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Vignettes Regarding the Artwork of Brendon Kotes

L: Present

That night, Brendon spent an hour peeling his bedroom walls. Photos and pictures and sketches going in piles in the living room and kitchen. Every single piece of art torn down, until the barrenness became oppressive, the blankness like a canvas daring him to start.

Then he opened the hall closet and flicked through history: Robbie perched on a fence post near the bay, Aunt Laurel in her flowing skirts at her wedding, Mom in the kitchen, flour on her apron and pecan bread dough being beaten within an inch of its life. In the far back, sticking to the old paint on the wall it’d been hidden for so long, Casey grinned, his head thrown back, his hair a wild, wild mess, and the straightaway outside St. Thomas’s soaring into the distance behind him.

Brendon pulled the painting out and held it in two hands, his vision going double, seeing into the past. He’d used pale ivories and peachy tones to capture Casey’s body. Dressed him in a tank and greased him with summer sweat. Like the way he’d look after they’d parked in the field in the growing development, hot hands against one another. Skin sticky, as if the humidity conspired to glue them together in the back seat of Casey’s car.

Their world had been tight and narrow and Casey never had seen the side streets. Brendon hadn’t either, too focused on the car in front of him, uncaring where it might be heading.

He hung Casey’s portrait in his bedroom, a singular point in the barrenness.

“If it’s true,” he whispered to Casey.

If it was true, maybe his dreams would be filled with Casey. Maybe they’d be back on the road again, the wind whipping Casey’s hair and tugging at Brendon’s shirt. Maybe he’d get to hold him again, apologize for taking too long to be the voice of reason.

He lay in bed and tried to feel something other than the fear Orion had pointed out. Tried to push himself into a pleasure he didn’t feel he had any right to, and that shame took any joy of the action away, leaving him bereft.

When he finally settled into a hopeless sleep, he did dream. But it wasn’t about sweaty, high school nights with Casey. His unconscious thoughts turned to ones that felt safer. Thoughts of sharp blue eyes and an intelligent manner. Of a man who saw him, rather than past him.

He woke twisted and sweaty, but it was the cold sweat of realization and the twisting in his gut was the sense of betrayal. There was no faking what his mind had made up though, not with his thighs sticky with more than sweat and his head pounding like he’d stayed up too many nights in a frenzy of paint and turpentine.


Next Chapter: LI