I held his hand, or finger with his teeth, and told him I loved him. I said I’d write his story someday.
He loved stories, too. Every night for 15 minutes, he’d think up one. When it was over, he’d pick up the paper or turn on the TV and read it aloud.
I’ll never forget the story about the man who had to steal his ex-wife’s car because he owed his father a thousand dollars.
“There’s just one problem,” he said. “I might die.”
I listened intently and told him that I’d be around tomorrow.
I prayed. I cried. I listened to my inner monologue, which was, “That’s a good story, bro, I love that one.”
I cried some more when he called up to report he hadn’t eaten and that his blood sugar levels were going crazy. And, yes, I cried again when he took a hard right elbow on the nose.
He was a good kid, well-liked at school. He’d gotten in trouble a couple of times, then spent the summer serving a year in Houston with his probation officer. He hadn’t been a bad kid.
Somehow, I thought he’d grown up and was done with this prison thing. Instead, on this October night, he lost his life to a bullet.
My brother was 24.
I couldn’t stop crying on the phone that night and in the days that followed. I made calls from our house to strangers to people he knew — so many people, in fact, that I’m sure he missed somebody he loved.