Goody-two shoes, geek, dork, I’ve heard them all. They never bothered me. I float through life on pure ambition for the future. I know exactly where I’m headed and how I want to get there, so it’s easy to turn down the volume of the world.
Now though, now, I don’t hear those names anymore. No one even talks to me. They throw me looks of pity and sympathy, like they really know what I’ve been through. They could never understand, and I don’t want them to. And as that one group of brats makes a circle around me in this dream, closing in for a group hug, I have a flashback:
I’m in the passenger seat hugging my sleeping bag to my chest. I had a stomach ache at my friends house, and Asher picked me up. The radio is on and a song that I don’t know hums. Asher taps to the beat with his pointer finger on the steering wheel.
“I’m sorry.” I say, my voice barely above a whisper.
“There’s nothing to be sorry for.” He turns to me and smiles. Even in the dark car, his smile lights up the entire space.
“I shouldn’t have made you drop your date.”
He shakes his head and takes my left hand in his. “You’re my number one Lex. I’ll do anything for you.”
And I know he will. He does way too much for me, and I always feel guilty. He turns down hanging with his friends all the time, just to spend time with his little sister. Most siblings can’t stand to even be in the same room together without fighting. Or they’re always talking about how much they hate one another. But it’s different with me and Asher. He'd risk his life for me without a second thought.
He drives in silence until we make it to a stop sign. The announcer on the radio asking for the 11th caller fills the quiet. Then rotating red and blue lights and a police siren overpower the noise.
I freeze and try to remember everything I’ve been taught: Hands on the dashboard. No sudden movements. Only talk when spoken to. Be respectful. Don’t. Reach. For. Anything.
Asher puts his hands on the dashboard calmly, and I follow suit, except my hands are shaking.
An aggressive knock at the window rattles me. Asher slowly brings his finger to the button that lowers the window. I glance and see that he’s trembling too.
“License and registration.” The officer shines a flashlight at Asher’s face, and then mine. His voice sends a chill down my spine. It can’t end how it usually does. It can’t. It won’t.
“They’re in my wallet, in my right pocket. I'm going to reach for them slowly with my left hand.” I can tell Asher’s trying to stay calm for me, but I can also hear the fear in his voice.
“Who’s she?” The cop points the flashlight at my face again and I flinch.
“My sister.” He answers way quicker than he needs to. He’s getting nervous.
“Why you answer like that?” There’s a country twang in his voice.
“No reason sir. Here’s my license and registration.” He speaks like he’s saying one word.
I jump as someone knocks at my window. “Roll down the window.”
“Step out of the vehicle.” I don’t like the way this is going.
He gets out calmly as the officer pats him down. The other cop is still at my window. “Open the door.”
“Stay away from my sister.” I try to tell Asher to shut up through nonverbal communication, but he’s scared. So am I.
I reach for the door, but the cop yanks it open and I tumble out of the car. “Lex!”
I try to tell him to stay back, that I’m okay, he doesn’t need to save me this time. But I know he wouldn’t listen. I stand up slowly, leaving some skin on the cold road.
The other officer disappears, and my heart sinks as the air is pierced with an electrifying sound. I watch as Asher’s body ripples, a bullet the center of the wave. His figure hits the car with a tragic thump. The 11th caller on the radio screams in joy as she’s told her prize. My cry tangles with hers. Before I know it, I’m next to him, holding his head in my lap, ignoring all the threats the cops are making. Asher looks up at me, and smiles. ‘I love you angel.’ And then he went away, to go dance with the angels.
People ask what silence sounds like, or what death feels like. I want to know why death chose not to be silent that night. Why did it choose my brother? My soul mate. My friend. The person I couldn’t go a day without seeing. Now I can’t go a day without crying. Why did it decide he was good enough? Why couldn’t it have been me? Each question I ask is equivalent to the number of tears that soak my pillow, tonight, and each night. Most likely for an eternity.
When I was younger, I wrote stories. Whenever I was feeling a strong emotion; happy, sad, angry. Asher told me to never stop writing. To never stop speaking. To always know what is right. Nothing about this situation is right. I want him to knock on my door and tell me to turn down my stupid music. I want him to steal a spoonful of my cereal just to annoy me before school. I want him to write ‘hi’ in the corner of the paper I’m working on. I want him to throw a pillow at me when I’m having a sleepover with my friends. I want him. I don’t want to write anything anymore, because no amount of words, or syllables, or paragraphs, will begin to explain how much he meant to me. How much I loved him. How much I needed him.
There were protests, there were riots, there were hashtags, there was no justice. No justice? No peace. No justice? No Asher. Justice? Peace. Justice? No Asher. Every outcome is the same.
So I sit here, reliving the nightmare that’s haunted me forever and a day. I look over at my desk, and imagine him reading something over my shoulder. Asher said writing was my weapon. My superpower. But as I pull the covers back over my head and cry into my pillow, I know that I don’t have any more power. He was my power, and now he’s not here. Without him, I’m powerless.