It’s truly amazing how one day can change your life. It’s amazing how one sentence can change your life immediately and permanently. “Brian, Jason’s dead!!” is all it took for me.
I can barely remember that conversation; I was in a weird mood that entire day, before I even heard those words. My favorite photography professor JB had a heart attack that same morning; he could have died as far as I knew at the time. I was twenty minutes away from leaving on a two-week road trip with my new girlfriend when the phone call came. My mom said my brother was dead.
I immediately pictured him playing in the front lawn and running into the street, getting hit by a drunk driver coming fast around the blind curve. I asked how and I was just convinced it was some kind of auto accident. She said self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.
Immediately I grabbed my keys and headed for the door, my whole existence shattered by those three little words. I told my girlfriend to unpack and that I’d call her later as I ran out the door. I can’t imagine what she was thinking at that point. The police offered to come pick me up and drive me the twenty miles to my mom’s house, but I declined. I should’ve taken them up on the offer, my legs were shaking so hard; I couldn’t control them. I had to put on the cruise control as much as I could but there was too much traffic. I don’t remember any of that drive, but I’m scared to death that one day I’ll hear the songs that were on the radio during the drive and the whole scene will be relived in vicious detail.
As I got nearer to the house, I got the most surreal, mind-numbing feeling. It hit me like a ton of bricks. The realization was that I was three turns away from the most painful, horrible, difficult, insane scene I would ever have to face in my life, and I knew that.
I tried to prepare myself the best I could. I tried to put it all in perspective. I knew I would have to be there for my mom, she would be hysterical. I knew I would have to be there for Jason’s dad; Jason was his pride and joy, his only child. I took the final turn and saw my house roped off with yellow police tape. It was already worse than I imagined. You can never get over the vision of seeing your house, your home, roped off with yellow police tape. Don’t ever do that to someone, not even as a joke.
The block was covered with police cars and an ambulance. I had to park down the street. All these neighbors I never bothered to meet were standing around in their yards looking on. I imagined the worst, but even if I multiplied the worst by a thousand, it wasn’t near.
I can only thank God that my mom didn’t find him. We had just sold our house and the realtor was making the final check on the place to make sure everything was up to par. That poor guy found the body; all of a sudden our house was on the market again.
The next two days I was so numb, I don’t remember any of it. It was like someone else was living those days for me while my head was in suspended animation. I remember spending that night with my girlfriend and crying so much it made me nauseous. I’m told we ate at Olive Garden that night, but I can’t confirm nor deny that. I have no idea how I drove us the two hours to the burial south of Burnet from the funeral in Round Rock. My thoughts were so far away from the road, the directions, the speed I was going, the traffic lights, and the other cars on the road. My head was splitting from crying for forty-eight straight hours.
One of the worst parts was being in the room when his father called Jason’s birth mother to tell her what happened. I could hear very clearly from across the room, “What did you do?! What did you do?!” coming out of the phone, followed by screams and hysteric sobbing. I was also put on immediate suicide watch for his father and told to take all guns out of the house. Later he thanked me for that.
It was a bittersweet day when we divvied up his clothes, CDs, and Nintendo 64 games.
After forty-two days, I had thought about him everyday since it happened. I wish I could remember the name of his artwork he created with the garbage from the house they were building across the street. Someday I will, I will not die until I know it. Something “and orange harmony” maybe. It wasn’t so much art as much as us just throwing shit into a mesquite tree and seeing what would get caught. It was brilliant though.
He has my friendship bracelet now, he wanted one when I was making them but I didn’t have time to make him one. He doesn’t even know he has mine, nobody does except for my mom, his dad, and my girlfriend. I slipped it in right as they were closing the purple coffin; he loved purple. He was way too smart and thought way too much about things, much too deeply too.
He’s the kind of person that if he can survive his own mind, he’ll contribute something incredible to the world when he’s older and more experienced. He’s another example of how humans are just too smart for this world. We’ve reached the limits of what intelligence can give us, now all the levels higher are nothing but detrimental.
I’ve tried to put myself in his final position and try to think of what he must have been thinking right before he pulled the trigger. I sat where he sat near the bathtub, looking at my face in the reflection. I spent an hour there with the discolored carpet at my feet. I wonder how long he looked at himself with that gun in his mouth, hopefully not as long as I did.
The bullet hole is still in the ceiling. Even after they filled it up, you could still see where it was. I bet if I looked hard enough I could find the bullet, it should be somewhere in the attic. He left a note, a poem; it was no accident even though several family members are convinced that is was. It was called “My Life” but that seems wrong, he was only fifteen. How much of a life do you have at that age? He hadn’t begun living. I still don’t think my life has begun and I just turned twenty-two. If I were to kill myself and leave a note, I would have to entitle it “Prelude” or the “Developing years” or something like that.
Five months later at the girlfriend’s place in the suburbs of Dallas I had a dream that Jason was alive again. He was dead but he just got tired of being dead or something and came back. I’m not sure if our parents knew he was back or not, but I think at that time I was the only one who knew about it. It made me insanely happy to have him back.
When I woke up, I felt very weird, not as sad as I should have been I guess. It kinda made me happy to think of him as a living person again. I’m starting to forget the way he sounded and looked when he actually moved around the house, not just as he does in my photographs of him. All I know is that I wish he would come back to life. Maybe he was speaking to me in a dream and that really was him and not just my mind.
In a way I’m glad I didn’t know him any longer than I did, I would miss him too much. I knew him well enough to know that he was an excruciatingly nice, incredibly smart guy with the purest heart in the world. I said that about him while he was alive, I’m not just romanticizing about him since nobody will ever have the balls to contradict me.
I feel we were just getting to the point where we would become great friends, he was at an age where I could get along with him better and we were getting into the same kind of things and loved the same kind of music. The boy looked up to me like an idol.
It’s now been two and a half years; I can barely remember his voice. I have no idea what the art piece was titled and I guess I never will. I think about him only about once a month now, I know my mom and his dad do more. I’m starting to forget what a great person he was and how much fun we had sitting around watching movies or playing with the cats or playing card games. The inside jokes are slipping away without him to bring them up again.
Every time I eat at a restaurant with my mom and his dad I have to hear the same old Jason stories of what he did at Olive Garden when he had too much caffeine and how we couldn’t get him to shut up. I think his dad regrets ever telling his son to shut up. If there is one sound in the world he’d give up his life for, it would be the sound of Jason all hyperactive and being a silly fifteen year old. He would be nearly eighteen now; he still wouldn’t know a fucking thing.