This morning, I sat in the library, intermittently writing by hand, typing, reading, allowing myself blog breaks. I had a "hunger headache," brought on by my usual skipping breakfast and holding out as long as I can before lunch.
Where I am typing, on the first floor, I have no cell reception. I leave my phone upstairs in my carrel, so that I can see my missed calls.
This afternoon, I had five. Strange, as only my sister and Trinity call me usually, but not alarming. But best friend Louisiana has left a message. "I am calling," she says, "to see if anyone has told you Samuel died."
I don't have much of a reaction, initially. The headache throbs a little bit, but I swallow some orange juice and begin the process of calling to see what happened.
There is a backstory, of course, as there is to most of my ramblings. There were six children born to my mom and her first cousins in my hometown in 1974. I was the only girl, a fact that has meant a lifetime of homework requests, harassment, prying, and unsolicited opinions. Sam was one of the boys, one of the quieter, less intrusive ones. We grew up tight, a bond that didn't survive into adulthood, but I was always glad to see him.
And now he is gone. And I am thinking.
I have known black men from my small town to die. Big Ferg, from this story, was kidnapped and murdered by jackasses who thought he had drugs and money stashed at his house. The grandson of my mom's best friend, who lived next door to us most of my life, was killed by his girlfriend's ex. My classmate's husband died in a high-speed car accident when we were in our mid-20s. Just two weeks ago, a twenty-year-old boy (because that's what he was a silly, hot-tempered, always in trouble, funny, sweet boy) died of an overdose of X and cocaine.
My own father, in thinking about the early deaths of his father and two of his brothers (one of whom died at 34) said to my sister and me, "We have the looks and the brains, but not the time."
So I have seen it, over and over. Accidents, diseases, murders, a suicide.
But it never stops. And I'm never ready. Each time, there is an angry, frustrated, sad, "Why?" bubbling somewhere inside me, making my head pound.
A blocked artery, Trinity told me. That's what she's heard so far. She's going to check on Sam's sister later. "I don't know what else to do," she told me in a small voice, so unlike her.
But I can't help. I don't know either.