Tattered Threads

This is how it goes. Dad touches Cole. His fingers feel like cold rods of steel pressing into the warm, tender, supple flesh against Cole's sharp hipbone, but dad is gentle, this time he's cautious and it really doesn't hurt all that bad. No, not much...at least not on the outside, but inside? It burns like acid, dad's fingerprints searing into his eldest son's porcelain skin, scorching, staining and leaving marks everywhere that he presses. It makes Cole want to vomit, but of course he won`t. He`s eighteen now and used to this routine. Used to dad coming to him at the most ungodly of hours when the sky is purple-black and the jiggling of a key into a lock wakes him. Used to the tight ache inside of his stomach as the room starts to spin. Used to the sheets being pulled away, the air prickling the flesh of his thighs as he quietly slips into torn jeans and steps into dirty work boots. Used to dad whispering his drunken, sorrowful, pitifully self-loathing apologies as they walk out to the pickup truck where Cole always hits his shin on the dashboard and the smell of engine grease and antifreeze makes him tense. And Cole's used to pretending not to feel disgusted with himself when it's all over. He's just used to feeling used and this feeling, makes him feel numb as he lays down beside Nikki, puts his hand on Nikki's hip...whispers his own set of apologies against the neck of his sweet faced blue-eyed baby brother with the soft golden hair who`s just shy of fourteen.

This is how it goes. Cole touches Nicholas. His hands are cold and his fingers shake as he slides his hand up Nicholas's shirt, but he's gentle and tender as he rests his palm flat against Nicholas's stomach. Nicholas never pushes Cole away. Not the first time and not this time. It's been happening for a while now, maybe just a little over a year and Nicholas doesn't understand it. He doesn't get it, but when Cole presses his lips to the side of his neck, Nicholas stops thinking. It feels good, but it doesn't. Cole's touch...feels good, but it doesn't. It's like a wrong kind of good, a good that's three shakes bad and really, Nikki's just too god damn confused by everything to try to figure out the how-comes and the what-ifs. It's just a few kisses anyway. Nothing more. Maybe a touch on his chest or the curl of Cole's fingers twisting around the waistband of Nicholas's boxers, but he never pulls them away. He'll just wind his fingers through the elastic and Nicholas'll hold his breath, wait to see if Cole goes further. Would he push him away if he did? Nicholas never finds out because Cole never does. He always stops himself with a soft mewling sound caught between the throat and teeth, sorrowfully whispering his apologies to the nape of Nicholas's neck.

* * *

This is what they do. They drive in silence. Nicholas used to sit between dad and Cole on fishing trips, but he's taller than Cole now, his shoulders are even wider and while his face is still sweet, young, reflects his teenage years, his body is long and lean like a mans'. He has to sit shotgun and Cole has to sit in the middle. The song on the radio is something country. Something about a man whose wife cheated on him with his brother plays. Dad laughs, jokes that every single goddamn country song is about the same mother-fucking thing. Cole laughs too. It's expected, but it's a nervous kind of laugh that Nicholas knows is as fake as dad`s rattlesnake`s skin belt, but Nicholas says nothing. He doesn't even smile or bat a lash in dad's direction. Dad's not really all that funny anyway and Nicholas's kind of mad at him because he got drunk again last night. Got in a fight with the motel manager and had to sleep in he and Cole's room because he got kicked out of his own. The second room was in Cole`s name -he's old enough to have his own room and the state still pays for it.

See, dad drinks a lot. Actually, sometimes he drinks too much and Nicholas hates it because when dad's drunk, he's not the same. He's not mean or aggressive. He's just sad, cries all the time. Tells Cole how much he reminds him of his wife and one time, Nicholas actually heard dad call Cole `Louisa' -the name of their dead mother. Her insides were rotten and the cancer ate up her womanly parts just before Nikki turned ten. That's why Nicholas doesn't like it when dad drinks. Because dad gets sad, dad gets weird and dad...he's not really dad anymore.

* * *

This is not a question of who. It's a question of why Cole thinks. Why doesn't he pretend to be asleep? Why does he go out to the car? Why does he let it happen again? Why doesn't he just say stop? Really, that's all he has to say. That one word: stop. A set of words: please dad, don't. But Cole never does. Maybe he's sicker than he thinks. Maybe, a small part of him never fights it because he wants it. He wants to make dad feel better, wants to fall asleep without hearing dad cry against his pillows, the sound muffled through six inches of wall. Wants to fall asleep without the smell of whiskey-mouth breathing hot, sticky down on his neck so if he gives in quickly, then he won`t have long to think about why dad does what he does. Does this and why Cole never tries to stop him.

This is what he regrets. Cole regrets drinking. He's not old enough to be doing this legally, but the bartender smiles, winks and gives Cole a beer anyway. The bartender's a fag, wears lip-gloss and winks at Cole as he slides him his number written in black chicken scratch on a napkin. Cole would never call him. Why would he? He's not gay, but he's flattered and politely smiles pocketing the number. And he drinks. He drinks as if his life depends on it. Mostly he drinks so he doesn't have to think about what happened the night before. Mostly he drinks so he doesn't have to think about all the odd nights between now and his fifteenth birthday and that summer when he let his hair grow out long. That summer when dad started to look at him funny, to touch him more and told him that he and Nikki were getting too old to be sharing a room with him and too big to be cramming into the same beds with each other. There was something uncharacteristically dark about dad's tone when he said this. It was like he was trying to accuse Cole of something...something awful cast and bred by his own fears and longings. Like dad thought that Cole was some kind of threat to him or to Nikki. Like he'd hurt his own kid brother or something. Cole would never hurt Nikki, not then, not ever. He loves him. Cole loves him so much that it hurts and he flirts with the bartender for another shot so he can be just like daddy and won`t have to think about anything.

* * *

This is what makes Nicholas stop breathing. The thing that Cole does when he lays beside him. They have two different beds, but tonight is just one of those nights when Cole won't sleep in his own. He pulls the covers back, whispers the name Nikki like a ghost slithers down his spine. Asks if Nicholas's awake and Nicholas whispers that he is, holds his breath as he hears Cole kick off his shoes and pull out of his clothes. Cole slides the covers away and naturally, Nicholas turns to face him. He can smell the noxiously bitter and almost violently poisonous whiskey-gin-vodka cocktail that drips from Cole's tongue and Nicholas cringes when he touches him. Cole's not soft. Tonight he doesn't kiss. He's hard and he bites Nicholas's lip, throws his body on top of Nikki's and clenches his fingers around the wrist of the hand that Nicholas tries to push him away with. Nicholas doesn't yell because dad is next door, but he hisses, asks Cole what the fuck is wrong with him and he orders him to stop, to get off of him. Cole doesn't, not at first. He pushes his lips against Nicholas's; the hot need of his mouth hurts, makes Nicholas wince as he feels Cole's cock pushing into him.

Nikki, Nikki, Cole whispers his name like a man possessed and it scares Nicholas. Terrifies him. Makes him think of the time back in West Texas when he heard dad begging Cole to take a drive with him. Over and over dad pleaded. Please, just come. Just for a little while. Just for a little while. It was like dad was possessed and haunted, but a sad kind of possession and a desperate kind of haunting that Nicholas didn't understand, but Cole must have because he took that drive with dad. They were gone for almost an hour and when Cole came back, he curled up against Nicholas, started kissing his neck and saying that he was sorry about it, whispering that he wanted to feel something good...just wanted to feel something other than...

Get the fuck off, Nicholas finally yells. He's not Nikki the compliant, well intentioned little brother. He's Nicholas, the teenaged brother who's getting pissed because his brother's fingernails are leaving marks on his forearms. It's like Cole finally realizes what he's doing, what's been done because his body tenses. He breathes heavy and cums clumsy between Nikki's thighs, and Nikki? He wants to yell again. He wants to curse Cole, to swear him to the fifth level of hell, only Cole's crying now. His cock is still hard, wet and slippery against Nicholas's thigh, but Cole cries, his body shakes and convulses with disgust, self-hatred and regret. Why did he do this of all things? He promised himself he'd never do this, not ever, not to Nikki. He buries his head into the crook of Nicholas's neck. Inhales the salted sweetness of Nikki's skin. Oh Nikki. I'm so sorry. The pure smell of the one who truly loves him wraps around him like a comforter. And Nicholas? Nicholas lets him cry. He wraps his arm around Cole, turns them on their sides and tells him that it's okay...that everything is okay...

* * *

This is how it goes. He drinks. Hank'll drink himself into a stupor, visions of Louisa dancing around his head sweetly. She used to wear this pink nightgown with red flowers pasted across the front. She was beautiful, her smile? It was something the heaven's carved out. Not a day goes by when he doesn't dream about her, missing her with a longing so far and deep that he can`t see the other side of his ache. Sometimes the hurt gets so bad that even the booze can't numb it away. Four years. It's been four years since the thing rotted up her insides, hollowing them out until all the was left was red pain and a fading breath.

Hank hates himself for what he's become, for what he's done, for what he's done to his kids...to Cole. It's just sometimes he gets so lonely and if the light is right, Cole'll look something awful like his mama. He has her brown hair, her beautifully soft brown hair. He has her smile, her freckles and the same lazy look in his green eyes, like he always wants to laugh, even if nothing is really funny. And sometimes Cole will even smell like Louisa too. It's a faint sweetness to his breath, and Cole's skin? It'll feel soft like Louisa's too and sometimes, only sometimes Hank forgets that Cole is his son. Hank forgets that some touches are wrong and his mind becomes so diluted by the booze that all sense of rational thought leaves. And it eats his soul away to do it. Bits and pieces of what he knows is wrong and what he knows feels wrong chips away until all that's left is his own disgustingly selfish need. He can't help himself. He wishes that he could, but he can't. And Cole? Cole's a good boy. He won't ever tell him to stop. No, not then, not before, not now. He won't ever tell Hank that it hurts, makes him feel sick and most days makes Cole want to climb up a mountain just to jump off of it.

Cole wonders if the wind would feel cool against his skin. Wonders if the air would feel soft as he fell, soothing like his mother's kiss, and as the sharp, jagged and toothed sections of rock would stab his gut, would he even be able to remember how his mother's kiss felt?


Could he even remember a time when a kiss didn't feel wrong?

This is just what it is. A father and his two sons. The father is like the pinhole of a needle. The eldest son is like a strand of thread. The youngest son has just turned fourteen and he's a stitched up piece of patchwork that the brother goes through, but not before their father goes through his oldest son first. Cole is what wretchedly connects them all. They are threads of strain that weave through stitches of empty things. Things with no beginnings. Things with no endings because there are no beginnings and there are no ends. Only middle pieces. This is just how it goes. This is just what it is. They are a unit of family and sometimes the stitching between them is shoddy... uneven and downright ugly.


Madison Aysha Dante 2007

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