Duo says his name was Solo, and the portrait that hangs over
the dresser in the bedroom is so realistic, it’s hard sometimes to
remember it was done from a memory fourteen years gone.
I think the picture was one of the first I had seen Duo do that was so
completely fleshed out and detailed; it intrigued me from the moment I
saw it. His talent is amazing sometimes, even more so because he doesn’t
seem to believe in it. I had understood that Solo was an important piece
of Duo’s past, and I’d taken a chance, having the portrait
professionally framed as a kind of surprise. I hadn’t known how Duo
would react; he is sometimes almost possessive of his art, and sometimes
almost ridiculously cavalier about it. I’d been relieved when he’d
accepted the gesture as the gift it was meant to be. Pleased when he’d
seen fit to leave it hanging in our bedroom.
Duo seems to think of the boy as a brother… an older, protective
brother. And to be honest, there’s a hint of Duo in that portrait.
A true, familial resemblance? An unconscious tendency of all artists to
put themselves into their art? Or just a cast to expressions that Duo picked
up from long association?
Because there’s certainly a familiarity in that confident grin.
Not so much since the accident, but before… during the war, it was
a look I’d seen on Duo’s face more than once. A mask of sorts,
I suppose, and it made me wonder if Solo had hidden his own doubts and
fears behind that façade, or if the guy had been just that damn
I’ll probably never know on either count. There won’t be any
census photos cropping up one day, of the orphans of L2.
Some days that makes me sad, and some days the gaze of that portrait makes
me… almost relieved. It’s a gaze that can be… accusing.
It seems to see everything, and doesn’t stand for lies. Which is
not always a comfortable thing.
And… I think Duo talks to it. Him. When he thinks I’m not
around. Not close enough to overhear. There are mutters and scraps of one-sided
conversations. At first it had scared me… more than I like to admit.
In ways that I don’t like to admit. But over time, I’d come
to accept it as just part of Duo’s… unique personality.
Though there are days I’d sell my soul to hear the other side of
the conversation. Because sometimes Duo seems to draw comfort from it,
and sometimes it just seems to anger him. It’s somehow one of the
most complex relationships in Duo’s life… which is probably
a strange thing to be thinking about a dead person.
Duo has shared a lot about his past, but this Solo is still something
of a mystery to me. I don’t even know how he died, really. And maybe
it’s that mystery that leads me, some days, to stand in front of
Duo’s portrait of him, trying to meet that rock steady gaze. Trying
to stare down the past.
There are things I’m moved to say to that boy… that young
man. Some days I want to tell him that he needn’t worry, that I’ll
take care of Duo for him. And other days I want to tell him to back the
hell off and stop needling my lover.
To get the hell out of my house.
But I don’t. I’m not Duo, and I’m pretty sure I’d
feel like an idiot talking to a picture of a person that doesn’t
even exist. None of it is real, and I’d just feel stupid trying to
reassure another man’s memory of my intentions. Trying to toss ghosts
off the property.
And if some days I think maybe I don’t speak because I’m afraid
I’ll hear the ghost of a laugh… well, it’s not something
I will ever have to admit out loud.
Fiction : GW :