Daniel William Gonzales


Craig stared into the mirror and squinted his eyes, for a moment he could almost see his brother staring back at him. It had been seven years since they had spoken but he was constantly reminded of him every time he saw his face in some magazine ad or even a billboard for some overpriced cologne. The funny part is that they were twins but if you asked anyone, they would say that Craig could never be a model. Despite their physical similarities, Craig was twenty pounds heavier, had a scruffy beard that he left untrimmed and had a somber demeanor that brought down the room. Kevin was always the upbeat one, the dynamic go-getter who all the girls had chased after in high school. The joke being that Kevin had no interest in women, a fact that Craig would learn when they were seventeen and he walked in on him and his best friend, Jude.

Craig had slammed the door behind him after catching the two of them together. 

“You are a disgusting freak!” he had screamed at Kevin, running outside to the lawn.

“Please, don’t tell Mom and Dad.”

“I have to,” Craig said, “You need psychological help.”

Their parents were firm Christians and thought that homosexuality was a disease that needed to be sorted out spiritually. When Craig told their parents, they had erupted in rage and ended up sending Kevin to bible camp that summer. After the fireworks died down, Craig listened by Kevin’s door to his brother’s sobs, feeling the guilt swelling in his chest.

He opened the door quietly and sat on the edge of his brother’s bed, staring up at a poster of some boy band on the wall, wondering why he hadn’t figured it out sooner.

“I’m sorry,” Craig said, “I’m not trying to hurt you, I’m just worried about your soul.”

Kevin wouldn’t look at him, Craig could only see his blonde locks at the top of the sheets, hair that was identical to his but yet so different. Everything about Kevin was glossier and shinier even then Craig always felt like he had just rolled out of bed even when he had showered.

“Sometimes I really hate you,” Kevin said, “You are a real jerk.”

Craig said nothing and after that summer, they barely spoke through their senior year except as a formality. Kevin lay low, dating girls as a cover until he turned eighteen then moved out of the house and in with a thirty six year old guy he had met online. It was three years before their parents allowed Kevin to come over for a family holiday after his disobedience and a year later he revealed a drug addiction to meth.  His parents had paid for rehab and let him move back in with them. Kevin was filled with self-hatred and emptiness while Craig went away to college and got a degree in computer science. Craig didn’t lose his virginity to a girl until he was twenty-one because a girl felt sorry for him.

“Was I okay?” he had asked her.

She paused, “For your first time, yeah.”

“Do you think we could do it again?”

“Probably not,” she said, “I do have a boyfriend.”

Craig couldn’t help but feel guilty every time he called the house to hear how his brother was still at home, living in the basement, he felt as if he had done this to his brother by outing him years ago.

Then Kevin started going on auditions and ended up getting modeling jobs. He was chosen to be the lead for some famous line of clothing that all the hipsters were wearing. Craig got a job in an office and settled into middle-management as his brother moved to New York and slowly became famous. Their long silence turned into a texting and email relationship where Kevin updated his brother on all the famous people he met at parties. Craig met a woman at a company picnic a few months later, they dated for six months and ended up getting married that fall. She was pregnant the following winter. Craig avoided asking Kevin questions about his personal life but informed him of his marriage and subsequent child on the way. Kevin hadn’t been able to come to the wedding but sent his regards.

Craig felt he had lived up to his parent’s expectations, yet as he hit thirty, an emptiness came over him. He loved his wife and their daughter Diane but there was a deep curiosity he felt, wondering what Kevin’s life was like. Not to be gay but to live a life without responsibility, where each day was a new adventure.

When they were in elementary school, everyone knew the difference between Craig and Kevin even though they were almost identical. All you had to do was look at them. Craig always had his head down and was staring at the floor in a melancholy way while Kevin was smiling and socializing. In high school, Craig had been in love with a girl named Shelia who told him that she wasn’t interested in him but his brother.  “We look just alike!” Craig shouted at her.  “It’s not about looks,” she had replied, “There is just something special about him.”

Before the gay bombshell, Kevin had always been the favorite son in his parent’s eyes.  After that, they had focused their attention on Craig and his success, seeing their other son as a lost cause. Even when he sent them enough money to pay off their mortgage, Craig’s father told him that he was still his favorite son because he was a real man. It was in the summer of Diane’s fifth birthday that Craig got the phone call.

His father sounded stunned, “She just sat there.”

“What?  Dad, is that you?”

“She was just sitting there like nothing was wrong.”

“Who are you talking about?  What’s wrong?”

“Your mother.  She’s dead.”

Craig felt chills go up his spine.

It was as if his entire world had frozen. He felt himself shaking and there was the sound of the microwave bell going off but it was far away as if in another house.

The sound of the television became a dull buzzing and he felt his feet almost give out from under him. He took the cordless phone and sat at the kitchen table.

“What happened?”

“I just came in the room and she was sitting there like nothing. Her eyes were wide open. I tried to call to her but she wouldn’t answer. Then I felt her skin, she was so cold. It was so cold…they said she had been dead for hours. I was asleep. She never came to bed. I didn’t notice that my own wife was dead for hours!”

Craig’s father broke into sobs.

“There is no way you could have known,” Craig whispered, the words coming out almost automatic, he felt no connection to them. A stranger could have been speaking them.

“It’s going to be alright,” he said and even he didn’t believe those words.

The funeral was a small dismal affair at a local church, about thirty people came, relatives and friends of Craig’s mother from the parish. The preacher gave a heartfelt speech about everything she had done for the community, the bake sales, the car washes, leading the prayer circles and bible readings. Even an old student of his mother’s from when she had been a teacher thirty years ago came and talked about her, Craig felt like she was mentioning a stranger. The only mother he knew was the stay at home Mom who was always in an apron baking things or cleaning something.

At the back of the church, he saw Kevin. He could feel his presence before he even turned his head, it was almost like a tingling in the back of his skull. It had been a long time since he had felt this way, not since they were children when Kevin could scrape his knee and inside the house Craig would start to cry.

At the end of the service, Craig thanked the preacher and everyone for coming, then waited to talk to his brother last.

“Do you want to help carry the coffin?” he asked him.

Kevin looked shocked, “I, um, sure, I can do that.”

He followed Craig to the front of the church and along with two uncles, they carried their mother’s casket to the hearse. Craig felt a sick fascination fill him, he wanted to see what she looked like but at the same time, the thought of it made him want to die. If she looked like a withered husk that they had simply slapped make-up on and made looked like a harlot, he would be furious. It would send him into a rage so he decided to avoid even glancing. Kevin wanted to look. He hadn’t seen their mother in two years and the guilt was probably killing him.  Too busy with his New Yorker friends, Craig thought, probably homosexuals who all were estranged from their parents marching in parades and leading protests.

Out of the corner of his eye, Craig saw Kevin kiss their mother on the cheek. He started to shake and felt tears filling his eyes. He dug his nails into his palm to stop the tears from falling. Not even his wife saw him cry, he only cried in the garage when he was alone. His father was the same way.

They drove together in their father’s car to the grave, their father sitting there like a ghost with an agonized look on his face as if he was suffering with kidney stones. At the grave site, the preacher spoke again and said a prayer as they lowered their mother into the ground. Their father started to sob hysterically and fell to his knees. Craig immediately felt embarrassed for him as if he had broken some unspoken rule.

“Get up, Dad,” Craig whispered in his father’s ear, “Not here. Not yet.”

Kevin gave him a dirty look.

Craig took his father’s hand and they watched as the dirt was pushed into the gaping maw of earth.

At the house, everyone began to feast as if it were their last meal. Craig felt nauseous just watching people eat at a wake, death didn’t make him hungry, it made him sick. He resisted the urge to vomit and made his father a small plate of food. The old man stared at it and poked at it like a cadaver.

Kevin was standing in the corner, surrounded by relations who kept hugging him and telling him how sorry they were. Craig felt a heat in his chest, thinking how none of them had come up to him with such platitudes.

“Can we talk?” Craig said, walking over to Kevin.

“Sure,” Kevin said and stared at him for a long time.

They walked out to the gazebo where a group of birds were nesting.

“Mom always liked to keep food out for them every year,” Craig said, “She was good with animals and people.”

“I know she was,” Kevin said, “I feel awful that I didn’t come down for Christmas last year, if I had known...”

“Well, I’m sure you had somewhere important to be,” Craig said, his words cold and stinging.

“What is that supposed to mean?”

“It means you chose to be with your famous friends over our family!”

“Are you seriously going to give me a guilt trip at our mother’s funeral?” Kevin said, “You don’t think I feel bad enough?”

“I think you should feel bad.”

Kevin began to cry, tears streaming down his cheeks, “You don’t think I wanted to? It was hard to come down every year and face that judgment. The subtle questions, I couldn’t even be honest about who I am, who I was in love with.”

“Oh God, is this about the gay thing?  Is that all that matters to you people?”

“To us people?” Kevin said, “What are you talking about?  It is all that mattered to you! If I felt welcome I would have come back but you made me feel like an outcast.”

“They just wanted you to go to Heaven,” Craig said.

Kevin sighed, “You know, for a long time, I hated myself because of you and Mom and Dad but it took me years and countless hours of therapy to finally love myself. I refuse to play this game with you. God doesn’t hate anyone.”

“Think what you want, you’ll find out in the end,” Craig said, coldly.

“You really believe that too, don’t you? You stand here with such contempt for me when all I wanted to do was see you and be there for you.”

“I have a good life, you don’t need to be there for me. I have a wife and kid, they are inside, you saw your niece once!  Once, when she was three years old!”

“You have never made me feel welcome, Craig.”

“Right,” Craig said, “Is this the part where you play excluded minority and persecuted victim?”

“At least I don’t hate myself anymore,” Kevin said.

Craig grew stiff, “What are you trying to say?”

“What we have always known,” Kevin said, “You can’t be happy. You are just a miserable person who will never be satisfied with anything.”

Craig felt the blood rush to his face and began to shake, “Who the hell do you—“

“Ever since elementary school people would ask me, what’s wrong with your brother? Why is he always so angry and sad? I would stick up for you but when you had the chance to support me, you sold me out. You couldn’t wait for one year, instead I had to suffer through a year of looks of shame and Dad monitoring my every move, asking who I was out with. Mom crying every time she looked at me.”

“Are you still mad about that?” Craig said.

“They sent me away to that camp for the summer. Do you remember that?”

“Yeah, so what?”

“Do you know what I went through? Being forced to memorize the bible every day, being yelled at and preached to. Being told that I was going to hell if I gave in to my desires. I was traumatized!”

“That was a long time ago,” Craig said, shuffling his feet in the grass. The sun had disappeared and now a cold chill filled the air.

“It feels like yesterday to me,” Kevin said, “Why couldn’t you just have kept your mouth shut and saved me all that pain and humiliation? Why did you betray me like that? I was your brother!”

“I-I didn’t know that they would react like that.”

“But part of you was happy, weren’t you? For the first time, you felt like they loved you more.”

Craig felt tears roll down his face and he angrily wiped them away.

“Shut up!” Craig said.

“Because as much as you say you hate me and what I stand for, you wish you could be like me but you never had an outgoing personality, you lacked that charisma that made people stand up and notice you. Even though we may look alike, we might as well be strangers.”

“SHUT UP!” Craig screamed and tackled Kevin to the ground.

Kevin pushed him back and they rolled into their mother’s azaleas. Craig raised his fist to pound it into Kevin’s face but Kevin moved, jumped out of the flower patch and Craig jumped on his back and they fell into a gathering of bushes. Sticky leaves clung to Kevin’s neck and Craig had the smashed debris of dead flowers on his back. He raised his fist to hit Kevin again when a warm breeze rose out of the cold and a shuddering moment of sadness fell upon him. It was as if the entire world had grown empty and he thought of his mother’s voice, he imagined the smell of her baking and calling him in for lunch. He started to sob and fell into his brother’s arms.

“It’s okay,” Kevin said, “Look, we both just need to calm down and remember why we are here. For Dad.”

Craig continued to sob and held onto his brother with a tight grip that didn’t allow release. He thought that this may have been what they looked like in the womb and wondered why it had been so long since they hugged. It felt as natural as breathing.

“You are such a jerk,” Kevin said and laughed.

Craig started laughing hysterically, not knowing why, “I know. I know I am.”

“I’m sorry,” he whispered.

“I know,” Kevin said, “I have already forgiven you. You’re my brother and I have to love you, it’s that twin bond thing. If I hate you, it’s like hating myself.”

Craig wiped his tears away then and stared into his brother’s face. People were staring out the window now at the two brothers who had been rolling around in the grass, looks of shock on their faces. Their father was still in his chair staring at his plate. Kevin straightened out his jacket and Craig pulled the leaves off his neck. For a moment as he stared at his brother, he felt as if he was looking into a mirror, deep and luminous, that reflected everything and hid nothing from him.  For the first time in their lives, they were completely identical.


Daniel W. Gonzales is a 35 year old writer/counselor living in Port Orchard, Washington.  He loves sci-fi, manga and bagels.