I’d like to tell you who I was then, but I have this strange feeling that I was not anybody.
I remember that I wore black t-shirts and listened to angry music. I remember that I’d been inspired to let my hair get a little longer in the front, and to write stories. The stories were violent, everything was violent. I liked to fight with my stepfather and my mom. They were taking my sister and I, along with my stepbrother and his friend David, on a vacation.
I wanted to be independent, so I’d walk to the beach and on the boardwalk by myself. That summer, I watched girls and their boyfriends buy clumsy, oversized t-shirts and make out and play volleyball. I felt an envy for those girls, but didn’t understand.
I’d had this nagging feeling, for awhile, that I wanted a brother. I didn’t know what it meant. My stepbrothers couldn’t count: two lived in Ireland, and the one with us was in his twenties and never around, he had his own life. I didn’t know who he was, and there was either nothing to him or I’d never learn.
I felt this acutely; someone, some man, to spend my time with. I thought it must be that my Syrian father was too strange to relate to. He went hunting and spoke Arabic but couldn’t read English or help me with my homework. He built houses and yelled at my mother. My stepfather was in a constant state of boredom. He tried to avoid surprises and new experiences. He ate the same thing every night. I thought it must be a lack of men that drove me to this longing for a brother. Someone to laugh with and be adored and teased by.
I’d had sexual experiences with other boys and girls my age at this point – but there was no understanding of the other person’s role. It could have been anyone or even objects, as every morning I’d push myself into my mattress and consider the strange, warm feeling.
Waves up my chest and in my spine, a chill when I’d cum, a peaceful feeling afterward.
These were pieces of a great, weighty understanding. But they were awaiting some sort of permission to come together.
I think what I mean by all of this: Before you look at a man, really look at one, you’re not awake. Imagine a ghost becoming alive – the form is there, but transparent; then it exhales and becomes opaque.
I walked from the apartment my sister, mother, stepfather and I were staying in over to my stepbrother’s and David’s place.
They were always welcoming and they seemed to me to be eternally happy, but they were probably drunk. The refrigerator had beer in it, there was beer on the kitchen counter, there were empty beer bottles in the garbage can, on the couch. It was one o’clock in the afternoon.
Before you think: They fucked me – They didn’t. Nobody touched anyone.
My stepbrother was in the bedroom. David was in his bathing suit. His pecs were thick and quietly covered in sun-lightened brown hairs. He was tall and had a handsome smile, though I hadn’t yet really noticed all of that. No one was gay or straight because those ideas could not yet exist for me.
My stepbrother and David often made crude jokes and I usually understood them. David made one that I didn’t and then told me he was going to take a shower.
I sat on the couch, and after a moment, David called to me from the bathroom.
He’d forgotten to bring a towel, he shouted. They must have left them around the apartment after they’d taken them to the beach.
He called my name. He said, “get me a towel.”
Why didn’t he ask my stepbrother? Why me? And why did I sit there, not moving to leave or to go talk to my stepbrother in the bedroom?
It occurs to me now that maybe I was waiting. A wiser person inside of me, or a person that needed something decided not to leave at that moment, but instead to sit by myself. There would be a sound or an action or a movement that would give me my instructions, and I can identify David’s call as that, because David gave me those instructions.
There was no stirring from my stepbrother in the bedroom.
I picked up a towel, which was still wet. It was heavy in my hand, opposing with the slowness of its weight, my racing heart, which felt as if it were sparking, starting some sort of light.
When I opened the bathroom door, there must have been the sound of the shower and he must have said thank you and I must have put the towel somewhere like on the sink or over the side of the shower door but I can’t remember any of that. All I know is that I saw, through the frosted shower door glass, his form. I looked right at him. He wasn’t distinctly visible, the frosted glass stopped him from appearing, but he was there entirely. I looked at him. I saw his form, the color of his skin, his legs, what must have been his arms, his ass. There were no clear lines, there were shapes and color. I looked at him, and saw what was there. I felt inside of me something entirely new, the coalition of light and sound and this…feeling.
No time had lapsed, but it had seemed to me there wasn’t much to my life before that moment. I walked out and more than I had wanted a brother, more than I had wanted anything, I wanted to be pressed against that frosted glass from the other side and feel his form and weight behind me, under the hot water, and then I’d be kissing him or on my knees sucking his dick. All this and I didn’t want to see him clearly.
There was something about that blurriness.
I have no idea about the rest of the trip.
After that moment, I began to think when I masturbated. Suddenly, the world was full of men, and I’d look at them when I closed my eyes. There was new meaning to everything.
I’d look at them and remember them and they all became brothers, they all loved me. I’d imagine them touching me and make up stories for why. Before then, I’d only had this body which would sometimes evince a different sensation if I touched it in a certain way. But after that moment with David and the frosted shower door glass, the world became different: a world where the memories of men I looked at are seen by the way my body feels.
This is how we know the mind and body are in love. One creates a story, the other feels it.
I still come back to that image, sometimes in a dream or sometimes when I masturbate.
It’s the exact moment I became an adult and woke up into a different, clearer sort of consciousness. But it’s no so exact, because it’s blurry.
If it’s in a dream, it has, like all dreams, its own logic. Why it shows up some nights and not others, I don’t know.
If I’m masturbating when I think of it, the experience can go dim when I cross the threshold of the shower and stand with him. Because that experience is the purest act of looking I’ve ever done, to add to it, to go beyond that blurriness, takes some of its breath. Like the sun, it’s totally complete. A perfect circle that remains perfect because I can’t ever really see it.