Lucius and Marcus hurried through the crowded streets, making their way through the adults. The way home was long and even though the boys tried to walk fast, they still had a lot of time to think as they passed the streets of New York, that seemed to always be impossibly crowded or impossibly empty.
-Psoriasis. P-S-O-R-I-A-S-I-S. Meaning:a chronic disease characterized by inflamed lesions covered with silvery-white scabs of dead skin. - Lucius recited as they passed one of the hauntingly empty streets.
Even though Lucius was the one most eager to get home, he still stayed a little behind Marcus, since his elder twin was taller and had longer legs.
-Are you going to keep spelling words from that medical dictionary all the way home? - Marcus asked annoyed.
-I'm just practising.
-Well, practice silently, it's annoying.
-okay... - Lucius shrugged trying to hide his hurt. But before his brother could make some patronizing apology, he decided to pick on Marcus a little bit too. - You're just moody because you discovered that girl you like has a boyfriend.
Marcus looked stunned that his brother had noticed such a thing, the other twin being so unobservant when it came to social situations.
-That's not... That's not true, Lu.
-You'd think I didn't notice, but you are not as secretive as you like to think.
Marcus blushed, feeling angry and insecure:
-Well, at least I'm normal and I like people!
Lucius stopped walking.
He hated when his brother played the 'eldest' card, but this was different. This was specifically to hurt him. It stung. Could he know? Could everyone know?This was the thing that made him feel the most insecure in the world. Lucius always felt like he was different from his brother, different from everyone else. He didn't understand the concept of having a crush, or of wanting to be with someone romantically, and well, he never had to think about it, Marcus was the most good-looking sibling and everyone knew that. But Lucius always wondered, always feared. Was there something wrong with him? Something broken or something missing? Something that made him abnormal? He knew what he felt, he just didn't know what it meant.
-I'm sorry, Lu, I didn't mean it... You're normal.. you're
Lucius held up a hand, silencing his brother:
-I'm sorry, really, I know you ...
-Just shut up, okay? Let's walk in silence, like you wanted.
Marcus still tried to protest but Lucius looked resolute and his angry face made his brother decide not to bother him.
They walked for two more streets in silence before Lucius, almost automatically started again:
-Psorospermiasis. P-S-O-R-O-S-P-E-R-M-I-A-S-I-S. Meaning: A minute parasite, usually the young of Gregarinæ, in the pseudonavicula stage.
Marcus smiled.Knowing his brother couldn't stay mad for long.
- Psoralen. P-S-O-R-A-L-E-N. Meaning: Any of a group of chemical compounds found in certain plants, used to treat psoriasis and vitiligo.
Looking over to his brother, Marcus could see him with his eyes closed, trying to remember better the page he's printed in his mind. He couldn't see there was a hole and a big puddle right if front of him, and Lucius would step and fall into it if he didn't open his eyes now.
Marcus tried to hurry and pull his brother's sleeve, but he tripped over the uneven pavement and ended up getting all of his right leg wet under his knee with the splash of his brother's feet on another puddle next to the biggest one.
Lucius opened his eyes and saw the situation.
-Oooh, Mama had washed these pants just yesterday... She'll be mad. - He bit his lip, knowing his brother did that to spare him, but still being mad from earlier. - Thanks, Marcus.
Marcus gave him a fake smile and walked on, apparently it was his turn to give his twin the silent treatment.
They walked like this for some more time, passing some busy streets in which they had to hold eachother's sleeves to stay together, but still not talking. Until finally Marcus got too annoyed at Lucius speaking terms under his breath:
-Shouldn't you be doing school work instead of reading advanced medical books that you won't use?
-I'll use them! Just not for school work.
-You'll fail class if you don't study what they are actually teaching.
-I read about this subject in advance... And you know, I kind of memorized what the teachers spoke already.
-Oh, yeah, there's that - Marcus said and rolled his eyes.
-I'm sure you could too if you focused very hard and not talk to anyone, just like I do!
-Yeah, but I don't want to do that. I don't wanna memorize lectures and medical books, I just want to be... ahn...
-No. I don't want to be "normal". I just don't want more attention.
-You can copy off my homework if you want to... So you don't have to waste your time with it... - Marcus said apologetically.
-I've already done it. - Lucius tried not to sound show-off-y.
As they got closer to their street, Lucius' mood started to pick up, and passing through their neighbours' houses and seeing some people they knew and waving at them, saying "good afternoon", he beamed, it even seemed like nothing had happened earlier.
When they got to the front door of their small house, Lucius ran to the kitchen, where his mother was cleaning some pots and pans.
-Mama, mama! Hi, how was your day?
-Good, sweetheart, just a little tiring. And yours?
-Good, good. I can recite the entire morning's lecture, you want to hear?
Not waiting for an answer, he started:
-In History of the United States, we were learning about the...
Their mother smiled softly at Marcus when he passed the kitchen and went to the bedroom he shared with his twin.
He sat down on his bed, annoyed at his brother again for being so naive and childish and not knowing his mother wanted rest, and not to hear something that had no use to her. But then he thought about what he'd said to Lucius. Cursing at himself he threw his head down on the pillow and sighed, and took a couple of breaths before getting back up again, but before he could do anything about it, he'd fallen asleep.
After a couple of hours he was awoken by his brother:
-Mama said dinner's ready and asked me to call you. Have you been sleeping all this time?
-Of course not. I just laid down a little bit after I did my work. - He got up, feeling embarrassed. His brother already was the school show off type, he couldn't fall behind and become the lazy twin. He washed his face as well as his hands and went to the kitchen where his family was gathered.
Marcus sat on a chair, under the window trying to get some light from outside as he quickly finished his homework. Lucius got in after helping his mother wash the plates (and after talking some more about all he'd learned, now to his father as well), he gave his brother a curious look before fully letting himself through the door and sitting on his bed.
-You hadn't done your work before, had you?- he asked
-You slept all afternoon?
They exchanged looks and smiled.
-Hey, Lu, I'm sorry about earlier.
Lucius was changing into his pyjamas, and winced at the unwelcome subject.
Marcus waited for his brother to answer but when he didn't, he added:
-I really didn't mean it okay, I don't think you are unnatural....
-What do you mean? What do you know about it?
-Well, I know you have never liked anyone, and you think that makes you weird. - he shook his head - Of all the things, you think this makes you weird. - he laughed
-It does! - Lucius protested, not knowing on whose side he was.
-No, it doesn't. You're young. Maybe some day you will love someone, maybe you won't. And I don't think that's the thing that will make you different.
-But doesn't that mean I will never get married and have a normal life?
-Getting married doesn't make a life normal... I think.
-It's what they expect of us. What Mama does. She'll love it when you bring your girlfriend or whatever over and when you'll get married and have children, and I will never give that to her.
Marcus made a face at that.
-What? You don't want to get married to a woman and have a normal life? - Lucius asked.
-No. I really don't think so. I don't know where you keep picking up these weird ideas.
-Well, its everywhere, I don't know.
-Well, I'm young too, you know, even though I'm a lot older than you. I want to do a lot of things before I "get married to a woman", if I ever do that. - Marcus scoffed
-What do you mean? - Lucius laughed
-That's not all that is to life, you know? Women and marriage. And for someone who doesn't like either, you sure think about it a lot, huh.
They both laughed.
-And for someone who likes many things, you sure don't think about it a lot.
-That you like two things in specific.
-How do you...?
-You know my secrets and I know yours.
They both smiled again.
They bickered and fought a lot, but at the end of the day they were still brothers. And they comforted each other. They laid on their beds and were almost asleep when Marcus said:
-Wait, you think me liking girls and boys is normal, but you not feeling interested in either isn't?
-I don't know.... It doesn't seem unnatural because it's you doing it. You always know what you're doing.
Marcus scoffed again.
-I just don't want to disappoint Mama. - Lucius said silently.
-You won't. You certainly won't.
-Is that why you're always showing off to Mama? Because you don't want to disappoint her in one aspect so you overcompensate on another?
-I... I don't know. I just want her to know I can do something. I want her to know I'm worth something.
-Well, it's annoying when you do that.
-Hey! I thought you were trying to comfort me!
Marcus shrugged, but it was dark, so Lucius couldn't see it.
-I mean, you don't have to do that. Is all I'm saying.... But it's okay, I know you love showing off.
-Sorry!- They laughed, trying to be silent.
-Hey, Lu. It won't matter, you know, Mama will always be proud of you. And she'll always love you because of who you are. And on the very tiny off chance she won't, I always will. You're my brother, I love you.
-Thanks, Marcus. - Lucius' voice cracked.
-Don't get used to it, this is as sappy as I'll ever get.
-I know. Still, thank you.
-Well, if you ever want to talk about it.
-Sure - Lucius felt like the subject should have ended there and they should go to sleep, but he still had things to say and now he couldn't hold back. - Do you think I should at least pretend that I like someone so Mama will think everything is okay?
-Lucius! Didn't you fucking hear me? Everything is okay.
-Language! - Lucius winced
-Ugh!! Lucius, Mama won't care, she already has our sister, who is married and has children. Mama knows us, she knows what to expect from us, and she just wants us to be happy. So just stop obsessing!
-Fine, sorry. You said I could talk about it if I wanted to.
-And I already regret it.
-Stop thinking about yourself like that. Your worth is not measured by how "normal" you can be or how many grandchildren you can give to Mama. You deserve to be happy as you are. Even if what you are is a weird prick who memorizes lectures and medical dictionaries.
Lucius laughed again, more secure that his brother meant what he'd said this time. If even impatient Marcus wasn't giving him hell, it meant it his brother was being genuine.
-So the matter's settled, good night I need to sleep.
-But you already slept all afternoon!
-Leave me alooone. - Marcus covered his head with his pillow.
Lucius smiled at his brother trying to keep his pride, after being so tender with his brother. After some time had passed and Lucius thought his twin was already asleep, he heard a silent voice say:
-Just make sure you don't accidentaly tell anyone I'm bi.
-Yeah, stupid, bisexual. It's just a shortening.
-Oh, okay, don't worry about it.
-Thanks. Now go to sleep.
-Wait, so does that mean I am asexual or something? - Lucius asked after some minutes.
-Go to sleep! - Marcus groaned.
" -Just couldn't resist, could you? - Marcus said
-Resist what? - Lucius answered in a kind of a squeak, already on the defensive.
-You just had to take the opportunity to lecture them all, as if we were in some kind of elementary school classroom. - Marcus said in irritation.
-I was recording important evidence! -Lucius answered leaning in toward his brother.
-Recording important evidence? - Echoed Marcus. - You were grandstanding! As if we don't have enough problems in the department right now, without you acting like an old schoolmarm!
-That's ridiculous! - Lucius tried but Marcus wasn't having any of it.
-Ridiculous? You have been that way since you were eight years old!
-Marcus! This is not the place to bring up...
-Every day, when we'd get home from school, "Mama! Papa! I can recite my whole day's lesson! Listen! Listen!
-...Not a place to bring up personal...
-Never occurred to you that Mama and Papa were too goddamned tired to listen to your whole day's lesson. NO, you just went right ahead...
-They were proud of me! - Lucius hollered, losing all attempt at dignity
-What were you thinking? - Marcus bellowed - That Hogan's going to go back to Mulberry Street and say "Jesus, Mary and Joseph, these Isaacson boys certainly know their business -showing us a thing or two!" ? One step closer to getting forced out that's all we are now! "
Lucius looked down, like he was seriously considering himself guilty of their possible removal from their jobs.
-I guess old habits die hard, huh. - Marcus said trying to smile after his fit of anger
-I try... - his brother answered
-I know. - Marcus answered with a sigh.
The brothers smiled at each other.