Lineage (6)

Jaydn Dewald


I'm handsome—a bit handsomer, I think, than my brother—but perhaps not quite as handsome as our father, whose dark eyes and delicate brushstrokes of gray about his ears make him look dignified and private—like a great exiled European poet—though he is in fact rather gregarious and clumsy. Just this morning, for example, emptying the dishwasher in his V-neck Hanes, a plate slipped from his hands and shattered instantly on the marble tile, an accident we'd witnessed a gazillion times: He stares down at the shards, nostrils flared, arms flung out, underlip angled grotesquely rightward, as though snagged on a fishhook. I must admit he looks at such times (that is to say frequently) quite ugly—not at all as handsome as outsiders believe—which makes me, whose handsomeness is never marred by actions, the actual handsomest man of the household, don't you think? Still, whenever I look at my brother, who ought now to envy me and watch me the way the two of us long envied and watched our father, he is gazing at himself in a gilded mirror, or a storefront window, or a bottle-green puddle out back, so that I think that he (with his crew cut and tight black tees) may indeed be the handsomest, and that I have little sense of my own appearance, or of my very self—inside or out. Now, at dusk, I reach into the kitchen trashcan, lift out a shard of broken plate, and hold it up to my face, as I'd seen somebody do in a tragic opera: my left eye, funhouse-mirrored, stares back at me dimly, disfiguredly. But I refuse to look away; I feel certain my brother and our father are, from their respective doorframes, silhouetted behind and on either side of me, waiting for me to renounce myself, to slam the shard back into the trashcan, and to—why else would they be so quiet?—slink away into the shadows, an ashamed monster. Thus I continue to gaze at myself, thus I begin to sway from side to side in the dusk-lighted kitchen, running my free hand through my hair. My handsomeness, I must admit, seems not to matter at all anymore. As long as I keep up this performance, as long as I keep them silhouetted in their doors . . .