There were the hours of practicing the magic tricks in secret, but what happened when he got on stage? How did the illusions shatter? There were the hours spent romancing one woman just to spent hours trying to get away from her later on. There were the nights of drinking and feeling good just to be humbled by the severe hangover in the morning, the headache piercing through the tender meat of his brain.
When Gob was alone and not trying to lose himself in the tricks and the women and the alcohol he realized, or almost came to realize that success was beyond him, that what his father had and accomplished at his age was never going to happen for him.
His father, there was a whole other can of worms. The man would never be proud of him, and he'd never live up to his younger siblings in his father's eyes. He'd never be his favorite like Lindsay was and he'd never be his equal like Michael was, so what was he? In the bottles of beer and the glasses of scotch Gob would look for this answer, and then drink enough so it wouldn't matter.
He wasn't doing any of this right now. It was afternoon on the yacht, and the sky was a clear, undulating blue, and it bled into the ocean, filling his vision with this endless blue. He yearned for a drink, a nice cocktail in a triangle glass to take his mind off his failures and his shortcomings and his parents. He wanted it to take his mind off of the brother who he could never live up to. But he wouldn't. He sat on the deck sipping water, feeling the beads of sweat forming on his forehead as the heat of the day beat down on the water and the boat.
In the distance he saw Michael, he knew it was him by the way he walked, that purposeful stride. He sipped his water and wondered what Michael was coming to yell at him about, and he thought of all the things he hadn't done and those that he had. The balance sheet of his life was coming up all red, and he gripped the glass of water so tightly it nearly shattered. Would one little drink hurt him right now? Just one martini with Bombay Sapphire gin and a single green olive?
"Gob!" Michael was on the dock, and Gob was on the yacht on the other side, facing the sea. He didn't feel like answering, not quite yet. He sipped his water and almost wavered, almost went in and mixed up a dirty martini or a Cape Cod.
"Gob! Goddamn it I know you're here!" Now he could hear Michael's footsteps, the solid soles of his shoes against the treated wood of the dock. Gob swallowed hard, having no idea what he had or hadn't done to put the steel tone into Michael's voice, and disappointing Michael was just as bad as disappointing dad. Would he ever stop disappointing them?
He stood up and held lightly onto the rails, stared down into the water, and next to the boat it looked green instead of blue, and cold. Michael couldn't see him looking and feeling like a failure, he couldn't see the doubt in his eyes. He made a conscious effort to drive it away, to appear to be the fearless older brother he wished he was. He could hear Michael on the yacht now, felt his heavy footsteps shaking the whole thing, making the water lap the edge of the boat.
"Here you are," Michael said, stepping out onto the deck, squinting his eyes against the sun.
"Yep," Gob said, looking right into Michael's eyes, a half smirk on his face. He sipped his water and saw the tiniest tremor in his hands.
"Drinking so soon? I guess it's five o'clock somewhere," Michael said.
"It's just water," Gob said, and his confident look faltered for half a second and he felt it like a stab in his gut, how badly he wanted to be drinking something stronger.
"Yeah, right, whatever. Listen, Gob, did you take care of those files that I gave to you?" Michael's look was just on the edge of angry, and Gob had no idea what he was talking about, only that he hadn't taken care of anything. He licked his lips, thinking how Michael would do this, dole out tasks just to get angry when they weren't completed.
"Uh, well…" Gob started, having nowhere to go with it. Did Michael actually ask him to do something? Was he too drunk or preoccupied to have done it? Or was he only saying this to berate him now for nothing?
"Okay, I get it. You didn't do it. You couldn't be bothered to do it. As usual, I'm the only one who can get anything done in this family, I'm the one who does everything in this family. Well, you know what, Gob? I don't know why I bother anymore. What is the point? The rest of you will just screw everything up, and I'll be back to square one. Isn't that right?"
Gob felt the veneer cracking. He felt the sharp guilt he always felt. As a child it was in regard to his father, and as an adult more and more it was Michael who made him feel this way. He couldn't let Michael see weakness, he had to pretend none of this bothered him. But maybe a drink would help.
"Michael, I don't even know what you're talking about," he said, brushing past him to go inside, ducking his head in the low doorway. Michael followed him.
"Oh, that's just great. You don't even know what I'm talking about. Do I do things in some fantasy world, some make believe world where the rest of you can't follow?"
Michael's voice dripped with sarcasm, and Gob could see it, the words trying to wrap themselves around his throat. He opened the small white fridge and hunted around beyond the bottled waters for something stronger.
He found what he was looking for, a Mike's hard lemonade, and he twisted the cap off and took a long swallow.
"Drinking, Gob? This early? Are you turning into mom?"
Gob looked at Michael over the edge of his bottle. His eyes were narrowed, and his hair was in slight disarray from the wind. He wished Michael wasn't here making him feel like this, he wished he had done whatever it was he had wanted him to do, he wished he had succeeded in something.
"I think I'm just gonna go," Michael said, and Gob breathed a sigh of relief and took another long swallow. He'd drank half of the bottle so fast he thought he could feel it already. He set his drink down on the table and when Michael left he'd go back on the deck and finish his glass of water, try to wash away the sin of the afternoon alcohol, the sin of failure, the sin of every attempt crashing to the ground like one of those small planes when the instruments go all funny and you lose the horizon and you can't tell if you're pointed up toward the sky or straight into the water.
Michael took a few steps out the door but then he turned around and came back, and now there was genuine anger on his face. The relief Gob felt for a second dried up, and it just wriggled there like worms on the sidewalk when the sun came back out, dried little crescents.
"You know what? I'm not gonna go. Why didn't you do it like I asked?" he said, and Gob just stared at him blankly.
"I don't, I told you, I don't know what you're t-talking-talking abou-"
Michael came at him then, out of the blue, grabbing him around the waist, wrestling him to the bed like when they were kids, and Gob twisted in his grasp and tried to get a hold of his own.
Michael had the upper hand from the start, the surprise element giving him leverage, and he ended up straddling Gob's stomach, holding his hands down at the wrists. He wasn't as tall but he was stronger, and Gob couldn't break free. He wondered what he would do, how angry he was about this task that he couldn't even recall. Maybe he'd hit him. He almost wished he would.
But his look softened, and the anger dissolved. Gob blinked up at him, feeling the hard lemonade he'd drunk. He tried to jerk his wrists from his brother's grasp but he couldn't.
"Gob, you make me so frustrated," Michael said, but softly, tenderly. Gob stared at him, feeling his full weight on his stomach, feeling his hands wrapped around his wrists.
"Michael, wh-what are you-" The stutter. He couldn't help it and he hated it but he'd always done it.
"Shhhh," Michael said, lust replacing the anger in his eyes, and he leaned closer, so close that Gob could see the slight stubble on his cheeks and he could smell his light cologne.
He leaned in closer, his lips touching Gob's, and he closed his eyes. So did Gob, his green eyes slipping shut as his brother's tongue explored his mouth, and when he let his wrists go Gob barely noticed, but he still felt his full weight on top of him.