To Say His Name

“The mirrors in your mind can reflect the best of yourself, not the worst of someone else.” Hannibal Barca, 248 BC-182 BC

My friend Hannibal personifies the above quote, attributed to the famous Carthaginian general who is his namesake. Faced with a tragedy, the murder of his older brother, Hannibal channeled his energy toward honoring his brother rather than directing enmity toward his brother’s unidentified assailant.

On August 17, 2020, Hannibal’s brother, age 51, left his job in the French Quarter with cash salary in his pocket. He was shot in his front yard after arriving at his home in Old Jefferson. The money was not among his personal effects. “He wouldn’t be one to give up his money easily,” Hannibal told me. The case remains open.

Earlier that afternoon, Hannibal had been shopping for a bike at a store on Jefferson Highway, not far from his brother’s neighborhood. He found a red Fuji Transonic 2.5 road bike that he liked. He’d had a Fuji Thrill that his father had given him in fourth grade, and he kept it until he was a freshman in college. He knew the Fuji was a good bike. Eighteen years later, he decided it was time to buy another one, but the $2199 price tag on the Transonic was more than he felt he wanted to spend. He walked out of the store empty handed.

Later that night, Hannibal received the phone call that could have knocked him down. The big brother whom he had always looked up to was gone. The following day, he returned to his brother’s home. It was an “awkward” time, “devastating,” and Hannibal needed to make some sense of it. A neighbor came out to speak with him, and for some reason, she had taken a picture of the crime scene. She showed it to him. His brother was wearing red clothes and red sneakers, the color of the bike Hannibal had admired the day before. That’s when Hannibal’s plan was conceived.

He drove to the bike shop, handed over his credit card, and bought the bike. He had biked a good deal when he was younger and looked forward to riding again. Hannibal reminded me of the saying that everybody dies twice, the second time being when the last person says his name. His brother had lived almost fifty-two years. Hannibal multiplied that number times three hundred sixty-five, arriving at a figure just shy of 19,000. He set a goal to ride 19,000 miles in his brother’s memory, a mile for every day of his brother’s life. He would say his name.

Hannibal quickly realized that biking for fun as a child or a teenager was different from biking for distance as a thirty-seven-year-old adult. He now has a bike coach. He’s learned that he can’t just get on the bike and ride as fast and far as possible. There is a technique, a strategy, a method to his training. He has joined a cycling club and competes in races. He’s lost 20+ pounds. He’s quit smoking. He rides every day.

At first, Hannibal’s goal was simply to honor his brother and complete the 19,000 miles. As it is with many passions, and biking has become a passion for Hannibal, goals will change. Hannibal has entered local races and plans to compete nationally. He’d like to be picked up by the USA Cycle team. His ultimate dream is to qualify to compete in the Tour de France.

This journey has given Hannibal a new perspective. Biking has shown him how much people rely on help from others. A bike team forms a “pace line,” taking turns being in front so that others can be in your draft. At the finale of the race, one person, the “sprinter,” moves up in front of the rest of the team. The draft from the others, the “domestiques,” has helped the sprinter conserve about 30% of his energy for a fast finish. They are “the wind beneath his wings.”

Hannibal has ridden 1,535 miles to date. He plans to complete his 19,000 miles in eighteen months. Meanwhile he will work at his jewelry making business, Outdatrunk504, and in his trade of painting houses. He will continue to ride, to train, to compete, to reflect the best of himself, and to say his brother’s name.

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