Doldrums

Listening to demons

God sits at the end of the bar, nursing the strongest whisky he can muster. Boozed breath evaporates sobriety the moment I walk into the place. God isn’t a man, though he prefers the male pronouns. He isn’t a woman, either. He isn’t much of anything. Just an idea that we all have regardless if we believe in him. He is a state of gender confusion. The gray tinge between what’s binary and what lays beyond my comprehension. 

I’ve spoken to him several times in the past, but speaking to god is like speaking to the void. It offers nothing in return to your confessions. Offers not consolation to your misery. Creates more questions than it does answers. 

He pulls a bar stool out with his free hand while nursing the drink with his other. “It’s been a while, kid,” he says. “Thought you almost forgot about me.”

“It’s been a while,” I agree. “I haven’t had a crisis of disbelief in a while.”

“It rarely goes the other way,” he sniggers. “Take a seat, kid. You’re making me nervous.”

“I don’t plan on staying.”

“Sure. Sure.”

He peers at me through his peripherals. He scans me, reading the creases of my face like a hand on Braille. He pulls the last of his whisky and sets the glass down on the hard wood. He wipes his mouth with the back of his coat’s sleeve. “If we’re doing this,” he continues, “then I guess we should be doing this correctly.”

“If everything is part of your plan, I need to know why. I need to know how any of this plays out. I need to make sense of it all, because it’s been months and I can’t for the life of me understand how something like this happens.”

Getting up, he shakes his head. There’s that smirk again. That infuriating smirk. “That’s not how it works.”

“Then explain it to me. I need to know.”

“You, of all people, understand that no one steers the ship. That it’s rudderless.”

“They were my family. They were my friends. He was just a child. You didn’t even give him a fucking chance. Explain to me how that’s benevolent.”

It’s crushing. The whimpers that escape my lips as I speak. He places a hand on my shoulder, forces me backward. “You act like you’re the only person who’s lost anyone. Think about the others who lost more than you. Ever think about them for a second? Ever wonder what hell they’re going through? He lost his son. He lost his wife. Just like that—” he snaps—”and she lost her mother, her sister, her nephew. Do you ever see past your own grief to understand the hell they must be going through?”

And he’s gone. 

The lights decorate the houses of the neighborhood. It’s Christmas, but it doesn’t feel like it. I’m partly bitter because of all the shit going on at work. Mostly, it’s the adjustment of life after the accident. It’s adapting to the new normal. It’s the marking down court hearings on my calendar of events. It’s worrying about who’s going to take of Shaun next summer while both Jeanna and I work. 

A beat up, 1960 Cadillac convertible speeds by. Its occupants frozen in a permanent state of youth. It swerves, colliding with the light post farther down the road. The world goes dark. A low rumble vibrates beneath my feet. Cracks in the asphalt, the pavement, and earth stretch out. I try to run, but it’s useless. The world devours me. And I fall. Deeper and deeper. And before the world pinholes, I see his face looking down at me. His words echoing as I’m engulfed. It’s rudderless.

I come to. The world is a shade of gray. My fall was broken by the mountains of bodies of those I loved and those I’ve lost. Those I hated and those I’ve fucked the pain away with. Those who took up chapters in the book of my life, and those who will remain footnotes.

I move to get up, but their hands take hold. They pull me down. Wrapped themselves around me. As I cling to whatever leverage I can, a hand reaches down for me. Grips my wrist tight, and pulls me out.

“Shit,” he says. That voice. That smile. Those eyes. “You’re lucky that we found when we did.”

“Who?”

He turns back, shouting towards the figure in the distance. “Hey, Anderson, I found him.”

“Anderson?” My eyes go wide. They haven’t aged a bit. Cassie and Chrysanthemum dig themselves out of the mass graveyard. And the four surround me, looking down upon me. Each of them smiling. 

“Missed us?” one of them says.

“Oh boy,” Mackie smirks. “We’re not done with you yet.”

I speak to ghosts like one would a higher power. But sometimes, just sometimes, it’s the demons that come out to hold communion. And I’m powerless against their whims. I look up at them and shake my head, “It’s about fucking time.”

The End.

Doldrums · Personal

“I hope that we write novels in our heads”

I speak to ghosts like one would a higher power. The difference is, I acknowledge the people I speak to aren’t there. Not really, anyway. They’re just coping mechanisms when things get too tough. When the world is much too big for me to grasp. When I know the answers to the questions and the solutions to my problems, but I just need to hear it from the loved one I’d turn to in that situation. 

In my youth, my grandmother came to me in dreams. She acted as the guidance I needed to navigate my post-adolescent life. As I reached my thirties, she began to fade. There were no lessons she needed to teach me that I couldn’t grasp on my own.

Whenever the stress wound me up, my cousin paid me visits to remind me to live a little. Within my realm of comfort, of course. Though sometimes, I took a chances that broke barriers. Like kissing a girl in a Whataburger parking lot late one December night.

And when life gets too heavy that nothing else seems to work out, Teddy brought me comfort. Reminds me of all the privileges he wasn’t afforded.

A year before her death, Marci and I had a conversation about my situation. See, there’s this woman that I like. And I mean genuinely like. This isn’t just me trying to fill some void, or getting tangled up with a married girl. Not since falling in love with Jeanna have I felt this strongly about someone, and it fucking scares me. 

I don’t know what I’m doing here. A year after the conversation ended, I’m still without an answer. A solution. Because her touch doesn’t bring me discomfort. And her company can lift any mood. 

So what do I, Marci? What happens if I manage to screw up the next good thing in my life like I did with your sister? Do I bite the bullet? Do I throw caution to the wind? Do I stop asking questions when I already have the answers?

Do I let the voices fade? Do I stop talking to ghosts and start living?

Doldrums

“You & I will be young forever”

I was in the ninth grade when my maternal grandmother (the woman in the photo collage above) passed away. It was 4:45am when I jolted awake. My brother and sister-in-law were still asleep (or so I thought) as was my nephew. My mother spent the night at the hospital in Weslaco. It was a Saturday. I turned on the TV to see what was on – watched an episode of The Mask animated series and then whatever Saturday Morning Cartoons had to offer – ABC, if I recalled correctly. I made failed attempts to go back to bed. Nothing worked.

I got the call around nine that morning. My older brother, who’d been living at my grandmother’s house in Donna, Texas, called the house. His voice was already soft, sad. Somehow, I already knew the news that he was about to offer. What made it even more chilling was the time she’d passed away. 4:45am.

I watched the Monkey Boys shortly after that phone call, seeking comfort in familiarity of childhood. I was fourteen and the only person who seemed to understand me was gone. People talk about going through the motions when a loved one passes, or when depression hits hard. The problem with me, I don’t think I can conjure up a single memory of my adolescence that was truly genuine. It wasn’t until that moment when I answered that phone call that I felt human.

My family history – despite my mother’s protests – is plagued with depression and other mental maladies. From dementia to postpartum depression to alcoholism (that’s my Father’s side, anyway) to stuff that I don’t want to think about, my family has it.

I lived my life one book at a time, hoping to figure out what exactly I fail to see. Hoping that whatever is wrong with me finally lifts off my shoulders and I’m able to function without fear that something will happen. For the most part, I’ve managed to keep it under control. With the help of a loving girlfriend and good friends, I’ve managed to feel somewhat human.

What got me thinking about all this was a phone call I’ve been expecting for a couple of days now. It seems that every time I have these deepening depressions, an old friend decides to return into my life. I used to call these people ghosts – as in ghosts from my past – but considering they’ve all pretty much became “recurring” characters, I’ve dropped it. However, Aleida remains forever a ghost no matter how long she stays, eventually she vanishes from my life. Last night, she finally called. We discussed similar problems with our mental stability.

In the end, we spoke of the past. It seems that it always arises when we first meet again. The possibility that is old is no longer possible. Several years ago, there was a time when I might have considered – actually, I had considered – a relationship with her, but the timing was all wrong. My ex-girlfriend and I had salvaged our relationship ignoring the fact it would just end up in a similar rendition. And of course I joked, “And it’s not like it was a grave mistake. I would’ve made you miserable. But in the end, it worked out. I think if we had moved forward, things would have been different right now. I would’ve have ended up with Jyg.”

“And what did I get in the end? Where’s my happy ending?” she asked.

While I do wonder how things would be different had I not returned to my relationship with Jessica and moved forth with Aleida, I’m still glad I didn’t. Because in the end it’s all about balance, not with convenience. There would not have been any growth for me. My relationship with Jessica molded what I wanted out of a relationship, rather than what was expected of me. Had it not been for my rash decision to mend our relationship that summer, I don’t think I’d be where I’m standing now.

No matter the ghost, no matter the emotion, the first person to understand me passed away several years ago. The second person stands by my side and manages with me every day. Despite the weight that we carry in our daily transgressions, we are happy. We work. We balance each other out. And even though she never got to meet her, I’m sure my grandmother would have approved. Isn’t that what matters?