In the taxi on the way to the hospital morgue, Benxamin and Victor had a frank conversation about the decisions they made after the shipwreck and their regrets,
“Sometimes I feel like I'm like you, apart from our appearance, which scares me just thinking about it,” Benxamin said.
“I don't think so. I would hate for it to be true,” Victor joked.
Benxa closed his eyes for a moment, then focused on a building under construction a few blocks away on the busy avenue.
“I'm not referring to the way of speaking; it is something much more serious. Why we prefer to walk away from others when we need help? Why do we walk away from the people we love?”
“Do you remember when I talked to Stella about the painting of the man and the demon in love?” he continued. “I told her that I was not going to sacrifice my life for others. When we are alone in the canoe, I walked away from that idea. It was the first time I doubted myself. I gave in to my fears and all we could do was wait. I'm aware that I'm selfish and I don't care, we all are, that ended and we were rescued. From there I understood that even if I don't like it, I can't always be in control of my life.”
“I don't see anything wrong with you thinking about yourself. You said it once, if you had to risk your life for another person, what would that person think of you? You help others in your own way,” Victor replied.
“I never felt any impediment to do what I wanted when bullied by my classmates; these experiences made me realize that I had to minimize my problems. There were things that were still in my power and that was enough for me. I have to admit that it's not easy to let those memories go. I guess it was luck, because there are others who go through worse situations than me.”
“Did you report your bullies? You never told Stella?”
“The professors gave a warning but nothing else happened. After I woke up from the coma, they tried to mess with me again. Stella and Lester put them in their place.”
“I see, you spoke. I have to confess to you that when I was younger I wanted to be like you, bro. Now look at me, that's how I am,” Victor said disappointed.
“Yes, I realize that. One piece of advice, stop victimizing yourself.”
“Lester thinks I never visited you in the hospital.”
“That's what we get for not being honest with him. I'm as responsible as you.”
Victor didn't reproach him because he knew his brother was right, “you know I work as a volunteer in various jails. But thanks to the warden where I was held, I give acting classes on weekends. Very soon we are going to direct a play there. I wanted to invite Lester and of course you too to attend.”
For Benxamin this was not new news, but he congratulated him anyway; “I'd love to see what you're working on, Director. I hope I can go, you know how my job is.”
“And… I also want my son back, man. Daniel thinks I'm Ernest's friend. The boy called him 'daddy' the last time I saw him. I've thought a lot about how to tell him the truth.”
“It's a complex matter. I'll help you, we'll find a way to do it,” Benxamin smiled.
“I know, that's what I want,” he sighed and expressed another thought. “I spoke to Mrs. Haydar's friend, Marcus Nel, a few months ago. He lives in another city.”
“He recently retired. I owe my job to him and he did what he could with your case. It was not enough.”
“That old man told me what happened to Lester. I know everything about him, but from someone else's mouth.”
“You want to be his boyfriend, right?” Benxa asked jokingly.
“Yep,” his brother answered seriously.
They were a few blocks from the hospital and Benxamin returned to his initial question.
“Why do we walk away from the people we love? What I am going to tell you is going to seem confusing to you, there are many reasons. It may be due to changes in our thoughts: lack of time, traumas and negative experiences, which sometimes generate personal distance, and in other obsessive-compulsive behaviors. Maybe it has nothing to do with it, I prefer not to talk because I don't want anyone to get into my life and feel sorry for me. I use my job as a shield, but, I know, it's... just an excuse.”
“At the same time,... ” he crossed his arms thinking about his insecurities, “... art for me is my escape route and I love drawing the dead. I don't consider that I do it out of curiosity or morbidity, I do it because I want to understand why I am like that. Do you remember my magenta color phobia? I use my fears buying paintings or clothes with that tonality.
“Why are you afraid of magenta? I never understood it.”
“Victor,... our mother died in a dress that color,” he took a deep breath to continue speaking. “The same thing happens to Lester; I noticed something he does when we're out drinking. He introduces me to a guy, says he's the one, and then breaks up with him and the same thing happens over and over again. Control of his life is based on sex. I hope he doesn't do that to you, he may be our friend, but you mustn't let him use you."
“I see, thanks for the warning. I doubt Lester will. Is there a chance that he is addicted to sex because he feels like he can control something on his own unlike what happened with his father's illness?” Victor asked with an incredulous look.
“Good point, but I'm not a psychologist, these are my thoughts. He hasn't been in a serious relationship since... never?”
“And you? I think you haven't had a partner for a long time.”
“I'm not satisfied with anyone and Lester seems to be afraid of disappointing the men he gets involved with. That makes me different from him.”
“But also,” Benxa continued before the taxi stopped right in front of the hospital entrance. “It may be related to the fear of becoming frustrated or disappointing others. We prefer to be alone, because we feel that we are being judged or that what we are doing is wrong. We want to escape to our comfort zone where we don't hurt anyone else. That could be why you avoided talking to me or your Lester.”
“Dear Victor,... ” he concluded. “... I went to psychological therapy for two years after graduating from university. I almost lost my life twice. I had to go back to walking and talking. And as I stand here in front of you, I feel like I won't be able to take another hit. So brother, I want us to be together now more than ever because you're the only thing I have besides Lester.”
Victor took his brother's hand and hugged him before getting out of the taxi.
“I promise, okay? Thanks.”
“If you don't have a place to live, you know where to go. You would sleep on my sofa, by the way. If you smoke I'll kick you out. I don't want your nicotine on my carpet. And of course, I'm going to help you with your son. But, please... you don't have to hug me,” Benxa said, reminding his brother that he wasn't comfortable with expressions of endearment.
Immediately after, the twins entered the morgue; the corridor was long and dark. There were few people inside with their deceased loved ones lying on narrow stretchers. Lester is sitting across from his father. Diana had left minutes before. James seemed asleep, as if at some point he opened his eyes and looked at his son. Victor moved closer - whispering Lester's name - not wanting to scare him off. His eyes widened, the young Haydar didn't imagine seeing him by his side and he felt the same when he realized that Benxamin was also there.
“Sorry. I know you told me you were going to my apartment but I forgot, Benxa.”
“Don't worry,” he affirmed.
“You didn't have to come, guys,” Lester said, looking down at his feet.
Victor put his hand on the professor's shoulder and told Benxa to do the same. His brother ran his fingers down Lester's back, then caressed his shoulder. The man's tears began to flow in front of the twins. They stood there, saying nothing, comforting him.
The day of the funeral it rained a lot. Lester, the Dautt brothers, Diana, Stella, Marcus and August were the only ones present in the cemetery. James' grave was next to Mira's; together for eternity. Lester was never separated from his parents due to the illnesses they both suffered from. He was an autonomous being in the professional world but he felt that his life was dedicated to caring for others. The truth is that he was afraid to do anything other than his pleasures - an interesting way of facing reality.
The following days were of constant anguish. Lester fell into a deep depression and when he didn't have to go to university, he locked himself in his apartment and lay on his bed to watch his home videos. He got used to sleeping for a few hours and lost some weight. Victor realized this soon after, when the man went to buy his usual daily drink. He waited a reasonable amount of time - while Lester recovered from the loss of his father. One random Friday, the professor was drinking his coffee, Victor - in his ridiculous work clothes -, sat next to his crush and, surprisingly, asked him for something.
“You and I will meet here tonight at 8, and we will go out together wherever you want. Not just today, this weekend will be for both of us. You're not staying in your apartment.”
If this had happened years ago, Lester's face would have turned as red as a fresh tomato, but his reaction was to widen his eyes like he was watching a horror movie. Still, it was reason enough for Victor to laugh out loud.
“HAHAHAHAHA! So,... do you accept or not?”
“I don't know,” Lester said seriously.
“You don't know?... Can you give me a chance?”
“This is sudden... I just,.. I'll say yes, because it's you... I hope you have a good way to entertain me,” Lester expressed with a slight hint of mischief.
“Count on it,” Victor said, winking at him.
“I j-just wanted to be funny.”
“I don't, dude.”
Benxamin learned from his co-workers about the death of a teacher, in a classroom at a prestigious school. At midnight, the watchman realized the macabre discovery while he was making his rounds. The particular thing about the case is that Marcel Witsel worked there, he was the new sports teacher and coach of the baseball team.