Personal

The Good Ones

Something nagged at me today. I had a conversation a couple years ago with some stranger online. The conversation turned to past relationships, I remarked how I’ve managed to remain friends with most of my exes. Granted that we’re not all bosom buddies, but we can hold a conversation without suddenly breaking out in a rage. Half the time, it’s like we were never into each other in that way.

I’m a proponent of remaining friends with a former romantic interest. There are a few obvious exceptions to the rule. If your ex happens to be a manipulative, abusive, or toxic dick asshole*, then it’s best to cut that person out of your life to the fullest extent.

However, if the relationship ended on good terms, I don’t understand why being just friends is taken off the table. Of course, it isn’t an easy or quick transition. There is a sense of rejection no matter how mutual the break up. Time is needed to heal. There are tears. Days of pondering. Trust me. I know. Depression alone is a dizzying roller coaster. Throw in a heartbreak and you have a ride that’ll leave you puking up your bowels.

“If you can be friends with her, then you never really loved her,” said the Tinder profile pic**.

“How so?”

“It’s just plain truth,” she replied.

We’re taught several misconceptions about love. One of the greatest being that love is easily defined and pigeon-holed into a single idea. The true love lie. Believers flock up religiously to yell into the void: “If you really loved someone, then you’ll love them forever.” Thing is people change. Who you fall in love with isn’t necessarily the person you end up with. Or, in several cases, the person you fell in love with remains in stasis, a case of arrested development.

You grow apart. You become two puzzle pieces forced to fit the other.

“Yeah, ok, but if you’re still friends with her, it’s obvious you still love her.”

And I do. Just differently. Love is something fluid. Like gender, it’s not just a binary idea that you can bend to your will. Romantic love can evolve into platonic love. And the reverse is just as likely.

“Ok. But you obviously want to fuck her.”

“I don’t have sex with my friends.”***

It’s years later. It’s earlier today. We’re in the waiting room when the lady looks at both of us and smiles. “I like how you two get along so well. I’ve seen a few divorced families and I wish they could get along as well as you. You’re one of the good ones.”****

When we’re left alone again, she turns to me and asks, “Have you established anything with V?”

“No. We’re just friends.”

“Like friends, or people who say they’re just friends but do boyfriend/girlfriend stuff.”

“Define boyfriend/girlfriend stuff.”

“You know….”

“I mean, I’ve done a lot of boyfriend/girlfriend stuff with girls like Miranda. She used to make me carry her pads when we’d go to Walmart.”

“Yes. Something like that.”

“No, I don’t do that with her.”

“Well not that that, but you know…”

“I pay for everything. And we hang out almost every weekend.”

“See stuff like that.”

“But she wasn’t really that comfortable with the whole me paying for everything at first.”

“Are you ok with being just friends?”

“Yes. And no. I don’t know.”

“I asked Shaun about her.”

“Oh?”

“Yeah. He’s there sometimes when she is. So he was talking about her and you and him. And I asked him, ‘Shaun, who’s V?’ and he said, ‘Daddy’s girlfriend?’ Like he didn’t really know. I just thought you should know that.”

Something to mull over, I guess.

*Thank you Crissy for that phrase.

**It wasn’t Tinder. I promise. But for the purposes of this post, it was most definitely Tinder.

***This may not be as honest as I had intended. It also goes without saying the conversation halted shortly after. We unmatched and went our separated ways.

****This quote is heavily reworded, paraphrased, and may not represent the quoted 100%. However, because some elements of my personal life shall remain personal, I took the liberty to rework this into something that fits the post. If you don’t like it, suck it.

Addendum: Another lie that we’re told is that we only have so much love to offer. As if we can’t love people equally but differently. This idea was in the original post, but WordPress crapped out and erased a good chuck of my post. I left it out because the subject turned. I’ll visit it again later.

Stream of Consciousness

The Last Pale Light in the West Pt. 1

The explosion muted the world. Dropped the curtain on the show just as he’s scene was to begin. He remember telling the others to run. To not look back. That no one would be left behind. He needed to make sure they lived. Made sure that she’d live. He wouldn’t let harm befall her. He slipped the ring off his finger and pressed it into her hand. I’ll be back for it, he remembered telling her. Now go. Run.

And he watched them go. He wasn’t a leader. He couldn’t be the person they needed in this time. But he can damn well be sure they make it out of this mess. This mess that had altered him somehow. He hadn’t expected to do it with such ease, and that worried him. There were times in the pass, times before all this, that the thought had crossed his mind. And nothing chilled him more than what he felt. Or rather, didn’t.

He turned back, ran toward the sound of the dead and death. He had one shot to do this right. He needed to buy them time. Just enough time for them to get to that train. The train that would set them free from this nightmare. Though, he couldn’t fool himself. He knew what waited for them at the other side of that line.

Out of the frying pan and into the fire.

As he ran toward the van, he could hear the shouts of the others. Those he might have called friends if the world hadn’t gone to shit. The people he’d seen every day. They each made their choices, but he needed to keep his people safe.

He pulled the door open, and peered inside. Goners. The both of them. But the med pack was still inside with the extra pistol they managed to take from the library. He threw the strap over his shoulder and holstered the gun in his jeans. A small laugh passed from his mouth. About a week ago, he would protest against armed weapons being so easily accessible. Now he’d learn to wield it as best as he could.

And image of the two men he killed ran across his mind. He needed to shrug that shit off. Needed to focus. Needed to get back to his people and make sure they each made it to the train. He turned and ran back.

They weren’t too far off. He could see them. Could hear them. They needed to remain quiet. They knew this. He waved to them. He’d made it pass the gas station when the first shot rung out. The bullet zipped by. The others scattered.

The bullet slammed into a parked car, setting off the alarm. A dinner bell to attract the dead. The horde wasn’t far behind, but they could out run what was blocks away. What worried him the most were the ones they didn’t see. The ones still hiding within the shadows and chaos that erupted from all corners of the city.

Go! he shouted. Just go!

And that’s when the bullet hit his leg, burying itself in his calf. He saw his friends react. Saw them begin to double back. And he knew.

Whatever poor schmuck thought to top off before hell spilled onto the earth did him a favor. The gas still pumped through. The puddle still set. It just needed one spark.

He thought of all the selfish things he’d done in the years prior. Thought about all the things he could have done differently. They needed to get to the train. And he needed them to get there without having him as a burden to carry.

Just go! he shouted.

He often thought of the way he’d die. Always figured he’d drown. Often he thought that the ocean would call him back. We came from the ocean. And the ocean calls for me.

He lifted himself up and took three shots into the dark. Then turned to look back at his friends and smiled.

He needed them to live. He needed her to live. And with that he took aim at the gas station. And fired the shot into the gas. The spark that started the flame. That consumed the night. And silenced the world.

“Can’t say I’m surprised by your stupidity,” the voice, hoarse and thick, said. “You thought you’d play hero one last time. And where did that get you? It got you stuck with me.”

He smiled. “Did you lose them?”

“I did,” the voice said. “But not you. No, I know exactly where you are.”

And he laughed again. The raw ache in his lungs burned beneath his chest. “No,” he said. “I’m not stuck with you. You’re stuck with me.”

Personal

“If I don’t make it known…”

I walked around my good intentions/and found there were none/I blame my father for the wasted years, we hardly talked/I never thought I would forget this hate/then a phone call made me realize I’m wrong…

The nightmares come often; I just don’t talk about them. I don’t write about them. There are no entries in my journal or one this page. I mentioned them on Twitter a few times, but not anymore. A nightmare is only as strong as you let it, right? It’s a repetition of that night, almost a year ago. There are alterations. A director’s cut. Alternative scenes and endings. In one of them, the others await for me. In another, none of them are there. One plays out like the night did, only she doesn’t make out of the OR. And darker still, I wasn’t on vacation. And he wasn’t with me that night.

I’m not stranger to nightmares. At a young age, I was plagued with sleep paralysis. And if you’ve never experienced that, I envy you.

When she was in the hospital, I’d put Shaun to bed and wait until I knew for certain he was asleep. Then I’d lie there and cry. Or I’d cry in the shower. Or I’d sit in the chair and cry. As the nights wound up, after the funerals, after the time spent in her room in the ICU, things started to even out. The mourning was still there, but the smiles at work weren’t false anymore. At least, not all of them.

Because that’s the thing about nightmares. When you live them. When you live with them. If you live within them. You have to put on a smile otherwise others will know.

I walked around my room no thinking/just sinking in this box/I blame myself for being too much like somebody else/I never thought I would just bend this way/then a phone call made me realize I’m wrong.

“My dad is dying.” Do you know how strange it is to type those words? In my adult life, I don’t think I ever referred to him as Dad. Father, sure. Javier, always. But Dad? I can’t remember the last time I called him by that name. I know I was a kid.

He’d been sick for a while now. Mom informed me of his doctor visits. When things with his leg to a serious turn, we spoke about the possibility of amputation. Things have a way of progressing. Symptoms and sickness have the tendency of getting worse.

I avoided visiting him in the hospital until last Friday when Mom told me his heart rate wasn’t improving. The leg, amputated. His heart stopped a couple of times before the surgery.

“Look who came to visit you today,” my mom said as we walked into his room in the ICU. Room 10. Jeanna stayed in Room 4 last year.

My father searched my face for some recognition. Something that would give him a hint. Of course he wouldn’t recognize me. It’s been at least a decade since the last time we saw each other. I’m older now. Wider. Tired.

“It’s Willie,” she told him. “He came to visit you today.”

And there it is. It’s weak, but it’s there. The flicker of light in his eyes. The twitch of his lips as he tries to smile.

They were transporting him to the hospice that night. There would be a room made up for him for his final days. It’s where I saw him today. But the smile was gone. Not that he wasn’t glad to see us. No, I’m sure he appreciates that. It’s just that finality of it is hitting him, I’m sure.

I sat by his bed, not saying anything. Just taking it in. I scroll for the picture of Shaun on my phone. Jeanna sent it earlier. Before I arrived at the hospice. Before I saw the look of defeat on my father’s face. He has his first pet goldfish. Seth and San, he called them. And a part of me wants this to be a normal father and son moment. One of those moments on TV when the torch is passed down.

“Hey look, Dad. It’s Shaun. His first pet goldfish. Remember the goldfish we had when I was that age?”

And that’s when it sinks in. Because, yeah, we had goldfish. Yeah, for a time, we lived under the same roof. But I can’t conjure up the memories we shared together. Sure, I remember the anger. The drunkenness. The shouting. The leaving. I remember running after a rusty Dodge pick up because I thought, for a second, that it was him. Because most of our father/son relationship was me stealing glances of him from afar.

I tried to remember putting my hands on both his cheeks and just looking into his eyes, exploring what lies beneath much in the way Shaun does with me. I tried remembering lying in bed with him, slowly falling asleep, or just talking about whatever popped into my child mind. But there’s nothing there. Just an empty void.

And it’s not anger that I feel now. And I wonder if it ever was anger that I felt. Perhaps my teenage brain misinformed me. And maybe my twenty-something brain didn’t comprehend that I couldn’t forgive someone who I was never angry with.

I just know that I’m not ready to lose him permanently.

And I if I don’t make it known that I’ve loved you all along/Just like sunny days that we ignore/Because we’re all dumb and jaded/And I hope to god I figure out…