I still think about him every day. Some are better than others, but there are still times when his absence is so sharp and fresh that I can barely haul my ass out of bed. I’m usually okay, though, even if I still spend a stupid amount of time thinking about how Duro died. It doesn’t help that I have to fly all the time. Airports are the worst. I have to fly every week or more for work, and I question my decision to take Duro’s place on the job every time I’m waiting in line to board. Not because I’m scared, but because flying makes me think…about things.
Duro was born four minutes before I was, smaller, darker, and silent. They say he nearly died then. But he didn’t, and we grew up hearing the story of how the doctor held him upside down by one ankle and slapped the skin between his shoulder blades until he started to cry. Then he was passed off to a nurse, who tucked him in to wait on me. I took over then, so the story goes, and we slept back to front until we were too big to share a cradle. We shared a room growing up, even though we both had our own; but that worked out pretty well because when we were six Saxa came to live with us.
Growing up, we did everything together. And we looked out for each other. Well, Duro didn’t look after me so much as he had my back, and was ready to talk me down whenever some bigoted mother fucker ran his mouth about the only ‘fag’ in whatever bar we happened to be in at the time. The fact that I was gay always surprised people, even though it wasn’t a secret and never had been.
We went to the same college, majored in physiotherapy, lived together off campus, and had never really been apart until we graduated. Duro landed a job with the Pittsburgh Steelers, and I took a position at a sports medicine clinic in Boston. Five years out of school and Duro had flown all over the country, and I was living with a sexy orthopedic surgeon from Syria.
Duro was going to layover in Boston so we could introduce him to Nasir’s friend Chadara, but he never made it. The Lear jet he was taking crashed on takeoff and cartwheeled down the runway, breaking into three pieces and scattering luggage and bodies across the tarmac.
The goddamn morgue wouldn’t even let us identify his body. They used fucking dental records for all the crash victims. The accident was so high profile and the Steelers press agents didn’t want any details leaked to the media. So I punched the Steeler’s fucking publicist right in the mouth at the memorial service and thanked him for fucking up my one last chance to see my brother.
I’m surprised the guy hired me after I knocked his two front teeth loose and cracked his nose. But I have a kick ass resume, great experience, and I told him the team owed me and the least they could do was give me Duro’s job.
Today, I’m flying commercial. I’m coming off a long weekend in Boston, and meeting the team in Texas. While I’m waiting to board I’m not thinking about what could happen: bad weather, turbulence, pilot error, or dying. I’m thinking of the last conversation I had with Duro, and laugh to myself, remembering how I promised that Chadara was a sure thing. I try to just replay that phone call over in my mind, but the steward calls the four rows ahead of mine and it starts. Was he scared? Did it hurt? Did they even know what was happening? Was it fast? I hope it was. The steward calls rows D through G and I grab my carryon and get in line. I cram my bag into the overhead compartment and fold myself into E2. The guy behind me clears his throat.
“I think you’ve got my seat,” he says, and I roll my eyes.
”Sorry, I’ll move.” Stupid goat fucker. I grin and consider using Duro’s favorite insult on the picky bastard. But I don’t. Instead I hold up the line of boarding passengers and fumble back out into the isle, so the idiot can have his fucking window seat.
Nasir asks me why I fly, why I even wanted Duro’s job. I just shrug and tell him someone has to do it. I think he suspects that I need to, because I’m still not ready to say goodbye.