Poetry Break

“Fight For Love” by Andrea Gibson

I’m often drawn to the works of Andrea Gibson. Perhaps it’s because I’m a closeted romantic. Although, if I’m a closeted anything it’s not a romantic. Just ask any of my ex-girlfriends and former love interests. It’s just that their ability to sketch emotions, craft pictures with their words has been something I have been striving to do with my own poetry.

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Stream of Consciousness

“There’s gotta be some butterflies somewhere”

A dream:

In a sea of infinity, they managed to carve out some privacy. And while conversations around them drown theirs, their words are the only things they can hear. He’s nervous. Of course, he is. Because it’s been a while since he can hold a conversation with someone of her magnitude. Not that the others were a waste of time, it’s just they’re not her. They’re what he had to go through to get to her. They were the things that got him to the thing. Not obstacles. They’re never reduced to that. It’s just that, in this moment, everything he went through seems to a precursor to this one. Without the others, he wouldn’t have made it to the here and now.

Their conversation is about nothing. The best ones usually are. He smiles; she returns it. Her hand brushes his. The air escapes his lungs. For a moment, panic sets in. The idea of someone touching him, albeit accidentally, is enough to set him off. There’s an anxious moment. Sweat begins to push up through the pores of his forehead. Though he’s been in here for a short while (and it is his first visit), he already has all the exits memorized just in case he needed a quick exit. Such as the panic attack that can push through from the skin-to-skin contact of another human being. Regardless of how attracted he is to her.

But it doesn’t come. The panic subsides. Evaporates into the cool night air. The party fades into nature. They’re standing on the street. He wonders exactly what any of this means. He takes her into his arms. It’s become source of comfort. Being this close to each other. To feel her warmth. To know that he’s human, though not a complete.

He contemplates the gravity of her. Of the situation. He doesn’t understand it. Maybe he doesn’t need to. Or maybe he isn’t supposed to. Most likely, he doesn’t care to. Because the empty moments of nothing conversations mean everything to him. And for the moment, maybe this is all he needs. Or wants. But he isn’t fooling himself.


The Subtle Art of Getting Over It

February started as any other month would. Shaun decided to leave me with just enough room on the bed to fit my profile. I started my usual morning routine. I picked up a book. I read. When Shaun woke up, we played, danced, and ate. He realized that his time was better spent with his cousins, so he abandoned me to my reading while they played in the living room. I flipped through several issues of Batman Eternal, Nailbiter, and a few other titles that haven’t been picked up in months. Jeanna sent me a text asking me to hold on to Shaun for a little while longer and drop him off sometime during the evening. I buried my face in Tess Gerritsen’s Die Again. I drank Kool-Aid in my mom’s room as some banal tween sitcom on Nick played as white noise. I sent texts to Jenny. I replied to texts from coworkers and friends. I scrolled through Tumblr. And as I remember what a perfect month this would be (a month of four even weeks), I realized that it was the first of February. It took me most of the day for it to dawn on me what significance the day once held. Had we been together, it would have marked the twelfth anniversary with Jeanna.

The past two years, I spent the day in a catatonic state. I still mourned the loss of the relationship. There were moments during this three-year road where I thought I healed. I wrote proclamations about my strength. Mistook infatuations for romance. Nothing, however, lasted.

And I don’t think getting here would have been possible without the help of someone like Jenny. And while the strength of letting go came from within, she has been my guide through it all. And it happened the last night she was in Edinburg. That night at the park. Where she and Canaan crawled through the tube at the playground. And I stood at the opposite end. Crawling through tubes isn’t my bag. Especially when wet mulch lines the floor. Claustrophobic and a germaphobe, it didn’t matter. I wanted to stand beside them. Just wanted to hold her hand. I knew what this relationship would entail. I knew the hardships that would follow. And none of it mattered. Not the years spent and lost with Jeanna. Not Selina. Not anything that plagued my mind for all those years past. At that moment, I just wanted to build something with the girl on the other side of the tube.

So on first of the month, after I realized the significance it once held, I smirked into my phone. I opened my book and continued reading after sending a text to Jenny.


Exit Stage Right

Dear Shaun,

There is so much that I wish worked out differently. So much that I wish I could change with a blink of an eye. There are nights where I dream that the last two years were just a dream and your mom, you, and I are still a happy family. These dreams are just reminders of what I gave up. Not because I didn’t love your mom or because I don’t love you. You two are by far the most important people in my life. And while there are times when I act like I hate your mom, I don’t. Sometimes I let the pain and hurt get the better of me. And it’s wrong. And I’m glad you’re never around when it sets in because I don’t wish that upon anyone.

There’s so much of me in you. I can see it even though you’re only two. When things frustrate you, I can see the flicker of my anger flash in your eyes. You’ll throw the troublesome toy only to glower at it a second later. You can’t quit just as I won’t let anything beat me. It’s not competition you’re after. Like me, you long to have control over any and all situations. This isn’t something I want for you.

Of all my “blessings” and “curses,” my depression, my rage, my headstrong attitude don’t fall into the list of things I want you to inherit from me. I don’t want you standing in the corner of a party. I don’t want you to look down on others because you don’t understand their ideas or ways. Don’t become a shut in like your father, boarding the windows and doors for fear of letting someone into your life.

I never wanted to fall in love. I never thought I would have a kid. And here I am, brokenhearted with a child I wouldn’t trade for anything. The life I led before you is over. The life I aimed for before I fell in love with your mother is but a footnote in my autobiography. I have loved others, but none like your mother.

A few years before you came along, I contemplated leaving your mother. I loved her and that was the problem. Of all the years we were together, I never loved her more than I did at the moment I wanted to leave. There was a time, when we were young, where I made your mother happy. I made her upset, too, but that’s not in question here. I loved your mom before that morning. It wasn’t until then, though, that realized just how much. The happiness that filled her eyes became fleeting. There were moments when I felt I wasn’t enough. I didn’t do the things she wanted to do. I didn’t live up any boyfriend or husband material because I feared what the outside world offered. Going outside ran the risk of embarrassing myself. Embarrassment isn’t being in control. It’s losing control of the situation. I couldn’t have that.

Don’t live your life by my standards. Understand you’ll make mistakes and I’ll get upset. There are some paths you’ll take that I won’t agree with. But don’t ever for a second think I don’t love you. And don’t ever think I don’t love your mom. Because I’m willing to lay down my arms and stand idol for her happiness. For too long it’s been about me. About me having full control over the situation that it’s time for me to give up my selfishness for her happiness. And if that means her being with another person, well, that’s the price I’ll have to pay for never giving her what she needed. At least I understand that now.

I’ll fall down, Shaun. Your dad stumbles a lot. But there’s one thing I never fail to do. No matter how beaten this disease leaves me, I always get up. Because I can take the hit. And I can take the abuse. And the pain. And I’ll continue to take it for you. There is nothing that can keep me from reaching out and hold you. Even when you get to that age where it’s not longer acceptable for your father to hold your hand or carry you into a room, you’ll always be my baby. And I will always continue to fight this for you.


Your Dad


When All Arrows Point North, Head South

Last night proved something that has always been a fear in the back of my mind: My depression is a living, breathing metaphysical creature capable of growing and nurturing itself. For years, I have master a few tricks to keep the monster at bay without ever seeking permanent treatment. In college, I sat in counseling sessions handling issues the depression brought on, the fears that built up in the pit in my stomach, my anger, etc. It was then that my counselor, Veronica, labeled my at-the-time, long-term girlfriend, Jeanna, my balance. “She centers you. Throughout these sessions, you always mention her. She pulls you out and grounds you in this reality.”

Years later, Jeanna and I celebrated the best day in our lives when our son Shaun Damien was born. Sadly, however, our relationship wouldn’t survive the long battle of ups and downs. Finally succumbing to the inevitable, it ended. We remain good friends because for nine years, we only knew ourselves. And for the sake of our son’s sanity and well-being, we remain partners in raising him. But it’s not an easy thing to let go someone you loved for so long.

Jeanna & I
Our last beach trip as a couple, circa Summer 2011

Suddenly that balance is missing. And with the walls crumbling all around me, the depression reared its disfigured head. It clutched my thoughts with gnarled fingers, bringing to life the Voice that echoes throughout the chambers of my heart. All my tricks and meditations no longer quelled the creature. They wouldn’t silence the Voice and the venom that it spilled within my daily thoughts.

Suffering the most was this blog. Following the constant theme of sadness, this blog underwent a great shift. Several times, I promised to revamp, refocus, and move forward with my writing and my reading and my musings to little avail.

Meanwhile, Jeanna went through similar bout. Taking another road that I did, she immersed herself in social activities rather than hiding away. I won’t go into her baggage because it’s not mine to share. However, I will share one tidbit. Not too long ago, we were lying in bed. We both needed the comfort of another, so we found refuge in each other arms. I told her how Veronica once called her my balance and she opined how it’s weird having depended on someone and suddenly that’s no longer an option. “I can still be your balance,” she offered. “Even as a friend. Couldn’t I?”

I don’t remember what words came out of my mouth, but the answer is no. No, she couldn’t because she cannot be both the source and the remedy. Not the source itself, but the vulnerability that let the Voice in. The fuel it uses to burn all that is inside me.

Last night the Voice decided it was time to beat me. And for the first time in years, I allowed it. I laid down my arms. If every night was going to be a struggle to keep it at bay for the rest of my life, why not let it take me to its depths to see what it has to kill me? When it was over, I picked myself up and moved on.

Today (being Tuesday, though it’s no Wednesday), the world was in a fog. When Carol (who also texted me Monday night apologizing for vanishing Sunday and most of Monday) sent me a text. In the last month, I’ve grown fond of her. There are moments when I just think about her and the pain resides. There are moments when she’ll crawl into my thoughts for no discernible reason. I recounted a story of how I “slayed the giant,” a spin a story I’ve told many times about a very real event in my life about the first love letter I ever received. And it kept the Voice at bay. Still, I could feel its claws digging into my heart.

Then the oddest thing happened. We stopped to put gas after work, and Shaun and I walked into the Stripes where I picked up two sodas – one for Mom and one for me – and  a bag of Cheetos Puffs and a Monkey Juice for Shaun. Shaun is adored by all. The old lady in front of us paid him a compliment, which I’m getting better at dealing with. The lady behind me then struck up a small conversation with me before it was my turn to check out. I handed the guy behind the register the two sodas and took the bag of puffs and Monkey Juice from Shaun so they could get rung up. Needless to say, Shaun did not enjoy this. His face scrunched and he started to cry. I tried to sooth him as I tried my debit card on the machine and it came out error. I tried again, and this time the price for my purchase wasn’t available. Frustrated with the man behind the register and the card reader, I tried to keep my voice calm as I tried to sooth Shaun’s tears. Finally, I hear, “Five-eleven? That should take care of it.”

The voice belonged to the woman who I’d just spoken to earlier. “That’s my good deed of the day,” she quipped.

“Are you sure?” I asked, because the social protocol of this has never been risen before. Not with me.

She nodded. I thanked her.

“For him,” she said as I held the door for her as we both left the store.

It gave me something I needed. I could feel the power I’d given the creature and its voice rescinded. And it’s given me motivation to act on something that I’ve only thought about doing.

My name is Guillermo. And I am a survivor. I am not my depression. I am my balance.


Within All


For C.N. — I’m not exactly sure what you’re going through, but I wanted to share a few words with you.

How do they keep at it like this? All that jabbering,
When just breathing the humid air feels like drowning.
There are so many good things in life I’ve overlooked.

There are times when silence feels like our only friend. Like a vacancy consumes our hearts and our minds cannot fathom a reasonable explanation for the darkness that seeps through the cracks of our cerebellum. And we claw at the wall in hopes to find sure-footing so that we may one day escape the prisons we built for ourselves. Where being alone seems to heal all things and ease all things. And within all things we may find nothing but disappointment in ourselves because we’re not good enough. We’re not perfect enough to love. That we deserve what we’re given and should accept it as a noble truth.

We don’t have to speak. Not a word shared between us in confession or in contrition. Because my words cannot bring you comfort anymore than you can. Because, in the end, every one must bear the burden of his own sins and every person must be the fabricator of their own salvation, that not even a god can do for us what self-help in the form of self-conquest and self-emancipation can accomplish.

We are the twin verses. The sacred truths. We are the light and darkness in each other. For anger breeds anger, hatred breeds hatred. Joy breeds joy and love breeds love. And I have lived through both. I have seen my hands cause pain and I felt my heart take delight in such pain. And I have seen my hands bring peace and I felt my heart take delight in such peace. Let us be like the bright gods, and feed off the happiness.

I once asked you not to apologize to me. Apologies are not a sign of weakness, they are a sign of strength. And strength shouldn’t be taken so lightly. Apologize for the things done within your control. Apologize for the words spoken in anger or the slap that escapes your hand.

I’ve done some terrible things in my life that I can never apologize for. That I cannot take back. I let the anger and hatred fester in my heart and I have seen the tears spilled for me. Tears that are worth more than the cost of my existence. And for years, I lived in anger. For years, I didn’t think of the feelings of others. And for years, I abused and misused those who were unfortunate enough to love me. And each time I did, an apology escaped my lips. An apology that wasn’t worth a pound of truth because I never learned from the mistakes I made.

And for this, I do not deserve the apologies of others. Because these are the demons I carry with me. These are sins that burden me each day. And until I can right these wrongs, I do not want to hear a word of apology spoken to me.

I created a set of rules and a code of morals and ethics for myself. Guidelines spawned from common sense and various religions and social contracts. I have carved my own buddhism, my own christianity.

With everything, within all, there is hope. There is light. There is peace. There is love and there is solace. And one day, I hope to share it with those I love most.

Just a quick note: I wrote this entire post while listening to this song—your recording—on a continuous loop. It just felt right.