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.