Upstairs in her bedroom later, Amber walks over to the Pace jersey that hangs on her wall. She leans into it and inhales, saying, “It still smells like him.”
The room has pink curtains, a keyboard, and an unmade bed with two teddy bears on it. Amber keeps a few of DJ’s belongings that she salvaged and now displays: framed photographs, his cross, a bracelet with tiny portraits of religious figures set in ovals, rosary beads. (DJ was devoutly religious; he and Brandon had gotten baptized together before leaving for college.)
Amber then leads the way to DJ’s room. There’s a TV with a video-game console set low just beyond the foot of the double bed, framed sports posters, a Michael Jordan jersey, Celtics paraphernalia. In one corner, two white garbage bags filled with clothes slump beside a chest of drawers. After DJ died, Amber says, “We all came in here. We took his stuff in and kind of just sat here.”
Amber has two more years to go at Oliver Ames High School. She likes to write, bake, sing, and act. She says she and Kyle, who’ll be attending college this fall, are going to make a song together. For now, though, she’s settled into a routine. Each night before bed, she walks down the carpeted hallway to DJ’s room and lowers his blinds — “Just to keep his room his private space,” she says. “Just to take care of him.”
The room, with those posters and jerseys, video games and clothing, goes dark. In the morning, she walks back down the hall and raises them up.