It Ends the Way It Always Ends

Tell me why you are here.

Because my parents sent me here.

And why did they send you?

To help me “handle the situation.”

And the situation is. . .

My brother.

The death of your brother.

Something like that, I said.

 

You seem uncomfortable.

This chair’s okay.

Uncomfortable with me.

I thought you’d look like my mother.

Why is that?

She listens.

And your father?

He doesn’t want to hear it.

What does your father want?

For me to man-up.

Which consists of—?

Cracking your knuckles and keeping your mouth shut.

As opposed to—?

Sitting in this chair next to a box of tissues marked PUFFS.

 

It’s all right.

It’s not all right.

There’s no law that says boys can’t cry. Help yourself to a—

Fucking PUFF.

Tell me something about your brother.

He’s dead.

Something about when he was alive.

Once we tried to catch a fish. With our bare hands. But it was big and slippery and got away.

 

How did your brother die?

Kissed a girl.

Your brother kissed a girl.

I just told you that.

Your brother kissed a girl and

And got meningitis.

Did you want to kiss that girl, too?

No, I wanted to grind her so deep into the ground we’d both end up in the grave.

Grave is an interesting word.

Grind is even interesting-er.

 

Why didn’t you kiss—or grind—the girl?

He got there first.

And you were used to going first?

I was older.

By how much?

I don’t know. Eight, nine minutes. How much longer do we have to keep talking?

Why are you so anxious to leave?

Your artwork is ugly.

Why do you say that?

It doesn’t have any people in it. Just colors. So you can’t figure out what it’s supposed to be about.

 

What do you think life is about?

Being happy. I guess.

Were you happy before your brother died?

Most of the time.

And now?

Everything’s fucked.

 

What did your brother look like?

You know.

I don’t know.

You have to know. It’s written. Right there. In that file.

Yes, but I’d like to hear it from you. Start like this: My brother looked like. . .

Me.

My brother looked like me because. . .

Because he was my—

It’s all right.

It’s not all right.

There’s no law that says boys can’t cry. Help yourself to a—

Fucking PUFF.

 

In your file, it says you’re having trouble sleeping. Concentrating. And that the precipitating incident—

What does that mean?

The thing that led you here.

My parents made me come here.

–came when your father was trying to teach you how to shave, is that right?

Maybe.

What happened that morning?

Cut myself.

How?

I wasn’t looking. The way my dad said I should.

How were you looking, then?

Like . . .like I wasn’t myself. Like I was getting pulled through the glass, to the other side.

Did you tell your father that?

Sorta.

And what did he say.

Get it together.

Why do you think he said that?

He thinks I’m losing it. I heard him on the phone. I heard him tell you, I just want my son back.

Which son do you think he was referring to?

I don’t know. My brother. Me. Both of us, I guess.

You don’t think he was worried about you? Concerned about your well-being?

You talked to him. So why do you keep asking me this stuff?

I want to know your thoughts. Your perspective. Your feelings.

 

Why do I have to feel something about everything? I don’t want to have feelings. They don’t get you anywhere.

Where would you like to go, if you could go anywhere?

Antarctica. Or someplace so cold you couldn’t feel your own feet.

Where would you live?

An igloo.

With whom?

Myself, I guess.

What about your parents?

What about them?

Where would they be?

Left behind.

Do you feel left behind?

No.

No because. . .

Because I don’t want to go where my brother went.

 

How did you feel seeing your brother in the hospital?

He looked gray. Like a Weimaraner.

And in the coffin?

He looked like an oboe. Or some weird instrument that I don’t know how to play.

Did you say anything to him?

It wasn’t him.

Did you touch his body?

My mother put a blanket over him. She said she didn’t want him to be cold in the grave.

Do you want to tell me something about that blanket?

It was brown. One of the ones she was knitting for us to put on our beds when we went to college.

Did they match?

Everything matched. Except our sides were switched. What I had on the right side, he had on the left.

So when you looked in the mirror you saw both him and you?

Something like that.

 

You keep looking at the clock.

An hour here isn’t really an hour, is it?

Our session is fifty minutes.

So aren’t you going to say it?

Say what?

I’ve seen the movies. It starts the way it always starts: Tell me why you are here—and ends the way it always ends—I’m afraid our time for today is up.

Yes. Well. I’m afraid our time for today is up.

 

Mom had dropped me off. But Dad was the one waiting in the parking lot. Staring out the windshield. Like the car was never going anywhere ever again.

He blinked—and looked away—when I got in.

Well? he asked.

I tried to figure out what my father really meant: Are you cured? or Was the shrink worth looking at?

Mom’s prettier, I told him. Because that seemed man enough.

Rita Ciresi is the author of four novels (including Bring Back My Body to Me and Pink Slip) and two award-winning story collections (Sometimes I Dream in Italian and Mother Rocket). She is professor of English and director of the creative writing program at the University of South Florida.