I Love You, Bro.

By William Beachum
April 27, 2024

All my other brothers had left me before they could hold me.

To Hunter, my first brother,

I met you when I was a plagiarist. I had just learned that personality is supposed to be formed by imitating those you respect, and I started mirroring everyone around me. First, it was my dad, who was meant to be my mentor, best friend, and idol. I think you and I liked each other because we helped each other pretend to be our fathers. Better sons could get away with discovering themselves in their own ways. We had to pretend in order to be safe.

When I got bored of cheating off my dad, I copied off of you. I thought you would give me security, so I plagiarized your personality. I hadn’t found out yet that it wasn't yours. I thought that if I regurgitated your identity back to you, that if I mirrored your being, then you wouldn’t find a reason to leave me. You knew that.

Everything changed when you got into wrestling. I remember the day that you first asked me to wrestle with you. We were playing Battleship on your living room floor, and you told me you were bored. I hated people being bored of me. When you asked if you could show me some wrestling clips, I gave in.

Then you started to act out the clips with me. I kept telling you that we didn’t have to wrestle, but you assured me that we did. I held my breath and laid down so you could abuse me until I felt like it was love. I had nothing to protect. I remember you punching me in the gut with the strength of deception, holding my throat with the anger of a stolen childhood. I was too weak to say no, and you hated yourself too much to not use me like a ragdoll. If I stayed quiet and let you strangle me, then I would still be in your grasp. You didn’t like wrestling, but you kept doing it because your dad was watching us. It was his job to make sure you become a man, or at the very least, become him. This was your interview.

I don’t think it was your fault, Hunter. We were both victims of the situation.

We grew apart when I moved to another middle school. You didn’t reach out and you found other people. It hurt me, but I couldn’t tell you. We were friends because I let you live out a fantasy I wasn’t a part of.

The last time I saw you was when I watched you play football as a defensive lineman. I guess you really did like wrestling.

I left you as a man who plagiarized other men because he wanted to be close to them. I didn’t understand how to do it myself, so I cheated. Silently, I copied you until I fit into other men’s playbook.

To Johnathan, my second brother,

I met you after I had been caught. I had spent all of sixth grade chasing a high of masculinity that I never found, hanging out with people that I hated, who hated me back. But they made fun of me in ways that made me feel like I was one of them. If I could learn to take their insults, then maybe they would stop noticing me there. They always noticed me.

You showed me stupid memes in our English class that I didn’t think were funny, but I laughed anyway. I loved to believe that you cared about what I thought. You kept showing me memes and talking to me about Star Wars. When I had spent enough time listening to you, you felt like we were friends.

I spent most of seventh grade at your house. Most nights, your mom would make dinner for us and she’d call me family.

With spring coming, you decided that it was time to plant some seeds. We tried out for tennis together and gossiped about the other boys like moms at a book club. You were the only person on the team who would talk to me. I took comfort in that. The coach made us doubles partners and we played against people that were incompetent. I reassured you that you deserved to be higher up on the ladder, knowing that we both could have been there. We beat up other teams together, and it became cathartic as I watched you celebrate. It felt like I had a brother.

You would talk to me about the girls you liked, the porn you watched, and which friends you would hook up with first. I just listened to you like a mother because I was scared that you were bored of me as a brother. You told me I was loved because I did something that you loved. I could be one of the guys and listen to you like we were a couple. Your mother, your girlfriend, and your brother: I was a triple threat. I didn’t have to cheat anymore; I could just focus on you.

But we were friends. No matter what role I was relegated to in your life or what need I filled for you, we were still close, I think. We did the things that other boys did. We played with lightsabers together, we rowed in canoes together, and we went to birthday parties together.

Your mom didn’t like that. She knew things about me that I didn’t know.

I remember the last day we were supposed to play tennis together, and you kept trying to say you were busy. I knew you weren’t, but you kept insisting. You told me that your mom said we couldn’t hang out anymore. She hid me from the family. I kept telling her that I wouldn’t hurt you. She didn’t believe me.

I don’t think I’ve ever stopped feeling like I’m hiding a weapon.

To Aaron, my first real brother,

I was so scared when I met you. You are everything that I had been taught to ignore. You listen to rap, you skateboard, you embody every stereotypical part of masculinity that I was taught to run away from. I didn’t talk to you for most of our first semester together because of it. When you would be kind to me —pick something up for me, help me with a quiz, ask me how I was doing — I wrote it off, because frankly, I didn’t believe you.

I remember the moment I accepted your kindness. We were at a party together, and I finally gave in.

The noise of the party suffocated me, a melody of drunken tears and atrophied innocence. As I fought the clamor of the attention hounds, you asked me how I was doing. Words flowed out of me, breaking the dam of comfort. You concentrated on my thoughts with a delicate tenderness and you reported them back to me with a calm precision. No other man had let me talk without expecting something in return. With your hand on my back, I could feel the tension unfold. A promise of reassurance enveloped me. If I tried to escape your shelter, then I would be punished with the bitterness of subservience. In the most miniscule of moments, you protected me from the whispers of abandonment and you screamed at me to be heard.

After that day, we spent a month together until it was time for me to go home from college. We experienced the day I left together — getting breakfast, running errands, packing my clothes — and it was time for me to go to the airport. I started to walk to the Uber, expecting to leave without a trace.

You looked at me, processing that I would be leaving, and then you held me close like I was walking into another life. It was a complete acknowledgement of my being, a silent hug that somehow screamed “I see you.”. It wasn’t anxious, it wasn’t romantic — it was a hug only a brother could give. All my other brothers had left me before they could hold me.

With you, I don’t have to be a plagiarist, a mother, or a girlfriend: I can just be your brother and that’s enough. I am not a threat to you. I hope you read this and know that you managed to teach a very hurt person how to be taken care of. Even if I have to update this letter in the future to reflect a new reality, know that you have helped me discover a part of myself that feels comfortable being close to other men.

I say this to you because you’ve said it to me too: I love you, bro. I love you. 

Layout: Joy Delight Pesebre
Photographer: Liv Martinez
Video Cinematographer: Cameron Shin
Video Editor: Jayne Yi
Stylists: Miguel Anderson & Otofu Ayaku
Set Stylist: Lauren Munoz
HMUA: Floriana Hool
Models: Chase Smyth, Virgilio De Hoyos & Natán Murillo

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