I came to the party to see both the brothers. Strangely it was not the one I was in love with who I hoped to hook up with before going home. The one I loved was not an option, a guy a couple of years older than me who was strictly into girls. But his brother, Dillon, was what we called open. We had fooled around in the back of my car once, parked behind the high school, but it hadn’t ended great. He’d been too drunk to concentrate and finally we straightened up the seats and I drove him back to his car across town. I still thought about him a lot – the taste and feel and scent of him and perhaps most that things ended so incompletely.
The party thinned until there were only a few straggling in the foyer, but still I hung back, pretending to read the spines of the books on the shelves in the library. Earlier in the night their mother had shown me this room, waving a dismissive hand at the volumes that climbed to the ceiling.
“But who has time anymore?” she’d asked in a breezy, rhetorical manner. She smiled at me, “I guess when you’re young…”
Linda seemed more human to me in that moment, thought I still didn’t care for her. Earlier that night I’d heard her use the word ‘fag’ about her oldest son.
“I mean honestly, I don’t know why Linus is so sensitive about everything,” she told one of his friends, a girl named Terin who had big red lips and iddy-biddy bangs. “He’s such a fag sometimes.”
Terin and I had exchanged a glance.
I had glanced over at Linus, watching him shrug off the jab, and thinking wryly, ‘I wish.’
He was slenderer than his brother, with a long bony nose and bright green eyes hidden under meticulously polished spectacles. These weren’t eyeglasses as I knew them back then: the huge plastic frames that hid half the face. These were small, clever, brass. They made him look bookish and vaguely historical, which was probably why he chose them. Maybe too why I romanticized him so much.
I used to study Linus like a painter does a muse, but when the muse doesn’t welcome the scrutiny, there are too many veils to peel away. I wanted intimacy with him and when I was so young my hormones and naïveté conspired to convince me that was unattainable. Because the way I saw getting there was steeped in sex and sexuality. I’d never had a solid friendship with a man and didn’t know how that was supposed to work.
Dillon spoke a language I understood more viscerally, a language not of words but of straight up sex.
Even as the summer of my eighteenth year grew sweatier and more still, all the mild breezes of spring spent, even as I fell more in love with Linus, there were more chances to spend time with his brother. We met with mutual friends at the tea house, bantering about topical things now forgotten, smoking too many cigarettes. He had a hunger about him. Despite the fact that he was handsome and athletic, Dillon seemed to always search your glance for admiration. I sensed it about him and I was put off by it. Perhaps I preferred the enigma that was his older brother.
Still I enjoyed watching Dillon for months before our singular hook up. He had golden skin and dark golden curls. His legs were covered in golden hair and rippled with muscles he’d built playing soccer. His hands were broad and square and capable, his lips each full and quick with a reckless grin.
Then a friend of mine who went to military academy with him told me how he used to sleep with a boy that was their classmate. I hadn’t seen this coming. Dillon seemed unattainable until that morsel of gossip. Shortly after, he and I were the last ones to close down the teahouse – me lingering later than was my wont – and with only a slight pass, I opened the door to the fleeting encounter behind the high school.
It was sexy and yet not sexy all at once. In later years I wished I’d made more of the night. We should have gotten out of the car and wandered down over the hill into the grass. There ought to have been night sky and the summer cacophony of cricket and cicada and swiftly running brook.
When they invited me to the party, I was surprised to be asked. I never really thought anyone liked me very much and was often taken aback to be included. I didn’t know if it were Dillon or Linus who proposed my name. I never found out, not that it came to matter.
It was odd to be there, wanting to be loved by one brother and to have sex with the other. Perhaps it wasn’t so much about want as realism and expediency. I knew I stood a chance with Dillon. Linus thought of me as merely a new friend.
As the guests started to leave in groups, while I was hiding in the library, I heard Linus head out with his girlfriend. Their mother even said good night, making a lot of noise about the clean up waiting until the morning. There was one person left standing in the foyer with Dillon when I peered out from the library. It was a girl he’d been talking to much of the night. She had curves for days and hair like an angel in a Renaissance painting.
Dillon glanced my way and rather than be caught, I barreled out a little too quickly, pretending to only then discover how the house had emptied. The girl with the beautiful hair said she needed to get home; she was going on a long road trip the next day. Dillon gave her a kiss before closing the door. He peered through the sidelight until she drove away.
When he turned to study me, I dropped my gaze. It occurred to me that we hadn’t really spoken much since the night in the car. We’d never been alone together since then. I wished I’d never come tonight, but a part of me longed for a chance to be with him again. There was a lonely craving in me that supplanted all better judgment.
“You not tired?” he asked.
“I thought we could hang out.”
He shrugged and I followed him into his bedroom down the hall. We sat on the bed and looked at an album cover together while he talked about things that happened at the party. The scent of him made a kaleidoscope of butterflies circle in my stomach. When I put a hand on his thigh, he stiffened.
“What are you doing?” he asked.
The butterflies dropped as if turned to stone by his tone.
“I thought we might…”
I faltered as he turned his brown eyes on me. Dillon always seemed to have laughing eyes, but tonight they were impenetrable, dense and cold like a pond in winter. I felt myself grow smaller.
“We’re in my mother’s house,” he said. “That was my girlfriend who just left.”
The funny thing is that I can’t remember how I responded. I didn’t say anything to him to change his mind. Yet how he looked as I left or whether I stumbled out or was walked to the door are facts lost to time. What I do remember is the light in his room. There was only one lamp in a corner, casting long shadows over our suddenly sordid tableau. Shadows trailed from his lashes and from his bed and from the soles of my feet to the top of my head. Maybe he softened his rebuke with a smile. I honestly couldn’t say.
The drive back from their remote home on the river seemed interminable. It was hard to believe I’d only passed these landmarks a few hours earlier. The night had left me hanging open, exposed and restless. With the windows down, I could feel the coldness of March on my skin and moving through my hair. I should have turned on the radio and filled my bandwidth with raucous sound, but I made the trip home in silence, wondering what Dillon would tell his brother about my failed pass.