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Can you imagine, in the ashes and clutter that was my apartment, how I wondered if I would ever hold my dear brother in my arms again? And then, can you also imagine how the realization of truth stopped my thoughts and reminded me that he was resting peacefully in God’s playground? Never to be seen again; never to be heard again. My brother died in black smoke and vicious flames. As I remembered him, I could not help but weep. It left me scarred and broken because even with an eternal desire to reunite in sentimental bliss, my conscience repeatedly spoke the words, “He’s gone.”
1978. A hot December night in Nicaragua. My mother, 19 and pregnant, gave birth to her first child and brought life into his eyes. Piero was born a beautiful baby boy that lit the room with his adorable smile and unique charm. In May of 1983, my mother took my brother and sister and crossed the border into the United States. Piero spent the rest of his life here in America and never returned to his native Nicaragua. During Piero’s childhood, he experienced many challenging obstacles, which included being discriminated by others for being homosexual. Even with these hardships, nothing could stop him from having a bright personality and intelligent mind. He went through his early years always looking forward for something better.
In July of 1994, I was born. By that time my parents had four children, Piero, Jessica who was born in 1981, Miguel who was born in 1985, and me. Piero was our mentor and second father. We loved him so much and he meant the world to us. I never thought that my family and I would lose him in such a tragic way.
My whole relationship with Piero was a rare one. We got along famously, even though he was 15 years my senior. Naturally, he took care of me and wanted nothing but the best for my well being. We had many things in common and he taught me so many lessons that I will remember forever. He used to say, “Be careful Steph. Not everyone’s gonna be nice to you.” I live by those words on a daily basis and not a day goes by when I do not reminisce on the days when our lives were extremely simpler with him.
In September of 2007, our family made a shocking discovery. We found out that Piero was abusing and addicted to the drug crystal meth. We had always been aware that Piero smoked marijuana in his teenage years and later experimented with other drugs in his adult life. Unfortunately, due to the dwelling pain that originated from his childhood, he used drugs as a way to become numb. By the time we found out about his crystal
meth addiction, he was in too deep. He became extremely paranoid and irritated. His appearance slowly worsened and he began to lose his piercing and statuesque looks. Instead he was transformed into an arrogant, confused, and somewhat cynical man, which was not his personality at all. It broke our hearts to constantly argue with him and slowly watch him diminish our unity. We tried to help, but he was not willing to stop or change his ways. Inside he was suffering and our family was crumbling under our very eyes.
On October 11, 2007, our lives completely changed. At around five- thirty in the afternoon, our apartment caught on fire. My father and cousin were at home when it happened. Apparently, Piero was in his bedroom trying to light up a dose of crystal meth. It caught on fire and rapidly spread throughout his room. He was locked inside his room and sadly, he could not open the door. My father and cousin tried to open it, but couldn’t. They managed to escape and search for help. At that time, my other brother, my mom, and I were running errands and my sister was working. As we arrived at our apartment building, my father franticly told us, “Piero’s still inside.” We waited outside our building, along with the evacuated tenants, and asked the firemen and police what happened? They kept repeating, “I’m sorry. We don’t know yet.” Meanwhile our entire family traveled from Long Beach to Van Nuys to see if we were safe. Finally, hours later, the firemen announced that my brother and was identified deceased the moment he was found.
Screams, cries, misery, sorrow. My heart fell to the ground and I couldn’t speak. I was flooded with tears and I felt physically sick. I couldn’t believe what was happening. The people of the neighborhood watched somberly as we grieved the loss of Piero. Our whales of agony were a deafening echo and our disheartened expressions were a horrid sight to everyone. My skin became pale and transparent, my eyes swelled with depression, and my body was shivering cold. I could not breathe and in my eyes, the world went blank. I needed the warmth of my family more than ever before.
The morning after, I awoke in my uncle’s home, dazed and melancholic. My family and I were left homeless. The next month we stayed with our family. In the first few days we held a wake in which we prayed for nine days so Piero’s soul could rest in peace. We came together as one family to mourn our loss. On October 21, 2007, we scattered his ashes in the icy blue ocean near Long Beach. It was easily one of the most defining days of my life. As we released white doves into the celestial sky, I felt that Piero was finally free to roam the heavenly harbors of angelic beauty without hesitation. My family was by our side the whole time. We could not have survived such a horrible time without them.
Life after loss is painful. I returned to school and felt alone. Everyone was so apologetic and kept saying, “I heard about your brother. I’m so sorry.” Everyone was sorry, but that did not help my pain. I felt emptiness inside me and my heart was deeply wounded. I had sour visions of the future and bittersweet memories of the past. I missed
my old apartment and all the great times I had there. Most of all, I missed my brother. His chocolate brown eyes, his cherry red lips, his pearly white smile, and his mellow face would never strike my eyes again. I would never hear his harmonic laugh or intriguing melodies from his guitar.
Piero Jose was born December 9, 1978 and died October 11, 2007. He was the most beautiful soul I have ever known. I know now that in this tragic kingdom, we can leave this earth in a rage of poetic wisdom or in quiet peace, but either way we must leave. I feel remorse for not telling him how much I loved him, but life goes on and we must learn to live again. I’m glad to say that I did have a brother, his name was Piero, and he lived life with grace and charm. Today he floats freely in the rivers of our reminiscent memories and my life will never be the same because he is not here. At least I know he’s my guardian angel . . . . but then again, he always was.