When you want someone to see something, to show them, to make them understand, you have to show them a picture... No matter what, then, we were unstoppable... "Untouchable" I would have had to wake up, like any other regular day at 4:00ish A.M. school. Monday through Friday, get it done. I could cook anything, anywhere. I was in my last class making dishes that would sell for $35.00 a plate. Culinary school would be just a stepping stone into the "industry". Summer was still present; freedom, warm water, and skirts thoroughly filled all senses. I was alive. It was all right in front of me, part of the natural process? For some sick reason though, I woke up earlier this Tuesday morning. Everyone else is asleep. I like that feeling when you're the only one awake. Independence, power, decisions... second only to when your parents are gone. What isn't right? It has to be cliché. You could compare it to going somewhere obsessed with the notion that something was forgotten... I don’t feel like going to school today. I have to email my chef... not feeling good or doctor appointment today? It’s not good but it is summer time. The morning’s events that should be happening reel before sleep sets back in; Asian or Italian food today? Fresh pasta or Thai coconut soup? I want to sleep and not wake up for a while. I feel that feeling where I should be somewhere, doing something. Time passes... it’s hard to sleep in too late.
There’s nothing like waking up to a window of clear sky. The blue dulls the heat while the fan re- circulates it. Faint traces of white clouds complete the picture. It should be like any other day...
(My last memory)I hear something in the early afternoon. Look up. The roof? The roof, footsteps! Pitter patter and then the quiet brief calm floating freeness. SPLASH! I hear the sound before I can catch up with the movement. I Smile. Be careful. No tragedy. No pain. Still only youth and happiness; love. Here is my little brother, more than just flesh bones and blood jumping off the roof into the pool as I had done many times before. I watched his head arise from the artificial azure water (chlorine). He didn’t have a mop of blonde locks to shake. We both had cut our hair in the backyard. Short. No more than a week before. He was happy. I was alive.
For as much as everyone knew he loved his long hair, we both knew a few spikes would make a good first impression at school for him. He had to finish his dialectical journals today, finish reading the book even. He looks so happy, unafraid. School was tomorrow. His first day of high school! It was school, but he was excited. I could see it. He had the opportunity to see what it was like, now it would be his turn... Games, friends, dances, girlfriends, pictures, parties, early morning and after practice waves, the usual drama, and the experience of growing into a young man...
I didn’t think anything was wrong. Nothing should be wrong. Not a doubt in my mind. He had better balance than I’ll ever have, naturally. Riding the concrete with a skateboard was the closest thing to surfing at home, as well as transportation. She knew something though. Somehow. Why did she know? How? She wouldn’t let up. "Where is he at?" "He went to In and Out" Where else? "When did he leave?" the look on her face is calm at its finest, strong, yet her voice is underlined with worry. A mom thing, something a son can notice when attentive enough.” WHAT TIME?" "I don't know, I just got up. He’s fine mom." I can't tell you what time it was. Time is irrelevant, numbers being only numbers. I don't even want to know. The sun was still out with the end of the day type of heat. The time of day when everyone is trying to get home to their lives and families, and the streets are filled with cars. We wouldn’t get there fast enough. Phone calls, a lot of phone calls. Friends, family, and even my friends. "Have you seen Jack? Talked to him?" No. no. no. no... It makes the time pass, somehow, slowly. "I think I should call the police..." It was on her mind probably an hour ago. "He’s ok mom. Wait a little while." I'm his Brother- I know he's OK... When you get back I’m gonna kick your ass Pish. Making mom get all worked up. Hopefully she won’t call Buddy. I get into a truck that is raised. I’m supposed to help go look for him. Of course I’m not driving. A friend of the family is. Why would we drive around looking for him? We aren't going to find him like that. Is this a movie? I’m not thinking anything. He’s good still, not hiding, he'll be seen when he wants to... the usual places. The park, school, the baseball field, etc. The hospital?
"Why go here?" He can't be here, not now, not today. You have school tomorrow Pish... ”Just to check, your mom told me to check."
So we had to go in. I asked the slightly overweight lady with a tired face but in a clean uniform at the desk about him. It wouldn’t have made any difference if she was pretty; this still was NOT a movie, but only a waste of time. He has short blonde/brown hair, hazel brown eyes, almost taller than me on a bad day... She looked straight at me and said no. She has not heard of anything but probably I didn’t give her eyes enough time to tell the truth. There are times when we will believe anything, even if for the simplest reason just to believe in something. This was one of those times; I wanted to believe her anyway. If it was otherwise she would be wrong but my faith was restored in him. Too many years had we worked on balance and being aware. He knew he still had to finish his homework... He would already be home when we got back looking for him. Ashamed for making us worry, he wouldn’t do it again. Not for a while. He was fourteen. A few more people are at my house now. I walk back to where I grew up to more worried looks, should I be worried now? It’s almost getting dark; you can almost see the street lights. If we were surfing and the waves weren’t that good we would get out before the cold wind set in, but there would still be enough light reflecting off the water. I waited around amongst more phone calls trying to tune it all out the best I could to focus on that one sound. The dogs will bark and the wheels will slide across the pavement making slight crackles when they roll over little rocks. I’ll see his face before everyone. To give him that look. To try and protect him from mom, put a story together, get him into his room to finish homework. My mom has already called the police, a while ago (it already happened, the gas tanker ran him over). We didn’t know. You don’t want to know but you have to. I need support at this point. It is time to start calling friends. 'Someone heard a kid got hit by a truck'... not him though. No way. He’s around somewhere and going to be in trouble. Still need some help over here, too many people are making me nervous. I can't even talk to my mom because she is enamored in people, the phone. Even so, I don’t want to read the look on her face. Why does she know? I have to stay in my room. Comfort there, safeness. We grew up in here, shared the bunk bed, and now he could even steal clothes from my closet. I won't hear his board, but I’ll know when he is home... The dogs bark, but they always do. At this point everyone is extra attentive to their sensitive senses. I can only be patient. It’s the only thing that’s ever worked for me, always. If I wait it out it will be ok. Nothing can hurt me except the things I know. Nothing could even come close to my little brother. I’m supposed to watch out for him but he was already stronger and smarter and better because he was attentive and he cared. Like a sponge he absorbed the good and bad of our family and was passionate. He took my mother's attentiveness to detail with my/his father's fire and inner strength. I tried and wanted to show him everything else in between... The damn dogs won't stop. It must be someone really new. My room is still safe, but I hear a word I will never forget. It might be a whisper. It might be in my head. After so long we are only left with our imaginations… This word is not true, why can it not be fake? I know what the word means like in the dictionary or movies, but it can’t be real. I yell in my head and my eyes burn. I push my heart from my throat and scream, “Coroner!" loud. NO, no, no, no. Not now, not here. "What the fuck is the coroner here for?" Really loud. Repeatedly. Answer me please. Nothing. Even at my house, that word can be vulgar, especially after many times. Everything was slow, blurry. Disbelief. The door to my room opened and I saw my 70’s worn brown carpet at the bottom. Above the door was the perfect picture left breaking at Newport un-ridden. To the right was my collection of now distant words from books and DVDs of stories and pictures. Centered and focused was the uniform. It was tight and bulging at the waist with a belt but clean and neatly pressed. The badge explained enough. Next to him was the lady, the actual one who makes everything official. Someone would have to come down and make sure... Procedure and all that, the stuff only replayed through closed doors and locked minds. She looked experienced though, as did the cop. Finally, some clarity, my mom. I don’t know how to explain her face. If he would have had his wallet she would have been right hours ago when she wanted to be nothing but absolutely wrong. She wanted to be strong, and she was, but I’ll never know how. I wanted her to make it better and her eyes said she had no power to. While my lips quivered hers were stable and gentle, able at any moment to say what needs to be said. My fists clenched. Everything was trying to spin. I couldn’t control it though, I had to let go. My mom held me as if I was a weak helpless infant. Words will not explain it. Tears, screams, anger, fear, unable to help- I am no longer a big brother. I will wake up every morning and go to sleep each night without him. They’re wrong! They have to be. Where would everything go? Why not me? I have lived long enough to love and lose. This is a mistake. This does not happen. When I close my eyes I only see his face, the one I will no longer see again. I am forced to take everything in; a lot of people are at my house, way more than usual. Their faces say more than anything that comes out of their mouths. Eyes are irritated from sleeves and shoulders, all red and squinty. Words are chosen careful, like it would matter much now. He’s not here. Keep that in your mind. Where is my sister? The one too, who has lost her little brother. We are alone now. That is what it feels like.
Then I see my older brothers. I failed them. They taught me what to build off of. I made it but he didn’t. We are closer now, I feel it immediately, not sure why.
His friends are here, many of them. Young minds that were intertwined with friendship even before tee- ball and those tiny gloves. Back when pools were oceans with slides and diving boards...I had to see their faces but there are no words. When I see their faces I see my brother. Candles, flowers, more people. Hugs flow freely along with sadness. It surrounds me, us. When I breathe I can feel it and so can everyone else. The moon is full. If that has anything to do with it other than casting light on my warn street and lawn. The one that is full but empty, seemingly lifeless. Memories of football, baseball, basketball, fun, laughter, youth, innocence, creep up. Only memories now... People are crying that aren't supposed to cry, or at least the ones that you're not supposed to see. We lay on the grass. It is warm like September usually is. It is now the end of summer, still hot, but the beginning of anew. Things are naturally in transition, but I must now feel and accept somehow. Nothing though, please come back. Hope never ceases up until a point. All we want to hear are those four wheels. I try not to picture the details... My mind would not stop; this dreadful unforgettable night is reality at its finest, realist. I can’t sleep even if I wanted to. Thoughts swirl in my head like you wouldn’t believe. How, why, no, no, please no, who! Every emotion follows in continuous order, a pattern not even worthy noting but with enough adjectives to fill a book, at the least a few pages... I would cut it all up, give it away, everything, for you. I promise. You could have all my books and surfboards. Read everything I wrote. Have all my pictures. Listen to and burn every song on my computer. I know you would use my camera and you could have that too. You could have all the change you could find along with the hidden dollar bills. I would give it all to you faster than I could blink. We could trade places if only I had known. It hurts so much...You would be able to cook and keep mom happy. Make people laugh. Grow up and make your mark. I hope I showed you enough. I wish we could have seen more... Nothing would make it go away. Time does not matter. The pen writing his book of life ran out of ink, no more memories. No more stories. We all live for stories, even if replayed ones. No more details now, only a solid foundation...
Blake Hiteshew is a writer living in Buena Park, California.