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?

Alternate History · Personal

Untitled Pt. 1

Nothing feels real in these moments. Staring at the face in the mirror, this familiar stranger whose eyes are bagged and drooping. Wisps of gray hair blending into the dark. It’s one of those dissociative moments. At least something in the hypnagogia realm. And my mouth cracks open. The question on my lips is, “Who are you?” But before any sound comes out, the alarm on my bed blares, shaking me awake. A dream. All of it. A dream.

I am seventeen years old. Outside breeze slips pass the curtain of my window, carrying with it the scent of rain. It’s expected. A drizzle. Something not uncommon in the month of January. The cold front they were expecting must’ve come in early, sometime in the middle of the night. Always prepared, I kept the window open just a crack so the stuffiness of my teenage bedroom didn’t choke me while I slept.

Dragging ass, I make it to the restroom where the day begins. Shower. Brush teeth. Comb hair, poorly. Rub the Avon-brand deodorant under each pit. Get dress. Leave the house. First day back to school after the winter holiday. Better make these last few months of high school last, they say. You’ll look back on these days, relishing in your youth. Remembering all the stupid things you did as fondly as do with whom you did them.

The halls of Edinburg North High School aren’t popping with life. Nobody wants to be here and nothing will change that. From the corner of my eye, I see Teddy lazily looking forward. He survived the break. When he approaches me, just in passing as we were never that close, he gives me that slight head nod. But some ass wad brushes up against him, knocking him into me.

His skin is cold; his hand grasping my bare wrist as he steadies himself. Fragments of a dream, like memories, pour into my head. “Wait,” I say before trailing off due to his interruption.

“Jesus fuck!” he shouts as the dickhead continues down the hall. “Sorry about that,” he turns to me. “See you around,” he says before leaving, mixing into the crowd of adolescents and vanishing from my sight.

And I whisper to myself, “Aren’t you in a coma? Aren’t you dying?”

“I passed Ms. Champion’s class last semester.” I’m speaking more to myself, but Miranda hears me.

“You seem uncertain,” she says.

“Nothing feels real,” I whisper. Either she doesn’t hear me, or she’s doesn’t care. Either way, my statement just floats in the air. For a bit before it fades in to the great unknown. Still, after lunch I walk by a Spanish classroom and take a peek inside. There are a few students already inside, but none of them look too familiar. Just faces in the crowd that sort of thing.

“Can I help you?” the teacher asks.

“No, I’m good, Ms. Ramos,” I say before heading toward my destination.

And once I’m in my seat, I wonder, how the hell did I know her name? I must have heard it after first period. Our classes are right next to each other, after all. In Media Tech, I work on a project Janie and I started before winter break. It keeps my thoughts in line, but even then something I can’t shake the thought that something if off. That all this is wrong, somehow.

After school, I head to my room and pop in the CD to the stereo I got for my birthday last year. Except, the stereo shouldn’t be here. I remember it was stolen in the break in several months ago. And that I wouldn’t get another until after graduation. After graduation?

The phone rings. It’s Kara. She’s at Jessica’s house, and thought she’d call me. Just to hear my voice. And I feign interest in her stories and words. And when she whispers “I love you,” there’s some hesitation on my part.

“It’s ok,” she says. “I already know.”

But she doesn’t know. She will in a few months when I admit my love for Jessica, instead. And she will become resentful towards us no matter how much she swears she’s ok with it.

The question remains, though. How do I know all this will transpire?

Doldrums

“You find your demon’s your best friend”

Depression’s heavy. Cinder blocks lined on your shoulders heavy. Beached whale heavy. Burden-laden, love-ridden, endless insomniac nighttime, television watching heavy.

I lost myself in the rows of gravestones looking for his, Teddy’s–a high school friend who died before graduation. Izzy wanted to visit the cemetery, and since they have no dead relatives they knew or cared about, we sought out the people who I knew. I sat on the ground with Shaun in front of where my friend now rests. This being the second time I paid him a visit since he died in 2001. There was no privacy, so I didn’t talk to the dirt or rock. And it’s funny, though. After all these years of not believing in a god, a heaven or hell, a soul, or an afterlife, I still manage to talk to the dead as if their metaphysical selves linger on this earth. Some practices are not easily forgotten, and perhaps they aren’t due to therapeutic purposes.

Even if I was left to my thoughts, what words would I say? Hi, Teddy. Sorry I haven’t visited much. I’m too busy living, something you weren’t given the opportunity to experience. Not the in the same sense as the rest of us, anyway. And exactly what would have you become if you had? A doctor? A lawyer? A political figurehead that would have changed the game? Who cares about any of that, anyway? There’s this myth that it’s not who you are that defines you, but what you do that makes you who you are. I don’t think that’s true. It’s not who you are or what you do that defines a person, it’s those you leave behind in the end. The people who love you and carry you around long after your gone. This is my son and I love him dearly. His mother and I, well, we weren’t cut out for each other, I suppose. I really wish we were, though. But things are great. My son loves me. And I suppose if no one else does, at least I have that to keep me moving forward. And that’s what I most sorry for, Teddy. It’s not that you didn’t get the opportunity to make a mark on this world, it’s that you never got to feel what I’m feeling–never had the experience of fatherhood.

I’m not good at reading people’s emotions. I can’t say I lack empathy, but it’s not something I experience often enough. I tread lightly around others because I don’t know what they’re going to do. People are a mystery to me. What compels them to smile, cry, grow angry, or whatever is a mystery. I’m not a fan of Descartes, but to paraphrase him: I know I’m a creature of thought and ration, but what are you?

And the worse of it is, I never know how to react to others’ emotions. I never see them as angry or sad until it affects me. A reason, I may add, that makes me a terrible boyfriend.

A while ago, I stopped at my boss’s office to have a chat. Nothing major, just wanted to talk about–what else–my life (I’ve learned that this never works, as I’m often times pulled into a conversation that doesn’t pertain me, but I have to listen quietly because it’s social contract that if I want to talk about me, I have to listen as they talk about themselves). She starts off by stating something about the people upstairs (literal, not figuratively), then apologizes for crying (which I didn’t notice until she mentioned it). We spoke about this before. Told her a couple of times, actually. I can’t read people, and I never know how to react when someone is crying. Especially if that someone isn’t an intimate (at least I can hug them).

And something happened today, I became anxious. An emotion transferred to me by my coworkers. Even though I accredit it to the fact that their anxiety only made me anxious, and not empathy, I was proud of myself for a moment. It passed as I tried to read the face of my coworker and saw nothing. I looked at the face of my boss, and nothing.

Someone once told me I care too much about what people think of me. As a regular joe, I guess I do. But I lived my whole life not being able to see what people were thinking or feeling, that I don’t think it’s any more than I should.

When it was time to go, I punched out. But Angela was still in the back, so I remained at the seat until it was officially time for me to leave. I went to retrieve her when my ride arrived, and she looked at her watch (she’s one of the few people who I know who wears one) and asked why I didn’t call her before. “It’s called kindness,” I responded. “I do that sometimes.”

And I felt it. The creepy feeling I always get before the waves wash over me and I’m drowning. As I said my goodbyes, the undertow pulled me beneath the water and her voice and face were but a garble to my senses.

I played the absent lover in most of my relationships. The one loved the feeling of being loved, but resented the obligation of returning the affection.

Don’t misquote that. I have and still love certain people. The obvious people who I won’t list. And no matter who’s stuck around, there is one that has never left my side even in its absence. The personification of the illness that grows through me. That lies in wait for an opportunity to pounce and devour me. The thing that isolates me further. The curtain will fall one day, and hopefully I’ll understand this life when my last performance fades to black. Because, don’t we all get it in the end?

Doldrums

This here after

via: FuckYeahIceland

Sometimes I conjure up the dead. Not in that new age sorta way, but inmemory. I just sit down and remember faces, smiles, words and voices from people who aren’t with me anymore. My paternal grandfather: wisps of white hair, freckled skinned. Every wrinkle burned in memory. The way I was half disgusted with his breakfast routine – the gnawing on the brown sugar stump and the sipping – slurping? – of his coffee.

I don’t feel sadness when I think of them. I just need to hear their voices again in order to remember how real they were. That they existed before they didn’t. That’s a hard concept. To exist and then not to exist. If I believed in a heaven, they’d exist somewhere else. In another dimension apart from this one.

The usual ghosts I conjure up are my grandparents. Sometimes, I reincarnate the dead within the living. A couple of weeks, maybe a month, after Joey passed away, I saw a man walking down the street while I was checking my mail. His walk reminded me of Joey. At the distance he was at, I thought it was Joey. I don’t wave – I never do – but suddenly my memory snaps forth and it can’t be Joey. Even though I didn’t see his body in the casket – I only attended the mass for his funeral – I remembered he wasn’t with us anymore.

I imagine my cousin Damien, images of him strumming the guitar weeks before he died. Sometimes I hold conversations with people who have passed. In dreams, mostly. I talk to Teddy in my dreams sometimes. I have to attempt to recreate him, older…the age he would’ve been had he not died our senior year in high school. It’s probably why I liked “The Lives of the Dead” the final story in Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried.

Recreating them is always a problem. I’m no longer the 17-year-old that I was when he died. Teddy stopped growing up. His personality is at a standstill. The stoner. The slick kid. The class clown. The guy everyone loved.

There’s probably more I want to say. I can’t remember, though.