In the 34 years I’ve been here in this body-in this lifetime, I had one fight with him. On Facebook. He had already been displaying some signs of mental instability. One day before I moved to Maryland, I had to come get him from my dad’s shop. He was standing in front of the office in the rain as stiff as a statue. To this day, I don’t know why he did it. I know that he didn’t come away with me that day. I pulled and tugged at his arms, his uniform shirt, his fingers. I whispered to him. I raised my voice. He was planted there. I am looking at him now, water streaming down his golden locs. He was a beautiful man. Conflicted like we all are.

The fight we had was about the choice I made to marry my wife, Ambyr. He was furious, and for some reason, he decided to make some wayward comments on a picture from my wedding. We said some mean things to each other. He said we were “nasty” and a host of other things I am sure he learned from listening to Capleton. I wasn’t necessarily peeved by his opinion, since in my culture, not many people understand or accept the fact that not every woman- no matter the way she presents herself- wants to be taken down night after night by some guy with a big dick, or muscles, or a beard. He threw out what he had learned by being from where we were from, and while I thought it was disgraceful for him to address us like that on Facebook, I knew that because he was he was a prisoner of thinking that didn’t belong to him, it wasn’t personal. My days are riddled with comments I don’t give a shit about because I know not to take things personally.

I felt that in time we could talk about it, and laugh at it like we did everything else. I was right. One day while on the phone with a close family friend, he got on the line, voice as robust and shiny as ever. “Hey sis! What’s up? How are you? I miss you and I love you!” I returned the sentiments while shaking my head at his change in mood towards me. He never held grudges against people, which was a blessing to me in this instance. I was serious about defending my views, and my relationship, but I loved my brother, and I wanted him in my life. When I had Levi, he would text and ask about him. Jermaine was elated I had a baby boy to love. He had always told me I was going to make a great wife and mother. Heck, I guess in a way I helped mother him even though he was a year old than me. When we were in high school, I would make sure my baby sister was asleep and then slink off to his room to spend time talking about the day, and our dreams, and there we would sleep, two almost adults, all curled up together. He was my security blanket.

And then things changed.

He went to college in Tallahassee. When he came back a couple years later, I was in Daytona pursuing my own education. Tensions were high between him and my father. He felt like I took my father’s side in their arguments, but still came to visit me all the time. I did the same. When he and Crystal moved out and got an apartment, their place was always my first stop when I came back home. We got tattoos together, and he never quite accepted the fact that I didn’t know how to smoke weed, or had no desire to learn. He playfully made fun of how prissy I was. I always laughed right along with him, but secretly wished I did enjoy it so we could have more things in common like our love of The Young and the Restless, Twinkies, and fish sandwiches from Bud’s Chicken and Seafood. We always laughed at the fact that we were super close although we didn’t share a mother, only our father, who we both kind of followed around at all times and tried to emulate. I suppose he was better at that than me.

In the months leading up to his death, I received numerous calls from friends talking about Jermaine riding around on a bike all over the city, having more and more children, and stalking a girl whose husband threatened to kill him if he kept coming around the house bothering her. I always followed up with the people who made these calls, and with my father and my siblings, and honestly, I was never pleased with their answers. In my mind, it was simple-he clearly needed help, and that meant that someone-our family is huge- should have helped him. Maybe even me. I left Florida in 2013, and by all accounts, I have lived a blessed life. I can’t think of anything I need that I don’t have. I suppose I considered myself too far away to help, but is that the truth? I don’t know. What I do know is that his death covers me. It is a net over my existence right now. I miss his smile so much. I hear his laugh in my ears before I close my eyes, and though I haven’t been dreaming much lately, when I do-his face is there.

One single shot to the chest. A woman nearby held him and prayed with him as he transitioned. I am so grateful for that. I just keep wondering what he was thinking when it happened. He was so goofy and sweet. He probably thought it was a joke.

I have been in Florida since the day he died, and every couple days, his children come over. He is stamped on their faces. Jermaine is nowhere and everywhere at the same time.