My Play Little Brother

oakland-mapTW: SUICIDE

Death changes you. No matter the kind of death.

It can unravel you, it can unbuckle you, in the face of death you can learn who you are.

You probably WILL learn who you are.

5 years ago, my play little brother took is life. Matteo.

I helped to raise this child, and the most peculiar thing about it, or perhaps not, is that no matter what I accomplish, I will never see his flesh face. I will never see him get married, I will never hold his baby, I will never see him graduate from college. I will never, I will never.

I help to raise Mat, or as I called him Matteo, because if you know me online or afk (away from keyboard) I have a special affinity for names and naming.

There are are a variety of kinds of death. Murders, Cancer,  Natural Death, HIV Aids, drive-bys, structural racism being mapped onto your under/un-insured body. He took his own life.

He was tall, lanky, handsome, White, with a cleft in his chin, his “hella’s,” his handsomeness and Love for our favorite Thai Restaurant on Grand Ave, the last place I took him to eat after he picked up from the airport after a work meeting in New York. His astute awareness of being a young White man in Oakland. His gift of poetry. His alto voice. His willingness to work. His ability to make me laugh at things I should not laugh at. His loyalty to his friends.

I couldn’t grieve his death for a year.  I paid the price for this. It cost me, in part, a very important relationship. Once I began to grieve and continued to, I learned how to do it. I did it with videos, with art. I dedicated my first book to him. I made a painting about Oakland and the book and I included him in it.

I got to a point where his death became a part of my day to day life. It just was. Not that I thought about it, or that I  felt sad about it, his Life like his death became a part of me.

In making the video in Oakland in 2012, I came to conclusion that it wasn’t for me to say what he should or should not do with his life. It is what it is, and it was what it was.

One of the things that I am most proud of  in life is that in the few months before his death I was very insistent  about texting him to make a time for us to talk. This was before it was common knowledge that young people prefer to text, rather than talk on the phone. It took me a few days to schedule it, and we finally spoke and it was a lovely long conversation. We talked about home, his school and grad school desires, his friends, his family, how grad school was going for me and the fact that I had fallen in love recently.

He died 2 months later.

Death changes you. HIS death changed me.

I will say that 5 years later, I still see his face in children. And I mark it as well. Their round faces, their soup bowl haircuts. I look for and see his face in the crevices of their smiles, in the shape of their hair cuts, in the lankiness of their gaits.

One memory I will always have is of me taking him on the 15 bus  from the Berkley pool to Oakland while listening to Illmatic on my walkman. Me listening, and being protective. Him looking out the window at all of the activity on the streets. Me negotiating the stares from Black men wondering what I was doing with this White child.

I helped to raise him.

The thing that I know know that I did not know then is that the suicide of a young person is something that you do not get over. It is something that you learn to live with; hauntingly. Today, it is NOW something that I know that I don’t ever WANT to get over. I relish in the opportunity of ever getting to know his spirit.

Amen.

I Love you Matteo, Always. I see you every day.

Your Sister.

Renina

Want “Black Girls Are From the Future: Essays on Race, Digital Creativity and Pop Culture” at your local library? You can request it.

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You can request my book “Black Girls Are From the Future: Essays on Race, Digital Creativity and Pop Culture” at your local library.

If you want the book in your library that you have to do is go to the website for your local library and request the book.  I have included links to ten cities where folks have supported the book. If I do not list your library link below, every website as a link where you can request a book.

If you have been on this ride with me, thank you for all of your support over the years. You all are the reason why I do what I do. If you are a new reader, thank you for joining the community. I treasure this space, because it has allowed me a space to develop my writing voice and create an international community.

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Prince George’s County, Maryland – **Note. They don’t have a digital link, only a phone number, but I wanted to include it just the same.

 

When A I Loved One Commits Suicide

 

It has taken me nearly a year to deal with the suicide of my play little brother Matteo.

I felt like shit when I first learned, nearly a year ago. In fact, I just laid on the floor and cried. When I saw that I had a phone call from a 510 number late on a Sunday night, I knew something was wrong; no one calls me from home that late unless something is wrong.

The day after I learned he passed, I still taught my class, but I mentioned to my students that someone close to me died, someone who was around their age.

Then I went to Ben’s with Jerm the Perm to eat wings. #NOTtheappropriatewayofdealingwithaDeath.

It really felt like shit to be there for my students, but not be able to be there for someone that I consider to be family, and I’ve held on to that until I went to Oakland three weeks ago and formally grieved his death.

You see, Matteo and I were close because I baby-sat him when I was in high school. When I say baby-sat I mean, 8 hours on Saturday, and 8 hours on Sunday. 16 hours per weekend for most of high school.

I had just spoken to Matteo last August right before comps, just to catch up. I am glad that I was insistent about making a point to meet speak to him and find out how school and work was going. I remember sending him a few text messages in order to set up a time. Normally, that process annoys me, but I did it, it felt right.

What was useful about grieving the loss of him in Oakland, is that I finally came to understand that he was in so much pain, and was ready to go then there was nothing that I could do about it, unless he wanted help. At the same time, I wish, if he were in that much pain, that he would have reached out to me.

So, while I was in Oakland, I made a short movie and walked around his/our old neighborhood. It was then that I felt better. I don’t think I’ll ever be the same again. But there was something cathartic about walking around the neighborhood and remember which street to avoid because they had two pit bulls in the yard and which house had the great garden tended by the Vietnamese grand mother.

After I made the video, I walked down to the Farmers Market and I saw someone who looked just like him, tall, White, early twenties, box jaw, I almost jumped out of my fucking skin. But I suspect that that is simply apart of the process. I just bought some fancy pesto and kept on walking.

Have you ever dealt with the loss of a loved one?

What was your process?

@ 12:34 am

At 12:34 I called home. I went to set my alarm on my phone. I saw a missed call.

510.

Home. I called back.

Only to find out that the little bear I baby-sat passed away. I assumed, car accident, drive by……

Only to learn that he took his life.

I am so fucked off in the game Gina.

I knew this child when he was 6 and I baby sat him for dough to pay for BART to got to Lick-Wilmerding, a FANCY prep school in Frisco.

Working class Black girls always have to work.

I curled up in a ball on the floor crying.

I talked to him in August, right before comps, he was thinking about Medical school. We laughed. I told him about Goldy.

How in the fuck do you get over losing a 23 year old that you consider to be a little brother.

Through God I guess?

If I could, I would cancel tomorrow’s class.

I will probaly just explain to them why my eyes are swollen.

I feel like a failure as a play big sister. Not to say that I could have saved him. Because I couldn’t. I just feel like I could have checked on him, more. You know?

Dadddy just said that when someone is ready to leave earth, they ready to go.

You can’t stop them.

I still feel like I am in a daze.

I hope little bear got some peace where he at now.

Loved ones aftermath of suicide is the devil.