My Big Brother

by Sammy Smith

My brother was no angel in his life, but he was my brother. 

March 20, 2017. It’s been one year. 52 weeks. 365 days. 8760 hours.

I’ll remember that day for an eternity. Your “Mama T” called me, her voice quivering. I knew something was wrong immediately. She asked me what I was doing, and then she uttered the words that I’ll never forget.

“Zo was killed. They found his body earlier today.”

Feeling a knot in my stomach, I froze. She kept talking, but the room went quiet. Her voice was muffled in my head. Immediately, memories of me, Zo, and Kelvin growing up in that house surfaced. I was in shock. My brother was gone. Damn, I can’t believe it’s been a year.

He was no angel in his life, but he was my brother.

In the short time we lived together, Zo taught me so much. He was the quintessential big brother. He taught me to swim. I remember him and Kelvin ripping me out of the water, tearing off my life jacket, and tossing me in the deep end. I was scared at first, but my brothers were there if I needed them.

He taught me to fight. Ever the irritant, he would piss me off intentionally, just so I would fight him. Afterward, he’d tell me to always stand up for myself.

He taught me to not take life so seriously — to have fun. We would stand in front of the TV, watching The Temptations miniseries and singing and dancing along. We would play football in the yard with our neighbors. We would blast Sammie and Aaliyah in his room, just having fun. It wasn’t all good all the time, but it was us.

Like I said, my brother was no angel in his life, but he was my brother.

Zo was a contradiction. He was a soldier — not in the traditional sense. He defended his flag, his block, and his family.

Kelvin said it best when he said, “[You were] the epitome of a real warrior who ruled with an iron fist and a big heart. As serious as a heart attack but a comedian in his own right. Not just a man — a king , a father, a solider, my big brother.”

Zo

Zo would strike fear into your heart, but was a loving person. He was as serious as a heart attack, but the funniest person in the room. He thrived in chaos. He was a smart person who did some dumb things. He paid for them, and he did his time.

He was no angel in his life, but he was my brother. 

I last saw Zo in person when I was 13 years old. I remember being so damn excited to see my big brother. He gently smacked the back of my head like he used to. He hugged me and smiled that infectious smile of his. We talked and we caught up, and then we went our separate ways. Little did I know, I wouldn’t see him again.

Over the years, I never got to talk to him. He was away so long. I figured we’d have all this time to catch up when I got older. I figured we’d figure things out, and we’d talk more and get closer when he got out and got his stuff together. I thought it’d make for better conversation when I experienced life more. I thought I had time, but I was wrong. They took that time away.

There’s a picture of Zo beside my bed. Everyday, I talk to him. I tell him about my day. I tell him that we miss him. I apologize for the lost time. I know it sounds crazy, but I’m trying to make up for the time that we never got together — the time that I took for granted.

So as I write this with tears welling up in my eyes, I want to say that my brother wasn’t an angel in his life, but he is in his death

Watching over me as I live this life for him, trying to make him proud. Tonight, exactly one year after they took you away from us, I’m going to do what you would want me to do: pour some Crown Royal, drink to your memory, and remember the times that we had.

Alonzo, I love you big bro. Forever and always. Long Live Zo.

 

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