I was in the ninth grade when my maternal grandmother (the woman in the photo collage above) passed away. It was 4:45am when I jolted awake. My brother and sister-in-law were still asleep (or so I thought) as was my nephew. My mother spent the night at the hospital in Weslaco. It was a Saturday. I turned on the TV to see what was on – watched an episode of The Mask animated series and then whatever Saturday Morning Cartoons had to offer – ABC, if I recalled correctly. I made failed attempts to go back to bed. Nothing worked.

I got the call around nine that morning. My older brother, who’d been living at my grandmother’s house in Donna, Texas, called the house. His voice was already soft, sad. Somehow, I already knew the news that he was about to offer. What made it even more chilling was the time she’d passed away. 4:45am.

I watched the Monkey Boys shortly after that phone call, seeking comfort in familiarity of childhood. I was fourteen and the only person who seemed to understand me was gone. People talk about going through the motions when a loved one passes, or when depression hits hard. The problem with me, I don’t think I can conjure up a single memory of my adolescence that was truly genuine. It wasn’t until that moment when I answered that phone call that I felt human.

My family history – despite my mother’s protests – is plagued with depression and other mental maladies. From dementia to postpartum depression to alcoholism (that’s my Father’s side, anyway) to stuff that I don’t want to think about, my family has it.

I lived my life one book at a time, hoping to figure out what exactly I fail to see. Hoping that whatever is wrong with me finally lifts off my shoulders and I’m able to function without fear that something will happen. For the most part, I’ve managed to keep it under control. With the help of a loving girlfriend and good friends, I’ve managed to feel somewhat human.

What got me thinking about all this was a phone call I’ve been expecting for a couple of days now. It seems that every time I have these deepening depressions, an old friend decides to return into my life. I used to call these people ghosts – as in ghosts from my past – but considering they’ve all pretty much became “recurring” characters, I’ve dropped it. However, Aleida remains forever a ghost no matter how long she stays, eventually she vanishes from my life. Last night, she finally called. We discussed similar problems with our mental stability.

In the end, we spoke of the past. It seems that it always arises when we first meet again. The possibility that is old is no longer possible. Several years ago, there was a time when I might have considered – actually, I had considered – a relationship with her, but the timing was all wrong. My ex-girlfriend and I had salvaged our relationship ignoring the fact it would just end up in a similar rendition. And of course I joked, “And it’s not like it was a grave mistake. I would’ve made you miserable. But in the end, it worked out. I think if we had moved forward, things would have been different right now. I would’ve have ended up with Jyg.”

“And what did I get in the end? Where’s my happy ending?” she asked.

While I do wonder how things would be different had I not returned to my relationship with Jessica and moved forth with Aleida, I’m still glad I didn’t. Because in the end it’s all about balance, not with convenience. There would not have been any growth for me. My relationship with Jessica molded what I wanted out of a relationship, rather than what was expected of me. Had it not been for my rash decision to mend our relationship that summer, I don’t think I’d be where I’m standing now.

No matter the ghost, no matter the emotion, the first person to understand me passed away several years ago. The second person stands by my side and manages with me every day. Despite the weight that we carry in our daily transgressions, we are happy. We work. We balance each other out. And even though she never got to meet her, I’m sure my grandmother would have approved. Isn’t that what matters?

 

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