Welcome to the Jungle

“My uncle died, My Daddy did too, Paralyzed by the pain, I can barely move, My nephew gone, My heart is torn, Sometimes I look to the sky, Ask why I was born, My faith in God, Every day is hard, Every night is worse, That’s why I pray so hard” Welcome to the Jungle

I have in irrational fear of flying. More than the actual height, I fear the idea of what could happen should something go wrong while at such a high altitude. It’s a fear of falling… suddenly, without warning.

That’s how I feel knowing my brother’s gone. Every day I relive hearing the news of his death, I plan the immediate trip to AZ, I scour to memorialize his life in 2.5 days, and I land on the thought of his cold body beneath my warm hand. The interval of this memory has shortened from whole day grieving to short 5 minute spurts throughout the day. The broken body outline in white chalk where I landed sprinkled with fairy dust, electrocuted into motion: a zombie-like reincarnation remains.

I go through the motions but my whole body is numb.

It’s hard to determine the worse part of this experience, but my hate for everyone, the anathema of my character, borders on the top 5 things.

I don’t give two flying shits about anything and I’m questioning my purpose for being.

Yesterday while waiting on my lost luggage and living on the bare minimum from Delta Airlines, I laid my head on a softened hotel pillow, my last murmur to God: Heavenly Father, should you choose not to wake me up tomorrow, I wouldn’t be mad at all.

The ache of a tired soul often hides behind a wooden smile.

My last years of high school I lingered in a depressed state making daily plans of how I was going to kill myself. I debated between a tragic car crash, pills, a gun, and a whole mess of other dramatic scenarios. I knew though that I was gonna die about 32-33. My brother died at 32 on the eve of his 33rd birthday.

Grandma would say don’t speak of death lest it creep up on you; I’ll let you ponder that irony.

I can’t forgive myself for being a poor sister to my brother. I can’t forgive myself for not praying for him more. I can’t forgive myself for thinking of these great ways to help him but never taking action. I can’t forgive myself for him being gone and living with the regret of never telling him “I Love You” more.

This is the forgettable story of my short life: An amazing visionary without a solid plan. My legacy lies in boards filled with visions with no proof of my existence.

His absence is the validation of my failure on the only thing on which I stood firmly: my family. The pride of my family bond has gotten me through many a desperate time. A rocked foundation shakes even the firmest hand.

Nothing really matters anymore. I’m not sure I want to write anymore. Not sure I want to work anymore. Not sure I want friends. I’m teetering in every decision.

I just want to curl in bed and cry. Life is a freaking rollercoaster until it drops and I’m wallowing in a bottomless pit. It’s funny that though my life feels like it’s stopped, other people’s life keeps going. An object in motion stays in motion, at rest stays at rest.

I can understand people who turn to drinking, drugs, sex in order to dilute their thinking with immediate sensory overload. Like a kid with a paper cut I just want someone to hold me while I cry, wash away the blood, and give me a sense of home. I feel like I have nowhere to go; nowhere to run to escape the musings of my mind.

This may be the hardest thing I’ve ever had to deal with and clearly I’m not handling it well.

Readers: Do you ever feel like you’re going through the motions? Any regrets? Things you plan to change?

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My Brother Died…

Unlike my other posts with well thought out words, I can only embody the grief I feel. No song, melody, tune can soothe me or personify the true weight of losing my brother.

Jan 3: My brother died today. He was 32 years old. His birthday is February15. He loves the Cowboys. The doctors could resuscitate him. And he died.

Jan 4: I’m sitting in an airport flying home to bury my brother. He leaves behind my 15 year old nephew, A. He’s also survived by his wife, Ronnie, and her 5 kids (A is her stepson).

Qasim was my closest brother growing up. He always loved on me. Made me laugh. Told me to pull his finger. He tried to teach me how to play video games. He enjoyed SciFi novels like our mom. He was so smart, the smartest of the 5 of us. He was destined for greatness. He used to run around the house and pick me up. He loved to cook, chef extraordinaire.

Since being diagnosed in 2006 he’s being in and out of the hospital most of my adult life. But he was a fighter. He always said the doctors didn’t know what was wrong with him and that he was a solider. He was gonna keep fighting because well because he’s Qasim.

Q loved comics. He was the one that got me hooked on X-men. He used to swim with me and David and J.J. Baker in the ocean. And he would walk me to school. He played army men with me and my Barbies (he had those green plastic army men in a metal case that had stickers on it).

My favorite memory is when he played a part in a community play and this monster was out to get him. I vaguely remember standing up and screaming Run Qasim Run! He would call me while I was in school to talk shop always saying How ya doing, Miss Hoya?

And now he’s gone. It doesn’t seem real you know? It’s like I’m living in a bad dream where time has stopped and I can’t take a deep breath.

When people call/text/email/leave cards with their condolences I know that they are trying to help and be supportive but it also makes it very real. Real enough that people are sad for you because they know you—they know loss—and they know a 32 year old man has no business collapsing and dying suddenly. People ask how you are doing and because saying that you feel like your entire life is dissolving requires too many text characters and way too much breath, you answer with simple platitudes like “I’m ok”, “I’m fine”, “I don’t know”. And they respond with consoling rhetoric like “hang in there”, “this too shall pass”, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”. Instead of my reply of “go fuck yourself” while I dwell in a wall of emotions, I just say “thank you”.

The logical side says people don’t know how to handle/respond to death and they respond in a manner that at once soothes their obligatory check-in and at lasts lets the aggrieved know that someone is thinking of them/ their needs.

But it sucks. Everything about the mass texts and the Bible verses, and the phone calls that I send to voicemail do nothing but magnify my loss. And in the end you feel very alone.

This is the type of alone where your breath catches and the syncopated rhythm becomes short gasps leaving you clawing at your neck and rubbing your eyes. Nothing is funny. Nothing is right. Nothing makes sense. You become numb.

In the end I just want my brother back. Getting on and off the plane to AZ brought me closer and closer to the realization that my brother is gone forever. Telling the story to all the people who called and asked bursts the invisible bubble where I thought this was just a dream. It’s funny that when I’m not absorbed in sadness I’m awash in anger and hate. I just don’t understand why he had to go.

Jan 5: The tornado gained force as my brother Alf and I tried to get everything ready for Friday. Time escapes us and it felt like no matter what we couldn’t properly honor our brother. There was too much to do and all I wanted was someone to hold me, make me feel safe again. That’s the destructive nature of death: it takes away your center leaving you numb, senseless, undeniably cold, and without a firm foundation to stand. Because there have always been 5 of us… Alf, Mi, D, Q, and me. 5 people who comforted one another, who spoke differently to one another, who completed each other, and who loved each other deeply.

There’s an unexplainable gap which leaves you distracted, absent, repeating yourself like Rain Man, wanting to throw tantrums, and lastly understanding that being an adults is the biggest crock of inevitable bullshit. Even worse that fear of abandonment dangles its head, taunting me in my acute aloneness. And the truth that no matter how tightly I hold on, you will eventually leave me— alone.

The fucked up part is the scheming, blood sucking, capitalist leeches that charge excessive fortunes to respect the dead: letting us know that for $1400 we can have 30 mins with our beloved deceased brother in that unsoothing dim-lit room with tinkling music playing in the background before we are handed the particles of his remains as he’s burned with the other poverty stricken souls. Thank you, you slimy son of a bitch for letting me know that I have 30minutes to say goodbye to the person I’ve literally known my whole life. What they won’t include is the urn. That’s the deluxe package that no one can scrape together in 2days. The urn– a carefully crafted domicile for a cherished member of a family.

Jan 6: After scouring shops with Alf, I had to make my brothers final resting place. One for Mommy/Daddy and one for his wife Ronnie. Did I mention that Qasim loved the Cowboys? I painted the boxes blue and white, Auntie lined the insides with velvet from a fabric store. Alf left me in charge of the inscription. I agonized for the 1.2days that I had to figure out what would immortalize my brother and express the eternal love/devotion we all have for him. I went with what I felt:

Qasim S.

Beloved Father, Husband, Brother, Son

Forever young, Forever missed

I hope he saw that from heaven and smiled, I hope he knows how much i—we—miss him. I miss his smiles and his laugh and his hugs and his Carlton dance and his stern looks that made his nostrils flare, and his voice when he would call me Miss Hoya Hoya. I hope he knows how much we love him.

I got the engravings at Things Remembered (who will forever have my business). The lady behind the counter was so patient with me. Crying in the store holding the box that would soon house my brother. Painstakingly double checking the draft inscription, then sitting right in front of the store staring off into nothingness waiting with a crumpled face and cascading tears for the obligatory hour process to finish.

Even though there were three people in front of me, she completed the two plaques first. She smiled kindly as I finished my transactions (and my credit card was declined) adding a Q charm for my necklace, forever taking my brother with me.

I left the mall to sit on a bench in my gray dress and black sweater in the AZ sun waiting to be picked up for the viewing. All of a sudden it hit me that I was losing my brother today, that he was really gone. That this wasn’t a nightmare. I lost it on a bench in front of the biggest mall in AZ. Screaming out that I didn’t want to bury my brother. My aunts and uncle pull up. Everyone is trying to console me, trying to move me from the bench, trying to get me to talk it out. At that moment the realness of wanting C as a home plate shook my core. Doesn’t matter that I drove to his house Tuesday after hearing the news only to find out he doesn’t live there anymore. It’s not really a good look to be banging on someone’s door at 10pm in the middle of the hood in DC, crying. I didn’t really think all of that through. The whole week I kept thinking that he would know what to do; he would know what to say, he would tell me what I should be doing. The apparent loss of my best friend ( C ) and my beloved brother was too much at one time.

We get to the viewing at Tempe Mortuary. And you walk into a church like atmosphere with pews. My brother lays prostrate on a raised alter covered from mid-chest down by a quilted patchwork patterned yellow/orange blanket. He was still in his hospital scrubs, dots of blood marring the blue speckled cotton fabric, his lips chapped, hands crossed right over left. He looked like he was sleeping. I’ve never seen a dead body before, and I damn sure didn’t want the first one to be my brother.

We got to go up and say goodbye. I’m sobbing with Mi as Daddy holds us both. Mi whispering furiously “he’s got to get up, tell him to get up, someone go wake him up”, rubbing my hand. D arrives crying, boldly walks up to make peace with my brother: saying goodbye, talking to him. Alf says goodbye, prays over his body, crying. Mommy says a few words, crying, Daddy’s holding her slight frame. My sisters and I huddled together, crying uncontrollably. Then Mommy talks about leaving, about where we are going next. I’ve never been so angry at someone in my life. I just lose it. I’ve never had such an out-of-body experience, but I turn into an unrecognizable lunatic. I scream out about not leaving, not wanting to go, shaking people off me, ignoring the pleas for me to calm down. I’m telling them that we have to wake Qasim up. He has to get up because we can’t leave without him, because there’s 5 of us— all 5 of us have to go.

I think D convinces me that we need to say goodbye, I always listen to her. We walk up and say goodbye. I reach to touch Qasims arm, just like I saw everyone else do, to say goodbye— the cold, the frigid emptiness that permeated my body as my fingers glided across his once warm skin. I’ll never forget that. Never. It’s the type of cold that no matter how much you rub, kiss, cuddle it will never heat up or absorb warmth. It’s the ice that seeps in: my knees buckle and I collapse screaming because the weight of this reality has killed my optimism— just like it killed my brother.

I’m forced to get up—time rushing past us, the demand to evacuate the sanctuary because we didn’t pay for more. I stand up, really look at my brother. I promise my love for him and lay my head on his chest where no answering heartbeat heal to my hurt. I accept the hollow, and wish him well in heaven.

But it doesn’t mean I don’t want him back, that I wouldn’t sacrifice my all for him back. I never thought he would leave and I have to live with his absence for the rest of my life. Puts things in perspective, huh?

All I have left is one picture of all 7 of us together from Thanksgiving:


I love you Qasim.

Tonight is the Night

“Tonight is the night, That you make me a woman, You said you’d be gentle with me, And I hope you will. You’re knocking on my door and you’re ringing my bell, Hope youre not impatient after waiting so long, A whole year I put you off with my silly hang-ups, And we’re both old enough to know right from wrong… So let’s just pray, That true love is what we’ve found.” Betty Wright 

One of my good friends is a virgin and recently got into a relationship with a nice guy. Like most women do, she lied about being sexually active. When she got around to asking me whether or not she should sleep with him, of course I said no.

Giving up your virginity is a huge deal, and shouldn’t be taken lightly. It will translate into what type of relationships you have in the future. It marks the move of a relationship with you alone, to now panting for relationships with men for fulfillment. It also dramatically changes how you feel about yourself. This is by no means an argument to place your p… *cough* self on a pedestal, but I am a strong advocate for making smart sexual decisions. Those five minutes of intensity quickly evaporate to the consequences of letting someone in…

Here are my three things that I think every girl should think about before giving it up:

1. Is he worth it? You’ve been in a relationship with you for years. You know what you like, what makes you happy, how you feel love/express joy, etc. Adding that additional person to the mix makes it all messy. No matter what precautions you put in place, its very easy to lose yourself in the other person. You start to forget about the time/dedication it takes to manage your relationship with you and still make that other person happy. In truth, if he doesn’t see a future with you and you aren’t realistically expecting to stay with him long term, it’s not worth it. And if you believe you’re worth it, then he will wait.

2. Sex complicates a relationship. I just watched Friends with Benefits

which perfectly illustrates the complications of including sex in your friendship. The part at Dylan’s parent’s house where the sex becomes more intimate and less fun… yea that always happens. If you start to like the guy, you learn what makes him *cough* happy in bed and when you start to love him you crave how he holds you after. Sex with him becomes part of your relationship’s defining personality. The the quantifying dynamic is the importance of touching him outside of the bedroom, as well as within. And because selfishly selfless emotions tied to your interactions start to matter and weigh on your decisions, you actually care what he thinks about you. To prevent that maintain the play, hold off on the serious.

3. Sometimes wanting to be in love and being loved in return clouds rational thought. If women are cats, then the sappy romance of making a man fall in love with the “real you” is our catnip. Be it movies, love songs, books, FB statuses, whatever we want our life to resemble… at the center is this huge call to be loved. And we’re willing to curb everything, to forsake others, to ignore doubt for the brief glimpses of eternity he provides. Make sure what you feel is forever and not momentary muteness. There’s never a need to rush anything.

The say that everyone regrets their first, I just never thought I’d be one of them. I should’ve waited… waited until I loved me more, waited until I thought it was for real and not just to keep him interested, waited until I could be content with the consequences of giving it up. (I mean who tells you that after the first time it’s harder to say no with the next dude? Or the cravings? Yo, that’s a whole other post…)

But I didn’t wait, so here I am. No use crying over spilled bl… I mean milk, but I wouldn’t wish these regrets on anyone.

Readers: What about you? Any lessons learned from losing your virginity? Any advice for the abstinent? Feel free to overshare 😉

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