When Iím high itís like my toes are dragging just above the ground. The rain comes down softly. Iím driving and everything passes by in snapshots, like pictures in a slide show. The car smells, I know it does, so I roll down the windows. I hold the pipe between my teeth and take a hit using one hand to drive and the other to light up. I ignore the way everything looks unfamiliar. I took the kids to five dollar Tuesdays at the theater up the street. Saw a very bad comedy, good thing it was only five bucks. I switch seats and sit back while Chris drives home. I listen to the car revving awkwardly. A song plays on the stereo, Letís Ride. It makes me think of sex, and Chris. And Iím distracted until he pulls up so close on the car in front of him at the signal that our reflections stare back at us through its back windshield. Then he starts singing along to the song and my thoughts filter back down to where they were, sex, and him.
I think of writing something, the only thing that gets to me when I write is how it seems nothing particularly eventful ever happens. Itís always write, but what about? Maybe thatís what the teacher meant, itís too far inside of the characterís head, how long can I really plan to stay there? Iím caught off guard when Chris slams on the breaks, and apparently the person behind him is too. It rear ends us and Iím pushed forward hard against the seat belt, which locks and snaps me backwards. Everythingís in slow motion as the car flips over, I watch the front of my car dent as it plows into the roof of the minivan in front of us. The thought that thereíll be a lot of angry and surprised people when this is over, floats across my head. I catch a glimpse of my brotherís hands against the roof of the car, in the rearview mirror, his narrow body slipping out of the back seatbelt. The glass on the front windshield shatters as gravity pulls the car viciously to the pavement. I catch my breath and ask if folks are alright. I get mutters from Chris, his sister, and one of my brothers. The other one in the car doesnít answer.
Iím trying not to panic as I open my mouth to ask the question, ďHowís Jacob?Ē Theyíre slow to move, but Iím not. I dig around and undo my seatbelt. Twisting around on the roof of the car I look behind the seat for Jacob. Heís balled up, one foot trapped under the seatbelt, his head is at a strange angle, I canít tell if heís breathing. I reach over and pull his foot out of the seat belt, it feels limp and heavy. Power windows, I check to see if they still work, and when I press the button the window on my side shatters before it comes down an inch. I crawl out, see if there are cops anywhere, how come no one is shining flashlights in here to see if weíre alright. Two cops pull up with and ambulance as Iím reaching in to help my other brother, Jordan, out. Chrisís sister is lucky, her door is not jammed, she crawls out, crying. Chris stands next to me, looking at me, watching the cops. As soon as one climbs out of the car I run over and tell them thereís a little kid in the car still. He slipped out of his seatbelt, I couldnít tell if heís alright, heís not moving. The cop motions to one of the EMs. He runs over to the car and carefully pulls Jacob out, lying him on the ground. I can tell from way over here, the EMís behavior, the way Chris looks staring at the body, the way Chrisí sister starts to cry harder, the way Jordan is starting to sniffle too.
Thatís all it is now, a body. Being high isnít helping right now, having drank a bit isnít helping right now. Knowing that Chris was driving without a permit isnít helping either. I ignore the cop, questioning me now, and walk over to Chris.
ďIf anyone asks, I asked you to drive. Donít say anything if you donít have to, and whatever happens, remember it ainít your fault. If I can Iíll stay a few days ad help you deal with my mother. This is all on me okay? On me. Go stand by Jordan, his brother is gone, reduced to an empty body, I canít help him right now, you can. And call your mother and mine.Ē Iím thinking as I say it, I donít deal with cops much, I donít know whatís going to happen. I just have to say things while Iím feeling brave enough to make sense.
I walk back over to the cop, and start answering his questions. Yes thatís my brother, no those two arenít our relations, they live with us though. Yes, I knew he didnít have a permit but Iíd been drinking and I know he can drive my car. Itís not on him. Yeah, my mom should be here soon, but her number isÖ He asks a lot of questions, so many that I donít remember much of them. They look up my driving record, find the unpaid ticket, the warrant for it, and search my car, finding sixty bills worth, the seven pills and an almost empty bottle of vodka. They cuff me up and shove me into the back seat. The other car is gone, my brothers have gone with the other cop and my mother to the station for statements, the other drivers are gone too. Iím in the back seat alone. I donít know anything about this stuff, will I go to prison? My mom is going to be pissed. Chrisí mom is going to be pissed. Iím guessing five years. And Iím guessing Chris wonít be able to drive until heís twenty-one. I figure no one will write. Theyíll still be pissed when I get out. My brother will still be dead when I get out. Thatís definitely something precious to me thatís now gone, not just for a little while, I mean, you donít exactly visit the land of the dead. I hope God welcomes him with the open arms IĎm sure I wonít get.
And all of this shit is on me. People get mad, act as though Iíve no conscious. Do you realize what youíve done? I laugh, comic relief mistaken for a bad attitude, of course I realize what Iíve done. I mean, what do they expect you to think about when youíre lying on that cot, wide awake? Fairies and unicorns? Am I supposed to be thinking happy thoughts? The days until my court date go by slowly, and so do the days after that. Itíll be six and a half years before I can get parole. I write to my mother, and to Chris. Chris writes back, my mother does not. I ask him about my mother and he tells me sheís torn up. And I figured she would be. I probably wonít talk to her ever again. He tells me his mom is looking real hard now for a new place to go, she doesnít want to stay here with my mother, knowing he was driving the car when it happened. I probably wonít ever talk to her either, because if it werenít for me, Chris wouldnít have been driving. I donít know how many times I tell Chris Iím sorry, and to tell everyone else Iím sorry. The letters I send him are long, so much time on my hands, nothing else to do. My cell mate doesnít talk much, doesnít do much at all. We get thirty minutes outside, but I donít like being outside much. So much space, but no where to go. And free association sucks, too many people.
Iím quiet too. No matter what Iím doing it keeps running through my head, the visuals of the whole thing. Everything going from downright lovely, to all fucked up. Everything is all fucked up now. I canít say donít blame it on me, I canít say I wasnít there, I canít say it ainít my fault, itís all my fault. I hate guilt, itís so difficult to stuff down. I keep telling myself Iíve got half a dozen years to mull it over, get it straight in my head, come to grips with it personally. I tell Chris this in my letter, he writes back to me that itíd be just as hard to come to terms with if I were out there. With my mom and his mom and everyone tip-toeing around on eggshells, he says itís hard. I tell him in my letters I wish I could be there, I wish I could do something for him, for everyone, I wish I could bring my brother back. I wish I could rewind it back just far enough that I didnít smoke that bowl, I didnít guzzle from the damn bottle. Rewind it back far enough that Iím the one behind the wheel, and Iím sober, my feet placed firmly on the ground, and the night would have gone by just fine. Obviously it wouldnít have been as eventful, but at leastÖ I write as a tear drips onto the paper Chris my fucking brother is gone.
I ponder that over, we went from four to three, just like that. Then I realize itís worse than that, we went from four to two and one just like that. Me, Iím alone, and my remaining two brothers probably donít know what to think. We all had big plans for Jacob, because he was the youngest, heíd have all the qualities a person ought to have, instead of the ones all of us wound up with. The rest of us would turn out like our parents, but Jacob, he had potential, because the three of us older ones had a say in it, so much for that. So much for studying the piano with him, going to his basketball games, itís all over. Lying awake in my cell early in the morning I consider how itís like my entire life has been ripped out of my hands, but the only part I miss is Jacob. I think of how Iíd bathe him when he was too young to know better than to shit in the bath tub. I remember when he first learned his whole name, and every time he got the chance heíd introduce himself as Jacob Morgan Bakari Honorť. I remember teaching him to tie his shoes, working on his reading and writing. He caught onto sarcasm quick, I remember there was one time he told us our giggling was like nothing heíd ever seen before, with the air of an adult. And everyone laughed because he could only learn it from us, and then he was using it against us. Heís in the seventh grade now, getting older, wait, I guess he was in the seventh grade, past tense. My brother is past tense now. I remind myself to tell Chris to go to the funeral to tell me how it was. But after a few months, Chris goes from writing every week, to not writing at all.
Iím in for about four years before I get a visit. Chris actually comes to see me. He looks handsome as ever, so much older now. Heís finally got a car. He shows me a picture of it, and some of my brothers and mother, some pictures from the funeral. He looks better than I feel, but I can see he still isnít his best, he wasnít at his best even before the accident. I ask him where he stays, and he scribbles down an address for me. I ask him how my brothers are, he tells me Josh, the oldest boy, but younger than me, enrolled at the junior college. Jordan, the youngest now, is still struggling in school, barely passed to the twelfth grade. I finally ask him how theyíre doing mentally, emotionally. He says they seem to be getting on. I ask him if they knew he was coming, if any of them, my mother included, were interested in seeing me. I feel the tears welling in my eyes before I get the question out, and he tells me he invited them but all three of them turned it down. He said my mother says she still isnít ready to approach me. I ask him why it is he even came to see me. But he doesnít answer.
When he leaves I canít stop wondering. What he doesnít realize is that I need to know. I need to know whether he came because he misses me, because he thought of me, because he forgives me, because he pities me? What is the goddamn reason? I donít want to be pitied. I donít want him coming to see me because he feels guilty, or obligated. I need to know someone actually gives a fuck that Iím in here, that eventually, Iím coming out. Will anyone be glad when I get out? I need to be forgiven. ..And what took him so bloody long.
Eventually I take to praying, I take to reading the bible. There are evangelists that come through on Sundays. I talk to them. I find that I am in the same position Iíve always been in, if He cares, then where the hell was He when I needed Him. A loving God that lets so many people suffer. Sarcasm and logic get the best of me and I cannot put all my faith in Him, I cannot give in and let Him control my life. I write to Chris, and he writes back for the first time in what feels like forever. I tell him how I feel about God, knowing that heís devout. He writes me, telling me everyone feels that way, telling me you just have to keep on keeping on, you have to keep trying. I never understood how people, especially Christians, could say that. It always seems like God is failing us as often as heís bringing us out of things. That is, from my perspective. Sure, you got your water bill paid, but what about gas for the car? Sure, the taxes are finally paid, but what about food in the house? Thereís always something else. This I donít write to Chris about. I do not spend as much time writing to Chris as I did at the beginning. On occasion he writes me two letters before I write back to him. Iíve been writing to my mother and brothers at least once every month, with no response. I donít give up on them. I write nearly the same thing every time. Letting them know Iím sorry and sorry again. Maybe every sentence says Iím sorry in a different way each time. Sometimes I wonder if my brothers even know I write to them. I could see my mother stuffing all the letters in a box somewhere.
I wonder what itís like to sleep at night when youíve a sister like me. Imagine a sister that does shit like me and gets locked up like me, and lets shit like that happen. I put the picture Chris gave me of his car up on my wall. He stands next to the black sedan grinning. I wonder who took the picture, his mom probably. I wonder how his mom is doing. I wonder if she was wary of him driving for a while, if he was wary about driving. I already know that when I get out, Iím going to a place with ample public transportation. I canít go back home though, not to my friends, Iíll probably have to go north to get away from them, too easy to get in trouble down there. I am getting out of here, two more years. Iím not counting down, because itís still distant, but I am looking forward to it. I want to give the straight and narrow a chance. I got two more years, just two more years, and I donít know where Iím going when I get out. Maybe Iíll go to Chris.
Thinking of Chris, and having the opportunity to stay with him, the both of us older, now, sends my imagination on a wild trip. Iíve pushed sex so far from my mind in the last four years that it catches me off guard. Sex, and ChrisÖthis is where I was whenÖand Iím right back on track.