It is four o'clock in the morning, and my brother is a whale. He is awake, outside. I am standing, and he is with me, crouched over a fire, burning photographs. We are silent. A birthday cake glows orange and curls.
"Can I at least keep this one?" I ask him.
"No way dude. That's exactly why you can't keep it: cause you want to. Get it?"
I don't answer him because I don't get it. But I trust him.
"Go in the house and get more," he says. "Please?"
I groan and go inside. Deep in my mother's chest I find a box of baby pictures. Hospitals, Halloween, and naked penises stare at me. I find one of me at Disney World and slip it in my back pocket. I set the box next to my brother and we sit in silence. One by one we burn them. After a long while, he speaks.
"Sometimes . . ." He pauses. "Sometimes after I masturbate--"
"Dude, shut up. Listen. Sometimes after I masturbate--I mean after I orgasm--I get this strong urge to run away, as fast as I can, in one direction--"
"--and sometimes, like when Mom asks me what I want to do with my life, I suddenly get the feeling that what I want to do is dig a hole, like an endless one. Or I want to walk, just walk, for the rest of my life." He throws a picture on the flame. The box is empty.
"What does that have to do with this?" I ask.
He shrugs. I nod. The fire goes out.
Guilty, I take the picture from my pocket and hand it to him. He looks at it and laughs, holds it over his cigarette lighter and looks at me with a smile.
"Fuck Mickey Mouse," he says, and hands me the burning photo.
I hold it and let it burn down to my fingers, ashes floating upward.