and sat down on the sofa opposite him and in my breaking voice asked what was going on.

He looked up and there was something terrifying in his eyes.

-      It's Bendik. He's been hurt.

Suddenly his whole face contracted and tears came splashing out of his tightly shut eyelids.

-      Goddammit, the little squirt's been raped!

He banged his fist hard down on the table, his body shook with heavy sobs of anger and hatred. I was struck dumb, I had no idea what to say, what to do. I felt my own tears gush down my face, I wanted to scream, I wanted to hit something too, I wanted to escape and go to sleep forever. But we just sat there, my strange father and I, lost in our fury and our sorrow. Lost in the distance between us.

He pulled himself together. Told me to stay where I was.

-      I'm going to sit with him now. For a while, I guess. Please don't do anything rash.

I didn't see him again that night, and finally I just went to bed. I tossed and turned and cried, and eventually sleep found me and wrapped me up in a hollow and fretful darkness.

I overslept the next day. I didn't care, I couldn't face school anyway. The house seemed quiet and deserted, but when I crossed the hall, I heard a faint humming noise coming from Bendik's room. I went over and listened at the door. It was my father singing. In a low voice, as softly as a kitten purring, he was singing to Bendik, songs from his own childhood.

He stayed in there for two days.

 

***

 

I'm awakened by a small moan. I must have nodded off without meaning to, I had made up my mind to stay awake and watch him come out of coma. I pull the chord to call the nurse.

-      He'll wake up soon now, she says. He will be in pain, but we'll put him on painkillers as soon as the barbiturates are out of his body.

I feel tense. I can't make up my mind whether I want to stay or run away. My ambivalence is shattered as I see his fingers stir, and his Adam's apple move up and down as he swallows. And presto! His one eye is wide open.

He looks disoriented. His toes twitch under the sheets, as if they want to find out where they are. His eye roams aimlessly and then fastens on my face. His mouth opens, but no sound comes out. He moves his left arm and winces. He closes his eye again. I need to speak in case he dozes off again.

-      I'm here, Bendik. I don't know if you want me here, and I'll leave if you ask me to. I just need you to know this: I love you, Bendik. And I've always loved you, even though I know that's hard for you to believe.

His sigh is deep and shaky. His eye opens again. He moans. His voice is just a whimper:

-      God! This hurts! The words seem to exhaust him. I pull the chord again.

I watch the nurses, one male and one female, administer to him: Something is injected into his IV, painkillers I guess; his bandages are removed and his wounds examined and then redressed. I catch a glimpse of the stab wounds in his chest and shoulder, four in all, two of them small and two of them long gashes. I catch the sight of some kind of slim piping sticking out from the wound on his lower ribs. This is the first time I've been allowed to watch while his lacerations are being treated.

The doctor comes in, she greets him and welcomes him back, reads the printout from the monitors, and nods smilingly at him.

-      I think we'll remove the drain from your lung now. It seems you'll be fine. Can you tell me where it hurts the most?

He slowly drags his good arm to his face, feels the bandage covering his eye. Then down to his ribs.

-      I'll take a look at your eye later, the doctor says, for now you should just relax and let the morphine kick in. You will probably fall asleep again and feel hungry when you wake up, so just ask the nurses for something when you feel like it.

She turns to the nurses and tells them to keep him on oxygen as long as he's on the morphine, then their backs are all I see. They block the view of the bed as they remove the drain and sterilize the wound. When they leave, I see Bendik is about to fall asleep again.

I sit tight and wait.

 

***

 

I never got the full story of the rape. I found my father in the kitchen the third morning, raiding the fridge, but very reluctant to talk. I wondered aloud if Bendik shouldn't have been in hospital, at least examined by a doctor; my father answered curtly, his mouth full of canned prawns, that he'd been there before the police brought him home. I wanted to know more, I needed to know what had really happened, but my father just kept on eating and told me to shut it, he'd talk to me later. He asked me to sit with Bendik for a while, but not touch him, he couldn't bear to be touched.

-      He'll probably not talk to you, you know. He still feels betrayed by you.

I felt my cheeks burn. I tried to protest, tried to make the man see that Bendik had made a mountain out of a molehill, but he shushed me. And I knew he was right. I really had let my brother down, and my shame was not going to disappear by denying facts. My shame and my guilt were there for my father to read, tattooed to my forehead like the mark of Cain.

 

***

 

Late evening now, and Bendik is awake. His drip of Ringer's solution is disconnected, the catheter in his dick is out, and he's had a drink of some opaque and disgusting looking fluid that I suppose is nutritious. His bed is raised to a semi-sitting position and he has been watching me silently for the last ten minutes. I'm starting to feel fidgety and uneasy.

-      If you feel uncomfortable with me here, Bendik, I'll leave, I say.

He sighs through his teeth. Then yawns. Then sighs again. His voice is tight and a little raw.

-      How long have you been here?

Should I tell him? Does he need to know that I've been with him ever since I got the phone call? Will it feel like an obligation? Like he's being forced to accept a closeness he doesn't believe in anymore? But I tell him anyway.

-      Three days. Three nights. And only because I wanted to. Now it's up to you.

His good eye looks away. He turns slightly in his bed, as if he's testing the possibility of sleeping on his right side instead of on his back. Still not looking at me, he whispers:

-      Magnus. Hold my hand. Please.

He moves his hand towards me; the unconnected IV catheter is still in his vein. I take his hand, I slowly bring my cheek down to it and let it stay there. I see a wet spot spread out on the pillow beneath his eye.

 

***

 

The weeks after Bendik's rape passed in a haze. Nothing seemed real, it was like the whole world tiptoed in a wide circle outside us.

None of us wanted the story out, but to keep something like that under a lid in a small community like ours would be like trying to harness a deluge.

The couple responsible for the abuse were taken into custody. Later I learned they had been grooming him for a while, made friends with him and gained his trust; theirs was the house where he had sought refuge all those afternoons he disappeared from home, his shelter from the hard times he lived through at school. Eventually they were tried and sentenced, but that didn't help Bendik much. It seemed nothing could repair the damage they'd done to him. And he'd once before had his trust in people he relied on, namely me, destroyed.

The incident radically changed our father. From being the carefree and seemingly heartless anarchist, who once put our neighbor's cat in the wood-burning stove because it shat on our front steps, he became a dad, specifically Bendik's dad. He spent all his free time close by him, he escorted him to school and brought him home, he sat in his room and told him stories, he taught him wood carving and how to make origami cranes. If he had to work late, he would take Bendik to work with him. It took months before he trusted me to look after him when he had to work overtime.

And of course I had to go and make another big mistake: We were sitting in the livingroom, just the two of us, supposed to do our homework. I was brushing up my knowledge of World War II history for next day's test; Bendik just sat there with his laptop on his knees, looking out the window. His pudgy body looked so small, so forlorn, so alone, and I wanted so much to close the gap between us, to remove the pain we both were lost in.

I went to him and put my arm around him. He screamed and punched my nose, his laptop crashed to the floor as he jumped up and ran to his room. I ran after him, but he locked himself in. I stood outside his door, shouting my regrets and apologies, my nose bleeding, but there was no response. No sound at all from his room.

My brain exploded with devastation and fury, with hopelessness, and with an inexplicable need to destroy something. I kicked hard at his door, then went outside and sat on the front steps watching my blood drip onto the concrete until my father came home.

He brought with him the news of my sister's death.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 3

 

 

I bathe my brother's forehead with a moist, cold cloth. His fever rose during the night, and they've changed his medication; seems the antibiotics he's been given hasn't managed to quench the infection in his destroyed eye. So we're still here in room 3, despite the plan to release him today. I don't actually mind much. There is nowhere else I need to be. Nowhere else I want to be. I don't like his fever, though.

This morning I asked to be allowed to watch the nurses clean and redress his eye. They looked at me a bit skeptically, like it was a bad idea, and I soon learned why. Where his eye used to be, there was now just a pulp of clotted blood and puss. It felt like an iron weight fell at high speed through my chest and stomach, I had to rush to the bathroom to avoid vomiting all over his sheets.

Our father will be here in a couple of hours. We only located him yesterday, he was trout-fishing in the mountains with a small group of his colleagues, and had obviously hiked off somewhere with no cell phone connection. He booked a ticket on the first train to Oslo, and insisted he would be the one to bring Bendik home, only that won't happen today the way things are. I caught him just before his train left and told him that Bendik's release was postponed, but he just said he'll come straight to the hospital and we'll make new plans, but he wants to see Bendik anyway. Like me, he hopes for a miracle: That Bendik will want us again.

Me, I feel a certain elation, like I'm half-way there. I touch him and he doesn't punch my nose; he doesn't even flinch. I wonder what he'll do when I hug him and hold him close, because sooner or later that's what I will do.

 

***

 

Our not-so-weird-anymore father decided some time after the rape to take Bendik out of school and have him tutored at home. He'd had his second really bad confrontation with Bendik's teacher, and was fuming for days.

His first clash with the woman was following the incident in the school yard, he had sought the teacher out to question the way she, and the whole school for that matter, put their zero tolerance policy for bullying into practice. She hedged and evaded the problem, wrote it off as pranks, even implied that Bendik could have been in some way partly responsible himself by his girlish behavior, as she put it. My usually so easygoing father ignited, and in no uncertain terms let her have it. Then he mooned her as he left.

The second encounter happened two weeks after Bendik had returned to school after the abuse. The teacher had summoned my father to discuss Bendik's dipping grades, his remoteness, and his standoffish attitude. My father had then informed her, very clearly and thoroughly, about Bendik's situation. As he got neither the apologies he expected nor the understanding he demanded, he reported her to the headmaster. The headmaster dismissed him with insincere and lame excuses, at least they were too lame for my father. He came home with steam still coming out of his ears.

It took some trial and error to find the right tutor, but finally one that Bendik didn't seem to mind was hired permanently: A somewhat nerdy guy just out of high school, very unassuming and unobtrusive. It became clear during his first month that he'd gone through much of the same shit that Bendik had experienced at school, and a feeling of quiet understanding and unspoken solidarity seemed to grow between them. But I only caught glimpses of this, buried as I was in my own issues. Nevertheless their semi-kinship penetrated into my mind, and the strange envy I felt made me even more difficult at home, and my estrangement and sense of solitude grew. Yet I made no effort to bridge the void between myself on one side and Bendik, the tutor, and dad on the other. I escaped into daydreams and fantasies where closeness and friendship merged with tender sex and some half-baked idea of love.

Once a week dad drove my silent little brother into the nearest town, about an hour's drive away, for therapy sessions. They'd often make a day of it, see a movie and have a meal, and I was left on my own. I concentrated on my school work, shut out the peer pressure of my contemporaries, most of whom I'd come to realize were jerks anyway. And I couldn't wait to get away from this stupid hell-hole of a village where my stupid father had put us. Start again somewhere, make sense of this life that I felt trapped in and couldn't understand.

On my sixteenth birthday my father found it timely to bring me along with Bendik to a combined therapy appointment and birthday dinner. I drifted about with nothing to do as I waited for Bendik's session to finish. Then I had to pee. As I was close to the railway station, the men's room there was the obvious solution.

The men's room was empty when I stepped up to the urinal and unzipped, soon absorbed by the wonderful sensation of relief you get when letting lose the pressure on your bladder. I didn't really register the sound of a door from one of the stalls opening, didn't think at all until I sensed a person standing close behind me, looking over my shoulder. I looked up quickly and the man smiled slightly, a crooked, almost wicked smile. Nice one, he grunted.

I panicked, peed on the floor, forced myself to stop peeing, zipped up, and fled. Heart racing, I stopped outside, dizzy and confused, feeling droplets of pee wetting my briefs. And then, as if struck by the idea of the century, my head cleared and I knew what I wanted to do.

I went back inside; the stranger was now at the far end of the urinals. Now what? Was there a correct procedure to follow that I should know about? I needed some excuse for myself to go on with this, and well, I hadn't really finished peeing when I was interrupted, so I went to the nearest bowl and let my cock out. Only to find it impossible to pee, my cock was suddenly harder than a rock. My cheeks were burning, my knees started to shake as I realized how much I wanted the man to watch me, and to touch me.

I cannot properly remember his face. When he moved over to stand beside me, my brain went. I stopped being Magnus, I was reduced to nothing but my cock. And when his fingers slowly started to tickle the base and then close around the shaft, I had to put my hands on the wall to support myself, torn between wanting to come right away and wanting this to go on forever. His murmuring voice in my ear went on and on about how beautiful my cock was, how big and hard it was, how he wanted to lick it and suck the cum out of it. It sobered me up, I wanted him to shut up, I didn't want the disturbance of stupid words. I lifted my hands from the wall, leaned back a little and watched his hand stroke my cock all the way to the tip, pull my foreskin back and forth, and I couldn't hold it any longer. I came in a torrent of pent up lust, my cum hit the wall above the trough, went everywhere, and finally just oozed down over his wedding band.

 

* * *

 

I am unceremoniously thrown out of the room while two police officers sit in with Bendik. So I'm sat on a hard and uncomfortable plastic chair in the corridor leafing through a gossip magazine. There's a commotion at the far end of the ward, it is my father coming through the door like a whirlwind. He sees me right away.

-      You can't go in yet, I tell him. The police are with him.

He snorts. Watch me. Which room? I point. He disappears through the door.

I need to go back to my flat for a change of clothes. I've worn the same boxers for three days, and there is nothing that feels more degrading than putting on dirty underwear after you've showered. I write my father a note, hand it to one of the nurses, and leave.

* * *

 

Time came for another disruption, only this time with full consent from the parties involved. Our father found a new job in a town close to the capital, Bendik would start 6th grade in a new school, and I was admitted into the senior high of my choice: a school on the west coast that had drama and dance on the syllable. I was beside myself with joy and anticipation, I was going to escape from this godawful place and move back to the coast, yay! and even though dad had some initial objections to my living so far from them, he gave in and paid the dorm fees with a few sardonic comments about boys and hormones, and handed me a six-pack of condoms. But don't let your dick do all your studying, was his main advice. I should have known that would be his foremost worry.

As it happened, there wasn't much going on that he needed to worry about. I thrived, I made friends, I loved school and got totally absorbed in it all. Oh, there was a little bit of fooling around, but nothing heavy or serious. There were actually two other gay boys in my class, but they weren't very attractive, and even more important: The teachers were brilliant and the subjects fascinating, and I became quite nerdy about acting and theater. The general studies that didn't involve my now pet subjects were more of a drag, but I managed to hang on and score some mediocre, but passable grades. My self-esteem grew, I wallowed in my newfound friendships, most of them with girls, to be honest. The security and support I felt in the warm embrace of their company made me confident enough to come out as gay. As if anyone hadn't already guessed.

I saw my father and Bendik the first two Christmases and a few weeks during the same summers, but I spent as much time as possible in the company of my new friends. We visited with each other during school breaks, and when it was my turn to host, I hadn't much time for family. We put up tents in the nearby camping ground and spent our days rehearsing or improvising plays, and would only come to my father's house for meals. Besides, Bendik was still reluctant to speak to me, even stay for long in the same room as me. Thinking back, I guess the way I immerged myself so completely in my new life had a lot to do with our ruptured relationship. I had to deaden the noise of failure and deceit that accompanied all my interactions with Bendik.

 

* * *

 

There's the feel of an oppressed atmosphere in the room as I enter. Our usually so nimble father, so light in both body and mind, seems to be burdened with a heavy weight. Bendik looks half asleep, exhausted and drained. I gaze from one to the other, question marks for eyes.

-      Sit! Dad commands. Don't hover! I obey, but I let him know by my expression that I expect to be enlightened.

He has no intention of complying with my needs. After a minute or two he gets up from the recliner, indicates for me to change seats.

-      I gotta fix something, he says, and I'll talk to you guys later.

Oh God, I've heard that phrase from him forever. It never means what it sounds like, it means forget about it. He stretches, raises his body up on his toes, then lets himself slowly down. And leaves.

-      What was that about? I ask my brother.

He yawns loudly and pushes his feet against the footboard. Yeah. He would listen in, he says. - He knows it all now. He'd better deal with it, too.

I'm just as lost at sea as I was a minute ago. Why won't anyone tell me what's going on? Bendik senses my growing frustration.

-      Ok, I'll tell you, he says. I stole something from some people, something they thought belonged to them. Only it didn't.

He blows air through pursed lips. - I'm so fucking tired. He closes his eye.

There's no pursuing this any further. I watch as he falls asleep, my vexation slowly passes and is replaced by the now familiar feeling of sad compassion and pity. I reach out and stroke strands of hair off his forehead.

 

* * *

 

In my senior year there was to be no Christmas celebration. Early in December my father called and told me not to bother to come home. He'd come over to Bergen on Christmas Eve and spend a couple of days with me. Of course I wanted to know why. It's your little brother, he said. He's in ... well, he's in hospital. I'll talk to you later.

So my dad and I had a rather novel noel, getting drunk together in the hotel bar on Christmas Eve. That was a first for us, and as tongues loosened, I got the story of Bendik's meltdown and subsequent hospitalization in the psych ward. I was taken deeper than ever before into my father's anguish and pain for his younger son, and I suddenly felt this strange mix of being part intruder and part confidant. I sat on tenterhooks most of the evening, hoping none of us would cringe from embarrassment in the morning, but as the night progressed and the drinks flowed, by ten o'clock I couldn't care less. At one point I asked him accusingly why he had moved us inland to that shit-hole when we were still in primary school, seeing how it had affected Bendik. I suddenly panicked that I'd been too pushy, but he was in a mellow mood, and I really think I could have said anything to him that night.

-      Oh, it was the gloom, he mused. - And that smell. I never could get rid of the smell of your mother's cigarettes. Even after four years that smell hung over me like an allegation or something.

Then he looked deep into my face, eyes starting to get moist and a little red around the edges.

-      You think I never loved her? Well, I did once, you know. Rather a lot, in fact. But she was so dark ... A dark, dark creature ... And her darkness was contagious ... She had no ability for happiness. And I wouldn't let her get to me like that, so I stayed out of her hair.

There was a trace of a slur in his voice. He swallowed a hiccup and coughed.

-      Gaahd, he drawled. I screwed up, right? I really screwed up.

 

-      Yeah. You did, I answered.

We squinted at each other and like little kids burst out giggling. His laugh grew loud and a bit shrill, and I felt people staring. Eventually his laugh subsided. Then he shocked me by reaching across the small table to pat my cheek. To actually stroke my cheek.

-      You're a good kid, he snuffled. You're a good kid. And still caressing my face, he started to weep.

I held back on the drinks after that. Not so my father, and by the time the bar closed, he was totally shit-faced, and I had to help him get to his room. He collapsed onto the bed. I wondered if I should just leave him there, but then I thought it best to get him out of his shoes and his suit. As I pulled his pants off, his shorts rode down to reveal his flat lower belly and a small line of his pubic hair. I straightened myself and stood watching him for I while. I'd never seen him like that before. Had I been sober, I guess I would have chastised myself for perving on my father, but as I stood there, I was filled with a warm, luscious feeling of gratification that my dad was actually a very hot specimen. I suppose there was a small element of sexual charge in the way I felt, but the predominant feeling was one of pride. And something I'd never really registered before: Then and there I loved him.

 

* * *

 

Bendik is suddenly alerted by our father coming in. He tenses like an animal about to charge.

-      Was he there? His voice is urgent, full of hope, full of fear of disappointment. Was he there? Did you find him? Have they found him?

Dad steps over to the bed and puts his hand on Bendik's shoulder.

-      No, he says quietly, knowing there's no way for him to soothe his son's anxiety, - he wasn't there. The police are looking for him. I guess it's a question of who finds him first. If someone hasn't found him already, that is.

I see Bendik's tormented face, I see his whole body fall back against the raised bed as an illustration of synonyms for misery, grief, agony. He lets out a loud moan; frankly, it's more like a wail. Our father winces, like he's stung by the sound.

-      There's a place for you, he says, where you can go when you get out of here. You need to stay out of circulation until this case is closed. And you! He points at me. You had better stay with him. You're between jobs, right?

I nod, I scowl, I swallow. Has it occurred to either of you that I would appreciate to be taken into confidence here? I hear the huffiness in my voice. Dad scrutinizes Bendik's pinched lips and closed eye.

-      Oh, I'm sure you will be, he says. Eventually. When he's ready for it.

Bendik's eye opens and hits me. I'm like you now, he mumbles. I'm a fucking shit just like you.

* * *

 

The last months of senior high was a tumultuous, and for me in many ways, a groundbreaking period. In April all senior students got on our red gear of jumpsuits and hats with long tassels for the traditional celebration of finishing those 13 years of required education. Until mid-May, every week-end, and the occasional week day too, would see us riding around in painted vans and buses, music at earsplitting levels, drinking and behaving stupidly, challenged to earn certain merit badges to tie to the tassels of our hats. Challenges like drinking a pint of beer while standing on your hands, sit through class in just your underwear, or have sex with someone in the middle of a turnstile, inane challenges like that. And there was a merit badge for making out with a person of your own sex. I was secretly anticipating making out with a lot of guys, but no one approached me for a long time, I guess because everyone knew I was gay, and guys making out with me feared they would be stigmatized.

I never drank myself into a stupor like a lot of the others did, I was afraid to lose my inhibitions and try it on with someone I shouldn't try it on with. Besides, I didn't own a share in a vehicle, and was depending on someone else to ask me along for a ride, or a roll, as it was called.

It was on one of the last of these rolls that something finally happened. I was, quite out of the blue, invited into the bus belonging to some guys who majored in math, none of whom I knew well, but I guess my reputation of being funny clinched it. This bus had all the seats removed, save the driver's seat and the front row seats, the open space filled with sofas and mattresses, coolers for beer, crates for tables, and above all: a giant stereo systems. All the side windows were painted over.

The bus was heading for a party and was finally parked on the outskirts of the party grounds. The drinking was heavy, the noise level outside deafening, and one by one the guys disappeared in search of pussy, or so they said. All but one. A rather nice-looking, dark haired boy, less boisterous than the others. We were all given silly names at the start of the season, they were written on the visor of our hats. Mine was Sarah Bernard. Not very inventive, but you couldn't really challenge the name, it was given you by the committee. His name was Speed Pisser.

He made no effort to leave the bus and go chasing girls, he seemed quite happy to be stuck there with me, drinking beer, listening and laughing as I mimicked famous actors. Suddenly, out of nowhere, he said: - You've got a big dick.

I was so caught off guard. It felt like something was stuck in my throat.

-      How do you know? was all I could come up with.

He just grinned, leaned back and spread his legs wide. I struggled to keep my eyes level with his face. And then: - Come on. Let me see it.

I wasn't at all ready to jeopardize my cool with this straight guy just like that. Why? I asked.

He got up. I'll show you mine. And without further ceremony he unbuttoned his red jumpsuit and let it drop to the floor. He had a hard-on. Not a very big one, but a pretty one anyway: smooth, clear-skinned with a slight upward bend. My mouth went all dry. I dared not move.

He came over, grabbed my arms and pulled me up. Your turn, he said, and started to unbutton my suit. You have to, now.

And then I was naked I front of him, my cock raging between us. He grabbed it and jerked it a couple of times. Jesus, they were right, he growled. Now touch mine. Please? His voice was hoarse and I felt him shiver as much as I did. I closed my fingers around his dick, caressed it, petted it, felt the silky skin and the hardness beneath, felt the tautness of his ballsack.

We moved in closer, rubbed against each other, skin to skin, cock to cock, hips pushing and hands finding their way to buttocks. He groaned as I moved my hand up and tickled his nipple. Then I heard him whisper in my ear: - I wanna fuck. Can I fuck you?

I was almost paralyzed with the combination of lust and fear. What if it hurt? What if I shat on his dick? But oh, how much I wanted it to happen! So I whispered my yes back to him.

He turned me around and asked me to bend over. I held on to the back of a seat and left the procedure to him. What little was left of my brain function zoomed in on the six-pack of condoms regretfully still crumbling in my drawer at the dorm, and then I felt something cool and wet against my butt-hole. Something pushed and pushed. And then a piercing, burning pain. I cried out. No! No, no!

He clasped his arms around my stomach, his chin on my shoulder. - Relax, he said. Don't move. The pain will go away. He held still for a while, and he was partly right, the pain subsided, but it didn't really go away. His hand came down, feeling for my cock, but my erection was gone, my cock just flopped around down there when he started to move in and out of me. The burn increased as he sped up, then he pulled out and with several short moans emptied himself on my back.

I leaned forward and rested my head on my folded arms. I dared not look back at him, terrified that his cock might be covered with my shit. But he grabbed me, turned me around, and kissed my neck. Thank you, he sighed. Now for you.

And then, just like that, he kneeled down and took my cock in his mouth. Sucked in all in and kept it there as I started to get hard again. He had to let it out before I was at full mast, but I didn't mind, these waves of incredible sensation just continued to rush through my body. His hands stroked and fondled me, and when I arched my back in unbearable pleasure, he put his lips back to the tip of my cock as he jerked me to the finish. He only removed his mouth when he felt my knees buckle and I started to shoot.

When I think back, the nicest thing about it all was his smile afterwards. His smile blew away all awkwardness, all possibility of morning-after regrets, his smile made everything fall into place and end in peace. I told him it was my first time. He told me it was his second. And then, believe it or not, we shook hands.

We never spoke again, but he always smiled at me when he saw me at a distance.

* * *

 

One week and one day since I got the first phone call from the hospital. Bendik's stiches are out, and according to the doctor, the danger of sepsis is gone. He still needs to complete his treatment with antibiotics, and before long he'll be admitted for restorative surgery. Put his eye back. I mean, his substitute for an eye. Fuck it, his glass eye. As far as I've gathered, the sooner they can start, the better the chances of avoiding unsightly scarring.

He's still so weak. So fragile. Our temporary flat, or safe house as it were, is on the first floor, and I had to carry him up the stairs when we came here this morning. He went to sleep almost immediately after we were installed here, he's still lying on the big bed in the bedroom, fully dressed. Shoes included. I didn't bother to remove them. Let him sleep, I thought.

We both have security alarms that connect directly to the police. It's all so surreal to me, like I've been suddenly cast in a role I didn't audition for in a play I never read. And still I only know fragments of the story. I know he's still in danger, I know I have to do everything I can to keep him safe, and I know that this time I'll die before I let him down.

According to the police, it's doubtful that the ones who attacked him know who I am, but I intend to keep the level of risk at a minimum. I'm not going to show myself in public in the company of Bendik, I'm probably not going to let Bendik out of the flat until I know the police have successfully raided those underground premises this seems to be all about, and have the responsible guys arrested. Problem is, as I'm told, they move about a lot. Whenever things get a bit shaky, they desert their former locations and reestablish their business somewhere else.

I hear Bendik stir in the next room. I need to fix us a meal. But I'm so out of touch that I have no idea what food he likes. I'll ask him when wakes.

* * *

 

I sent my application to Drama College in the early autumn of my last year in high school. A couple of my best friends did the same, and as spring came and the partying escalated, so did our anticipation and our nervousness. As summer came and school was out, we were more or less eaten up with apprehension, but there's was nothing to do but wait and see if we were called in for the first screening audition. It felt like our lives were riding on this.

Dad came in a rented van to pick me up and take me home, along with all the shit I'd collected over three years. Bendik was with him.

-      I got you a job for the summer, my father stated, even before he was out of the car.

-      Good morning to you, too. I tried to sound sarcastic, but failed.

He didn't bother to answer, just stepped out and pulled me into a quick embrace. And Bendik climbed out.

I hadn't seen Bendik in a year. I couldn't believe my eyes.

He was at the top end if a growth spurt. Gone was the pudginess. Only traces remained of his clumsiness. He was truly emerging like a butterfly from a pupa: His body shapely and slender, his face a promise of beauty. He noticed me gaping, he blushed and looked away, not wanting to digest my reaction.

I ached to hug him, to hold him, to tell him he was beautiful. I took one step towards him and started to hold my arms out. He seemed to recoil and stepped back.

-      Hi, Magnus, he murmured in his new deep voice.

I sighed. And I died a little bit. No, I died a lot.

 

* * *

 

 

-      But I really need to know! I'm going nuts from this, only getting little lose bits of information about what's happened!

He sits deep in thought for a while, then rises without a word, and fetches my laptop. Opens it in front of me and gestures for me to log in. That done, he enters an address, logs in with his password, and pushes the laptop back before me.

-      You need to see this, he says, then leaves me and goes to sit by the window.

I push play. The naked back of a twink fades in, then pans out to reveal slim, nicely shaped buttocks. The person moves slowly forward, away from the camera, and the back of a head also comes into view. The familiarity sends shivers all through my body, the hairs on my neck prickle and rise.

The camera zooms in as the young man slowly turns to the right: A not very developed chest and a flat stomach. The nearest leg is bent a little upward, then stretches out and lets the viewer catch the hint of a rather long cock. The twink moves towards a bed covered in black satin, and turns around. And there he is in full view: Bendik. His slender, pale body, his beautiful face, his darkish nipples, his growing cock. Although I already know it is him, the revelation threatens to strangle me. My instant hard-on hurts against the stiff fabric of my jeans. There is a devil on my shoulder simultaneously accusing me and egging me on.

And I watch. Mouth open, mesmerized, speechless as he makes love to himself on my laptop. I hold my breath as he bends over and sucks his cock in between his lips. I whimper as he spreads his legs and fingers his shaved hole. I cry out as he leans back and the camera zooms in on him bending his cock down, pulling back the foreskin and pushing the head into his asshole. When he lifts his head and looks directly into the camera, and at the same time is watching me from his seat by the window, my whole being goes into nuclear fission and I come in my pants.

He's still watching me, silently, a preoccupied frown on his face. I want to hide. I want to disintegrate.

-      What? I say crossly. And then, astonished: - You fucking made me come!

He rises, walks in a circle around me looking at his shoes. He stops in front of the bathroom and talks to the door.

-      It's the only way for me, he says, the only way I can have sex. It doesn't work for me with another person. I've tried, but I puke. I drown.

I don't know why, but tears begin to run down my cheeks. I desperately search for words, words that can reassure, comfort, caress him, but they won't come. My breathing resounds unevenly and hard in the quiet room.

-      Listen, he says, then comes up and sits next to me, and to my surprise leans into me. I did two videos for them. Then they told me they'd pay me more if I did a live performance. At some secret club. And then it all went wrong.

I ease my arm around his shoulders and cautiously rock him, waiting for him to go on. But he's done, there is nothing more to come. So we just sit here. Together. Swaying slightly from side to side. And it's peaceful. It's unlocking. It's being brothers.

Suddenly he leaps up, almost runs to the opposite side of the room, faces me, and his good eye stares at me for a long time.

-      I was so in love with you, he blurts out. You have no idea!

(To be continued)