Two girls on the bus survey the curves we bound into boyish shapes—3 AM, stumbling home from a costume party with sleepy eyes and sloppy grins, we look like children playing thieves.
“Brothers? Are we brothers?” you ask me with a smirk that cracks your face in half, divides mischievous eyes from hair shaved into something like sideburns. Somewhere between your brain and mine, our history unravels and we howl.
You kissed me the first week we met—3 AM on a mattress in your bedroom, an island in a sea of costumes and cat hair and radical queer zines. You kissed me in my curve-hugging tank top, smeared my mascara with your little boy hands (dirty nails and ink-stained fingertips), told me I was hot. And I stared at you in your baggy jeans and suspenders, clenched the tail of your mohawk in my femme dyke hand (painted nails clipped short for acoustic guitar), and wondered why I didn’t look like you.
We laugh about that night now. Don’t get me wrong—I still feel the cold curve of your lip ring pressed against my teeth once in a while, but it’s coupled with a punch to my shoulder now, a teasing glint in your eye. ‘Cause you don’t kiss on your kid brother.
Yeah, we’ve changed a little.
We spent autumn days outside while you smoked your endless cigarettes, dropping flecks of tobacco and new words that hit sore spots somewhere, words like “genderqueer.” Those words told us it was ok to experiment, so we did it together, playing dress-up in boy drag, in femme drag, shaving hair in some places and letting it grow in others. We renamed ourselves at the same time, switching up pronouns for genderplay, and somewhere between the theory and the genderfuckeries we pulled on strangers (our own word for “passing as boys”), we found ourselves in those games.
Last summer you gave me the clothes you outgrew and helped me stencil mine, preserving scorching days in wild tales and wheatpaste. You provided me with your secondhand books and the occasional boyish shove, called me “little dude” and “buddy.” And you hugged me in my binder and bodypaint, yanked on my tie with your littleboy hands, told me I was handsome.
“Yeah, we’re brothers,” you say and you kiss me just to shock them. We laugh all the way home.