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i remember

May 4, 2009

i remember … you and your twin brother as the tiniest babies i had ever seen in my life. six month preemies with an additional six weeks in the hospital. the year was 1975 and i was too young for the maternity ward. i remember the night mom and dad brought my baby brothers home, and i remember crying at how small you both were, so small in fact you both slept in the same bed for the first six months of your lives. i brought down my favorite pillows and my blanket from my bedroom, along with my favorite stuffed animal, and i slept beneath that crib, every night, for the first two months you both were at home.

i remember … being utterly fascinated with having twins for younger brothers. you had your own language, and you seemed to know when the other was in trouble. what also fascinated me was that you didn’t resemble each other in any fashion, and you certainly didn’t look like twins!

i remember … when you were a young buck and you caught me smoking. you told me, “you stink,” crushed the pack of cigarettes i had in my purse and walked away. i remember you not talking to me for a solid week after that incident.

i remember … when the older twin was in a fight at school, and you both came home with shiners and blood-covered clothes. you told me, “we fucked that boy up,” and then you walked away to the bathroom for a very long and hot shower.

i remember … when i came home from the prom, 1:00 PM the next day, with hickeys all over my neck and body. you didn’t like my much-older boyfriend and you were pissed off at my appearance. i remember when i broke up with that boyfriend, days before i left for fort jackson, and you left a special parting “gift” on his windshield.

i remember … when you and your brother joined the military and being so proud of you both. i knew you had to get away from home, just as i had chosen to do years earlier, and i was glad you had chosen the military. you’ll never quite understand the “before” and “after” versions of you; i reserve all of that special goodness, just as any sister would.

i remember … attending your graduation ceremony at fort jackson. memories! the sight of you after your months in training floored me and made me speechless; not an ounce of fat on your once chubby body. you held open doors for me, said yes mam and no sir, and you finally had a firm handshake. long gone were the days of you looking down at the ground; your beautiful baby browns took in everything with interest and wonder, and you looked everyone in the eye. i also remember you being completely blown away, as was i, that we had lived in the same barracks during our respective times at fort jackson. i appreciated, and still do, your happiness with the graduation present i gave you: an antique metal ammo box with care package sundries as you were being assigned to your first post. what really caught your eye was snoop dogg’s music, which we proceeded to pop into my car’s stereo and blast at 11 as we drove around fort jackson. ” … laid back, with my mind on my money and my money on my mind.”

i remember … your long-distance calls from overseas when you were lonely or in dangerous places. you laughed at me when i told you “drinking 101 is the first class given” in the military, and you laughed along with my joke because you finally understood how i felt. i remember a call, 2:00 AM my time, with you on the other end of the line telling me you don’t know what to do. your bunkies had been drinking heavily all day, their actions reminded you of mom, and you needed to get away. we talked for hours and i racked up a huge LD bill. neither of us were particularly religious, but we both remembered pastor dave from church; together, we decided you would seek out the post’s chaplain and you also got better roommates. i was so fucking proud of you for not giving into temptation on that night, and many others to come.

i remember … living and working in san francisco and getting the call from the family that you had died. i trashed my home, just trashed it. i broke all the mirrors and threw things out the window. you were twenty-three. 23. what the fuck. i thought someone was playing a cruel joke on me and that once i woke up, the boys from candid camera would come around the corner, with you leading the way, and everyone saying surprise. that didn’t happen. fuck you. fuck candid camera. fuck everything. i hated the world on that day. i despised even more the son of a bitch punk who took your life. i remember getting drunk and stoned off my ass, and waking up in that little park directly across from the tiffany store. i walked home and every person who met my tear-streaked gaze must have thought i was homeless. when i got to my apartment building, my doorman asked me if i needed to go to the hospital. i told him no, that all i needed was to have my baby back home, safe and in my arms.

i remember … taking your brother to the impound lot to visually inspect your car. the sight of your brain matter made me vomit instantly. i wouldn’t allow your brother to view the car; i told him i would break his arms and legs if he got out of my car. i found the heaviest object i could lift and destroyed what was left of your car. that catharsis is still with me today, eleven years after your death. i cried and screamed and moaned, all the while imagining the face of that son of a bitch. i hated him for taking you from me. God says to forgive, but at that moment i wasn’t sure i would ever be able to do that.

i remember … both of your funerals, civilian and military. what was left of your physical body looked so calm and peaceful, belying the horrific events of your death. fuck you mother fucker for drinking and driving and killing my brother. fuck you! fuck you! fuck you! i hate you so much, and i don’t know how to let go of my grief. i remember your military funeral. when your brothers and sisters in arms called out your name, i turned around and watched the entrance of the church. i waited, desperately waited, for you to walk through those beautiful doors, but you never came. i didn’t want to believe you were gone, but everything i was living through was telling me you were dead.

i remember … being in that courtroom and boring a hole in the back of the head of your murderer with my eyes. if i had a gun on me, i could have taken his life. i could have. fuck that … i could have killed him with my bare hands. how dare you, you feckless scumbag son of a bitch, take my brother away from me. you killed him on his birthday. i remember this punk saying he was sorry and that he wished he had acted differently on that night. shut up, shut up, shut up, shut up. i hate you and i want to grind your bones into dust. i hated the world, and i didn’t know how to make the pain go away. forgiveness? fuck you. not today.

i remember … i love you so much, my sweetheart, and i think about you every day. i think about how you became a man, and i remember the night you told you had fallen in love for the first time. i still have the pictures you took of your brand new stereo, and i hold onto and cherish the mementos you sent my way. God has told me to forgive that young man, and while i have done so, my heart still rages towards him on your behalf. i remember everything, and i will never forget.

eleven years is coming up quickly. i remember, baby boy. this one’s for j:

and one more, to ensure we both giggle out loud today!

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