Goodnight Little Brother: Ezekiel (Zeke) Laforest, 1972-2016

blurry laughter

My brother Zeke died yesterday. This is my favorite picture of him and my sister Tara. Grief is a strange and personal creature, molding itself to your own specific schisms and dogmas. It coils itself around your heart delivering periodic electric shocks or administering blessed analgesics so that you feel strangely empty and disconnected from the earth even if what you think you want is to bleed your heart into cracked dry earth.

most recent dad and Zeke

Everyone will have their own version of Zeke to hang onto when they miss him. This is mine.

When we were in grade school and walked to Mira Vista Elementary he would sometimes take out his anger on me by kicking me in the shins. I forgave him every time he did it because I loved him so much and felt so protective of his fierce angry soul that I hoped I could absorb it all with my own body. I wanted to fix the world for him and still believed back then that love and compassion would do the trick. He knew better. I’m a pretty old soul but however old my soul might be, his was primordial.

Zeke three days old

Mums said Zeke was born angry. I don’t get to tell the story of how she came to think this, because it isn’t mine to tell, but I’d definitely like to know why I never wore pretty camisoles like this one when I had Max.

Tara Zeke and Max

I loved classical music when we were kids as much as Zeke loved rock and roll. We argued about the superiority of one over the other quite often since his bedroom was next to mine and he played his music loud.

He brought a black widow into the house in a jar with a flimsy tin foil covering poked full of holes and when the spider disappeared I never slept again. He loved spiders, lizards, hermit crabs, and sharks. I remember one of his early acrylics was of a shark and I was so jealous that he could paint so well while I could not.

bandw Philip and Zeke

Zeke liked to think he was taller than me when, in fact, we were the exact same height. Philip measured us. His nephew outgrew us by inches just in the last year. So Max wins.

Zeke explaining shit to Max I have been known to accidentally call Max “Zeke”. In the last couple of days I’ve done it several times but now it kind of hurts. Max is a lot like his uncle in so many ways. Especially when he was a small kid.The nerd glasses tryout

Zeke loved his family in small doses. His friends are where he sought his daily familial needs but he loved us none-the-less. You know when a person truly loves you. Even if they walk in after months away and tell you when they need to leave before saying hello. I’m his sister, not a sentimentalist. There are bonds that are formed especially with childhoods like ours that nothing but siblinghood can create. We love him so much, so fucking much, we cursed him and his prickliness, his slippery-ness, and tried to hold onto him every time we saw him because he was connected to us through spirit. He was also so much fun to hang out with.

Right before Christmas I was looking up vintage clear non-prescription glasses to wear while riding my Vespa at night. On Christmas day we picked Zeke up and he’s wearing the very glasses I was hoping to find – except they weren’t vintage. I wanted his glasses. How is it that no matter what cool thing I want to do, he gets to it before me? Fucker.

me and Zeke Christmas 2014

This is my favorite picture of Zeke and me.

I once ate a big bite of salmon because Zeke loves salmon (and fish in general) so much and insisted that I would like it the way he made it. I knew he was wrong but I hated to disappoint him so I ate it and almost immediately threw it up all over him because fish is disgusting and I will never like it.

the nerd glasses

Zeke was always honest, even when it made others exquisitely uncomfortable. It never made him uncomfortable to be true to himself and speak his mind. He was not a saint. He was constantly getting into sticky situations, spent a lot of time broke, was prickly as fuck, already an old man by the time he was five, and I have spent my whole life worrying about him because I came into this world before him and was a curmudgeonly old man first.

He had a deep love and connection with music, was always introducing those around him to new sounds as he discovered them. He was a serious lifelong skateboarder, but never went pro. He was possibly the most fearless person I’ve ever known, although I suspect he was afraid of dentists. He was an incredible artist. Over the last few years he has honed his photography and his art series “Urban Archeology” so much that I felt sure he would soon be able to get his work into galleries. I don’t say this as a loving indulgent sister, I say this as a person with a strong eye for design and art but without the talent he possessed.

I loved my brother unconditionally, but not blindly. Zeke was always the coolest person in the room, but he was rough around the edges, always scraped and bruised, and there were times I was worried he was becoming a conservative republican. But the best thing about Zeke was that he had a genuine big heart. He wasn’t around his family half as much as we wanted him. We were always trying to hold onto him a little longer before he jetted off. As a sister I couldn’t rely on him to be there in ways I could count on our sister to be there for me. I think most people will agree that when it comes to Zeke, you have to take him on HIS terms.

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My most treasured memory of Zeke is the time we spent together with Tara in Scotland attending our dad’s wedding.

In spite of Zeke only knowing how to live on his own terms, and not on anyone else’s or for anyone else’s comfort, whatever he had to give he gave it freely and fully. I’ve always been incredibly proud of my brother.

I’m desperately sad that I’ll never get to laugh with him again.

I love you, little brother. I’m sorry I didn’t have the power to keep you safe.

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30 comments

  1. Aimee says:

    Angelina, this is so beautiful. My heart aches so much for you right now. To protect our younger siblings is one of the first things we learn outside of ourselves. I can on imagine the pain. xoxo

    • angelina says:

      You’re so right. Siblings are annoying but wonderful. I’ve been hugging my sister tighter this week and I also informally adopted two of Zeke’s friends (with Tara’s approval). Also, one of them doesn’t know yet that I adopted her.

  2. Philippa says:

    Angelina,
    Though we haven’t seen eachother in something like two decades, I remember you well, and liked you theorems we met( rare for me). Thank you for sharing the essence of your relationship with Zeke in this way. So much of what you said brought vivid images to mind, of Zeke as you described. I too miss him deeply. When I recall his face I think of the side smile he often had, like he was always one step ahead. It’s so true that he delivered unfiltered honesty. I loved this about him because I always knew where I stood with him. Another quality I respect about Zeke, is he was a good friend, a true friend. Much love to you and your family, Philippa
    PS
    I really enjoy reading your writing

    • angelina says:

      Philippa – did I meet you at the Roastery? Or somewhere else? Obviously it’s been forever ago or I’d remember. I’m so sorry that you lost a friend in Zeke. He made and kept friends longer than anyone else I know. So many of his friends have been in his life for 25 to 30 years now. That’s pretty wild. If you come to his memorial in Sausalito I hope to see you – but I may not recognize you after all this time so please do say hello if you recognize me (pretty much look like the pic of me above with Zeke’s fake glasses on). xo

  3. Mia says:

    I was a friend of Zekes in high school, we were not incredibly close but always hung around the same group of friends and shared many laughs together. He, as everyone has said, was always so sweet and genuine. His recent passing has me so incredibly perplexed as to why so many of our friends lives have been cut way too short, my brothers included. I didn’t realize until reading this now how similar Zeke and my brother are. Were. Prickly is a great descriptor. Josh too found family in his friends more than his own family. He was a DJ and moved to Phuket, his love for music started so very early. Although I was younger, I always felt like his older sister and the need to protect him. I failed when he died. You have written what I have always wanted to express but am not nearly as eloquent or able to verbalized my feelings the way that you have here. I am so grateful for your perspective. I am also so incredibly sorry for your and your family’s loss. My thoughts are with you all right now.

  4. I loved working with Zeke at Sams in Tiburon. He had his own style and it was cool. You described him perfectly and I am sad that he isn’t around anymore. Please accept my heartfelt condolences.
    Michael Keller

  5. Morgen Thomasian says:

    Thank You,
    Your Brother Zeke was like a brother to so many. It’s overwhelming to think of all the memories and images of him and associated with him. Being Neighbors on Lomita for many years there were many random times of just stopping on the street or dropping by just to say hi and talk story. It was always great to talk with Zeke. He helped me get a job at Sam’s and I was always thankful for that opportunity that he facilitated. He also trained me and I remember being so impressed by his work ethic and how professional he was yet such a hilarious sense of humor and always “keepin it real” back before that was a saying. I feel lucky to have known him and share many friends who I know are missing him and So Truly sorry for your family’s loss.
    My heart hurts for Zeke because I know deep down he truly looked forward to every day and the good times he would always stumble across. I was fortunate enough to be with him for several insanely fun and comical adventures. I can only be relieved that his passing was peaceful and hopefully painless.
    Thank you for the Love and the memories Zeke! Aloha Bro

    • angelina says:

      You were always one of his closest friends. I loved his sense of humor too. I’m so sad that you lost another friend! Thank you for reading this and reaching out. I look forward to seeing you at the memorial – I probably haven’t seen you in 25 years. Take good care of yourself.

  6. Jesse irwin says:

    Angelina: your words were articulated to perfection, moving me to tears, as I thought about my own relationship with my brother and yours. So eloquent, so raw, real, the truth as you know it. I don’t know if you know me, or of me, but regardless I am sending you all the love my heart has to give. Thank you for this my sister!

    Jesse

    • angelina says:

      Hi Jesse – I think we ended up following each other on facebook not that long ago from commenting on Ezekiel’s photos. Did I ever have a chance to meet you? Did you also go to Tam High? How did you and Zeke meet? I hope you’ll be at the memorial on October 8th. xo

  7. Phree Bartley says:

    My son Eric Bowlin and Zeke from the first time they meet became best friend .. Robbie ,Eric and Zeke skateboarded together in mill valley and break danced together all the time ! I loved Zeke what a great kid & fabulous artist ! He will be missed but will live on in our hearts forever ❤️ Rest in peace Zeke

  8. Carrie says:

    Wow, the pic of your Mom holding Zeke is beautiful… I never realized how much you and your Mom look so much alike! I loved reading this. Sending hugs from an old friend. xo

  9. Christa Schoenhofen says:

    Angelina – my heart is aching for you! There is always a special bond amoung siblings. As always said so well!
    You are all in my heart and mind – love Christa

  10. Debby Stuebs says:

    Dearest Angelina,
    My 20 year old nephew died a month ago in a car crash. Your brother as you speak of him reminds me of our Samuel. Always trying to hold on to him, to slow him down so that we could be with him more, Sam like Zeke was always the coolest person in the room! Feeling your pain and wanting you to know you are not alone!

  11. Kristi Teglia says:

    I’m so sorry for your loss. I found out today. I just met Zeke early this year, while he was working up in Sacramento where I live. I can’t quite believe I won’t be seeing him again. He came into my life by chance but in the short time I knew him he made a tremendous impact on me. I am glad there is a memorial coming up, I’ll definitely be there. I hope you can find comfort in knowing how much his friendship meant to those who were lucky enough to know him.

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