Editor’s Note: This story was written June 24, 2020. The early morning of the writer’s brother's funeral.
What do you wear to a funeral in the summer when the world is on fire?
The world is on fire. I do not care what people say. I think the world is on fire. I have evidence. Climate change, I mean isn’t that enough evidence? The world is actually on fire.
It’s been hot. I’ve been hiding away in sweats and hoodies all of the pandemic, but now it’s hot, and my brother is dead. I have to go to a funeral in the summer, and the world is on fire.
I think I was folding clothes when my dad called me. I got off work at 9 p.m. and saw the phone ring.
I do not talk to my dad often, so I do not answer the phone.
My Aunt Aleisa then calls me. I decline it. Recently, I’ve talked to my Aunt Aleisa a bit, and I fear she’s told him what I’ve gone through, and he wants to check in on me. I’m kind of pissed off at this point.
She left a voicemail, and something tells me to listen to it immediately.
“Hi Jaden, um this is your Aunt Leisa. Do me a favor, um call your dad it’s important. Um, it really is important. I wouldn’t ask you to call if you don’t want to call him, call me.”
I don’t listen to the second half, and I hadn’t until now. When she said “call your dad,” I knew I had to. I thought maybe my grandma had died. She is in her 70s and healthy, but COVID-19 was killing a lot of people, healthy and not. I call my dad.
He asks if I am alone. Matt, my old roommate and best friend, just moved to South Carolina, so I am alone. I tell him that I am alone. He requests I not be alone, but I reiterate that I have no choice but to be alone.
In that moment, I realized how lonely I am and how alone I felt. I kept asking him to tell me, and my panic is rising. I cannot wait to hear what he has to say.
“OK, well Alonzo died today,” he said. He sounds calm. He is not crying, and I am trying to find a good way to describe any sort of emotion in his voice, but there is none. He is just him.
My dad is Alonzo Amos IV, and my older brother is Alonzo Amos V. Five is a lot of Alonzo Amoses. The rest of the conversation is blurry. He died June 18. I really do not know what to do. I want to Google, “what to do after your sibling dies,” but I am still on the phone.
I hurry off the phone. We talked for 1 minute. It did not feel like 1 minute, it felt like 10 seconds and 10 minutes. I FaceTime my mom and tell her. We talk for 1 minute. I get off and call my boss, Bobby. We talk for 37 seconds. I call my friend Haley. We talk for 1 minute. People start calling me, but I have talked about it for a total of 4 minutes and 37 seconds and that is too long for me. I text my other friend Haley and tell her what happened. I am done telling people.
I make a tweet. I like to make tweets. That is what I do for work, and I do it even when I am not working.
“My brother died today. I’m making this tweet so people know just not to reach out to me right now at all. Please don’t ask me about work, diversity, my brother, etc. Also, pass this message along to others. I’m logging off for a bit.”
That last part was a lie, I am incapable of logging off. I am always logged on. I watch the likes roll in and feel grateful that barely anyone has texted me.
The dean of my school emails me saying he saw my tweet and that he is sorry. The dean does not follow me, but it’s clear people are sharing the news and “checking on me.”
I ask my boss if I can take off work tomorrow, and I feel grateful my mom promised to come down. My mom is angry that I asked off because she thinks I will lose money and it will look bad on me. My brain is too numb to even think about that. I just am thinking about Alonzo, the brother I barely knew.
I do stuff with my mom, but she mostly just cleans my house. I realize she did not pack a bag and that she is not intending on staying the night with me like I had hoped. She yells at me for sleeping all day.
So, back to the question, what do you wear?
I have a black long-sleeve top picked out with a black denim skirt. I shaved my legs and exfoliated like I am trying to impress someone. I am a very selfish person. Here I am, trying to look my best on a day that has nothing to do with me. My brother died, and I have not written down a single thing about him but his name. Even now, I am being selfish writing about me, not him.
Tomorrow it will be hot. Humid and in the 80s. I will drive to the East side of Indianapolis and look at his dead body with the rest of my siblings. I do not want to look at his dead body, but everyone else is going. I have only met my brother a handful of times, and I want to remember him like that.
I do not want to see his dead body.
My brother is older, and he lived in Indianapolis. I cannot tell you much about him. I know he died. His birthday is Sept. 9. I can tell you he was very artistic and had a face tattoo. A red Chinese symbol. It was the classiest face tattoo I’ve ever seen, and I thought it was very cool.
My brother talked at family gatherings but sort of never directly to me. At Christmas one year, we argued with our dad about the importance of Malcolm X and his erasure from Black history. He was pretty oppositional to everything my dad liked. He did not want a 9-5 job, he did not want to name his son Alonzo Amos VI, and he did not care too much about religion. That is all I know.
I sit here in bed, four hours before I must get up and get ready for his funeral, or showing or whatever. I feel guilty. I distanced myself from my family because I thought I was better than them, I think. I felt envious that my dad was a dad to everyone except me. I did not know my brother very well. I didn’t even have his phone number. I wish I would have known so I could have done something. I don’t know if I would have done anything. I don’t even know what I could have done, but I regret a lot.
I wish I could write pages and pages, memories of my brother, but I do not have any. I wish I could describe his voice or his laugh, but I don’t remember what they sound like. I do not know anything about Alonzo Amos V other than the way and day he died.
June 18, 2020, and he was 23 years old. He was supposed to be in Los Angeles with his friends the day of his funeral.
I do not want to go to this funeral. I feel sick thinking about getting dressed.
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