We don’t talk about that night. Maybe I dreamed it. His fingers through my hair, my head in his lap… was that really him? Is he capable of such gentleness? Such selfless compassion? Withdrawal turns your senses inside out, so I could easily have hallucinated it all; it wouldn’t be the first time I lost the ability to determine dream from reality. The memory seems too clear, too complete, to be a fantasy, though. I remember the bad along with the good – my racing heart, the cold sweats, the vomiting and uncontrollable trembling. Surely if I had imagined his presence, I would also have imagined myself less of an embarrassing wreck, right? Wouldn’t I have at least omitted the parts where I wept like a child? But that’s what makes it feel impossible: I remember it all, and I remember him beside me the entire time. He took the bottle from me and could have left me to suffer through the storm alone, a fitting punishment for a pathetic addict like me, but he didn’t. He stayed. He held me as I shook so I didn’t bruise myself on the bathroom tiles. He murmured kindnesses I know will never leave his lips again. Could I have imagined it all?


If you haven’t noticed, this story is being told by an unreliable narrator. But then again, what does that even mean? If I’m the sole source, the primary source, then isn’t my interpretation the truth? If it’s not, you’ll never know otherwise. Maybe it broke my mother’s heart when I left, abandoning the empire I should have inherited from the man she loved and lost. Maybe my brother gritted his teeth as he prepared to shoulder it all as my shadow finally moved and left him alone in the spotlight. Maybe my father died disappointed in himself for carving me in his likeness, wondering only at the very end who I really was beneath his mirror mask. Who knows? Maybe they tried a hundred times to reach me but gave up when all they struck was my perfect smile. You’ll never know, though, and neither will I. My reality is the story’s reality, and my reality is full of drugs and sex and the hole inside me that nothing seems to fill.


“Aren’t you going to tell me not to do anything drastic when you’re gone?”, I asked him once. He had shrugged and said, “I won’t give a shit what you do then.” I wonder if that’s true, though. Do you give a shit now? Can you, wherever you are? And if so, are you disappointed in me? I know I am. I used to wonder what I’d do after you were gone, whether I’d pick something flashy like jumping from the roof or something classic like hanging. Turns out I just went back to what I did best before I met you: killing myself slowly with alcohol and painkillers. Not really flashy or classic, I guess, so much as just pathetic. There’s no urge to do anything else, though, you know? I don’t have the energy to climb up to the roof. I don’t have the desire to decide which tie would make the best noose. I don’t even feel moved enough to take the whole bottle of pills and wash them down with a tumbler of Crown. I just keep getting drunk, getting high, getting lost, waiting for the morning I finally don’t wake up. Does that disappoint you? Were you secretly hoping I’d make some grand final gesture, or at least that I’d find it impossible to slip back into my old life so easily? Or do you still, even now, not give a shit what I do or how I do it?


I know it’s a cliche: the rich kid who doesn’t want everything handed to him on a silver platter; the rich kid who doesn’t want to be a puppet in a suit; the rich kid who doesn’t know how to be human because he grew up on money and power and perfection. It’s hard to feel sympathy for that kind of protagonist. I get it. But if I was expecting sympathy, I’d be lying a lot more when I tell this story. I’d tell you my mother took Valium and Percocet to forget my father’s adultery, my father drank to forget his disappointing family, and my brother smoked pot to forget he was just the measly second son. But really, none of that is true. They were all perfect, even past the masks; I was the only one who was actually flawed inside, who had to hide secrets under secrets under secrets. And I was good at hiding those secrets because I grew up watching perfect people go about their perfect lives. I had the best role-models a fucked up monster like me could want. But again, I’m not looking for sympathy. I can’t help it if the protagonist of this story is selfish and spoiled and always wants what he can’t have. After all these years of secrets, I’m finally telling the truth. Even if it’s ugly, that’s got to count for something, right?


Here’s how it works when you’re rich; either you have to hide your deepest, darkest secrets from your family or your family uses its power and prestige to hide them for you. I wonder, sometimes, what it would have been like had I been born into the latter instead of the former. What if my family had known who I was, what I was, and used their wealth to simultaneously indulge and cover up my indiscretions? Those are the kinds of families that breed psychopaths and abusers, men who are used to getting their way in all realms of life. But is it any better to force someone to suppress those impulses completely? If getting someone help isn’t an option, because that would mean admitting there’s a problem, then what other choice is there? The outside world must be shown only the flat mask of perfection. How that mask is obtained, well, who cares as long as it works? Only the victims of these secrets might, but money makes all the wheels in the world turn to crush them. I just wonder… with an avenue of release, would I have become more of a monster or less?


You’re my kind of beauty: violence and hunger and hate. Pale skin over sharp bones like a starved and feral beast. Don’t let anyone tell you your rage isn’t glorious. Don’t let anyone tell you cruelty isn’t pretty. Yours is the beauty of the streets, blood on pavement, switchblades and cigarettes. Yours is the beauty of the predator, cold eyes and bared teeth, tense muscle ready to strike. There’s nothing delicate or sympathetic about you; you are a hard, bitter, cutting kind of pretty. Others might fear injury, but I welcome the blood I’ll shed for you.


People who say they can remember a face, a voice, a person perfectly, they’re lying. Time steals details from us all, so slowly we don’t even notice they’re missing until we try to recall them. Five years ago I would have sworn I’d never forget a thing about you; but I can’t make that claim anymore, can I? And such a subtle siphoning it was, a continuous loss I never felt until one morning I couldn’t remember the precise lines of your hands, and then another morning your voice no longer ran through my thoughts with clarity. Then certain aspects of your smile, your laugh, your gestures, those vanished as well. What a month ago I had recalled so easily was suddenly like mist or the edges of a dream; insubstantial, uncertain. I didn’t want to, you know. I never meant to forget any of it – in fact I ran my mind over your memory like I was reading braille, determined to remember every ridge, every curve, every dip and turn. I was sure I’d never forget any of it, and then… I did. I forgot, and continue to forget. The memories grow hazier, the details blurrier, the years we spent together compacted in my mind to days, maybe weeks, or maybe nothing real at all. With no evidence of your presence remaining, it’s become too easy to question whether you were ever really here at all. Maybe I’ll wake up one morning and forget that most crucial fact completely.