WHEN TWO BROTHERS ARE THE SAME AGE
by Alex Eaker
We let our socks sear on hot concrete. Twelve laps around the pool, then we jump in. We splash dead frogs onto each other and croak with towels around our bony shoulders, shaking like biology class skeletons. We put our pruned palms together, trying to align the ridges against one another. Connected by skin, we smile.
We hold onto the edge of the diving board to see who can last the longest. We shout about the infinite depths of the water and then we fall in. Who’s to say which of us lets go first? It doesn’t matter, we just fall and fall. Eight feet under, ten, twelve feet under, until our feet hit the bottom.
The bottom feels slimy on the balls of our feet. We want up. Away from the giant squids and the Moby Dicks; back up to the finite.
We dry out in grass. A bridge of ants connects our big toes. We squirm but don’t get up. We let the grass itch us like crazy. We think it feels good to dry in the sun—to itch together and let the ants climb over us. Don’t ever get up, we say, because here we have everything in the world, even if everything is only the heat in the air, the itch, the ants, our pruned palms, our wet skin drying, our flat skeletons. Here we look up to the spinning Milky Way. Here we grow long-armed and hairy.
And even when we leave, we still come back. We come back in those times we’re alone—thinking about fire ants and callused fingers, diving boards and slimy pool bottoms. We’re right there. Sometimes we call from across the world, Let’s really go back, we can, you know? We whisper to each other over the receiver. We hear our hesitation over a line that becomes hissy and breaks up. And what scares us is not that we won’t go back; it’s that we’ll forget how to find where it was. We’ll find it wasn’t really everything.
Alex Eaker is pursuing his MFA at the College of Charleston in Charleston, SC. The city has stolen him away from his hometown in Connecticut, and may never return him. This is his first published story.
Image credit: Frank McKenna on Unsplash