(scroll below for links to other stories in this series)
The art of imitation is not an easy one to master. Randall Harris studied his brother Rallie every second of every day, for years. Every scrap of information – likes and dislikes first, because those called attention too easily. Emotions came later: humor, anger, tenderness, love.
Humor was hard. But love was harder.
At the creek late one July afternoon, pants rolled up and twin pair of ankles legs in the water, Rallie asked him, “You love Mom and Dad, right?”
Had anyone except Rallie been asking, Randall’s answer would’ve been an unwavering Yes. He’d learned that much. But he’d also discovered that honesty made Rallie open up the intricacies of that inside that Randall desperately wanted. “What does love feel like?”
Rallie threw a pebble into the speckles of sun glinting by. “You remember Mom tucking us in at night?”
That tucking in had stopped last year, when the boys had crossed that invisible line between children and bags of hormones. Now she just stood at the door and whispered good night before turning off the light, but back then she’d sit on their beds – usually Rallie’s because he asked and Randall never did – and tell them stories, not made-up stories but real ones, stuff about her childhood and their dad’s, about people she’d known. She’d laugh softly, touch their foreheads – mostly Rallie’s, but sometimes Randall’s too – and sit there until the frenzy of the day wore off them in waves and their blinks became longer and longer.
Rallie took a step closer. “You remember how good that felt? When she pushed your hair back? How soft she smelled, how safe she made you feel?”
Safe. Another feeling to decrypt.
Randall nodded. He’d never felt anything, but he wasn’t lying to Rallie. He nodded because he understood. He remembered Rallie’s sick lamb eyes those nights, how he’d close them under Mother’s hand, how his own hand lingered on her arm when she stood to go. Randall hadn’t understood then, but now he began to. Those things went together with love. He’d have to remember that.
Rallie was looking at him now, a strange shimmer in his eyes. It made Randall uncomfortable, but before he could turn away, Rallie grabbed his wrist. “I love you, you know. I know you’re – different. I don’t expect you to feel the same. But I thought you ought to know.”
On the walk back home Randall’s head fussed. I know you’re different.
Imitation must be done convincingly. Even then, if the real thing is available, the best effort will be wasted. No imitation can succeed faced with the real thing.
A peace settled upon Randall. He didn’t have much time. The summer had just begun. Two months to prod and probe, get as much of that inside as he could.
If the real thing isn’t around for comparison, the imitation has a better chance at success.
No, not success. Just avoiding rejection.
published 14 January 2013
click below for more stories in this series:
• The First in Anyone's Memory (#3)
• The Bogie Comeback (#4)