I still remember him, my cousin brother, who three years ago was shot and killed for absolutely no reason.
I remember his smile and charisma, and of course.. how he had this little twinkle in his right eye whenever he got really really happy.
I remember his features: his black hair that he used to part to the side, his this eyebrows, his golden brown eyes that held many sorrows and secrets (of course nothing that I didn’t know), his long and curly eyelashes, his short but sharp nose, his prominent jawline, and my favorite – his caramel color skin.
I remember how he used to protect me and make me feel safe, how he used to give me a sense of home when everything else around me was crumbling.
I remember how he made me feel loved, how he stayed up with me until three in the morning just talking about life.
I remember how he used to console me when I was sad, or how he just knew when something was not right.
But most of all I remember that day, the day when everything changed.
It was a chilly night when we were sitting on the couch, eating pancakes and watching TV. He came over for the weekend to spend time with us before he left for vacation with his fiancé; actually, they were not engaged yet but my brother was going to propose soon.
I looked over at him and gave him a longing look and said: “Can we please get some ice cream?”.
He looked back and said, “Do you really want to, I mean it is getting really late.”
“Please, please, please….. We can go to the gas station down the street and get some.”
“Its 1 am, do you really want to?”
“Of course; please…… it will be fun, just you and me. Please?”
In the end, he surrendered and took me out. We were in the car jamming to our favorite song, Low by Flo Rida, and just having fun and being ourselves. We pulled up to the gas station and I ran off in the store dashing straight to the ice cream isle right at the back. My brother followed cautioning me to watch where I was going or I would run into something. I pulled open the freezer door and saw a gold mine of ice cream flavors – Cookie Dough, Cake Batter, New York Super Fudge Chunk, Coffee Coffee Buzz Buzz – and my favorite: Coffee Heath Bar Crunch! I stretched my hand reaching for the carton when I heard a loud noise, almost like a gunshot, I turned around to see a man covered in black holding a gun against the clerk’s head demanding for the money in the cash register. My brother pulled me down behind an aisle and put his index finger against his mouth signaling for me to be quite. He then got up and slowly started walking toward the robber. The robber quickly turned around and pointed the gun at my brother. I shook my head side to side as my brother left. He looked back and gave me a reassuring nod. He always wanted to help everyone, but this was a time where I wanted him to stay with me, to hold me in his arms and wait for the robber to leave. This was not the time for him to be his altruistic, benevolent self and help the clerk!
“Take out your wallet!” he demanded.
My brother looked at him and slowly put his hand into his pocket but before he could take out his wallet I heard another gunshot followed by an enormous thud. I was too scared to look until the robber had hurriedly left the store at the sound of police sirens. I quickly got up from where I was hiding and started running toward the front of the store where I saw my brother struggling to get up. I knelt down and gently put his head in my lap and yelled at the clerk to call 911.
I looked at his face, more importantly, his eyes and I saw the purest most beautiful soul that could ever exist. He slowly started to close his eyes but I gently tapped his cheeks.
“Hey, stay awake okay? They will be here in no time to help you… I promise” I said smiling with tears brimming my eyes. In my heart I knew that he could not die, I mean he would not die but something… something about the way the everlasting sparkle just fluttered away from his eyes told me today might be his last day.
“I love you,” he said as his hand reached for my face and I bent down allowing him to touch my cheek.
“It okay.. just keep your eyes open okay? just a minute okay? just hold on a little longer” I gently put my hand on the wound pressing so he would not bleed more than he already is. He winced in pain and I felt his breath getting slower and more shallow.
“It okay, I,” I said over and over again, allowing him to close his eyes, not sure if I was saying it to assure myself or him. Soon enough the ambulance came and took him and me to the hospital.
When we got there, they quickly took him away into the trauma room and started bombarding me with questions.
“Hey, are you okay?”
“I’m nurse Nancy and I promise you we will take good care of him. How is he related to you? Is he even related to you? Do you guys have any family that we can call? What happened?”
I looked at the nurse, who was just trying to be nice, and gave her my unlocked phone.
“Everyone the you need to call is in there.” I said coldly as I walked away.
I went to the bathroom and washed myself up before going outside to the waiting room and, before I knew it, the room was swarming with my relatives, parents, his fiancé and no one bothered to even take a look at me. My mom came to me once and hugged me making sure I was okay and did not get hurt. The night I waited; I waited patiently for the doctor to come and tell me the bad news or the good news, and surprisingly I did not shed even one tear the entire night. I just waited, hoping my brother was fighting as always, not giving up.
About 6 hours later, a doctor came to us and gave us a pitiful look. When I saw that look on his face, I knew. I knew that the person I loved so much and so dearly was no more.
“I am extremely sorry. We did everything we could but the damage and rupture caused by the bullet was too much and there was not much we could do. He bled out and died on the table. Once again, I am extremely sorry, but he is dead.” the doctor said with an expressionless face before walking away. I looked at everyone who broke down crying and I felt my vision get fuzzy and blurry as the tears started to spill over. Why did he have to go? He did not deserve this, I mean he was the nicest and most caring person I knew. It felt as though I had been punched in the stomach over and over again. I held onto my shirt tightly before falling back down into the chair.
And I realized something. Something horrifying. He died because of me. Because I could not keep my mouth shut and my fat, pig self wanted ice cream. He was dead because I could not back down from a midnight craving. He was dead because I was being a disobidient, naive teenager.
I am sorry. I am sorry for taking away such a precious soul from this world. I remind myself everyday of the horror that happened on that night replaying it over and over again in my head wishing I had not been so stubborn. Then maybe things could have gone differently, right?
I am so sorry for everything and I hope you are shining bright, no matter where you are.
I love you so much and will never forget the way you used to light up my world, the way you gave me hope, strength, courage and warmth.
I love you and I am really sorry…..
Rest in Peace