Right Back Where We Started From
by Ishafel

After their mother dies, he doesn't see Oliver or hear from him for three years. He leaves his phone number on D.H.'s answering machine every time he moves, but Ol doesn't call. It's understandable; there's never been much holding them together and he can see where Oliver might need a break from family. But Igby's disappointed anyway. Then, graduation announcement from Columbia, summa cum laude, but it's addressed in Bunny's handwriting, and she's written a note, "Please come, Igby, I know Ollie would love to see you."

Stupid fucking Bunny, but he comes. He's late, and he stands in the back instead of sitting with Bunny and D. H. and afterward when Oliver sees him he doesn't look too happy. He gets pale beneath his tan, like he's going to be sick, and all he says is, "Igby. Please go." It's the closest to emotion Igby's seen from Oliver for a long time. He respects that, enough to leave. He was ready to go anyway, before Bunny had him moving in with them. "You know D.H. thinks of you as a son, Igby." He flies back to California thinking that apparently Ol hadn't loved seeing him and wondering about the dumb fucking luck that made Ol Jason's son and him D.H.'s. It doesn't make any sense, no matter how you think about it. And he wonders what was so wrong. Is Oliver just afraid Igby will screw up his perfect life? But Igby's not doing so badly, these days. Decent apartment, string of respectable jobs, he gets by, he's nothing to be ashamed of. Fucking fascist Oliver. He wonders if it was him -- having him around, constant reminder of his whore Mimi's infidelity -- that destroyed his father.

Oliver gets his M.B.A. in Chicago and Smith Barney hires him. He's a rising star, the new D.H. Guaranteed to make partner by forty. He doesn't write Igby and he doesn't call. Maybe he doesn't care. Igby doesn't care either. Why should he? There's nothing he and Oliver have in common. All there was was blood and it was buried with their mother. He doesn't care, he's just curious and he only writes back to Bunny to be polite. After all he's almost like a son to D.H.

D.H. calls wanting to take him to lunch, and Igby goes. D.H. has cancer. It couldn't happen to a bigger asshole. Literally. Igby doesn't laugh, because he's pretending to be an adult. He doesn't laugh until lunch is over, anyway. He's twenty- five, and he's written a book, and it looks like it might be publishable. He's not Oliver, but he's a success, at least by his own standards. He drives D.H. back to LAX and on the way there they clambake in the car. D.H. reeks of it by the time they get there and Igby hopes he'll get busted but he won't; he never does.

Oliver calls to tell him when D.H. dies. He doesn't sound particularly broken up about it. Igby flies East again, first class this time, for the funeral. He wears a dark suit and sunglasses, no tie, and he meets Ol's fiancée for the first time. Betsy, blond and beautiful and friendly, a high-powered lawyer in a well-known firm. She's some kind of cousin of D.H.'s, she's read Igby's book, she's very much in love with Oliver. She's no Sookie, and in fact she's a little too good to be true. Oliver himself looks tired, older than twenty-eight, circles under his eyes like bruises. Igby sits with them at the funeral, Betsy between him Oliver, Bunny on Ol's other side.

Igby can smell the vodka; he recognizes it even though Mimi always drank gin. At first he thinks it's Bunny, she used to be more of a pillhead but people change. He wonders if he'll be able to score some Valium off her later -- he hates to fly sober. It takes him a while to realize the vodka's Ol. His brother never drinks much, and only socially, but he's drunk now. Looking for it Igby can see all the signs. Ol's standing a little too straight, not his Nazi-at-attention pose but the way people stand when they're afraid of falling over. His pupils are a little big, he's breathing a little fast, his words are a little too careful. Ashes to ashes and dust to dust, today they're burying D.H. but next time it might be Oliver.

It's not Igby's fault. He's Jason's son, Mimi's son, it's in his genes, and he's cracking up. All those years he spent taking care of Mimi, the way he scrubbed the blood out of the shower after the fight. The way he scraped Oliver off the floor after D.H. beat him up. Now Oliver's falling apart, and who will clean up after him?

Betsy and Oliver get married but Igby doesn't go. He stays in California where the sun is always shining. Oliver's taken over D.H.'s old company, it's not really something he knows how to do but he loves a challenge. He's running it for Bunny, mainly, because Igby is the other major shareholder but he doesn't have any interest in it. He's met a girl, fallen in love. She's beautiful, skin like copper and straight black hair past her knees, and a smile that breaks your heart. He writes to Betsy now the way he used to write to Bunny. Her handwriting is better, more even, less round. She's solid, Betsy, working for a civil rights advocacy group in Georgetown, trying hard to get pregnant.

Igby wonders if Ol's had a vasectomy to keep from passing the crazy on. Betsy and Oliver send regrets for the wedding, so sorry they can't be there, but at the last minute Oliver calls and says he's coming. Igby figures he couldn't resist the chance to play the perfect big brother. He picks Ol up at the airport, driving Juana's Cabriolet; he's glad to see Oliver looks less tired, more sober. If he's had anything to drink at all it doesn't show. When they're in the car heading south, Ol says, "Look, can you pull over for a minute? There's something I have to tell you."

Igby pulls into a Burger King parking lot and Oliver turns to face him. He looks very serious, his hair golden in the sun his eyes unfathomable behind his aviator sunglasses. Igby has the top of the car down and he can smell rancid meat frying. Oliver puts his hand on Igby's thigh and leans in very close and kisses him gently on the mouth. He tastes like sunshine.

After he sits back and they've caught their breath and Igby remembers how to speak he says, "What did you want to tell me?"

Ol slides his sunglasses down his nose and meets Igby's eyes for the first time in a while. "That was it," he says, and smiles. Igby smiles back at him.


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