The sun is shining yet still rain is falling, and I know I am not strong enough to resist it this time. It's the fourth time since Thom went away that this has happened, and each time before I was with someone--you, or Sharona, or one of the children--and while I felt the same wild pull as I do now I was anchored by their presence. So I am writing you an explanation, so that when I do not come back you will understand better. Or you will think me insane, and as I sit at my writing desk trying to think where to begin I think you may be right. I am insane. But a greater part of me knows I am not, much as I might wish that I were. That when I get up from this desk and wander off into the rain with the sun on my face I will be found gibbering in the fields a few hours later, and I will be giving pills and taken somewhere quiet and white and calm and in a few months I will come back to my wife and children and live the rest of my life whole of mind.
I know this will not happen. Just as I know that as much as try to stall here writing this out to you--hoping in the back of my mind that the rain will stop or the clouds will cover the sun and my window will have vanished and I will be safe another day--that it is futile. I am going, I do not expect I will be allowed to return, and I wish there was something I could say to make this easier for you. That I will be happy? I think I will be, but that's irrelevant in the end. Whether it is happiness or misery I am going to I cannot stay away any longer.
Where to start? How to explain? In the beginning? You know the beginning, much as you might try to deny it, tuck it away, pretend it never happened. You were there. In the middle, when I first began to understand, to suspect what was really going on in my life, my charmed, blessed, perfect life? We were at Reiko's house, do you remember? In Tokyo. Our number one fan, it was 1996 and she had been to every show that year and the year before and maybe the year before that. Her father was rich enough that she'd walk straight out of the venue, call a taxi, then be driven no matter what the distance to the next city we were playing, stuffing wads of hundreds into the astonished driver's hands as though it was Monopoly money.
Very strange, to be eating in the house of a fan. But by that point although we had barely conversed with Reiko due to barriers in language she had become almost one of us. It was so different then. There was so little distance between us and them. We'd go out to bars for drinks afterwards or occasionally hitch rides or sometimes send one of them to the store to fetch something for us, food or perhaps a screw or some electrical tape if a cable busted.
We were all mad for Japan and for Japanese culture and Reiko knew, she must have said something to the rest of the family because they played it up, dressing in traditional Japanese clothing, eating at a table on the floor in their sumptuous Tokyo penthouse as we gaped at the silkscreen prints on the wall, their worth together greater than our combined earnings of that year or any other.
And we gaped and gawked and tried to converse in improvised sign language, for none of our hosts save Reiko spoke English, and her English was very poor at that. But in spite (or perhaps because) of the barriers in language the meal was pleasant, and delicious, and I'm sure you'll agree that we have yet to have a better one in spite of all the money and all our trips to Japan since.
The only awkwardness came from Reiko's grandmother. She had come out, had frozen and then gone white, had frantically babbled to her son gesturing at us. At Thom. She only ceased after some stern words from her son and an embarrassed roll of Reiko's eyes. She said nothing during the meal, she barely ate, she stared down at her hands and it was midway through the meal that I saw tears glint on her cheeks and I realised she was terrified. She refused to looked at Thom, and when he reached over and touched Reiko lightly on the hand to get her attention the old woman exploded in a terrified babble, rising to her feet and gesturing wildly.
You must remember the word she was repeating over and over again. You asked me if I had ever heard it afterwards, and for reasons at the time I didn't understand I lied to you, and said that you were saying the wrong word, you must not remember it very well. But you did, you remembered it perfectly. The word was kitsune and I wanted to forget it immediately, and I wanted the rest of you to forget it as well. And we did, or we pretended to.
The old woman was led away by her son, Reiko apologised and said words to the affect that the old woman was getting senile, and the meal continued on pleasantly afterwards. Two shows later was Reiko's last, she was angry and embarrassed as she explained that her father was refusing to fund her trips any longer, it was her mad old grandmother's fault, she had not stopped wailing and arguing with her father until he relented and forbid Reiko from ever attending another of our shows.
"She think he," she gestured at Thom, who was chatting with another fan, "steal me. Take me away."
And I pretended to understand. The old woman must have thought Thom was going to seduce her granddaughter, must have thought that Reiko was a groupie rather than just a fan, and I thought the her fears might be justified just a bit. So I laughed, I hugged her, said how much I'd miss her and I never saw her again.
Part of me knew then. Part of me knew what the old woman's fear truly was, because it is my fear, and my fate now. The sun is shining and the rain is falling and I'm being called away.
Surely you remember a day similar to this not a year after our father died. It was such a quiet, dark year, made darker by a lump found under my armpit and endless doctor's appointments where I was poked and prodded with needles and nurses smiled at me while their eyes were sad and pitying. At night we heard Mum's hysterical whisperings to our Uncle Charlie. Whisperings where we first heard that dreaded word, always spoken in a panicky, horrified whisper, as though it was a curse that would bring destruction if spoken too loud. Spoken in the same dreaded tone that Reiko's grandmother would spit out kitsune years later. The word was leukemia, and I asked you what it meant and you said you didn't know, although you were older, although you understood what was going on better than I did.
The sky was clear and the sun was shining yet still rain drizzled down, and I found the fox kit under our hedges. It was horribly mangled, it looked as though a hawk had been at it, its little sides heaving and covered in blood. One eye was caked with blood and frozen shut. It nipped at me when I tried to touch it, its eye glassy and terrified. Mum shrieked when she saw it, told me to stay away, told me that it probably had rabies and god knew what else, she'd have Uncle Charlie come and get rid of it. I knew what she meant by that, and I wept. It was so little, that fox kit. It was hurt and terrified and didn't understand what was happening to it and I begged Mum not to hurt it, to make it better. She broke down, told me there was nothing to be done, that it was too badly hurt to be saved. She tugged my hand, told me to come inside, and not to worry about it and I abruptly asked her what leukemia was. She went still, turned white, and whispered for me to bring her the gardening gloves, an old towel, and a box and I didn't press her for an answer to my question.
The fox kit nipped at Mum's gloves as she gathered him up in a towel, and it whimpered in pain as she lifted him out of the hedges and tucked him into the box, but he was too weak to do more than a token struggle. You came then, and asked what we were doing, and turned grey at the sight of all the blood, and Mum said that we were going to the vet. You sat up front with Mum in the car, and I sat in back with the cardboard box that held the fox kit in my lap and whispered to it that it would be all right, we were going to take care of him. In spite of the vet's protests--it was a wild animal, a pest, it most likely wouldn't survive anyway, surgery would cost us a fortune--Mum told him to do what he could and two days later we brought the fox kit home. It was very weak and the vet said he would need medicine twice a day for a month and even still he would probably end up dying. Mum put him in the garage, and locked the door, and would go in to feed him and give him his medicine, and if I was good or if I'd have a doctor's appointment later she would let me go in with her to watch. She wouldn't let me go near the fox kit, she would only approach if she was wearing her heavy gardening gloves and she never stayed longer than was necessary.
Cozzie was the one who found out where Mum hid the key to the garage, and after that I would sneak in as often as I could to visit the fox kit. Mostly at night, when I couldn't sleep. I felt weak and sick those days and though I was tired all the time I was so uncomfortable that sleep was difficult. All those stupid doctors with their needles and I still felt ill. I'd complain of this to the fox kit after slipping quietly into the garage. I'd tell him about my dad, about my dad dying and how lonely Mum was now. I'd tell him about the word Mummy kept using, and how no one would tell me what it meant. I told him that I was frightened. But that he didn't need to be frightened; we were looking after him and soon he would be well and he could run and play and do the things he liked to do before he was hurt. And sometimes, hand shaking slightly as a result of Mum's dire warnings, I reached in and stroked his russet fur, careful to avoid his bandages. His good eye would close to a half slit, his mouth would part, and his tail would twitch when I did this and by those signs I decided that he liked being petted. He never nipped me, at the very least, or tried to get away.
A month passed, and while he was still weak he no longer needed medicine. My doctors appointments had increased to an alarming rate, and I was terrified. I knew I was going to die, then. I knew what all the whispering was about now. I told the fox kit that I didn't want to die. He was well enough by this time that I could take him out of his box and hold him without hurting him, and if Mum knew she would have had a fit but I didn't care.
The day we released him back into the woods was horrible. I bawled, and Mum hugged me and said this was better for him, living in our garage was no good for him, he wanted to leave, which was why he kept trying to slip out when she opened the door, why he had chewed his box to bits. But I felt as though I were losing the best, most wonderful friend I'd ever had. The only friend I'd ever had. I tearfully waved goodbye as he cautiously slipped into the bracken. He stopped once, and looked over his shoulder at me, one eye still not looking quite right. The vet told us all foxes have yellow or brown eyes, and that my fox's eyes were only blue because he was so young, they would change colour as he got older. And then with a flit of his white-tipped tale he was gone.
A week later our neighbor Mrs Cross lost her wedding ring, and I found it on the garden path, and she hugged me when I gave it back to her. She lost a diamond bracelet the day after and I found it in the same place, and when I returned it to her I got a suspicious stare instead of a hug. When you found a pearl necklace later that afternoon Mum sat us down and started asking us if we had anything to tell her, and bewildered we said that we didn't.
I was too young to notice that I hadn't felt sick for days. A little boy is nothing but energy and once mine had been restored I did my best to forget the time when it had abandoned me. I was annoyed rather than frightened by Doctor visits now. They were looking at me differently now, and one fine autumn afternoon Mum got a phone call and ran shrieking out to me, grabbing and hugging me and screaming so loud I became frightened.
"Mum?" I asked, near tears.
"Benign! Oh baby, benign, benign, benign! There was a mix up in the lab, another little boy is sick, not you, benign, benign, BENIGN!"
I had a strange vision of a yellow and black striped number nine buzzing through a bed of flowers. I had no idea what Mum was talking about, why she was sobbing and kissing me and hugging me so hard that I couldn't breathe.
Now that I have children of my own I understand. Children I love, and I will miss dearly. I'm looking at their pictures on my desk now, smiling faces with their lovely mix of mine and Sharona's features, a glorious, miraculous alchemy. I can't bring myself to look at her picture. My darling, my love. Will she understand? I don't think she will, and for that reason I will ask you not to share this letter with her after I am gone. She will see it as my choosing another lover over her--and while there is some truth to that it is not the whole or even the greatest truth. It's not a matter of choosing, although it's true that Thom was ever my lover, as much as she was. We never kissed or fucked in the waking world but we were lovers all the same. My wife understood this deep inside her heart, her heart that understood there is more to making love than a clumsy exchange of fluids after rolling naked in bed. She watched Thom and I in the garden once not long ago, the two of us leaning together working out the music to 'Faust Arp' and when I looked and saw her face it was the face of a woman who has just seen her husband kiss his mistress. But I have a wonderful wife, a dear, amazing, spectacular wife who understood. She didn't like it, but she tolerated and accepted it, knew I would not be the same man that she had fallen so desperately in love without it.
I still remember the first time I saw her. She was beautiful, she glowed. I didn't believe in love at first sight until then. It wasn't just looks--she is and has always been the most beautiful woman in the world to me--I had seen beautiful women before, after all. There was just something about her, something about the way she smiled and the sound of her laugh and the way she walked that drew me to her, as undefinable as love itself is undefinable. All I know is that when I saw her the world stopped spinning, just for a moment.
Thom was the one who made me talk to her, you remember? She was there with a group of her friends, gorgeous Israelis laughing and smiling, nervously clutching their backstage passes. I was terrified of such girls, we all were in the beginning. At that stage in our lives in spite of everything we still viewed girls as these wondrous, mysterious creatures who had not the slightest bit of interest in us.
"Go talk to her, or I will," Thom said.
"I don't want to talk to her. And what will Rachel think?"
"Rachel knows tours are long and I get lonely and what I don't tell her won't hurt her," he answered, predatory eyes glittering as he studied Sharona, "Mind you, she's not really my type. I can't stand beautiful women. They're like sharks, attacking everything in sight and covered in those parasitic fish."
This was true, all the girls Thom had been with were striking or cute or just pleasant rather than beautiful, but I still said, "And you don't think your girlfriend is beautiful?"
"No. She's clever," he said with relish. He was correct in this--Rachel was always very clever. She had a sharp wit with a hair-thin streak of cruelty that he prized far above good looks, though she was pretty enough. I found it off-putting, in spite how she used it to keep him in check and make him a better man and also in spite of the kindness towards Thom she was capable of.
"She's loooooooovely, Jonny. I bet she fucks like a wild animal," he said. I knew he was goading me, tricking me, manipulating me but it was working regardless.
"Don't talk like that, she'th a human being," I muttered, lisp returning to my annoyance, as it always does when I'm in the grip of some strong emotion.
"Is she? Well I'm not quite. I think we'd go whether well together, her and me. I fuck like a wild animal too."
"I know," I said, so quiet he surely couldn't hear me, but he laughed and asked how I knew, and I blinked and wondered that myself, and settled for some lame answer that I could hear him through the walls. At the time I didn't remember the dreams, not clearly.
"Well, you'll be hearing us tonight, Jonny-boy. Unless you go talk to her first."
"Sod you," I muttered, then ducked away. Thom was as good as his word, not a minute had passed and he was stalking towards Sharona, offering his hand, loudly asking if she'd enjoyed the show. I lasted fifteen minutes watching them, wringing my hands and tugging my hair and gathering up my nerves. Finally I approached, and spoke my first words to what was to become my wife. I don't remember them. I feel as I should, but even she doesn't remember them. She was quite starstruck, we had exploded in Israel and everyone her age adored us. It was a new feeling. Thom was gone quick as smoke, and before I knew I was sitting on an old couch backstage, sipping champagne and talking to the woman I was going to marry. I knew that we were going to get married from the start, and she says she did as well. Her hair was long and straight and she wore it pulled back by several large silver hair pins and during our first conversation I kept coming back to the fantasy of pulling each one out and letting those long dark locks tumble down.
We talked. We talked for hours. How alike and how different our lives were. We talked until our manager came up to me and muttered that it was time to get this show on the road, that I could continue this conversation back at the hotel, and I felt my face heat up, and her cheeks darkened and she jumped up and said she needed to get going, that her fiancee would wonder where she was.
I was devastated by those words as only a young man newly lovestruck can be, and I chastised myself for being a fool, and told myself even if she were single everything would have ended after tonight anyway, and even if we didn't have sex then tonight was still wonderful.
Again it was Thom who kept me from cowardice. He appeared quiet and quick as smoke by my side, and loudly said someone should see this lady home, she had taken a taxi, hadn't she? We had cars, Jonny you should really take her home, a cab will be a fortune at this hour.
So our night didn't end, so when the driver stopped at her apartment she turned to me and said there was a cafe open all night, we could go and talk more there, her fiancee was probably asleep by now, we could talk a while longer. Our conversation ended in the loos with me lifting her off her feet and pressing her against the wall, her wrapping her legs around my waist and gasping in my ear and I quickly tugged at the pins in her hair, ran my hands through that silky black curtain. I'd never done anything like that with a girl before, ever. I couldn't believe I was doing it as it happened, and when we finished I whispered in her ear I loved her, I loved her, I'd never loved anyone like her. And she frantically whispered that we had just met, that she was getting married in four months to a man she'd known for years, a wonderful man, that this was a mistake.
"It isn't. I love you, I love you so much. Please. We're playing tomorrow, come to the show, come with me afterwards, I'll put your name on the guest list..."
"I can't. I can't."
"I'm sorry Jonny, no. I can't," and she was crying a little, she was pushing me away, she was trying to put her knickers back on before realising I had torn them in my haste. The silver engagement ring on her right hand gleamed.
"I'm putting your name on the guest list anyways. Think about it, please. Please."
When I got back to the hotel Thom was awake, alert in bed, and he smiled that slow, predatory smile of his and asked if I'd had a good night. Or morning, rather.
"It's horrible, Thom," I burst out, and told him what had happened.
"Sounds rather wonderful to me."
"I'm not like you, Thom! I don't like just...fucking like that. I love her!"
"She's coming tonight, you'll get to do this again, you know."
"No she's not, haven't you been paying attention?"
"I have. Better than you, I think. She'll be back."
He was right, of course. She came back. I stayed an extra week in Israel, after the rest of the band had moved on ahead, for a break in England before still more shows.
She took off her engagement ring at the end of that week, and after the tour was over I brought her to England to stay with me, for a month that stretched into forever.
Colin, I can't believe I just wrote that out to you. Perhaps it is more information than you ever cared to know about your sibling's sex life, and surely you must be thinking that it has little to do with explaining to you where I have gone, and why I have left. But it has everything to do with that, you will understand when I am through. It's taking me longer than I thought I would, writing this out. Perhaps I should have thought ahead, written this out on any day other than this one, this one where the rain is falling from a sunny sky. I keep telling myself that it will stop any second, and I will be safe again but I know in my bones that it will not, and I know that if it truly looks as though it will I will throw my pen down and race off through the fields, my story unfinished.
Although perhaps it doesn't need to be finished, does it? Perhaps you will guess, you will know without having to be told. Yet still, I will write longer, as long as I can and tell you as much as I can before I leave. I owe you that much.
I don't suppose I need to tell you much of the day we first met Thom. You were there, of course. You met him before I did, even. I had made friends with a boy my year called Andy not a week before Thom showed up. Andy was a great friend, the first friend I ever made who I genuinely liked as a person and as himself, rather than being thrown together with someone because we were the same age and our parents knew each other. The day you met Thom was the day I found the guitar in the music room. It was beautiful, the most beautiful guitar I've ever owned. Oh, I know now it was shit, a cheap instrument for a cheap musician but it was the first one I ever held, the first one I ever clumsily tried to figure out the strings. I had loved music, had loved listening to records with you in your room, had eagerly sat as Susan played us new music, strange music unlike any I had ever dreamed of. I did well in orchestra, I loved my viola but until I gripped that guitar music had been an infatuation and now it was an obsession, a deep an unquenchable love that didn't leave me until Thom did. I no longer think much of the guitar in of itself, it's an instrument like any other to me now, but as a ten year old boy it was something wondrous.
I was not surprised to find a guitar. I was always finding things, I was a lucky boy that way. I couldn't walk down the street without a ten pound note fluttering across my feet, I could not go to the movies without finding a toy forgotten by some little boy like me wedged in the seat, when I went into ice cream parlors the girls working behind the counter would say that the last person in hadn't want the extra cone of ice cream he had ordered, would I like it instead? I'd go fishing with my granddad and pull out ladies handbags, devoid of identification but with money and occasionally jewelry that I could give to my mum. We put ads in the paper but these items were rarely claimed, and in the case of the guitar I asked my music teacher who had left this guitar here he had frowned, and said he'd ask around, but he didn't know who it could belong to, and I could take it home if I promised to give it back should its owner be found.
Andy was duly impressed by my new find, and we hurried home to show it to you. When we got there was when I first saw Thom. There was a boy perched on your bed, a boy with russet brown hair and an alert, twitchy expression, and he grinned and greeted Andy warmly.
Colin, I denied what happened next for years, I know you didn't notice it but I did, and I swear it's true. On my life, on my children's lives Andy did not recognise Thom when he first spoke. He looked at his brother as though he'd never seen him before, and Thom had to repeat his greetings slowly before Andy blinked and asked him what he was doing her, hadn't Mum grounded him?
"It's over now, Andy. Your mate has a great brother, by the way," Thom said, grinning. He was staring at your room wide-eyed and curious, even you would have to have noticed, would have to have remembered those first visits to our house. The way he'd laugh in amazement at the coffee machine, the way he'd slyly examine the refrigerator, gasping at its coldness. Surely Colin, you remember. Surely you noticed. Surely you saw him at least once playing with the faucets in the sink, muttering about controlling the water, that was brilliant, could get a drink at any time that way. Maybe he hid it better around you, but you had to have noticed. Noticed him watching the speakers of your record player, noticed him looking behind them to see where the music was coming from. Perhaps you thought he was just a freak. You liked freaks at thirteen, you were trying to be one yourself with your black clothes and strange, droning music, and Thom's eccentricities were just part of his appeal to you.
After making token exclamations over my guitar you told Andy and me to bugger off, and in my room Andy and I sat and I asked him why he had never mentioned having a brother before.
"I forgot," he said, a strange look on his face.
"How could you forget you had a brother?"
"I...of course I didn't forget I had a brother!" Andy said, although from his tone it sounded like he had done just that, "I mean...I forgot...forgot to mention it..."
I shrugged, and dismissed it. I had only been to Andy's house once, and seen no evidence against the elder Yorke's existence, having only stopped in the kitchen for a snack. We fiddled about with the guitar for a bit and Andy seemed to forget that he forgot Thom, and told me a bit about him. He was weird. Had been injured as a child, hence the eye. In and out of the hospital, countless doctors appointments and surgeries for as long as Andy could remember. That sounded all too familiar to me. When they left there was no more strangeness between Andy and Thom.
I have to stop writing. The rain is making the strangest noise against the window panes, it sounds...it sounds like there is music. Like how when I was little I used to ride in the car, used to hear patterns in the noise of wipers and the hiss of static on the radio. There's a drumming, a wild, disorganised tune and Colin, it's all I can do to sit here, to keep writing. I've only had to endure it a few hours, it's unbearable, if Thom heard it his whole life I understand him better now than I ever did.
"Why are you so sad?" I asked him, one afternoon, not long before he left. We were in his bed together, I had come in just as Rachel and the children were leaving, and she told me he was in one of his moods, see what I could do. When I came in the curtains were drawn and the room was dark and I didn't even bother to kick off my shoes when I slid in bed with him, slung an arm and leg over his still form, pressed my cheek against his hair. His cheeks were wet.
"It's too much, sometimes."
"Everything. Knowledge. Reading the news. Knowing none of us have long left. Knowing things. Knowing that Rachel and Andy and my parents will die. Knowing," his voice choked, "Knowing you'll die. I want to run away from it all, but I'd miss you. I'd miss you so."
"You assume you'll outlive me," I say with a smile, kissing his hair. This aspect of my relationship with Thom has never seemed strange to me--holding him, touching him, going to his bed to sleep next to him even if we were staying in a hotel room with two beds. It was far from the most unusual thing about Thom, after all.
"I know I'll outlive you, and I can't bear it. I hate knowing it, I hate knowing things! Even knowing of music, of feeling it in my hips and elbows and hands, it burns. How can you live? With all that music inside you?" he changed track abruptly.
"You have it in you as well, you just said."
"I don't, I steal it from you, I always have. When you go it will go with you."
"Really?" I asked, idly playing with his hair. It's thinner and finer than it was when he was a boy, "I always thought it was the opposite. That you gave this to me."
"Maybe I did," he whispers, "But no matter where it came from it's still yours now."
"Rachel wants you to get out of bed."
"She can go fuck herself."
"You love her, really you do."
"I know," he said miserably, "I didn't think I would, you know. But I do. As much as I love you, but...it's different."
He buried his face in my neck, beard as soft as animal fur and whispered, "It's hard, trying to be something you're not. Loving someone you're not meant to..."
"You're meant to love me," I say firmly.
Did you realise he and I talked to each other this way? Do you have anyone you talk to this way, Colin? I think I'm fairly unique in this regard, and I wonder why. Why we cannot admit we love someone, why we cannot put our arms around that person and whisper the truth of it in his ear. Why we are afraid of this closeness. Why we deny physicality with everyone except sex partners. Although perhaps that is a hypocritical statement, perhaps I am still in denial. I didn't remember the dreams then but I remember them now. Dreams that left me with undeniable evidence that Thom indeed fucks like a wild animal. Dreams that I woke up from with long scratches on my hips and bitemarks on neck from Thom's teeth, teeth as sharp as a fox's. Marks that faded within a few hours along with the memories.
In one dream I asked him why we did this, and he answered that he wanted to be close to me, he loved me.
"Why only here? In dreams?"
"Your wife wouldn't like it. Or maybe you wouldn't, awake."
"Why did you make me talk to her, then? Why did you meet Rachel? Why weren't we always lovers, like this, from the start?"
"Because I didn't understand. I didn't realise it was possible for us to be like this awake...I just wanted you to be happy, with a wife and children and...I didn't realise I'd be around so long. That I could never make myself leave you."
"Do you regret it?"
"No. You're happy. I'm happy, mostly."
Andy and I were friends, good friends, up until the summer Thom and I spent alone. You were off to University, you and Ed and Phil and Thom and I were alone. Andy and I played music, had our own little band, one that was better than yours. At first Thom would come over with Andy, and it would be the three of us. Then Thom started showing up without Andy, when Andy was away. I thrilled, gloried, and delighted in his presence.
No one felt about music the way Thom did. No one devoured it like he did.
"It hurts sometimes," he'd say, eyes closed, listening to 'Yesterday' by the Beatles, "Not the words, the words are cliffnotes, explaining to you what you should already know, but I need them. You don't, do you?"
"No," I said, thrilled that he at least grasped how I felt. Words themselves were superfluous. A voice that sang them may not be, and Thom's was such a voice, one I never tired of hearing, but I didn't know the lyrics. I didn't need to know them.
"It's nice being here, listening to music with you."
"Are things...are things OK at home?" I asked, unsure of myself. Thom didn't get on very well with his parents.
He shrugged, then said, "My parents don't like me very much."
"Sure they do."
"They don't. They want me to leave," he said this indifferently, "They'll get their wish, soon enough."
I knew he was talking about leaving for school, but his tone frightened me know the less, "Don't go far, I'd miss you."
"Besides, we're starting the band soon, yeah?"
"I can't do it with you. I mean, we can't do it."
"Do you want to be in a band, Jonny? Very much?"
"More than anything. So long as you're in it."
"What about Andy?"
I didn't answer, and I felt guilty. Andy may have been the superior musician at the time but he wasn't Thom, and I loved Thom, even then I loved him. Not like I would love my wife, years later, but like I loved sunshine when I was happy and the smell of rain on a summer's evening. This strange, curious little man who had shown up so suddenly in my life.
"Then we'll be in a band together," Thom said.
My heart stopped just now, I cried out in grief, because I thought the rain had stopped. I thought I heard it stopped, and I was in a holy terror, because I thought I was too late, and in spite of all my protests that I want to stay I know I don't. I know I want to run into the rain and never return, that no love of family and friends can keep me here. Maybe if I still had the music I could, I could live here without Thom but he took the music with him when he left.
I was in a fog after it happened. After I stood on the beach and watch the lifeguard bring in his surfboard, my arms around Rachel as she wept. He's a good swimmer, I said. He'll be fine. He is fine, they never found his body. He didn't drown, it was a sunny, beautiful day but it was still raining on the shore. He left me, left us.
Six months later we buried an empty casket and I tried to go on living. I tried to accept that I would never see him again. A fox chewed through the wires of my chicken coop, chewed them to pieces and I came out with a shotgun, firing it awkwardly in the air, and when the fox darted out I held my breath, to see if it had blue eyes instead of yellow, to see if one eye was crooked. But it was just a fox, and I sat down in filth amongst bloody feathers and wept.
"I'm so proud of you, Jonny," Thom said when I won my Oscar for best original score. I had brought him as my 'date', since Sharona has never cared for that aspect of my life, "I wanted it for you last time, it should have been yours last time," he growled that last bit, then brightened, "But the new baby was better, yeah?"
"Good. I want you to be happy, Jonny."
We were in L.A., we had gone back to my hotel and Thom was drawing over my small gold statue with red lipstick he had acquired from god knew where.
"You have everything now, you know. Beautiful wife. Wonderful children. Talent."
"You. I have you too."
"You don't need me to be happy."
"I need you more than anything else to be happy."
That night was the closest time we came to being lovers here, in the waking world instead of in the land of dreams, but for whatever reason we didn't, and a month later he left.
This is what Andy said to me on the day we put an empty box in the ground under a grey stone with Thom's name on it.
"I'll tell you something Jon," Andy said abruptly in the kitchen, amongst the casseroles and cakes and everything else people bring to funerals,"And maybe it's crazy. Maybe...I don't know why I'm telling you this. But that day, that day you found the guitar in the music room and you met Thom for the first time...that night I had a dream. I dreamed that I never had a brother, that I was an only child my whole life. That it was just my mother and father and I, and Thom didn't exist, that he had never even been in our house until that day he was in your brother's room. That he wasn't part of our family, that he was just pretending, that his room at the end of the hall wasn't there before he got there," Andy paused, and looked dead in my eyes and said, "But it was just a dream, wasn't it? It's not crazy if it's a dream. It's not crazy to remember that the day before you stopped by our house, ate a sandwich in our kitchen, and as you left I saw a fox in the garden watching you?"
"It was just a dream," I repeated faintly, "And there were foxes everywhere there, we had one in our garden as well."
I excused myself. If there had been a body in that casket I would have thrown myself into it, to be buried next to it. But it was empty. My Thom, my wonderful, magical friend had gone.
One night in Paris we stayed up until dawn, eating at an all night cafe, watching the city come to life, and he asked me if I wanted to go to Provence with him, we had a week before our next show, it was plenty of time. And so I went, and we stayed in a Chateau in a town by a lake, a lake as clear as glass and cold as ice and we waded up to our chins shivering, and he grabbed my head and dunked me squealing under the water. His pale skin turned lobster red because he didn't bring any sunscreen.
One night when I was fifteen and he was 18, in our wonderful, together year we went to a party that the cops broke up, and we ran into the night, chased by heavy men with nightsticks yelling for us to stop, and Thom laughed and laughed and never stopped, running across the ground like mist, yelling over his shoulder he had been chased by worse. Tricking them by diving with me under the wheels of a parked truck, snickering all the while.
"He isn't dead," I told everyone who would listen, "He just left."
You and Sharona both gingerly suggested I see a psychiatrist after a year of me saying this.
Instead I told Stanley this, and he nodded. Of course he did.
"Where do you think he went, then?"
"I..." in the place behind the rain I thought, although I didn't know where this strange thought had come from, "I don't know."
"Did you know what he was, then?"
"I...what do you mean?"
"Kitsune. I saw his tail once, but I never let on. They don't like being found out, they usually leave if they are."
Kitsune is Japanese for fox. Kitsune is what Reiko's grandmother called Thom those ages ago, and when Stan spoke the word aloud I knew it to be true.
I read a book on Kitsune, Colin. It's on my desk, you can read it too, if you wish. If a kitsune loves you he will give you gifts, any gift you like, but the kitsune don't understand humans, so they steal things from other people and present them as gifts.
I was meant to die at six, I had no life left and another boy died in my place.
Sharona was meant for another man, but Thom nudged me into her arms.
Andy. Andy had the band, Andy had music and dreams, and I'm the one who ended up living them.
I'm not crazy, Colin. I'm not. Before I knew what a kitsune was I had felt the call, this same maddening call that is thrumming in my ears as I write this, on clear days when there is still rain. And this is what I read, and what you can read for yourself--that on days like this, when it rains even though it is sunny, this is a day where the kitsune move from this world to the next, and if you go out on a day like today you will find them.
They can make illusions, they can alter memory, they can make a man believe that a strange, russet brown haired boy is his son and has been for many years.
I talked to Stanley again, just to be sure I wasn't crazy, and he said.
"Just because you're right about Thom doesn't mean you aren't crazy, Jonny. You have a life, a good one. A perfect one. So go live it."
"Thing about foxes...you know how they hunt? They dance. They charm ducks, dancing and capering, and when they get close enough rip them to pieces."
"Thom loves me. He'd never hurt me."
"I suppose you're right. Still doesn't mean you should go chasing after him."
Thom said as much to me, in a dream. I had it two nights ago, and that was the dream that caused me to remember all the others long forgotten.
In the dream there was a fox in my chicken coop again, I could hear them shrieking in fright but when I ran outside I was in a garden, in the sunshine, with light rain misting on my cheeks, and Thom was there, sitting on a stone, dripping with wet.
"You need to let me go."
"How could you just...leave me?"
"I never meant to stay this long. I never meant to stay at all."
"Why did you?"
"I loved you, I saw you, I saw you playing with a boy and I wanted to do that to, be your friend, share secrets with you, live a life with you. It was too hard, in the end. Being something I was not."
"What about Rachel? The children?"
"I'll miss her, but she knew better than you ever did that this would happen eventually. And the children...well, they'll come to me some day."
"And I can't?"
"No," he said, but there was a hesitation in his voice.
I attacked him then, we were naked and I remembered every dream I'd had about this, every one I'd forgotten.
"Why this, then? What part of this is there, why this if you were always planning on leaving?" I said this as I moved over him, felt his bare skin against mine.
"Selfishness! I never...I never thought...I gave you so much, to make you happy..."
We said nothing more for a long time. When you are awake frantic couplings in the mud leave a great deal to be desired but in dreams there is nothing sweeter.
"All I ever needed to be happy was you," I say, "You're the only thing, and the only thing you could never give me, could you?"
He was naked in my arms, trembling and whispered, "In the rain. When there's still sun...you can find me, if you wish. But Jonny...your life, your life is wonderful, I did everything I could to make it so, live it, please."
I woke up, and I tried to. I tried to live my life, my perfect, wonderful life. My storybook life. A young boy cheats death. A young boy becomes a success before his 22 birthday. A young man marries the most wonderful woman alive, has three beautiful children. An older man becomes a success, he fulfills his every creative ambition. He is loved. He is handsome. He is happy. I am happy.
I am happy, but my kitsune, my Thom, is out there in the rain, he's calling to me and I have to go. I have to leave now, this instant. I'm sorry, please forgive me.
Listening to: Radiohead