Airing Laundry

Sometime after the 9/11 attacks, someone started a blog. In this blog, they wrote about someone they lost. Someone they loved. Someone stripped away from them. Each day, they wrote about this person. Maybe my memory has romanticized it, but I believe it was a widow writing about her husband. Or, just as easily, a widower writing about his wife. A mother about her child. A child about their parent.

None of that is the point. The point is, this person, this stranger, who lost someone they loved, decided to write a poem a day. I don’t know when the blog started, and I can’t remember when it ended. This was years ago. And any internet searches lead me to dead ends.

And it doesn’t matter if I find the article that sent to the blog in the first place. What made me remember was a comment on Facebook. (And coincidentally, it just so happened that the 18th anniversary of 9/11 was mere days away.)

I posted a “preview” picture of my last post. Sometimes, I like to make the announcement a new post is coming up and share it on my Instagram, which, of course, is connected to my Facebook. My cousin saw the photo and remarked, “Why are you so morbid? Everything is a learning experience in life. Some to forget some to remember. However yes the past should stay in the past but not to be forgotten. Move forward never backwards. Just saying little cousin.”

Imagine calling someone morbid and thinking it’s a teachable lesson. Mind you, this is a person who airs her dirty laundry on Facebook as if hanging fine art in an exhibit. (And, yes, I see the irony of me talking about this while chastising her for doing the same thing.) A person who talks about past transgressions as if they happened an hour ago. Who rants, raves, and spews venom about her sister; although, sister isn’t so innocent of herself. In fact, the pair of them are the reason I no longer accept friend requests from family.

Imagine the poet who wrote daily about their loss having a cousin who told them, “Why are you so morbid? It happened. Move on.”

If my year started in August 9, 2018, it can be charted with the people I lost. The night that a car accident took the lives of three wonderful people. The day I learned a college friend passed away. And the exclamation mark, my death of my estranged father, someone I only had days to make amends with.

Yes, people pick themselves up. They dust themselves off. And they continue. And, yes, life throws at us moments that can only make us stronger. And that was my point in the last post.

It’s the lifting yourself up. It’s the dusting your jeans off. It’s looking at your pasting and wondering how you got this far. It’s about looking at the people who made you who you are. The moments that shaped your being.

How am I morbid? Because I remember the days chasing trucks that look like my father’s? Because I still have nightmares of a phone ringing past midnight and entering emergency rooms to see the mother of my child in pain? Because the words of the ER nurse echoing in my head? (“She was the only survivor.”) How I remember the smile spread across my father’s slacked face when he realized who I was? How I spent the next few days watching him slowly slip into that good night? Because I remember how my heart dropped when I entered his room to find that he’d left before I got there? And how I refused to believe what was obvious.

These are moments that still haunt me, and so I write about them. And I will continue to write about them until I don’t. I’m sorry if you find that morbid.

Stream of Consciousness

Disjointed Text

We’re told to write what we know, but what if all we know fits comfortably in the torn pockets of tattered, unpressed jeans? What if all we know is scattered by the wind, blowing through the streets of familiar cities in unfamiliar territories? What if all we know are faces of people whose names we don’t recognize? The final chords of a ballad, but not the lyrics? Handwritten journals, but not the pens we used? Or the words we spoke? What if we remember the first dates, but not the last nights? Or the last kiss, but not the goodbyes? What if all we know is the abandonment, the pain? What if we can’t remember the words our fathers spoke before they turned their backs on us? Or the scent of our mothers as they embraced us? What if we remember our abuelas’ faces, but not their voices?

We’re told to write what we know, but what if all we know comes in the form of a pill? Easy to hold, but hard to swallow? What if all we know are emergency rooms and people killed by intoxicated drivers? If all we know is explaining death to our children, how do we manage to suss it out on paper?

We’re told that in order to empathize with a person’s situation, we must first walk a mile in their shoes. But how many of us would leave our homes behind and lock ourselves in cages? How many of us would allow our children to be stripped away from our arms and watch them get shipped off to who-knows-where? Would we stay up at night wondering if they’re still alive?

We’re told that a person makes memories, not the other way around. We are not situations, our misfortunes. That we’re not where we come from, but where we’re going. What if we travel this world without a map? What if we spun a globe and headed to wherever our fingers landed? I spent too many nights navigating the trenches of my personal war, wondering whose bed I’d awaken in. And what if that is all I know?

We’re told to write what we know, but all I know are other men’s wives. I know the sad embrace of my son’s anxieties and how they must’ve manifested from my own. I know the only relationship with my father went from watching him at a distance to watching him die. All I know is holding her hand after a fatal car accident. All I know is not telling her how I feel whenever we’re together.

They told me to write what I know, but it’s the things that I don’t know that keep my attention. I know the smile that spreads across her lips and the words that flow from them, but I want to know the way they feel pressed against mine. I recognize the patterns of my own depression, but I would like to know if its portrait is beautiful from afar. I know the path well-traveled and beat up sneakers. I know the shortcuts and the scenic routes. And I know what it’s like to be the bad guy, to be the other man. And the lessons I learned from each of my mistakes.

I learned that there are no such things as regrets when I stopped trying to fill the void inside me with the misery of others.

I stopped trying to fill the void inside me with the misery of others.