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I'm speechless 

I don't know what to say.
And even if I did, I don't know if I could say it. In all honesty, Steve, I've never been good with words, but that never stopped you from giving me room to say what was on my mind, or your mind, or whoever's mind came first.

I'd never met a writer like you until we met, and I haven't since, and I don't think I ever will. You looked at the world in a way that no one else did, or could, or maybe even wanted to, and none of us ever really knew what was going on inside your head. Well, maybe I had an inkling more than most, but that's to be expected because you can't go through what the two of us went through, you can't pick up a few bruises and not be able to understand each other like brothers understand each other.

But you had these thoughts and these dreams that even I couldn't touch sometimes, and then people would look at you and wonder where you were coming from, and then you'd sit, and you'd type, and you'd show everyone what you had typed, and then everyone would sit down and say things like "Oh, it's so obvious now. I've never thought about it like that."

And the thing was, they hadn't ever thought of it like that until you showed them how, and they loved you for it, even while some of them were hating you for it because the truth hurts and beauty hurts and you worked them both together like an arsonist works fire, like a weaver works cloth. You built terrible, beautiful bonfires, Steve. You wove exquisite, painful shrouds.

You opened people's eyes. You opened people's minds. You opened people's hearts and poked around until you found the right strings to pull, the right combination of joy and frustration and understanding and mystery and then you tugged as hard as you could.

You still had a hold on my heart when you left, Steve, and I think you pulled it right out of my chest.

I hear that when you die, your vision goes blurry and that's what's happening to me now, sitting here without a heart, except that maybe it's just my eyes and these are tears, and you were never supposed to leave me behind. Maybe I still have my heart, though, because why else would it hurt so much? If it's a phantom pain, then I am a phantom because I'm numb all over, I'm gone, I mean I am really gone, and it still hurts.

Almost exactly a year ago, Alex Madonna died and you were devastated. Your world was a big, pink cake of mourning and you dug both fists deep in the frosting, and now you're gone and my world is a mess of burning words that are bitter in my mouth and don't make sense any more. And when I close my eyes I see you lying under a shroud while the flames from your pyre lick around you and you're smiling because you made it all: the flames, the cloth, your pain, my tears.

And even when you smiled, Steve, it was like you were smiling at something else, at some private joke that only you heard. A joke that wasn't laugh-out-loud funny, but funny in a way that slowly sinks in, and you smile as you realize that it's funny because it's true and it's true because it's sad and it's sad because it's inevitable, and I guess that's life and life really is funny when you think about it. Why else are we all sticking around? Waiting for the punchline, I guess. Don't ruin it for me, Steve. Don't give it away, since you got to hear it first, you great, terrible brother of mine. You got to hear the damn punchline first, and I hope you're laughing because one of us should be.

When I heard the news about you dying, Steve, it's like, somehow, I already knew, because when you died, a part of me died, too, and it's a part I'll never get back because it was always really yours, and you knew it, and I knew it, and a lot of people thought they knew it, but they were never really right, because they didn't quite understand how we worked, did they?

Maybe the best way to explain it is that we grew up together. Or maybe that you were my muse. Or maybe that you were the cloth, and I was the fire, and together we burned, and we burned so damn bright and hot, and you fed me until you were all used up, and now I'm a flame with nothing to feed on.

Or maybe, like I said before, we just shared a part of each other, and it was a part that we shared so deeply that a lot of people thought that I was you or you were me, and maybe they were right. Maybe they were right all along. Maybe you were me.

Maybe you still are.

In any case, you're gone and I'm still here, and I don't know what to think anymore, and I don't know the punchline, and the words make less sense without you.

I meant to say that the world makes less sense without you, but you know what I mean. You always did. ³

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