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I have been gifted with misunderstandings. I said that once to my friend Blake, and he said, “I have been gifted with this son’s panties.” This is the sort of thing I like about Blake.

For the most part, I’m still reeling. About a month ago, my twin brother drove drunk into an empty McDonald’s. The impact didn’t kill him, but his injuries did. The doctors were pretty sure he’d survive it.

My parents decided to do a burial instead of a cremation. Blake thinks this is weird, and frankly speaking, so do I. In South Korea, where Blake lives, funerals last for three full days.

I spent most of the services upset and sulking about my brother’s outfit, which I had no say in. He’s going to be buried forever in long sleeves and a blue tie. He hates long sleeves and also that color.

“I can’t get over it,” I’m telling Blake. “I know it doesn’t matter. He’s dead and beyond caring.”

“But you care,” he says.

I feel that caring is how most misunderstandings start. Lately, I’ve been ignoring Mom and Dad whenever they speak to me, which they interpret as resentment. The truth is that I care so much about honoring Jason for who he was that I can’t open my receptors to much of anything else. Their words are cool wind to me.

Blake says it’s like how, when someone has a crush on you, they often don’t talk to you.

“I don’t think anyone’s ever had a crush on me,” I say.

“I’ve had a crush on you,” he says. “But not now, though.”

It’s easy to talk to Blake and not easy to talk to other people. We met online about a year ago while playing Mario Kart. Back then, he went by Bevys, his real name, which mostly got pronounced as “babies” when he and his dad left Michigan for Seoul. He says Wyoming is the land of wry homies, because that’s where I live and that’s what I am.

“Dude, pay attention.”

Sometimes, in underwater levels or on tracks with huge skies, I become lost in the blue and forget what it is I’m doing. In battle-mode, I can’t be on the blue team or I unconsciously sabotage myself. My own balloons.

For the most part, life is weird. Jason and I used to get mistaken for each other all the time, but now invariably the teachers recognize me, and I have to accept being on display. The world is feeling more and more limiting to me.

“Tell me about it,” says Blake. “Dad got me a Korean tutor.”


“I said Dad got me a Korean tutor.”

Blake’s dad is a pitching coach for the Doosan Bears. Before that, he managed the team at the University of Michigan. Americans get paid a lot of money to travel to Korea on these baseball contracts, but the tradeoff is that you have to live in an apartment in Seoul instead of a house in Ann Arbor. Plus, your children have to attend an international school, where apparently all the grades are shoehorned into one building.

About a week passes before I understand why more Korean might translate to less freedom for him. My dead brother is his new alphabet, as both increase our visibility. Suddenly we have fewer excuses not to engage.

“Her name is Yumi,” Blake explains, “and we talk on Zoom every Tuesday and Thursday, unless we don’t.”

I wonder if Yumi became a tutor because she enjoys misunderstandings. Most people do not. Something I’ve found over the course of my short life is that conversation is a workout in which I must labor to ensure sense. The routine does not on any level make my heart stronger.

“Plenty of sweat, though,” Blake jokes. “All down my swampy ass.”

“Are you basically confined to small talk, then?” I ask him.

What he is, he confesses, is super attracted to Yumi, who’s pushing fifty.

I try but can’t get over that name of hers. You and me, again and again. It represents something different in Korean, I am aware. My own name refers to loyalty and faithfulness.

At school, there’s this kid named Connor, who’s made a point of telling me day in and day out that my brother is a criminal. That he uses the present tense is the most confusing part of it. Connor and his mom used to get hashbrowns and McMuffins every morning for breakfast on their way to school, which they can’t now, given Jason’s choices, and losing this ritual has been disturbing for him. I don’t know what to tell him about it, because the only thing that occurs to me whenever he’s accosting me is that his body is far too chiseled to be running on fast food like that.

“What would a faithful and loyal brother do to the shit-talker?” I ask Blake one day.

“A favor for him?” he says. “That’s what Benjamin Franklin did. Some kind of psychological trick to manipulate his enemies, I guess. Could potentially be worth trying.”

When, however, I give Connor the egg sandwich I made specifically for him, he fastballs it at my face, and before I know it I’ve broken his blue-framed glasses against his sharp nose.

I’ve had a counselor at school since before Jason died. She’s reminding me now that what we do when we encounter conflict is breathe and use our words. No one, she assures me, has forgotten the terrible tragedy I’m being asked to live through.

“Are you going to talk to Connor about throwing the sandwich at me and calling my brother a criminal?” I ask her.

“Not personally, no,” she says.

Nothing comes of the altercation except that Mom and Dad have to buy him new glasses. I can’t help focusing on two aspects of the whole ordeal. One is that we’re reliving the worst part of my grief. I don’t want blue, and here they do. Two is that we never eat breakfast together, which stings especially because if a bully can eat with family, then why can’t we?

“Your dad doesn’t eat breakfast,” Mom gives as a reason.