Under it All
I stopped outside the hotel door at the sound of my brother cursing. I hesitated before I knocked, "Bill?"
I heard a few clonks of things being thrown around behind the door. Getting worried, I knocked again. "You okay in there?"
"Yes. Go away." His voice was thick, like if he were about to cry. I bit my lip. "Bill? Let me in."
"I said go away!" More bangs and rattling, and then a soft thud. As if someone had just dropped down on the floor. Bill.
"All right then," I sighed. "I'll just use the key."
But despite his protests, I took out my card and pressed it towards the door until the light went green. Carefully, I opened it.
What met me when the door opened was something that looked like an atom bomb had went off in Bill's suitcase. There were clothes, hairsprays, and make-up everywhere I looked. And behind the bed, back pressed against the wall, sat Bill. He had his face hidden in his hands, and tried to keep his shoulders from shaking.
"Oh, Bill," I sighed and walked over to him, sliding down beside him. "What's the matter?" I'd seen him cry before, sure. But my heart ached just as much every time.
Bill shook his head. "Nothing… It's… nothing."
I sighed, putting a hand on his shoulder. He didn't shrug it away; I took that as a good sign. "Come on, what's wrong?"
"Everything's wrong!" he blurted, throwing out with his right arm. "And - I look like a mess," he added and hung his head.
I looked at him carefully, his long hair hanging limply over his shoulders, his make-up still almost completely intact despite the crying he'd been doing. In my eyes, he looked perfect. "No, you don't." I told him.
"I do! Everywhere I go I get told I look like a walking skeleton, that I'm too skinny. I can't help that nothing I eat doesn't make me gain any weigh! And you!" he said accusingly, "You're just as thin… but you can hide it... I can't."
I looked at my brother in sympathy, what he said was true. I could easily hide my skinny body under my baggy clothes... Bill just weren't like that.
"And I can't find anything to wear for the concert tomorrow," he said sulkily, hugging his knees to his chest, "and my hair-sprays are empty."
"I wonder why," I laughed, but I quickly stopped after the dirty look he sent me.
"You just don't see yourself," I said matter-of-factly after a while of silence.
"And what's that supposed to mean?" He looked at me, his make-up now smudged out on his cheeks.
"I just mean that you shouldn't have to hide," I'd been thinking about this ever since he first started using that damn make-up.
"Hide?" he was playing dumb with me.
"All that," I motioned to his heavy painted eyes and the hair-products on the floor. "You're hiding behind it."
"I do not!" he smacked me in the chest.
"You do." I nodded. "You don't need it, you know," I added awkwardly.
"Yes, I do," he said lowly, looking down. "Or else I look like shit."
I'd had it. Getting up I grabbed his arm and yanked him up. "Tom, stop it." He said tiredly, but I ignored his protests and took him with me to the bathroom. "What are you - ?"
I placed him in front of the mirror. He met his reflection, groaned and looked away.
I reached for a white cloth on the sink, held in under the hot running water a while and wordlessly put it on Bill's face, dragging it over his features. "What are you doing?" he asked as his eyes closed and I carefully went over one of his eyes, removing the black there.
"Digging out my brother." I answered simply.
I worked carefully, slowly, and I could see my brother's bottom lip quiver.
I went for the other eye. First the eyelid, then under and then washing away what had run down his cheeks. No one spoke a word, and during the entire time Bill held his eyes closed, his head dropped slightly downwards, but I tipped it back up.
I had to wash the cloth, it had gotten black. I cleaned it and went back to Bill, dragging the, now clean, cloth along his hairline. His shoulders started shaking slightly.
"Shhh…" I soothed as I worked the cloth over my brother's face, removing every trace of his make-up. "Don't cry…"
His shoulders stopped shaking, but his lip still quivered.
I stroke over his face one last time with the hot cloth, and then I was done. I stepped behind him. "Open your eyes," I spoke softly. His eyes opened slowly, but he refused to meet his reflection in the full-body mirror. "Look," I urged him. When he didn't obey I lifted his chin, forcing him to.
"That is the real you," I whispered. "That's my brother." I walked beside him, observing the reflection we made.
He blinked, another tear leaving his eye. But this time it didn't leave a black river down his face. "I still look horrible, though," he said hoarsely.
"Careful now," he warned jokingly. "We look almost the same."
He didn't smile at my joke, just kept staring at me in the mirror.
"If I'm… hiding," he said, breaking the silence that had formed, "then you are too." He reached out for my caps and took it off. Then he pulled the band out of my hair, and my dreads fell heavily over my back and shoulders. I looked like some wild jungle person. I almost laughed. But decided not to, this wasn't the moment for laughs.
"God, how much I want to cut these off," Bill mumbled as he ran his long nails through my hair.
I smiled, "I know you do. Just as much as I want to flush your make-up down the toilet."
He didn't answer me, I hadn't expected him too.
Now, he reached behind my back, taking a good hold on my t-shirt and pulled it so that it hugged tightly to my body. This made it easy to see that I was just as skinny as my brother was, but he was the one who got told he had to eat more. He was right, maybe I was hiding too.
"And that," Bill whispered, "is you." Then he added, "If you take the dreads out, that is."
"No chance," I chuckled.
Bill nodded, almost smiling. He let go of my shirt, looking down. "You know I will not stop, right? I will still wear it tomorrow."
I sighed, "Yeah… I know."
I watched Bill as he danced across the stage. It was like yesterday never happened. Neither of us had mentioned it, and I had a feeling it would never be brought up again. My hands played the guitar by itself, I didn't really listen to the song; I just watched Bill.
He was back to his usual self: make-up, styled hair and his smile was glued on for the fans out there, all screaming their lungs out for us.
Bill walked over to me, singing loudly to my face. I smiled at him, he smiled back… the girls in the front row went wild.
He ran back to the middle of the stage, throwing his head back as he finished the song in a long note.
The fans screamed, and applauded. Bill smiled, yelling out his thanks.
I watched him, somewhat sadly. This was my brother now. This was Bill.