So Much Love by Benjamin Drevlow

This is the part where I tell you what a lousy bastard he was. I’ve seen the TV shows. The clichés, the clichés. Yeah, but I’m trying to tell you that doesn’t make me a liar either. Or my mother, my kid brother. How much of a sick son of a bitch our old man was. How he’d start out the night drunk and beating our ma, telling her how fat and useless she was, and end the night telling my little brother what a special, special boy he was.

Nine years old.

No clue what’s right or wrong or what’s gonna mess you up for forever.

No idea that your older brother knows better—as in, firsthand knowledge (is carnal the right word?) And still he does nothing to protect you. Says nothing. Repress, repress, repress. Buries that shit down deep and lets it fester while he tries to convince himself that it’s not as bad at nine years old. Not knowing shit from a healthy childhood. Not as bad as it could get at thirteen.

The clichés, they keep coming. I’m telling you. I can’t stop telling you. An embarrassment of clichés, my family, my life.

Like my mother, how she had no other options. What she had to tell herself. That he loved her but didn’t know how to show it. That he loved us all so much he couldn’t contain himself? That she could take all his love for the three of us and her two boys would never know? Would never hear the things coming out of their bedroom. The words, the sounds, the whole house quaking under the weight of his love, her love. Love love love destroying everything in its wake.

The lies she must’ve convinced herself to believe. That it was only her, that she was taking all his love so he’d have nothing left to give.

###

Listen. I’m telling you. I’m explaining.

He’d gone and messed with my little brother again. His thirteenth birthday. A rite of passage, he’d told him. Making a man of him, he’d told him. And that’s how it’d gone from good touch/bad touch, to the whole nasty business. As in my little brother suddenly in my room crying and asking me point blank—no matter how hard I tried to avoid the question—Does that make me gay?

What I’m telling you, now, there was no more ignoring the questions, no more pretending I didn’t know what I’d let happen, what our mother had let happen.

What I’m trying to tell is I loved my brother, loved my mother. Obviously before all this I’d never considered how much or at what lengths I might go to prove it.

###

He was such a nice boy, somebody’s saying on TV somewhere.  Maybe a little troubled, sure, but–but–

Nobody saw it coming is what they’re all trying to convince you—you and me and themselves.

He must’ve snapped, they’re telling you. They’re on that big flat screen and they’re telling you and anybody who’ll listen: It wasn’t our fault, it wasn’t anybody’s fault. Nobody could’ve seen it coming, they’re telling you again.

It being how much I loved my mother and brother, what all I did prove it to them.

All these TV shows and the clichés until who even knows what’s true and what’s just some sick sick crime show procedural where all they do is scream rape, rape, rape until it finally comes true over and over and the same episode starts again.

###

Was it simply too much love? That’s what I’d be asking if I were you. But I’m not, and it’s no-longer my story to tell. Events have transpired, events have taken my story and given it to you to decide.

His own parents, his little brother–what could’ve possibly happened behind closed doors?

Does anybody really believe in this whole troubled-teenager bit anymore, one more kid crying rape out into the five-hundred-channel/TV-on-demand, fifty-five inches of HD flat-screen void?

Listen, what I’m trying to tell you: I wouldn’t believe it either. It’s simply too good to be true. No, wait. That’s not entirely true either.


Drevlow’s book of stories is called Bend With the Knees and Other Love Advice from My Father. He’s got other stories and essays up here and tweets here.

 

 

 

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