Exit Stage Right

Dear Shaun,

There is so much that I wish worked out differently. So much that I wish I could change with a blink of an eye. There are nights where I dream that the last two years were just a dream and your mom, you, and I are still a happy family. These dreams are just reminders of what I gave up. Not because I didn’t love your mom or because I don’t love you. You two are by far the most important people in my life. And while there are times when I act like I hate your mom, I don’t. Sometimes I let the pain and hurt get the better of me. And it’s wrong. And I’m glad you’re never around when it sets in because I don’t wish that upon anyone.

There’s so much of me in you. I can see it even though you’re only two. When things frustrate you, I can see the flicker of my anger flash in your eyes. You’ll throw the troublesome toy only to glower at it a second later. You can’t quit just as I won’t let anything beat me. It’s not competition you’re after. Like me, you long to have control over any and all situations. This isn’t something I want for you.

Of all my “blessings” and “curses,” my depression, my rage, my headstrong attitude don’t fall into the list of things I want you to inherit from me. I don’t want you standing in the corner of a party. I don’t want you to look down on others because you don’t understand their ideas or ways. Don’t become a shut in like your father, boarding the windows and doors for fear of letting someone into your life.

I never wanted to fall in love. I never thought I would have a kid. And here I am, brokenhearted with a child I wouldn’t trade for anything. The life I led before you is over. The life I aimed for before I fell in love with your mother is but a footnote in my autobiography. I have loved others, but none like your mother.

A few years before you came along, I contemplated leaving your mother. I loved her and that was the problem. Of all the years we were together, I never loved her more than I did at the moment I wanted to leave. There was a time, when we were young, where I made your mother happy. I made her upset, too, but that’s not in question here. I loved your mom before that morning. It wasn’t until then, though, that realized just how much. The happiness that filled her eyes became fleeting. There were moments when I felt I wasn’t enough. I didn’t do the things she wanted to do. I didn’t live up any boyfriend or husband material because I feared what the outside world offered. Going outside ran the risk of embarrassing myself. Embarrassment isn’t being in control. It’s losing control of the situation. I couldn’t have that.

Don’t live your life by my standards. Understand you’ll make mistakes and I’ll get upset. There are some paths you’ll take that I won’t agree with. But don’t ever for a second think I don’t love you. And don’t ever think I don’t love your mom. Because I’m willing to lay down my arms and stand idol for her happiness. For too long it’s been about me. About me having full control over the situation that it’s time for me to give up my selfishness for her happiness. And if that means her being with another person, well, that’s the price I’ll have to pay for never giving her what she needed. At least I understand that now.

I’ll fall down, Shaun. Your dad stumbles a lot. But there’s one thing I never fail to do. No matter how beaten this disease leaves me, I always get up. Because I can take the hit. And I can take the abuse. And the pain. And I’ll continue to take it for you. There is nothing that can keep me from reaching out and hold you. Even when you get to that age where it’s not longer acceptable for your father to hold your hand or carry you into a room, you’ll always be my baby. And I will always continue to fight this for you.


Your Dad


“Tears remind you you’re alive”

Few days ago, I humored the thought of writing a what-if post. What if I never gave her that note in Ms. Ramos’s 6th period Spanish II class? What if I paid more attention the year before rather than flunking out the second semester? That’s the difference between writing with an angry heart and writing with a passive one. I can’t stand the thought of it now because a life without Shaun is not a life I want to imagine.

Jyg and IThere’s a part of me that will always love Jeanna. She’s the mother of my child. She’s the woman I spent close to a decade with. Her arms were my home, where I found peace. I’d lose myself in her smile, drown in her eyes. Sometimes, though, things aren’t meant to work out. And like the alcoholic, I hope that I find the serenity to accept the things I cannot change.

Jeanna and I never married, though I wanted to. Nothing ever felt right to me, though. The timing. My place in life. My pride. I didn’t want to find myself married to someone who, in a few years, couldn’t stand me. Or worse, didn’t love me. So many people run off and marry young and divorce young. People tell me that I put too much emphasis in the relationship. It’s not that way at all. I’m searching for a family. Like the one my father left. And it’s insane that I’m thirty-one years old and I live my life by another man’s standards. All these years, despite what I write, I hold on to that childhood grudge. It’s poisoned me to the core. And it ruined my once chance of happiness. Or so I believed.

Letting go isn’t easy for me. Admitting something is over when there’s still fight left in me is worse. A person can become a shadow-boxer if he isn’t careful. Javier wasn’t a fighter. He never made the effort to win my mother over. Just a pathetic man with his addiction. Yet, all these years of me proving I’m better than him, I’m realizing that my addiction is no less damaging.

Every fight for Jeanna wasn’t to prove my love for her. It was to prove that I wasn’t my father. That I wouldn’t let someone as good as she slip from my fingers. Never seeing the warning signs. I became so full of myself and my needs and my desires that I ignored everything she was going through.

"Postludium" by Michael Jones, from La Familia
“Postludium” by Michael Jones, from La Familia

When she broke up with me for the last time two years ago, I expected the same song and dance we always had. In no time, we’d be in each other’s arms. It never happened. A few days ago, I finally worked up the nerve to ask her about her personal life. I knew the answer already before she spoke it. There’d been signs. If there’s one thing Jeanna’s not good at, it’s covering the tracks. For a month, she’d been seeing someone. “It’s no big deal,” she told me. It crushed my heart. Sunday, I walked into a scene from a movie. It damn near killed me. And I let the anger and depression build.

I once wrote a poem called “The Cynic’s Love Poem” (or was it “The Cynical Love Poem?”). I wrote it in a dark period in my friendship with Miranda. While the poem itself ran for several stanzas, only the last two lines survived. I think about it from time to time, when the mood visits me. However, today, I read a haiku written by a friend:

“Some marriages work
Things out…some marriages work
Better in divorce…”

It gave me a little chuckle. Even though I avoided marriage to avoid divorce, I still find myself in that place. Watching the woman I loved for nine years taking the steps to start a new life. This is uncharted territory for yours truly. Shoulder it with everything else and march forward because what else can I do? I’ll see what new paths take me and what adventures I’ll stumble upon. Thinking I should write again. Best way to get over a woman is to write about them, no? Wasn’t that Henry Miller or Bukowski or someone? I should use all this—feelings and experiences and such—to figure out something. It’ll be good. She deserves a chance to find a happiness different from ours. And I’ll be okay. That much I can promise. Because I know it’s all right to cry. And I know it’s okay to feel sad. I’m just not ready to live like I’ve given up.


It’s Complicated

Maybe it’s just me. I stand alone, a mere island in the sea of complication. That is, the It’s Complicated Sea. Since childhood, people threw that phrase at me like one hurls candy at trick-o-treaters on Halloween. (I can’t be the only one who does that, right?) And thirty-one years into my life, I still haven’t figure out what exactly is complicated. Where do babies come from? It’s complicated. What happens when you die? It’s complicated. Why can’t I get this really expensive-but-ultra-cool toy? It’s complicated. Why are we just friends? It’s complicated. Why do you stay if you know he’s just going to hurt you again? It’s….complicated. The only complicated aspect of those situations is the word complicated. How can something so simply answered be all that hard to understand?

I get it. As children we’re not ready to hear the nitty-gritty explanation of where we came from. (It’s not from Mommy’s tummy or a magical bird, kiddos.) And there’s no volunteer to announce that the world goes on after we’re dead; we’re just no longer part of it. So we invent fantasy to ease the blow. Heaven. Angels. Having tea with our grandparents one more time. Our dogs to a farm and our cats run away to seek their former homes.

When we enter the adult world, we should leave the fantasy one behind. That’s not to say that we can no longer frolic within our childhood. Many of us still play video games, read comic books, day dream, create, build, play, etc. We need to dive into that world when matters call for it. It makes us comfortable, brings us peace of mind. And that’s something everyone needs, even if you’re a tyrannical CEO of an anti-woman craft store.

“It’s complicated.” The phrase builds up in my stomach, explodes up my spine, and hits the emotional center of my mind like a freight truck smashing to a wall of fiber glass. It’s a cop out. It’s admitting that you don’t know why you do certain things. But quantum physics is complicated; advanced calculus is complicated; biology is complicated; the grooves in my fingerprints are complicated; DNA is complicated; black holes and dark matter and the celestial bodies are complicated; shit, the word complicated is more complicated than the situation at hand. Love shouldn’t be complicated. Relationships, yeah. Any relationship without complications is just fooling itself, but love? Never. You either do or you don’t.

 It’s complicated is used for a number of things in bad relationship situations. The guy wants to keep you around, but also wants to fool around with other women? It’s complicated. A guy wants to control your every move? It’s complicated. You’re on an allowance of fun? It’s complicated. Still haven’t intimate relationships with a person who broke up with you? It’s complicated. None of them are actually complicated situations. It’s plain as a plateau that we’re forgiving ourselves of making such blundering decisions. Decisions that we’d judge others for, mind you. Of course, we have an answer for that, too. “It’s different.”

So I stare at the screen of my Galaxy Note 3 trying to make sense of the complexity of the complicatedness that is the situation. None of it comes to light and I’m flabbergasted by how someone could make decisions based on emotion. A hypocrite through and through.

It’s complicated.

Not to the person we’re explaining things to. Not to their mother or father, sister or brother, aunt or uncle. It’s complicated to ourselves. We’re too afraid to admit that we’re being masochistic. Too afraid to admit that we’re wrong. That we might be living below our potential. That we’re too lonely that we’re willing to accept the neglect, the abuse—the whatever—because the other alternative feels much worse than the emotional pain we feel. “At least I have someone to go home to. Someone to wake up next to every morning.”


Systems Grey

Have you ever had a dream that you were so sure was real?

There were recurring dreams in childhood. One, I’m in my father’s Dodge pickup—a rust bucket green. He arrived to pick my older brother and me up for school. He drove us for a few years until I was in the third grade, when a janitor reported to the principal that he dropped me off too early. Anyway, I’m in the pickup and my brother’s forgotten something inside the house. My father, frustrated, returns into the house with him. Everything’s fine at first until the truck starts to move on its own with me still inside. I call for help, but even I can’t hear the screams. The truck just rolls and rolls and rolls. I never see it to the end. I always woke before I got to the intersecting street.

The other dream followed me into adulthood. Not so much a recurring dream, though. It’s more of a type of dream. And it’s always starts off the same way. I’m tired and it’s time for bed. Only, I’ve forgotten that I’m already asleep in bed. I stop doing whatever it was that kept me preoccupied, and head for my bedroom. As I open the door, I can’t ignore the sense of darkness before me. The room is dark as rooms are at night. Only this darkness is blinding. I take a step forward and I fall. Only I’m jolted back into a reality that I cannot remember slipping from.

In the far corners of my mind, there lies a machine. The purpose of the machine is deep-seeded in my religious upbringing. Points in my life, before I left go of the fantasy and embraced the natural, I fancied myself a savior. Or tailored myself towards priesthood. There is darkness within this machine. I can hear the voices of gods unknown beckoning me forward. It is the pickup trucking rolling off the hill. It’s me falling forever into the depths of darkness.

All men dream: but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake up in the day to find it was vanity, but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dreams with open eyes, to make it possible.