It was always the same in Manhattan. At sun-up, the traffic shuddered and the subways choked and the sidewalks seethed and everyone became animals.
My brothers were swans, because my step-mother said it was so, and no one disagrees with her, because she has all the money.
“You’ve ruined them,” I cried to her as soon as she had done it. When I said ‘them,’ really, I meant little Philip, the youngest of my seven older brothers. Even though he was a year older than me, I thought of him as my baby brother. He still collected insects from the back yard and chalked funny pictures on the old brick wall around the garden.
My cellophane stepmother had sighed and rolled her eyes from where one mahoghany-haired friend grew from a chair to where another friend in a brocade vest melted into a cushion. She said, “The dramatics are a bit much, aren’t they, Julie? There are worse things than swans.”
They didn’t have to be animals at all, though. They could’ve stayed boys forever. I knew she only preferred them as swans because she didn’t like them as boys, because all she’d ever known was swans, because my father was too dead to stop her. I screamed this at her while tiny lines appeared around the edge of her mouth, and then, the next morning, I ran away to New York. All my brothers flew after me. Julian, the eldest and most swan-like, every line of him an arc, found me crying in the subway on the first evening.
“Poor Julie,” he said, helping me up. He was wearing a tweed vest and looked very dapper with his frame of Broadway posters and graffiti. “This is where homeless people sleep.”
I tried not to sound pitiful, but I did anyway. “I am homeless.” keep reading…