Your death ruined my life.
I don’t mean it in a bad way, or selfishly. I mean, I’m still sitting here near the corner of Guadalupe and MLK, basking in a winter day, finally. It’s 2015: about a year and a half since you passed away. I’m breathing, I’m in love again, I’m alive. Obviously, some things have gone right. Right?
It starts when these two guys, one tall, lanky, basically a thin walking door, is helping out the other to walk up the street. The second, who moves brutishly, is hanging his hand on the first’s elbow, following behind the first. I notice that they’re each carrying a cane, trying to read the ground as they eventually make their way to the ordering window of the Chick-fil-A, a couple of feet away from where I’m sitting at.
And I think about you. I recall how painful it was to be at ACL with you: the people cutting you off, trampling themselves over your cane just so that they could shave a second or two from what it would take to go around you or to wait for you to pass. Or even worse, I imagine, you hanging to Lorei’s arm, her walking you towards my car, in the middle of the the pouring rain. And all I can think of is that you could still see at this point. What did you make of it?
I hone back in: the blind one’s gaze is directionless, as he stares at something that must of have gotten his attention from the street: he’s probably trying to listen. As if I am suffocating, I can’t help but to look away. I notice a construction crane off in the distance, maybe about a quarter of a mile from me. It hovers over the school, and this one that I’m starring at is one of about five or six that have gone up over the past years, or semesters; how long has it been? Anyways, somehow I associate this one with you. My urge is to climb it, especially today when the wind has picked up. I don’t know why.
Or I don’t know how to explain it.
It was during my first semester in college, fall of 2012, back home in El Paso. You didn’t want to tell us, I remember that much. It was a long two months without you then; L and I, along with J, noticed that you avoided our phone calls, our text messages. I think L said once that she even went up to your door to knock. No one answered, she told me. Personally, I didn’t think this was like you: why wouldn’t you want to hang out with your closest friends, “the Dream Team”? It was college, we were supposed to live it up, go roadtripping, camping, remember?
When you finally let us see you, in mid October, you pulled me aside (I don’t know why you didn’t tell me when you told everyone else). The only way I could describe it was that it came out of you like pouring alphabet soup into a bowl; some weird scramble of sentences and words you managed to put together. Retinitis Pigmentosa, you said. But I understood enough; it made sense. “Oh…I’m sorry,” I uttered. I mean, you had just told me, “There’s currently no cure.” The script for It’ll Get Better Soon doesn’t cover incurable diseases. What was I supposed to say?
The next months rolled along; in December, I started dating X, and the five of us (J, L, you, I, X) had some of our best moments together. After spring break, I don’t know how or who (maybe you) but it was decided that you would become a masseuse –
“No, not a masseuse, but a massage therapist.” I remember you correcting me. A massage therapist, right. So you and your sister would now be rooming together in San Antonio, where they had one of the best massage schools in the nation (who knew?). You would go to massage school, while A went to UTSA. I love the idea, of course I do; I mean, X and I had just gotten into UT. It was June, or July, of 2013 and we were all moving east. “We’ll still be close to each other, and we can visit each other” I said to you. You smiled.
But of course we didn’t. There was always something, someone.
The day you died, I was cleaning (it’s what I always do on Sundays). I was cleaning in the living room, and the phone was in my room. When I came back to look at it, I saw that I had a missed call from your sister, and a Facebook message from your ex. That’s odd, I remember thinking. What does your ex want? But I saw the preview to the message that your ex sent, and it started with, “I’m so sorry Ruben, but Adam has…”
I quickly thought, “You weren’t supposed to drive, Adam, not so late.” I thought you had an accident. Honestly. So I called your sister, and while it rang, I prepared my It’ll Get Better Soon script. I mean, what else does someone want to hear in that moment? And so your sister picked up, and I asked her what happened.
“Hey Ruben, it’s…it’s Adam, he — ” Crashed. Had an accident. Is in the hospital. Is in critical condition, coma at worst. I was still mentally editing my script.
“ — passed away last night.” My mind immediately went to the last time I saw you. It was the Alamodome. You had gone last minute to watch Mexico play South Korea in a friendly soccer match. Your dad had surprised you with a visit to San Antonio, and I was working security for that game. You and I bumped into each other in the restroom; we made small talk, and we promised each other that we would catch a Spurs game together soon.
I came back into the moment. “Are you okay A?” I asked her. “Do you need me to go over? I can leave now — ”
“No, it’s fine, my friend is coming over. Ruben, Adam, he,” she paused. “He took his life. I found him in his bed, there was a bottle of Jack on the floor, it’s bad — ” she broke down.
I stayed quiet. I don’t know what I told her then, but after the call, I sat in my desk chair, watching the dust particles as they floated aimlessly in my room. And we had just planned our Spurs game too; it was supposed to be for that Friday. Friday instead turned out to be your wake.
Yet, I don’t remember exactly how we met. All I remember is that it truly started when we took a road trip to go see Explosions in the Sky, some instrumental band I was into then. It was you, L, and I, and we convinced our parents to let us go. I mean, it was our senior year of high school after all, back in 2011; we were just kids with licenses. So we skipped our afternoon classes and stopped for some Church’s chicken; I think we got a family meal, 15 pieces and sides. Oh, and some Arnold Palmers too (basically the staple of our friendship). Finally, with drinks and hot fried chicken in hand, we drove to Marfa. After making ridiculous home videos on your iPod, jamming out to Explosions, and talking about our next trips, we made it to the show, some small art installation site. We got front row, and then all I remember is you and L driving us back home.
“Dude, do you remember what you were saying last night?” you asked me. Obviously I didn’t, so I said, basically asked, no.
You laughed. “Man, you were like,” you said as you got on your bed and laid out. “ You were like, ‘And the home of the brrraaaavvvveeeee’. You started singing the national anthem, and you wanted me and L to sing with you, you don’t remember?” he asked me.
Embarrassed, I shook my head, I didn’t. Or I didn’t want to.
“Don’t worry, it wasn’t anything too bad; besides, you were sleeping, you know?” you told me. I smiled as I looked at you.
“It’s okay, don’t worry! Relax bro,” as you started hugging me. At first, I felt weird; what two guys hug each other when they’ve only known each other for like a month? You tried giving me a bear hug (another thing of yours), and I’m pretty sure I made it awkward, but somehow I appreciated it after the fact. It felt brotherly.
After your funeral, it all felt more unreal because it wasn’t your first try, as L confessed to me after you passed away. I forgot the details, exactly, but all I knew is that you had contemplated before. Worst, it bothered me because you never told me; only L knew, and she knew because you weren’t sober when you told her.
But your death, it had to be the alcohol. I know it. It’s what your sister, L, J, and I think, everyone does. See, every time we got together, and you guys got drunk, you got progressively worse. You would lock yourself in the restroom, knock over heavy things (like your standing lamp), or you would fall down more violently each time: once you fell from your stairs, on the third step coming down. You started disregarding all of those around you, and sometimes you disappeared. Why?
Thinking about it, getting drunk was your way of dealing with things, of letting them out. Because you never told anyone what was bothering you. You always tried putting on a better face, one that was “What’s our next trip?” Adam. Sometimes you felt unreal, almost fake; you were always happy, or at the very least –
“I’m fine, don’t worry about me, I’m okay.” you told me after you and your ex ended things. I stupidly bought it.
See, the weird part is, or was, was that I knew you were going to die. Or, let me explain.
Around December (probably of 2013), a couple of months before you died, I had a dream that woke me up (I never get those). In my dream, I was in a stadium restroom, where my focus was on my hands: they were up to my chin, holding muted white pearls in a diluted red puddle. I realized that these were my teeth, and I was holding them in bloodied water. Frantically, I went in and out of the restroom, into and out of what seemed to be an airport lobby, looking for something, someone to help me.
When I woke up, I remembered my dream. Supposedly, if you’re into it, dreaming of lost teeth symbolized the impending death of a loved one, according to loose Mexican superstitions. Mucho cuidado, I could hear my grandma tell me. Immediately, I panicked.
I jumped out of bed and I called my grandma.
With matters like this, of sudden passings, of people I didn’t want to lose yet, she always came to mind first. “Are you okay?”
“Yea, I’m fine. What’s wrong?” How to tell her? So, I didn’t. I figured that be the easiest thing: why worry her, especially since she was superstitious. I told her I missed her, te quiero, and I let her go. I called my mom next, and I asked her if everyone was alright.
“Yea, everyone’s fine here; your sister is still sleeping, but, you know how that is: cada día es lo mismo. Why, what’s wrong?” So I told her. Surprisingly, she was calm about it. Don’t worry, everything will be fine, my mom told me; just look out for your friends, are they alright? I told her everyone I knew was fine, and after that, I didn’t worry. I didn’t bother with it; it was just a dream.
It wasn’t until I was on the flight back home for your wake that it hit me: you. You were leaving me. It made sense too. I was in an airport, looking, searching. Obviously, that didn’t say much: I would have had to fly home for anyone that died; that’s at least some 50 people, easily. How did I know it was you?
The restroom in my dream is how I know. That’s where I last saw you: the Alamodome, in the restroom.
That flight home, I wished it would have plummeted.
I fucking miss you, how hard is that to say? It’s only four words, and at that, luxurious: I really only need three. But really, it’s the fact that it blindsides me when I don’t see it coming, that’s what gets me. Sitting here at this table, I can’t help but want to throw the food out, maybe at the blind man, maybe at his helper. Maybe at all the scientists and doctors that should focus on RP rather than on cancer, or diabetes, or something else that isn’t RP. I can’t help but think how shitty of a friend I was to you, that I am to L, to J, to all of the people that have ever had to depend on me for anything. Immediately after you left, everything went to shit: L left to Dallas, X and I broke up, J lived with the guilt (or still does). Actually, not just even J, we all do. X doesn’t even talk to any of us anymore; she left the picture after you died. She got a new boyfriend to go with her new life. For that, I can’t help but hate her. And I can’t help but hate you. All I know how to ask is “Why?” We all would have cared for you, but you didn’t want to see that. You were so stupid, you didn’t even give us a chance to help you, to be there for you like you had always been there for us. We needed you when we had you, we always have, and now, now more than ever.
We all loved you.
But I know better: I’m the stupid one. Being non religious, I believe that those that need to get taken will. Why? I don’t know. But I believe you serve your purpose and you leave, plain as that. And you did. And it makes me feel off, it makes me feel as if I was supposed to learn something. Like if there was an overall message, some sort of lesson I was going to acquire, some credit or skill on my life resume.
But I haven’t found what I’ve been looking for. I haven’t found it in all those times I look out the bus windows, as the bus takes me home.
Now, nothing hits me here on the corner of Guadalupe and MLK. Not the food I want to throw. Not the plane I wish would have fallen. Not the crane that towers over UT. Nothing. The cars keep wooshing by, the blind man and his helper already left, and breakfast is already over at the Chick-fil-A. I’ve been here for over an hour, for what was supposed to be a quick bite. I’ll be here as long as I want to, and no divine intervention will stop me from doing so, even as much as I want for something to come out of the blue.
But I think I get it.
I want to climb the crane, maybe I’ll undergo some journey, something that will finally let me release all of what I was supposed to while everyone grieved. Maybe I’ll cry at the top there, sitting over the farthest edge, for the times I didn’t cry: during your wake, during the eulogy I gave, or during the walk where I helped carry your casket to finally let you down. Or for the times I’ve gone to visit your grave, hoping somehow that everyone could come back for one day, as if nothing had ever changed, and spend it with you, finally reaching that long overdue catharsis.
Or maybe, somehow, I hope, that you’ll reach out of the cloud-hidden sky and finally watch a Spurs game with me, like were supposed to all of those Fridays ago. Maybe.
November 24, 2015