Prologue

He was perfect and real, and everything that I've tossed around in my bed dreaming about. He said, "Stop smoking," and I put the Newport pack down on the coffee table, the cigarette smoke clearing enough for me to glimpse his beaming face. He said, "I love you," and I believed him because I'm stupid and so naïve. The truth lay buried beneath his kiss the entire time, every false peck, and I believed every single one of them. It's funny how life deals you a winning hand but in the end the other player pulls a card out of their sleeve and wins regardless. I was never so gullible as to believe in Fate, but when I met his eyes in the old movie theater in our one-horse town, the nebulous of gray and blue tugged at my heart-strings so violently that the echo resonated throughout my beating chest. And I checked myself: was there such a thing called Fate? Was It standing there, embodied inside a young man whose lips were too thin and hair too long?

He said, "I have a secret," but I never had time. I never had time. But I did have time; the hands on my clock were just frozen and wouldn't function again until he stepped out of my world—the world in which I had thought was so perfect, so real, and so believable but was now dead, lying like a withered rose inside a Rosemary coffin that will never be good enough.

He said, "Stop doing that to me," and when I asked what, he responded, "Making my heart beat faster in my chest." He was a romantic, a dreamer, a lover—except I'm not sure if I ever loved him. Maybe I believed I did at one time, but that was before he let the secret unfold into a web of deceit, so sticky that I couldn't seem to untangle myself for the life of me.

When he sighed acquiescently into my ear, his warm breath sending shivers spiraling through my ensanguined veins, I buckled beneath the weight of his inquiry or request, giving in to whatever he desired. It was never about sex. We only did that once, and it was in the back of his chipped pick-up truck idling absentmindedly in an open field, beneath stars that looked like tiny eyes, the sentry of the heavens watching us from above. We never mentioned it again; it was like an inside joke, a personal fire simmering behind our expressions.

He said, "Sam, will you marry me?" and I had foolishly accepted, knowing that it was too good to be true. Perhaps my mother had been right all along: good things must always come to an end. But this good thing skidded to a halt before its final destination, before it could ever really be considered 'great', dropping me down from sixty feet above and leaving me with no landing spare a hard ground that didn't yield.

I could never really trust anybody to begin with. Now, I guess I'll be alone for the rest of my life.

As I stare down at the polished surface of a closed casket, a hand on my shoulder and a tissue balled angrily in my hand, furious tears stinging my eyes, I realize that it was never about me. It had always been about him, the one person who I actually trusted subsequent to my twin's death—the guy who had pretended to be there when he was really in another room entirely, on a stupid coffee break. Instead of a rose, I threw a used tissue. And I didn't feel guilty, even after his mother shot askance glares in my direction or my own mother's hand relinquished from my shoulder, a gasp of incredulity breathing down my back.

I turned my back on the closed casket, riffled through the right side of my jacket pocket and withdrew a pack of Newports. Only they were empty, and I laughed at the irony. Thank you, Jim.