Brother's Berth 

Brother's Berth

Rogan seemed as if he had been roasted, if not charred, in Hell. He wasn’t racially black, as such. Simply because his skin was a certain colour did not entail anything beyond that fact. Indeed, Rogan’s brother was white - and white, here, meant an absence of colour rather than a creamy pink. Rogan’ s brother was also the Devil in disguise - or that was what so many who encountered him in the course of their lives believed, without the prerequisite of believing in the philosophical possibility of either a God *or* a Devil.

I assumed I, too, was one such problem child to whom reality, if not parents, had given birth. I often saw Rogan, the black one, when I strolled through the gloomy parts of the West End for no obvious reason other than the fact I found myself there. Most of those creatures of the person persuasion which wandered there were at least a darker shade of shape and the shadows hid them even when there was no force to cast shadows nor obstacles to throw or, even, deflect shadows.

Rogan’s reckless brother may simply have been Rogan’s well-cast shadow - and, at first, I found myself attending to the wrong brother after allowing myself, through a daredevil proclivity, to commune with one of them - not that, at the time, did I believe I was actually daring the Devil. Perhaps I taunted the Devil in my own soul, but that I had stirred Rogan as opposed to Rogan’s brother from his sleep in the palace of dreams was more luck than judgement day.

Rogan told me to sit where his shadow sat so that we could chew the fat together, since he guessed I was as eager for thought as food. Our head-to-head was a heart-to-heart interrupted, sadly, by someone I was soon to know as Rogan’ s brother. The latter loomed from the yellow lungfuls of Chinatown like a ghost - saying he was on track for Limehouse and would we come? Rogan answered him with an echoing shrug, returning to the priority of prattling with me. The brother hovered fixedly, hoping to make a threesome, his icy eyes speaking misread volumes of silence. The best was he’d go away without having first come.

Maybe I was deceived as to the real Rogan. The act of hearing him talk was indeed so self-sufficient I did not even listen to what he said, companionship being the sole motive I had in defying childhood’s instilled fear of strangers. His brother stood naked in clothes - the only words to describe his outfit, in striking contrast to Rogan and myself both of whom had things appended that made limbs look vestigial.

I later remembered Rogan’s words and, consequently, was able to chew over and deduce their meaning, having a sound memory (as opposed to the more commonplace photographic one that some stupid people wielded instead of intelligence). Rogan told me, then, that I was a kindred spirit, so kindred he had indeed lived my life vicariously. He knew my loves and hates. My sorrows and meagre joys. Even each change of mind, as I wended my faltering path between misplaced memories. If I had listened at the time, I would’ve asked why I hadn’t, in turn, lived *his* life - vicariously. He’d’ve nodded and given me the answer. He was nothing if not uneconomical with the truth.

Eventually, I slipped off, without noticeably going. The night was like an atomised mirror of blackness from which shapes took their reflection. My own shape straggled eastward, but even Limehouse was power-cut - except for the ghostly white shadow I shed for strangers to deem stranger (and fearfuller) than themselves. Perhaps I was a hero with horror as his honorific. More likely, I *was* the brother.

(published before - but where?)

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