“It’s Getting There”

First time I killed my father, I’d just turned 20. In some whirlwind of inspiration fueled by Denis Johnson’s Jesus’ Son, I penned a short story I’d later call “David.”

He died again after writing an incomplete story about a man getting dressed for his father’s funeral. And again, later that year, about a man who remembers his father moments before he receives a phone call with the news of his passing. Oddly, both stories were titled (the first being a working title) after Bob Dylan songs.

A few years ago, during the throes of depression, I started planning a story about a man who returns home after his father’s death. I might have drafted the first few chapters, but nothing came of it. Mostly, because I realized that I seemed to pull my inspiration from the Jonathan Tropper novel, This Is Where I Leave You.

However, none of these writings prepared me for the actuality of it.

The day I learned my father was dying, we were eating at Burger King. My mother, after all these years, still doesn’t know how to broach the subject of death with me. So she does it awkwardly and quickly.

I took it in. Ingested it as I ate the Chicken Parmesan BK was still pimping. I’d known the man’s health wasn’t good. It wasn’t even ok, I think. But I expected him to come around. To live through this as he had everything else before. I didn’t even take into consideration his age.

“How long does he have?” I asked.

“Just a matter of time until his heart gives up,” she said.

I nodded. Whatever I felt up to that moment, slipped from me. I felt numb. Felt exhausted. Felt more like a version of me I hadn’t expected to encounter that day. Or ever. But I kept my face straight. Bottled that shit up nice and tight. I wouldn’t allow myself to feel until later that night.

When he smiled at me in his room at the MICU, it was the first pang of regret I felt about our distanced relationship. The years we spent estranged marred by self-pity and hardheadedness, vanished. And the reality of it set in.

My father was dying.

He passed away on 15 July. We arrived to the hospice after I got out of work. I walked to his room as my mom signed in the visitor’s log. I pushed open the door to his room and that’s when I noticed the sound. Or lack thereof. It took all I had not to drop the food and milkshake I held in my hand.

There my father lay, on his bed, with the TV on. The breathing machine that had been connected to him for a little over a week now stood silent in its corner. The empty crawled its way through my mind. The adrenaline pulsed. As my mother and nieces got close to the room, I looked at her.

“His machine is off,” I said. “Why would they turn off his machine?”

There wasn’t a doubt in my mind. I held the answer. I just didn’t believe. My father passed away sometime between the time I got out of work, picked up my dinner, and arrived at the hospice.

My father and I didn’t have a relationship. I went years without seeing him, without talking to him. We were more strangers than family at times. And I think that’s what hurts the most. Neither of us budged from our fixed places.

The Sunday before he died, I had a few moments alone with him. I leaned in close and I spoke. And while I won’t share with you in great detail, I will allow a few words to be printed here. “It’s ok if you have to go. I’ll be ok. We’ll be ok.”


Waiting on the Last Train

It’s so difficult getting into the holiday spirit when there’s a slurring orange dumpster fire currently in charge of the “greatest” country in the world (yet, needs to be made great again, for some odd reason). Impeachment or resignation would be a great present not just for the United States, but for all the world (minus Russia, of course).

This isn’t a political post, though. That wasn’t my intention when I started gathering my thoughts for it earlier today. It’s just that this year, I’m not in the spirit of things. Halloween came and went without excitement. I half-assed Thanksgiving. And Christmahanakwanzika… don’t get me started on Christmahanakwanzika.

There are moments I worry the depression is winning. I haven’t been on antidepressants since the start of the year. And things are off, you know? The only moments of happiness are when I’m texting her. Or talking to her. Or, you know, just thinking of her.

Shit. If I’m not careful, this feeling might turn me into some sorry sap of gushy emotions.

These paragraphs are just thoughts mixed with self-doubt. Writing again. Or attempting to write again. It’s a retelling of a Christmas classic that I conjured up on day in college and never got around to writing it. Not sure if because it was corny to begin with or because I wasn’t meant to write it back then. Who knows. Making notes. Scribbling thoughts in journal. Typing chapters in nonlinear order. Jump starting the brain.

I need a Bob Dylan soundtrack. I need to immerse myself in the holiday cheer. Before I lost something of myself battling the voice.

Eh, I used to care, but…

Writing & Writers

“I feel like falling asleep while you scream”

"I'm gonna jump in. I'm gonna begin. I'm not gonna wait. I'm gonna be brave."

I cleaned the mess I call a room this week. While doing so, I found two short stories that never made it passed the first draft. Both were, oddly enough, titled after Bob Dylan songs. “Not Dark Yet” is about a man who flashes back to his childhood on his way to his father’s funeral. On the journey home, he attempts to rationalize the betrayal he felt. He attempts to understand his father’s actions, while never fully forgiving him. In “Things Have Changed,” I introduced a college aged man whose long-term relationship is falling apart, and all he can do is remember is his father’s infidelity. These stories were written a year apart, but there’s a clear message of both. Homie’s got daddy issues.


“David” is the first and last story I have ever published. It appeared, of all else, in a student literary magazine that’s put out once a year. It received an honorable mention by the issue’s staff. It’s about man whose relationship with his son is so broken, he doesn’t realize the person he’s talking to is his flesh and blood. And while the narrator – whose name is never revealed in any of the stories he’s featured in – never mentions the man is his father, I hoped that the subtle hints would present themselves. Very few people understood, which is understandable. Most people thought I was paying homage to Ernest Hemingway and William S. Burroughs, which was only half-true.

I wrote the story the year after my failed attempt to reconnect with Javier, whom David is loosely based on. In the end, I fantasized the father figure so broken, he returns home and shoots himself – Hemingway reference to the point that I even made him a writer, which my father, to my knowledge, never was.

With a little big of maturity under my belt, I’ve retired “David” from my reading list.


My brother, Jay, remembers one incident about my father. When I was just a baby, my parents got into a fight that led to my father grabbing me and a knife and threatened anyone who got near. Thing is, my brother repeated the act with his own child several years later. A desperate need to prove how important father is? To show the world how much one cares by threatening anyone that gets near? I’ll never know.

My father was two men: the sick man recovering from surgery who used to paint wooden animals to pass the time and the abusive alcoholic who gave up his family for his addiction. After my father left, I saw him sporadically. There were the typical broken promises, missed birthdays, etc. In the end, I learned that I didn’t need him in my life, despite the emptiness. I grew up just fine without him.


On two occasions, I stood in front of my father without realizing who he was.

Rumors of a Broken Family

My ex-girlfriend, whose family is possibly the most stable – though far from sane (a joke, sorta) – once asked if I was going to be insistent about family portraits because most people who come from broken homes are. I never thought about it. Mostly because I’m not too photogenic. A lot of people say that, but seriously – I don’t do well in pictures. I have a nervous twitch that causes me to make a face.

Now with the new era of my life in the horizon, I’m asking myself the same question. Will I become the father who puts so much importance in family things? While I’ve never been very good at it as a son and brother, what happens with the third title is bestowed on me? Every year, I’ve been the host of the familial Thanksgiving dinner. And every year, I say it will be the last. And last year’s promise might just be kept.

My mother plans to go to San Antonio this Thanksgiving to see my cousin get married. Jyg has offered me her family – my brand spanking new family. And while I love them to death, I have this nervous twitch in which I’m forced to judge everything that is not conventional in my family. And it’s not silent judgement, it’s more of a passive-aggressive thing. And I’m not doing it because I disagree with it, or even hate it. I do it because it’s a nervous twitch. Like tearing paper into tiny bits. Or bouncing on one’s legs while sitting down during an important meeting where you’re forced to make some sort of public statement that will be the growth or death of your goals.

I’m reassured by several friends and family that I’m going to do great with this. But the nagging critic in the back of my head is reminding me of all my fuck-ups. And I begin to wonder how much different life would be had Javier stuck around and been a dad. But life’s too short to focus on this what-if. And if anything happens, I could always write a story to make sense of it, couldn’t I?

How to Save a Life