It may have been a tad ungrateful of me; I’m sure my mother made me realize that sometime between receiving the gift (which caused, I’m sure, a negative facial reaction) to returning to the store from which it was purchased. If memory served me well, it was a Polo shirt—you know the kind. The one with the horse embroidered by the collar—and khaki pants. As I pulled the outfit out of the bag and grimaced, my aunt gave me a quizzical look. “You don’t like it?” she asked sweetly.

Where do I begin? I remember the endless mocking I’ve received from wearing my CK tee to school. How I experienced a label switch at a drop of a hat. From misfit loner to preppy poseur. Sure, labels mean nothing to me these days (and maybe they didn’t mean much to me then), but when you’re still trying to find your place in the world, these things meant the world.

“Maybe we’ll find you something you’ll like when we return it,” she said. We did.

A few years later, after high school graduation, my aunt offered to buy me a late graduation present. I shuddered. Memories of clothing that didn’t fit my personality came rushing back. “How about you buy me a book instead?” I asked meekly. And she did. Something called House of Leaves, a book that would later defeat me in college.

Today, I attended the RGV premier of the music documentary As I Walk Through the Valley (more on that in another post), my phone exploded with notifications. Some e-mail. A text. Several from Facebook. The movie was winding down, it seemed. What was the harm in looking now?

Of course, I’d think that.

Even before I started looking at the likes, comments, and replies, a post by my cousin stood out. “My mom died,” it read.

The sound of the film faded. My mind went utterly blank. My aunt Wanda died. Aunt Cookie. The lady who couldn’t understand her nephew sometimes, though she tried. I fumbled with my phone. I couldn’t comprehend. Is this really happening? Breathe.

I called Mom. I needed some sort of semblance. Some sort of understanding what this (not-so) cryptic status update meant. My cousin had called my brother. Through sobs, she told him that her mother was gone. He called Mom and broke the news.

Aunt Cookie, as I knew her. No idea where that nickname came from, or who was the first person to call her that. Gone. Ceasing to exist in a blink of an eye. And parts of me screamed for me to well up in tears. Because this is the woman who had rather me be honest with her than wear something I hated to please her.

I still can’t comprehend it. As much as I understand the words. Understand the story my mother told me later on in the night. What happened. How it happened. When it happened. And the hardest decision my uncle might had to make in his entire life. I still can’t fathom that it’s true.

Gone.

Not sure if I’ll keep this post up. This is just me. Trying to make sense of the world.

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