He always used to hold my hand when we crossed the road. “Can you just come?” he would say as he grabbed my hand and pulled me closer. He’d gently stroke it too sometimes; I’d notice. Right before we crossed he would squeeze it ever so slightly, I think more to soothe his own anxiety than mine. I appreciated it all the same.

He didn’t do it this time.

He never knew that I noticed the subtle ways in which his affection manifested itself. I don’t think he noticed them himself.

The road wasn’t busy; it was a Sunday afternoon and everyone was home. The winter cold had nearly stolen all traces of human interaction.

We went into the coffee shop and he sat across from me, looking at his phone. He wasn’t one to do this, but lately it was getting more frequent.

“Cute volcano outside?” I asked

“Ha, ha, Beau, very smart,” he said sarcastically.

“It would be nice to chat with me, you know,” I said.

“I just… I don’t think I know how to act anymore, I just…” Ray said, desperately.

“Look, there’s nothing more to it, okay? I’m sorry, I should’ve been more sensitive,” I said.

We sat in silence for a while before I received a text from Ray. It said:

I don’t think we can continue like normal after what happened.
I hope you can forgive me but I can’t keep this up.
I’m moving to Joburg with Sipho.
I don’t want you to call or visit me.
I don’t want us making the same mistake twice.
Get an abortion or never speak to me again

Your brother