Between the Rose-Colored Glasses

They won’t exactly be sending out search parties for you, so no need to cast a longing gaze toward Gomorrah.
It’s quite an interesting connection between me and all these naysayers, almost like some cosmic joke.
Imagine a leaf petal doing a helicopter impression, whirling around in the wind and making a melodious entrance onto my skin, brushing past my clothes, and tickling my senses. I really ought to cut down on the overanalyzing of every little thing, overthinking even the simplest of thoughts.
On occasion, the descent of a solitary leaf serves as an emblematic reflection on life’s simplicity- “a leaf is just a leaf” I tell myself.
I possess an inclination to imbue every encountered element with a sense of romanticism- something beyond just normal acceptance.
This tendency, I suspect, emanates from my earnest desire to substantiate the significance of my existence, to give me reason, purpose- beyond the mere spectatorial role within someone else’s subconscious reverie.
My yearning extends further, reaching for a heightened emotional intensity, surpassing the present moment’s fleeting sentiments. This proclivity can be attributed to my perception that within the depths of my tears lies a reservoir of unwritten verses, and as they cascade from my cheek, they unfurl entire sagas upon unwitting onlookers.
My own faculties mirror the (what it seems like) perpetuity of a spinning dreidel, ceaselessly whirling through the vast expanse of thought. My goodness.
Like a melody resonating within the confines of a padded chamber, only then will the monotony of existence become stifling.
There are moments when I succumb to a slumber that seems to span epochs, and upon rousing, I encounter a reflection in the looking glass that scarcely resembles the person I once knew- a glimpse into the past of someone that I didn’t want to be anymore.
Every now and then, I can’t help but envy those animals that can wrap themselves up in a cocoon and seemingly take a lifetime to emerge anew.
I know it might sound a bit dark, but I’ve often wondered if cryogenics might have a place in my future, like I’m some kind of butterfly waiting to unfurl its wings. To start the cocoon process.
I’m still in the process of becoming the person I want to be, not quite there yet, not quite cocooned enough.
I tend to toss around the word “kaleidoscope” quite a bit- It’s like I’m navigating through a labyrinth, and I have this persistent feeling that I can uncover the hidden ending to the ever-shifting ultraviolet pattern.
Somewhere amid those rose-colored glasses, there’s a door with an infinite keycode, and I just know the password somehow. And when I finally open it, I won’t feel lost anymore; there’s someone waiting on the other side for me.

You Were the First Person I Thought of: A Memoir of Love, Loss, and Healing

“You’re the first person I thought of”

is generally the type of plaudit I’d hope to hear after phrases like:

“funniest person ever,”

“most creative individual you know,”

I’ve devoted an embarrassing amount of time to woolgathering—lost in daydreams that conjure up would-be accolades about the person I aspire to become someday. I never wanted those words to be uttered in mourning; I didn’t wish for people to associate me with grief.

Thankfully, by some benevolent twist of fate, I wasn’t irrevocably linked to that tragic incident itself. Yet, despite not being directly involved, I still bear the weight of the world as it keeps hurtling forward. I’m like one of those beasts tethered to a tree that’s suddenly yanked back when it ventures too far beyond the confines of its rope. I’m haunted by this relentless march of time, a colossal facet of my existence.

I find myself carefully choosing the words I use to describe what transpired. In ways I never knew I could, I’m being gentle with myself, whispering to myself,

“Who reminds you of those sunsets God seemed to spend extra brushstrokes on?”

“It’s OK, Cris.” (Only she called me Cris—it felt like a natural nickname, but to everyone else, I’m just not Cris. No one else ever calls me Cris. Except Nancy. Nancy called me Cris.)

As I stare at the ground, I open up to her about my day, really pouring it all out. Sometimes, I catch myself almost answering for her, as if the phrasing of our conversation is in constant flux. Through letters and words, I’m gradually making sense of the intricate web of emotions surrounding it all. It’s like I’m trying to customize these complex feelings, making them uniquely mine.

On some occasions, I’ll paint a vivid picture of a golden stairway bathed in blinding, pure light, leading to Elysium. She’s there, gently guided by hand, with winged seraphs assisting her in a peaceful transition—and she’s smiling back at me. But in other versions, it’s a different story. Teeth grinding, the whites of my eyes turn a shade of scarlet, my anger throbbing through me. My hands grow pallid white as they clench into a tight fist, draining the blood from them. This is often followed by a stern


Experiencing a mugging is nothing short of jarring. The act of choosing between something inherently valuable and potentially your life may sound straightforward, but within the confines of that decision lurk a whirlwind of emotions, all compressed into a fleeting moment. I’ve had a gun pointed at me before, and regardless of who’s holding it or how far they are, it feels as though they possess an insatiable force in their hands. The sound it emits is deafening, demoralizing, and utterly spineless.

Once it’s over, you enter a phase of questioning, what I like to call the “what if” trials. These trials are both vexing and guilt-inducing. It’s a quirk of human nature to revisit moments that didn’t go in our favor and use the clarity of hindsight to further undermine the already fragile version of ourselves that endured this trauma. In my analogy, mental illness becomes the villain, through and through. Anyone who’s ever pointed a gun at me was a male, except for one police officer who, although a woman, bore a strong resemblance to a man. So, in this narrative, mental illness takes on a masculine identity.

Mental illness ticks all the boxes of a typical mugger: it strikes when you least expect it, snatches something from you without warning, doesn’t introduce itself, and leaves you pondering, “Why me?” You might find yourself becoming an advocate for those less fortunate, championing gun control, or seeking solace in the realms of freedom, security, and providence. Some might even enroll in self-defense classes, arm their keychains with pepper spray, or install motion-detecting cameras in their homes. However one chooses to respond, action is required.

What complicates matters is that, in this instance, I wasn’t robbed in the conventional sense—there wasn’t something of intrinsic value taken from me during this invasion. Yet, it feels as if someone is holding a gun to my head, even though, of course, no one is. I yearn to take action, but what can I do when there’s nothing to be (properly) angry about? Does this stop me from feeling furious? Absolutely not. The rage still simmers within me.

Once you’ve navigated the labyrinth of “what ifs,” the next stage is often marked by finger-pointing, as you desperately search for someone or something to blame. After mulling over a trillion reasons for your irrational “what ifs,” it seems only natural to start pointing fingers. It’s akin to becoming an advocate for gun safety, akin to demanding more security at subway stops X, Y, and Z if you were robbed after disembarking there. You believe that the lack of security is to blame, and so you point the accusatory finger. But be warned, sometimes those fingers may end up pointing right back at yourself. Here’s a spoiler alert: not everything traumatic or “bad” that happens to you is your fault – sometimes, things just happen because they do. While you might have been the target or played an important role, it’s not necessarily because of you. You just happened to be in the right place at the wrong time, much like how you were a part of Nancy’s life during a particular phase.

On the flip side, embracing this acceptance can be quite challenging, something I find myself avoiding. It’s as though these rules are conditional, as if I’m still held at gunpoint by those haunting memories. This is what “he” does to me. Moreover, grappling with mental illness makes accepting what has transpired all the more unsettling. It serves as both a rude awakening and a painful truth, a tormenting gospel, a melody that shifts based on the precise stage of grief and trauma I find myself floating toward.

Honestly, I detest this. Every day feels like a home invasion. I suffocate daily, reliving this trauma over and over again.

Sitting on my nightstand is a book on trauma, and it delves into the idea of trauma taking up residence within the body. It seeks refuge there, but the exit routes are blocked, leaving it trapped until you take action. This isn’t something you can simply address with a couple of meditation sessions, a glass of morning water, and the occasional sermon. It’s a lifelong commitment to interventions, facing hard truths, and adopting healthy routines that carve a path for this poison to exit your body.

I often feel like I’ve been robbed, forced into acceptance. Mental illness has stolen countless precious moments from me, marred the images in my mind with clumps of gray, rendering my canvas bleak. It’s used its venomous tongue to spew acid on my garden, setting it ablaze. It’s robbed me, and countless others, and I want you, the reader, to understand just how agonizing this can be. It’s as if they’re picking up pieces of my diamond-studded heart and casually walking out the door with them. This is a daily ordeal. Even as I write this, I feel like I’m being robbed.

And it doesn’t stop.

There’s a part of me that feels like it’s rotting away. What’s the medical term for that feeling when I clutch my lower abdomen and check if there’s some sort of gaping hole through my body? It’s like there’s a black-hole mass slowly taking over me, much like a cancer. I’m certain of it. When I scream, it’s as if things are escaping from me, and I keep screaming “why” until my ears ring and the world around me falls silent.

During these moments, I’d almost prefer to be sedated. I absolutely despise this feeling.

Sometimes, I try to articulate this sensation poetically, reciting Mark Twain’s “Warm Summer Sun.”

Warm summer sun,

Shine kindly here,

Warm southern wind,

Blow softly here.

Green sod above,

Lie light, lie light.

Good night, dear heart,

Good night, good night.

“She passed” is one of those phrases I often resort to. It carries a certain gentleness in its sound, yet the harsh truth still lingers—

I’m in denial. I find myself waking up from dreams, or rather, nightmares, where I receive a text from her saying, “Just kidding.” She wants to meet up somewhere to explain everything. I’m overjoyed that she’s alive, but I’m also infuriated because she subjected me to this unbearable pain. I wake up around 3:39 AM, my heart feeling like it’s about to burst through my chest, hurriedly checking my phone only to realize that, once again, my brain is playing its tricks on me.

“I didn’t want to wake up. I was having a much better time asleep. And that’s really sad. It was almost like a reverse nightmare, like when you wake up from a nightmare you’re so relieved. I woke up into a nightmare.”

― Ned Vizzini, It’s Kind of a Funny Story

I find myself gradually drifting into slumber amidst bouts of scream-cries (sometimes my neighbors even check on me), with my pillow serving as a vessel for my own sadness. This has been happening for three consecutive nights now, and it currently ranks as one of the top three emotions I wouldn’t wish upon anyone, in this life or the next.


“She succumbed to mental illness.”

I use this approach in various languages because I believe it’s making a significant impact in raising much-needed awareness. Someone once told me that taking your own life isn’t a choice you make—you don’t commit suicide; you become a victim of suicide. Suicide is what happens when mental illness consumes you, when it overwhelms you. It’s akin to how cancer shuts down your body or how COVID claims your last breath. That’s how I see it, and it brings me some sense of comfort. I’ll keep framing it this way until the language surrounding it shifts, until the stigma fades into obscurity. It’s something I have to do. You don’t just commit to things like that.

“She’s not with us anymore.”

I use this as my closing statement, a personal touch to wrap up my thoughts. I don’t see it as my duty to keep everyone informed about everything all the time. It’s a choice I make willingly. If I feel the need to explain, I will do so, but if I choose not to, that choice should be respected.

The day I stumbled upon the news, it had already been a week since the incident occurred. I had gone a whole week without any knowledge of it. On that particular day, I decided to look into what had transpired. I was informed of the details through a rather shoddy news article on Facebook. If I happen to come across that article again, I tend to just skim over it, almost as if I’m deliberately ignoring it. It reminds me of something Einstein once said; he didn’t consider himself smarter than the average person, but rather, he possessed an insatiable curiosity to understand the “why” behind things.

I must confess, though, I did read the comments on the Facebook post itself. Some of the comments, even if well-intentioned, struck me as callous, to say the least, and downright sickening at worst. I could feel the tension in my jaw as I clenched my teeth while reading them.

The comments were mostly variations of “rest in peace” or “I loved her in (insert show/series here).” I’m not sure what changed in me, but for the first time, my curiosity hit a brick wall. I wasn’t seeking information; I was in deep contemplation. Over the years, I’ve been extremely careful about how I express condolences. I don’t just offer condolences; I carefully select my words and share my honest vulnerability. My aim is to convey a sense of genuine support so profound that the grieving person can at least feel a fraction of it.

I yearned for answers, a glimpse into the “why” of it all. I sought the perspectives of strangers to fill the void within me. However, what I received was an ocean of seemingly blunt and insensitively tone-deaf monologues. I had to quell the overwhelming urge to unleash my frustration upon everyone in that thread. I didn’t even know if the original post was factual or a fabrication. I harbored a desire to inflict emotional pain, to erase that post entirely from everyone’s memory.

I can recall numerous instances where I cradled her in my arms, almost like a baby. She allowed it, and I yearned for it. There was no sense of obligation or awkwardness; I felt a deep need and, simultaneously, a desire to be there. In those moments of vulnerability, I willingly listened and provided selective protection. She confided in me, and when panic struck, I’d assure her, saying, “It’s alright, I’m here, don’t worry.”

We both shed tears.

We both fell asleep with tears still wet on our cheeks.

Now, I longed to protect her, even if she wasn’t physically in my embrace.

Last week, I embarked on a new job, marking the end of a tumultuous year spent in the limbo of job transitions, compounded by a head injury whose effects remain largely misunderstood by others. To say it’s been challenging would be an understatement. The adjustment to this new role has been no less daunting. Amidst it all, I had to carve out time for my grieving process. “Siri, set an alarm for 8:30, labeled ‘grieving,’ then another alarm for 9, labeled ‘tea time.'” The world marches relentlessly forward, showing no signs of slowing down. As I write this, our planet has journeyed a staggering 444,939 miles – nearly nineteen times the Earth’s circumference.

In the interim, half a million miles of space travel have transpired, equivalent to the length of twenty Earths. Time shows no inclination to pause, to grieve, or to observe moments of silence – and that’s profoundly unsettling. The world continues to turn, fires rage, and hearts shatter. New occurrences unfold – both auspicious and tragic. There’s an indomitable resilience in existence, and we are captives to it, especially me. I bear witness to unfolding events, events I must adapt to. I encounter new faces, engage in novel pursuits, and my life traverses beyond a certain point in time.



Up until now, every person I’ve crossed paths with had some connection, even if tangential, to Nancy. But now, that thread has unraveled. At best, they’ll rely on me to share memories, flaunt photographs, and recite poorly documented poetry about our shared experiences. It’s a feeling that can only be described as heart-wrenching or enchanting, depending on the angle you choose to view it from. I’m in the process of constructing the narrative of my life, and it weighs on me with guilt.

Returning home reveals newly arranged things, soon to become everyday fixtures. Yet, she’ll never be privy to these changes. Encounters with new people serve as poignant reminders of her; just the other day, I wandered into our beloved hole-in-the-wall eatery. I ordered the same dish she always favored. Mundane tasks often spiral into disassociation – I’ve managed to burn through four wooden spoons, break three coffee mugs, and consistently forget to eat every single day.

There are traces of her presence on the calendar for the day she departed, marked by blood stains. Sometimes, when I drift off to sleep with tears streaming down my face, I can sense the comforting embrace of an unseen presence, cradling me and whispering, “It’s alright, I’m here, don’t worry.”

to whom could I put this question (with any hope of an answer)? does being able to live without someone you loved mean you loved her less than you thought…?”

Roland Barthes.

I had just returned from an interview, and let me tell you, the past couple of years have been a real ordeal, pandemic aside. Work injuries have knocked me down to a point where I’ve started questioning if I’ll ever get to cradle my imaginary baby in my arms – all of this, set against the backdrop of my imaginary wife’s smiling but blurry face.

It’s a mild traumatic brain injury, coupled with a diagnosis of post-concussion syndrome. It takes months to even begin feeling somewhat normal again (and I’m still in the midst of vestibular therapy). They explained it to me like this: my brain’s neural pathways had some bridges that got seriously messed up. Since my head injury, it’s been like these vital bridges have been under constant attack. As a result, the everyday routes I usually take in my brain – you know, like pouring a bowl of cereal or tackling more complex tasks – well, they just weren’t there anymore. It’s like I had to rebuild those bridges from scratch. My whole personality went through a transformation. Mood swings, hormonal shifts, even the way I perceive light and sound, and how I interpret people’s actions – all of it took on a whole new dimension. Sometimes, I felt like everyone around me wished I’d just disappear. I tried telling my doctors about it, but…

“I think my friends want me to fucking die.”

All I could muster was a perplexed “Why?”

And the response? Well, it was a tangled web of thoughts. “I don’t know. It’s like they’re yearning for my demise, exhausted by my presence. Scratch that, they’d probably be melancholic for a single day, or maybe, just maybe, a month. But deep down, they’d find solace in my departure, extract strength from it. They’d harness the roses sprouting from my grave as a source of fuel. They’d pluck the fruit that grows from my ribcage and nourish their offspring with it, making them robust. Heck, they might even bestow my name to their kids as a middle name or something. It would make quite the narrative, but the catch is, I’d already be six feet under. It’s this eerie sensation that my family couldn’t care less if I were to shuffle off this mortal plane. Sometimes, it’s as if my own brain’s pushing for a special lights-out mode.

“But I don’t want to die.”

I’d use humor to lighten the heavy atmosphere, almost like a life-saving “get out of the psych ward” card. It often felt like they’d throw me in some institution if I didn’t assert that I didn’t want to be there or didn’t love myself the way they expected me to. It was as if they had a rigid checklist to determine who’s mentally sound and who’s not, reducing human complexity to a mere scorecard. By projecting these feelings enough, I hoped to elicit the sympathy I desperately needed but couldn’t bring myself to ask for. I yearned for people to empathize with my fragile state and cater to my vulnerabilities.

In those moments, my thoughts drifted to Nancy. She had a way of openly discussing death with me, sharing intimate details of her struggles. Even in my weakest moments, I drew strength from not feeling alone, because I had once been on the other side – the side of the doctor who just couldn’t grasp it all.

At those ungodly hours, I’d rush to the bathroom, dry heaving into the toilet bowl. I’d restrain myself from vomiting, fooling myself into believing I was on the mend. Frustration often surged within me, and anger became increasingly difficult to contain. I even managed to get banned from a chess app I’d been using since I was thirteen because I couldn’t hold back a string of curses aimed at an opponent who wasn’t responding in time.

Games I’d been immersed in for years decided to give me the boot because of my emotional outbursts. My libido became a rollercoaster, and it felt like I was on a wild ride with no control over the throttle. Intrusive thoughts barged in, some of them bordering on the bizarre. I’d find myself daydreaming about the incredible technological leaps humanity would make once I was no longer part of this world. I’d brainstorm new inventions, as if attempting to outdo the very concept of my own absence.

Then came the headaches, the real skull-pounders. The type where you clutch your head and squeeze your eyes shut so tightly that all you can perceive is an abyss of darkness. My eyes would twitch involuntarily, and I later learned it was due to overtaxed nerves. At one point, the mere sound of the garbage truck’s clanging metal would bring me to my knees, as if a jet engine had taken up residence in my living room. During one of these episodes, the weight of the world seemed to grind me into stardust, flinging me into the cosmic oblivion with the gravitational pull of Jupiter. It’s strange how, despite hearing about it so often, feeling like you have no one to turn to can be such a universally disorienting experience.

I’d curl up into a tight ball, uttering a prayer as I drifted into slumber, my journals filled with haphazard scribbles documenting my inner turmoil. The constant sense of impending doom gripped me tightly. Sometimes, my hands would clench up, mirroring her own struggles. She’d explain that she couldn’t text much, so we kept our messages brief, to the point of resembling some cryptic code. It was simultaneously endearing and heart-wrenching, a unique form of Morse-affection that became our shared language. I extended this tenderness to myself, a gentleness that I had always readily offered her. My love for Nancy was profound; she was my fragile treasure. I’d snuggle and caress her with those broken, awkward hugs, reminiscent of crackling firewood.

I’d sing her praises to anyone who’d listen, and even those who wouldn’t, I’d share my poetry about her. Strangers were my favorite audience because they seemed the most delighted. They’d beam with joy that a complete stranger could speak so openly and warmly about such an extraordinary person. Their eyes would light up, and I’d proudly display pictures of her and us, and they’d say,

“Really? No way.”

Irony has this knack for being a real pain in the fucking ass. When one of my closest friends broke the news to me, it turned out they had just received the same text from me:

“really? no way”

“no way”

There were moments when my speech would stumble and falter, like a double-edged sword misused, as my doctors put it. It was one of those mornings when you can sense the fog thickening, and you swear you can hear the grass growing. The sunlight seemed to bend in ways that, instead of warming your skin, cast an unusual spell. And in those moments, the only person I believed would truly listen was Nancy.

At times, I felt an irresistible pull towards her. Despite holding back and trying to delay the profound connection we shared, because I couldn’t bear the thought of ever being vulnerable to the point where I’d have to sacrifice a part of myself. Yet, now, the weight of that restraint is unbearable. I hear myself crying, and it’s agonizing to witness that raw, unfiltered pain pouring out of me. The burden of my inaction has rendered my eyes heavier than lead; they’re dense like the core of a nuclear reactor. What could I have done differently? Why is all of this happening to me? Why did I let fear hold me back from speaking up when words have always been my refuge?

“I waste at least an hour every day lying in bed. Then I waste time pacing. I waste time thinking. I waste time being quiet and not saying anything because I’m afraid I’ll stutter.”

― Ned Vizzini, It’s Kind of a Funny Story

I can sense my energy, my mana, gradually unraveling, strand by strand, piece by piece. Each individual thread dissolving into an immeasurable void. I’ve taken on the role of a detective, with a singular mission to unearth evidence that this is all just an elaborate hoax. I desperately yearn for it to be untrue. I yearn for that knock at my door and the sight of that familiar, goofy smile through the peephole. I’m sidestepping the process of denial, navigating this labyrinth of conspiracy theories.

Every passing day feels like I’m witnessing her slow departure, and it’s a kind of grief I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. She didn’t simply die; she’s still slipping away from me. I’m losing a part of Nancy with each sunrise. I’m meticulously cataloging fragments, amassing a stockpile of jpeg files, .mov clips, and gifs of her. Every day, another piece of Nancy slips through my fingers. Maybe I’ll forget some little detail about her, like the exact shade of carrot-stained vermillion we marveled at during the most enchanting sunset over that Ganymede-sized horizon, just before she set off for Los Angeles.

Perhaps, I’ll relocate, and her cherished red-striped tank-top from Old Navy will go missing during the move, only to end up in some thrift shop along the way. Maybe I’ll eventually part with the car that bore witness to so many shared moments. Bit by bit, my existence transforms into a museum of lost and found artifacts.

“There should be a statute of limitation on grief. A rulebook that says it is all right to wake up crying, but only for a month. That after 42 days you will no longer turn with your heart racing, certain you have heard her call out your name. That there will be no fine imposed if you feel the need to clean out her desk; take down her artwork from the refrigerator; turn over a school portrait as you pass – if only because it cuts you fresh again to see it. That it’s okay to measure the time she has been gone, the way we once measured her birthdays.”

― Jodi Picoult, My Sister’s Keeper
“i don’t know”

I’ll never forget that one time she managed to hurt my feelings deeply, and my response was to simply hold her in a tight embrace. I wrapped myself around her and declared my love. We had countless nights like that, falling asleep after heartfelt conversations and moments of intense passion. It was as if five plus five equaled a million, and we’d deliberately sit a bit apart from each other. She’d text me something like, “I can feel your presence all the way from over here.”

On a mysteriously misty morning, a group of youngsters embarked on their school bus journey. A few of them were still sporting those timeless ’90s jackets, a curious fashion relic. As if orchestrated by some unseen hand, there was a pervasive hint of blue present in everyone’s attire. As for me, I was the kind of lad who kept to himself, especially when it came to interactions with girls. I exuded an air of quiet confidence – not off-putting, but sufficiently stoic to discourage any notions of approachability, even for a sixth-grader.

This particular morning, the school bus seemed to defy time, taking an eternity to pick us up and deliver us to our destination. Just as I was lost in my thoughts, lost in a reverie of solitude, a gentle tap on my shoulder disrupted my musings.

I turned to find a girl clad in a distinctive blue jacket.

“Hey there. Mind if I take this seat?” She pointed to a precise spot on the seat, as if she anticipated a refusal, or as if she hadn’t just plucked the stars from my eyes and held them within her grasp.

“Uh, sure,” I stammered, my response tinged with shock. I couldn’t help but wonder if this was some sort of test or prank.

Great, I’m staking my claim, then!” Without hesitation, she settled into the seat as if it were her destined place, as though the narrator of my life had begun the chapter titled “Nancy and Cristian.”

Hi, I’m Nancy,” she introduced herself with a cheerful smile, “and you are… Cristian, right?”

“Yeah,” I replied, still somewhat bewildered by the unexpected turn of events. It was as if the universe had conspired to bring Nancy and me together on that peculiar, foggy New Jersey morning.

Rarely does fate conspire to seat the most captivating beauty you’ve ever beheld right beside you. My recollection is somewhat hazy, but I suspect we’d been formally introduced previously, courtesy of one of her friends. The entire encounter felt choreographed, as though there was an orchestration behind it; I mean, there were plenty of vacant seats. I distinctly recall attempting to recreate that scenario, hoping to recapture the magic, but it proved elusive. Fate played its hand differently, leaving me either stranded with a missed bus and a long walk ahead or with her conveniently securing rides to and from school. Our budding friendship was, regrettably, short-lived.

Nevertheless, we forged a profound bond. At the tender age of 17, I summoned the courage to profess my love for her, albeit via text on my trusty razor phone. Our paths diverged as she pursued higher education, while I embarked on the journey of work. Our relationship began to take shape in our early twenties, marked by intermittent periods of togetherness well into our mid-twenties. The journey was marked by trials and tribulations, but also by unforgettable moments.

Just before our romantic journey took flight, we embarked on a daring escapade into a public pool, shrouded in the cloak of 1 a.m. Darkness embraced us as we shed our inhibitions, our laughter mingling with the cool water as we swam together. It was nothing short of extraordinary, a clandestine adventure that involved trespassing, stripping down to our bare essentials, and immersing ourselves in the water’s embrace.

The fence guarding our impromptu aquatic haven stood as a formidable obstacle, its height daunting. Yet, our resourcefulness prevailed as we discovered a miraculously balanced construction pallet amidst a pile of discarded building materials, offering us passage to the forbidden waters. In a twist of fate, Nancy found herself ensnared by the slightly-barbed fence, humor still intact despite the predicament. It went something like this-

Cris, help, my cooch is stuck,” she giggled, though concern lingered beneath the laughter. Naturally, I scaled the fence, becoming her temporary savior, providing a perfect landing spot for her to free herself. Guiding her over, I couldn’t resist a cheeky remark, “I always knew this day would come.” To which I earnestly replied, “I’ve longed for this moment.

It remains etched in my memory as one of the most cherished experiences we shared. Yet, amidst all those fond recollections, my absolute favorite was simply the times when she sat beside me. She had an uncanny understanding of my penchant for close proximity, touching, especially with those I held dear. There was an undeniable intimacy in the discomfort of sitting too close, and my eccentricity was something I wore proudly.

Sometimes, in solitude, amidst the enveloping mist, I try to recreate those moments just right, hoping that she might return to sit beside me once more. Perhaps she’ll clasp my hand again, say something silly in a foreign accent. Maybe, by revisiting our beloved spots or savoring the N16 black pepper chow udon noodle special or setting up a picnic in that park where we witnessed the grandeur of a giant sunset, I could summon echoes of her laughter; something that resembles a memory of her.

Perhaps, just maybe, she could reappear for a fleeting moment, granting me the chance to express all the words I’ve yearned to say.

A heartfelt plea follows: Please, remember to check in on your friends, your family, the people you hold dear. I implore you. I miss her so profoundly.

Thank you.

“You ask everybody you know: How long does it usually take to get over it? There are many formulas. One year for every year you dated. Two years for every year you dated. It’s just a matter of will power: The day you decide it’s over, it’s over. You never get over it.”

– Junot Díaz

My Goodness, You’re a Miracle

My Goodness.

My heart.

Words I never want to repeat.
I didn’t know this is how it would be.
You’re an anomaly in nature, you’re silence when the sound is on.
You’re a cherry stem, Marfa lights, the escapist nature of the Taos hum.
Have you ever heard yourself laugh and caught yourself falling in love?
I’ve never been here before.
I definitely didn’t think it would be this lenitive –
I feel like a hundred spring suns are all pointed at me in every direction.
I feel that if I wanted to, I could jump and catch a cloud, and win you some sort of carnival gift because of it.
I want to be honest with you.
In the most inopportune times, I uncomfortably get captivated/get swallowed into an entirely different dimension into your eyes and there’s a glimmer that shines
Think combining luciferase and photoproteins and I activate it by telling you I love you, and it has to be past 10:00 pm and we both have to be exhausted and the most vulnerable versions of ourselves.
An Elysium field of bioluminescent bulbs each bursting…innately.
It rips away at me.
It violently wrestled away the parts infiltrated by ghosts.
That inhabit houses I was too scared to evict them from.
It’s a hurricane that washes it all away.
The detonation of an EMP inside the walls of the most prominent financial institution.

The Poacher’s Liability Issue

There’s a point that I’m reaching
Metal-stained depression that questions my poise. 
Soy sauce and Som Tam alleviate my diseases
Witherspoon Street, right off of Des Moines.
I’m better off. Leave me- said in telekinesis
Park my car in dimmed city streets, seemed so adroit.
As a meditative escape- to break free and avoid the
Culture clinic. Social sipping soak my inner Peaces.
I’m always five seconds away from decadent noise
A dollop of pain, cured by laying in bed just to waste.
Better today. Better today. I’m better today.
My heart’s national anthem never displayed
Harlequinade. Awkward delay, fault and dismay.
Darkness, decay, harvesting pain.
Hop on the train. There’s a billion souls unlike me not trying to rot.
How am I supposed to decide to just stop?
Contractual silence. Contrast, brightness and sharpness.
Liability issue. My investors predict a crash in my stock.
There’s no return in peace if I happen to drop.
You speak a dialect that only I could embark.
I’m a poacher with a penchant for a lioness heart.
I need sunlight and you seem to smile a lot.
You give me culture when art forms die on the spot.
Super setting. Filter mode, neutral touches interwoven.
Two Excedrins in my throat, you can barely sense the hope. 
Ibuprofens stashed inbetween the Miss you poems.
Hello, I miss you, so
I miss you

Never Too Old: A Poem of Reconnecting with Your Inner Child

Transcribed short story. Enjoy.

Coffee Stains and Bloodstains: A Poem of Addiction and Love

I feel like an addict. 
I whispered as I fell asleep by myself
Waking up in shivers and zero responses to my pleading for help.
I’m normal, I’m honest
Sitting beside a two-week headache and a toilet of vomit
Telling my Tylenol I’ll be back before dawn.
Another broken statement soaking in promise.
My mind’s a loitering bomb, the hopeless subconscious.
My most genuine curse is never being sorely immodest.
You make me trust, and make me love


Wrap your arms around my kudzu
My battle armor cast in blood, the vagabond of listless lust.
the art of war to my Sun Tzu
Dragging on, my past is gone. Just catacomb the ambiance
Grabbing on to massive oars to run across the transient.
Summer’s dawn is halcyon.
A cup of coffee. 
Allocate the demitasse, and pillow talk your champion.
Touching softly. Rugged often, my flesh peels off when I’m around


Come with trigger warnings, and oxytocin.
Purple-flavored dulcet moans, Coach your climax until you’re gone. 
We left our mantras and conscious open
Erotica, the constant dosage Our Jupiter’s and Venus forged
Carbon copy, and common stories
Almost called derogatory hear the demons speaking for me. We want peace, and peace and glory
But what brought peace is knowing
Thieves only steal things worth hoarding.
The mana source. The chakra pouring. Muladhara.
I want more. Kehlani to your body.
Roar growling and the sounds explored.
You look good on paper, and good in person.
My only failure is mine alone.
Flushing out the ill-behavior.
To amputate and cut off the source.
This faucet drain pumps blood no more.

It’s just stained.

Tiny Little Voices: How I Learned to Embrace My Emotions and Overcome Apathy

My comprehension of human relationships has been severely impaired by the cumulative effects of my past experiences, which have left me scarred, traumatized, and besieged. This sounds like the beginning of a very sad movie, butI guarantee you there’s hope. The term “relationship” itself becomes vague and ambiguous here, further complicated by my incessant and excessive overthinking that I engage in on a daily basis. An overthinking that I am still trying to slow burn with napalm. And the subtle hostility that I perceive from misinterpreting the signals of those whom I am supposedly establishing a rapport with, or something to build off of.

By relationships, I mean not only the romantic ones, but also the platonic, the familial, and even the ones that I regard as “inferior” on the hierarchy — such as professional, casual, or incidental ones. Before I reached the threshold of adulthood and entered the final phase of my twenties, I was a gullible, impressionable, and somewhat conformist youth. Barred by the denizens of what a prosperous life looks like. I denied my own sensitivity and aspired to attain what others seemed to have mastered (and probably had) and pretended that it was a natural part of life, like a garden.

Family members — like the ones where cousins are like siblings, uncles and aunts are like second parents, your grandparents’ senescence resonates with you on an emotional level. I think grandparents are adorable wise wizards and they should treat you like little innocent dumb pre-wizards. I think their mortality is subconsciously engineered at this age, because they have a different perspective of life- and not to sound morbid — but it as if the awareness of an inevitable end gave them a sense of purpose and solidarity.

Close friends with idiosyncratic, humorous, personal, and exclusive inside jokes. The kind that arouses that harmless type of jealousy from others with friendships that are nowhere near as awesome. Then there’s the Not-so-close friends, but close-enough to exchange witty remarks, meaningful conversations, and the ability to acknowledge each other from afar with the tip of a cap or small gesture at the local pub where we are visiting with our partners. Corny shit like that.


Being immersed in a traditionalist mindset seemed like a desirable goal to me, not because I wanted to conform to the expectations of others, but because I yearned for the normalcy that it promised. I had witnessed how the lack of normalcy had destroyed or left disfigured many of the relationships in my life.

I think this was partly due to what I call and token immigrant child syndrome. I don’t know if it is a recognized term, but I define it as the desire to make your parents happy who sacrificed leaving their home country to give you a better life- because of the unending guilt and pressure of living in a first-world country that supposedly is the safest, has the most powerful military force the world has ever seen, and is the leader of the free-world. This desire, in theory and in practice, can be seen as a gift to your parents, give you a sense of purpose — but it can also trap you in a rigid role that does not allow you to pursue what is right for you — it can poison you.

This syndrome may be related to some of the challenges that children of immigrants face, such as unspoken guilt, identity confusion, and intellectual divide. These challenges can affect their mental health and well-being, as well as their academic and career choices — not only that but being siphoned into the push-and-pull of indecision and guilt is mortifying. Some studies have also suggested that children of immigrants may have higher risks of neurodevelopmental disorders, such as autism spectrum disorder, or even a mysterious condition called resignation syndrome, which affects only the children of asylum-seekers. These disorders may be influenced by factors such as stress, trauma, discrimination, and cultural differences- which plays a huge role in any environment.

increasingly confused and strained, leading me to doubt myself and the world around me — I felt that either I was the problem or everyone else was. This resulted in a profound state of apathy that engulfed my life. A state of apathy that started to feel dangerously comfortable to me.

I think that many young people who delve into existentialist philosophy experience a glimpse of what true apathy is — I cannot compare their experiences to mine, but I can say that I faced apathy head-on, feeling its coldness against my heart. And in those periods of apathetic stagnation, I lost sight of everything I wanted to achieve — So I achieved absolutely nothing. The guilt ate at me.

And it was not because I did not care — at least not entirely. It was because I did not know — I did not know what I wanted, who I wanted, or what I wanted to be, become, think, or express. My apathy was strangely twisted — I had traumatic periods of starving and purposely living in uncertainty and despair — for many days, weeks, years.

According to Erikson’s theory of psychosocial development, adolescence is a critical stage where one faces the crisis of identity vs. role confusionDuring this stage, one explores different roles, activities, and behaviors to develop a sense of self and direction in lifeHowever, if this process is hindered by external or internal factors, one may experience role confusion, which can lead to feelings of insecurity, doubt, alienation, and apathyIdentity is a fundamental organizing principle that develops constantly throughout the lifespan, and it provides a sense of continuity, uniqueness, and psychosocial well-beingTherefore, resolving the identity crisis is essential for achieving a healthy personality and a positive outlook on life. I believe because of this, the volume of the negative tiny voices seem to drown out the other ones.

My sensitivity

It was only recently that I realized how much my sensitivity affected me — like really affected me. I was unaware of the need to assert myself to a degree that I resonated with a violent side of myself I was already trying to suffocate. I did not know how to do it without being aggressive — with clutched fists. I did not know if I was expected to, or if doing so would trigger the forces that forbid any expression of emotion other than the final evolution of Cristian which was a stoic, serious demeanor.

I mean that in every sense of the word.

I was not allowed to show emotion in practically ever sense of the word. I could not be angry, I could not be sad. Even if I was happy, it would be too much. For reasons related to the harmful effects of toxic masculinity, I had not yet sought proper help, (as of late July 2023 I first started seeing my first therapist! Hurray for progress!) even help with identifying my feelings. The reasons are ironic, but being a Latino-First-Genner, and also, a man that was forced to be a man early, for that matter in this environment does not seem to fit together. Not only do I fear what I have to say- but deep down there is a voice that tells me nobody cares.

I am aware of the fallacy of my beliefs, but I feel as if a spectral force violently grabs my throat whenever I attempt to act contrary to that specificity. It was a struggle between the manifestation of anxiety and depression being drawn into the physical, panic attacks, choking, and so chills.

I never expected to reach the age of thirty — in fact, I have composed numerous poetic elegies for myself in my late twenties- so by that alone, I felt accomplished. My survival is an act of defiance that contradicts the voice that has haunted me for as long as I can remember. When I turned thirty, I still had that savior complex of wishing I could contact a younger version of myself and share my emotions with them over the phone. When I turned thirty, I wanted to commemorate it — but maybe I can contact that little boy — a voice told me that little boy still exists.

The actual celebration occurred in my mind — It was not a physical confetti-and-balloons celebration. It was countless affirmations from another voice that had supported my resistance for so long. It was every time I recovered from utter despair- which looked like me being half-clothed, drooling and humming on a cold floor. It was the nights when I lay on my bedroom floor, with nothing but the hardwood and radiator pipe pings to disrupt my tears, and nothing but gravity and depression to sustain them.

During my difficult times, I often resorted to a form of breathwork, a technique that involves altering the breathing pattern to achieve a state of relaxation and self-awareness. It was nothing like the common 4–4–6 six method- rather it was just a form of breathing that I HAD to focus on. According to research, breathwork can have various benefits for mental and physical health, such as reducing stress, improving mood, enhancing creativity, and promoting quality sleep.

To accompany my breathing exercises, I would listen to movie scores, and classical music through a myriad of expensive headphones. Classical music has been shown to have a soothing effect on the brain and body, as it can lower blood pressure, increase dopamine levels, boost emotional intelligence, and help with insomnia. The combination of breathwork and classical music created a powerful emotional experience for me, as I felt the contrast between the muffled crying sounds of my own voice and the harmonious melodies of the instruments and orchestras. Sometimes, I would cry uncontrollably, which in turn made my nose congested and my breathing more difficult — which spurned the worry of my faithful dog, who would sense my distress and cuddle with me, offering some comfort as he knows how — this was one of the best parts, as I felt I wasn’t alone, and loved.

I realized that I was the only obstacle to my healing. I had many stories, excuses, and truths that prevented me from seeking professional help. I believed that my situation was unique, singular, and incomprehensible to anyone else. I wasn’t aware that humans fit a framework- so that even if I experienced something no one else did, we dispersed the same chemicals, our memories are formulated the same, everything and how our bodies respond to that stimuli is the same- except the event- so there was hope. I felt that no therapist or doctor could relate to me or diagnose me properly — and I thought that my very personal disease was too new and too complex to be treated by conventional methods. But I was wrong. There is no shame in asking for help when you need it. There are many people who have gone through similar or worse-in-their-mind situations than mine, and they have found ways to cope and recover. There are many evidence-based therapies and medications that can help with various mental health conditions. There is hope for everyone who suffers from this very real emotional pain. There is a comforting tiny voice out there.

Occasionally, the accusations were valid. Occasionally, my utterances lacked coherence. Sometimes, people would attribute this to stress. And I would sometimes concur with them.

I harbored suicidal thoughts at times. And I came close to acting on them at times. It was weird.

I regarded myself as a highly intelligent person — A logical person. A man with infinite patience, but who would not tolerate any nonsense beyond a certain point. I had morals, and stuck to them. So it puzzled me. Why did I want to inflict harm on myself? Did stressed people really resort to self-harm or contemplate ending their lives? This was exacerbated by the expressions of horror from friends of the relationships that I felt unworthy of. The other tiny voices weren’t going away- or atleast down with a good fight.

In my early twenties

I was engaged. I entered into a commitment with someone, or something? It was strange. The very essence of it was bewilderingly perplexing. I think I felt compelled to take such a drastic step, honestly, just to feel.

At that time

I felt nothing. This was the perfect condition for someone to plunge into the depths of the world in order to feel. I could have easily succumbed to gangs, drugs, violence, poverty, and more.

The world was open to me. Morally, my apathy was hindered by indifference. I somehow appreciate, that voice that encouraged me. Muted and battered deep into my psyche.

I was aware of my affection for her, but she never reciprocated it beyond a superficial level. And even that was scarce. I assumed that playing mental chess and emotionally tiptoeing around her was the essence of love. I believed that I had to conceal my true self in order to attain that sense of normalcy — that hurting myself was love. That desire to emulate what others had been, for me, intoxicating. I had to have it, I did not know why. I wanted to achieve something and experience positive neurochemical reactions in my brain for once. The ones I remembered from when I was a child — But she did not grant me that privilege. The gap between us and the closeness I healthily craved were drowned in a sea of depression and what-ifs.

I did not know any better- to me that was the foundation and pinnacle of love and companionship. But I am often too harsh on myself, I had no examples growing up, and from what I have heard, anything on television was exaggerated. So, I took those two precedents and measured what love was for myself — something muddled and hard to explain. Being a human was hard. My blueprint was given to me at a young age. I had to suppress my emotions a lot in order to survive. I could not be sensitive. Or react. Side note: I AM EXTREMELY SENSITIVE. Sometimes, the intensity of my sensitivity is white-hot, but I have shielded it from exposure with layers of personality traits disguised as my actual personality. So in turn, a fake version of myself.

Fortunately, by the Grace of a loving God, I have come very far.

I have achieved significant progress in my personal growth. This is a self-acknowledgment of my efforts and resilience. However, I still face challenges in my interpersonal relationships, as I tend to scrutinize and doubt everything. I struggle to balance between the two voices in my head: one that is cynical and pessimistic, and the other that is optimistic and supportive. They often agree on the need for caution and prudence, but they also hinder my ability to communicate effectively — like two siblings that hate each other. Instead of expressing my thoughts and feelings to the person I am involved with, I resorted to harbinger online research and muddy self-diagnosis.

“Am I a narcissist?” I ask myself with horror.

“Of course not. I am the kindest person I know. I sincerely believe that.”

I walk away … and murmur

“That’s probably what a narcissist would say…”

I have suppressed my self-doubt and I have exerted myself diligently. I have attempted to mend various facets of my being that were injured in conflict, in a self-defined version of love and sacrifice. In existence.

Occasionally, the negative thoughts prevail. Occasionally, I sense a palpable struggle between one force trying to suffocate me and another force resisting it. They’re both versions of myself- one most likely hurt, and bleeding, and the other loved and secure. I literally perceive it as so, I feel it in my bones. Occasionally, I wish for it to cease (occasionally). Not myself, but the world. Time. I desire to thrust a colossal metal rod into the planet and halt its rotation. Just fucking stop it from spinning. Stop it all.

The Separation

The dissolution of my quasi-romantic relationship with my former partner was acrimonious, painful, and confusing to say the least.

I delivered a lengthy monologue, expressing the very depths of my emotions. It was fucking agonizing. It was one of the most harrowing experiences of my life. To paint the scenario — it occurred in a dimly lit room, where we sat on opposite sides. Tears and mucus stained my face- it was disorderly, napkins and dirty novelty mugs littered across the cheap countertops. It smelled like a revolution. I spoke for what felt like an eternity, without any interruption, any pauses. I laid bare my soul — eviscerated myself into a vacuum. Extremely frenzied and vociferous that for that moment, there was nothing my voices could say — I finally silenced the voices in my head. When they attempted to interject, I told them to be quiet- no I told them to kindly shut the fuck up. I told her to shut the fuck up as well. Everyone, anything, every being in the room had to shut the fuck up, because I had something to say. She, on the other hand, was apathetic- stone faced and Medusaesque. The impact that had on my entire being was devastating — But it was also pivotal in how I evolved and understood why I felt the way I did. How I wanted to change it, and never feel that again.

I had never experienced something like that before. I had never felt like I stood up for myself until that day- like really standing up for what really mattered to me. Fortunately so, I have done so more often since that day. And I feel that every time I write about my past and my demons, I do so again, and again- and each description is an attestation to my healing. The fact that I had been contemplating writing this before I even turned 30 speaks to the intricacy of time and how often things in your head can create a temporal distortion. I want to continue defying voices. Norms, standards and traditions that afflicted me. Traumatized the origins of everything I have wanted to fight for. I want to be honest with myself and the next person I am vulnerable with- I want them to feel how much I love them. I want to be able to communicate that ineffably and explicitly. I want only me and that soul in the room with each other, no funny business.

No norms,

No traditions,

No rejection,

No apathy,

No syndromes,

No indifference,

No doubt,

No indecision,

No more little tiny voices.

Grief, and Other Small Victories: How Losing My Loved Ones Taught Me to Love Myself

The title of this essay is inspired by Paul Neilan’s novel “Apathy and Other Small Victories”, which is one of my favorite books. It is filled with edgy, dark humor and satire, and I aspire to emulate its style in this post, but I will most likely fail.

The day my grandmother left me was the day the sky turned into a dull gray that never seemed to brighten up again. I was a little child, crying inconsolably. The next few years are a blur in my mind. It is as if the grief of losing my grandmother (not physically, she simply went back to her home country) erased my memory. For me, memory and life are two intertwined threads, separate but woven together.

Grief is a complex and multifaceted phenomenon that affects people in different ways. According to the American Psychological Association, grief often includes physiological distress, separation anxiety, confusion, yearning, obsessive dwelling on the past, and apprehension about the future. Grief can also impair one’s memory and cognitive functioning, making it hard to recall or process information.

I tried to cope with my grief by finding some distractions that gave me temporary relief. But the environment was too harsh and unforgiving. The band-aid that covered my wound kept slipping off. The wound never healed — I just learned to live with it.

I remember playing video games with my dad, who would disappear for a long time, then come back. It was a source of joy for me, but only for a while. He was a stranger who made jokes with me, taught me how to do things, and impressed me with his skills. I was learning — and it felt like we were a team. I was very competitive — (still am), and I loved playing Super Mario on Super Nintendo.

The idea of playing video games with him became like a ritual. A ritual that was meant to be a painkiller in human form. Just a small dose of it was enough to forget what was hurting me in the first place. I never questioned it. At that point, because it was such a regular occurrence in my life — the idea of him leaving and returning seemed normal. But what it seemed to be doing to me was wiping out my memories and moments, of things that defined me as me, of myself. It was stealing my life. Now, if we cut the theatrics, I wasn’t actually losing my life. But, looking back, it left a bitter taste in my mouth that I could never quite forget.

My grandmother had Alzheimer’s. She forgot who I was and who she was. She lived in a different country, far away from me. I missed her terribly, but I couldn’t express it. I couldn’t reach out to her or hug her or tell her how much I loved her.

As Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie wrote in her book Notes on Grief, “Grief is a cruel kind of education. You learn how ungentle mourning can be, how full of anger. You learn how glib condolences can feel. You learn how much grief is about language, the failure of language and the grasping for language.”

This is the epitome of irony. A child who suffered from memory lapses, is now an adult who witnesses the woman who raised him, gradually lose her identity. Sometimes she will recount a series of events that happened and then, in a flash, those memories will turn into nonsensical strings of Spanish that have no connection or meaning. It is incomprehensible, both literally and figuratively. And I will never comprehend why it has to be this way.

The enduring communication of her family members with her has always elicited my admiration and awe. To me, it is one of the most dreadful experiences — perhaps because I perceive a resemblance of myself in her occasionally. Perhaps because the recollections I have of her evoke the aspects of myself that I am conscious of. Whatever the motive, I endeavor to preserve my memories, as agonizing as they might be, for there is a splendor in learning to love amidst the sorrow of what has ceased to be. Maybe this is why I document everything through various mediums, such as pen and paper, digital notepad and cloud. One of my gravest fears is being ensnared in the turmoil of the disease and losing my memory. I aspire to be able to respond to the inquiries of my great-grandchildren. I desire to be there to remember for them. As a gateway to the past that belongs to them. I have a vivid memory of some segments of my life, then a blankness of thought thereafter. This has been the pattern ever since — nothing has been more significant than trying to remember what is occurring to me as it occurs. I have lost the ability of accepting things as they are, and I am still afflicted by what I have lost, the traces they leave behind, and what I continue to lose to this day. Sometimes because of what has transpired to me. The process of healing and making sense of my grief has become a challenge so formidable, that I have been evading writing about this for years. At times, I will feel fine, and then as soon as it arrives, it disappears — the nauseating, incessant beast of life takes over. It is chaotic when the waves of grief join forces with the hurricane winds and seem to submerge you in your own tears. I once wrote:

I know, as morbid as it sounds, that I know I’m healing when I choke on the salt my eyes make.’

And honestly-I think- that’s where it started.

Not long ago, one of my close friends informed me of the passing of another friend of mine. I have always shunned any contact and information about anything or anyone that was precious to me (when they passed away) because I feel as if my mind would fabricate a myriad of distorted rationales elucidating why. It was an unhealthy, (still is) way that I coped with this. I have witnessed too many family members depart from my life, too many friends perish. Too many vestiges of what I was attached to, die, or simply disappear into the darkness. I have resolved that if I were to delve into the reasons why, that I would just destroy myself even more. Part of that stems from the man I used to play Super Mario with. His habit of fluctuating in and out of my life at his discretion, regardless of any other factors has made me very cynical. Cynicism turned to an almost-hyper-paranoid thirty something. It has also unjustly created a strong detachment from people who were close to me and passed away. For the fear of being hurt or discovering more of the ‘why’ — I have deliberately avoided any information that could have aided me in comprehending why. It was my rudimentary way of protecting myself and keeping my inner voice ‘silent’. Whether they died from a normal, more socially ‘acceptable’, but still tragic death (physical illness, accident) or from a more socially “unacceptable” form (suicide — which is adversely still also due to illness) — or drugs, gang/police violence, prison etc.

One possible explanation for my avoidance behavior is that I may be suffering from survivor guilt, which is a mental condition that occurs when a person believes they have done something wrong by surviving a traumatic or tragic event when others did not. Survivor guilt is a symptom of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), whch is a disorder that develops in some people who have experienced a shocking, scary, or dangerous event. Some common symptoms of survivor guilt include:

Feelings of guilt about surviving when others did not
Feelings of guilt about what one did or did not do during the event
Obsessive thoughts about the event
Flashbacks of the event
Irritability and anger
Feelings of helplessness and disconnection
Lack of motivation
Problems sleeping
Nausea or stomachache
Social isolation
Suicidal thoughts
By contrast, some people who survive traumatic events may experience feelings of gratitude, relief, or joy. These feelings are also normal and do not mean that one does not care about those who died or suffered. However, some survivors may feel guilty for having these positive emotions, which can also contribute to survivor guilt.

The only person I have mourned openly for was Kobe Bryant. I felt that the stigma of grieving for someone was lifted because of what he represented publicly and of the icon that he was. Especially to me. In the absence of so many people that were instrumental in the formation of my identity, a young boy would admire someone who lived their life in highlights and interview snippets that were full of authenticity, confidence, and an inherently remarkable attitude that would later be branded and trademarked as ‘Mamba Mentality’.

The experience was cathartic for me. I had never mourned in a way that was visible to others before. I remember my mother telling me to assume the role of the patriarch when my father passed away, even though I lacked a suitable example to follow. I remember being told that everything had a purpose, but receiving no satisfactory answers when I questioned the reason behind such a tragedy. I remember being advised by a school dean that I needed professional help, that my mother should seriously consider enrolling me in intensive therapy, and my mother, with her strong Latina identity, rejecting it. I remember agreeing with her, because I felt ashamed of my fragility. I thought men should be stronger than their emotions. I remember being scolded by a teacher for crying in class after learning that my friend had committed suicide the day before, near where I lived. I remember many things that make me choke up.

I also recall the expression of (what appeared to be) contempt on my mother’s face when she collected me from school because I was immobilized by the news of my friend. It was a literal immobilization. I recall finding more solace in listening to my friends share their own mental struggles with grief than in the ones I imposed on myself. (sigh) Sometimes I even feel like I am lamenting a version of myself that died. I miss who I hoped to become in these moments of turmoil and conflict. Who I wished to be in moments of vulnerability — who the child in my dreams aspired to be. I recall carrying this burden with me into each new facet and phase of my life. As devastating and influential as these few decades of time have been to me, I still find myself trying to evade these gaping nostalgic pockets of time filled with the breath of grief. So, every now and then I reluctantly drink from its overflowing cup to prevent it from sinking this fortified temple I envelop myself in. The same temple that will crush everything within it once the walls and its foundations are soaked in blood. so as secure as I think I am, I am actively avoiding a scenario that will fuel what I perceive as protection. For while I am in a boat during a storm, there is no fish beneath to nourish me, for they have fled. No fresh water, as the rivers have dried up.

The objects of my grief are diverse, but they mostly pertain to

my own selfhood.

I am striving to improve my grieving skills. To allow myself to experience emotions. To comprehend the causes of my feelings, and to examine the dynamics of my psyche. To refrain from — as a habitual and sole strategy, suppressing all the sorrow and emotional distress into the seemingly indestructible edifice of masculinity that I was compelled to construct as a child. I aspire to establish a sanctuary for myself for when I inevitably encounter the need to grieve. For the juvenile version of me that still resides, seeking to safeguard themselves emotionally in a domain where they could adequately regulate themselves and the others who also have to cope with the same processes that influence your life as you do.

As I write this, I have to confront the grief of living family members who failed to meet my emotional needs. I have to mourn certain versions of myself that I have lost or never attained. I hope to create a safe haven where I can navigate the intricate complexities of human grief. Finding healthy coping mechanisms and rituals for when I feel overwhelmed by this heavy sadness. Creating new rituals that honor the loss of my creations and ethics. Avoiding the temptation to repress or deny the intensity of grief and its consequences- really difficult processes. Instead of hiding, I hope to remember, with a calm awareness, the present and real aspects of my life, rather than the chaotic and distorted scenarios of what could have been or what may have been or what was.

Through all this grief and pain, I hope to find other small victories.

— — -The title of this essay is inspired by Paul Neilan’s book “Apathy and Other Small Victories”, which is a dark comedy about a man who drifts through life without purpose or passion. The book explores the themes of alienation, meaninglessness, and absurdity in a humorous and satirical way. The author uses apathy as a coping strategy for the protagonist, who faces various challenges and losses in his life. However, the book also suggests that apathy is not a sustainable or satisfying way of living, and that there are other small victories that can make life more bearable and enjoyable.

Similarly, this essay reflects on my own experiences with grief and how it has affected my memory, identity, and relationships. I also share how I have struggled with apathy as a way of avoiding the pain of grief, but how I have realized that it is not helpful or healthy. Instead, I try to find other small victories that can help me heal and grow from my losses. These small victories are not necessarily grand or spectacular achievements, but rather simple and meaningful actions that can make me feel more alive and connected with the people I love- the things I enjoy doing. They are the moments when I can express my emotions, honor my memories, create something new, or connect with others who understand me (the real gritty stuff). They are the glimpses of hope and joy that can illuminate the darkness of grief.

Thank you.

JOURNAL: From Shame to Hope: A Journey of Mental Health Recovery Through Writing

For an extended period, I chose to disregard the state of my mental well-being, perpetuating a societal stigma that had long been ingrained within me. This perception, I suspect, resonates with many others as well—a reluctance to burden or trouble others, a hesitance to acknowledge our need for cognitive support. It’s almost as though we fear being branded as “unbalanced” or “troubled,” labels that society attaches to those seeking assistance. Yet, in truth, aren’t we all, to some degree, grappling with our inner complexities?

During the inception of my writing journey, I engaged in a therapeutic exercise, translating my innermost emotions and musings onto the canvas of paper. However, I deliberately shrouded them in ambiguity, rendering them enigmatic, to the point where they blurred the line between poetic expressions and the ramblings of an ostensibly disoriented soul.

Perhaps, yeah.

I can still vividly remember the moment when I decided to write about something that truly mattered to me. Instead of hiding behind convoluted scenarios, fancy vocabulary, or cryptic metaphors, I chose clarity to articulate my inner struggles. No more disguises. I didn’t want anyone to see me as weak or troubled. I wanted to project strength and independence, especially in front of my friends (think of it like, “Mom, don’t embarrass me in front of my friends,” where my “Mom” is symbolic of my mental health). I was convinced I was some kind of intellectual powerhouse, just like Socrates, navigating my own labyrinth of thoughts.

In the past, I thought my only certainty in life was avoiding any association with weakness or “craziness.”

I can’t pinpoint exactly when or how my perspective shifted, but I’m grateful it did. Somewhere between the desire to disappear or hibernate indefinitely, and the support I received from friends, family, my trusty dog, and, well, myself—I came to terms with the fact that I no longer cared about how others perceived me or the methods I used to heal. All that mattered was that I didn’t want to feel the way I did anymore. I suppose I became aware of my situation, and that newfound awareness allowed me to speak openly about my feelings.

So, one of my all-time favorite lines sprung from a poem that tackled one of the most challenging chapters of my life.

I have to admit, I was still keeping things a bit veiled. I mean, I was a bit worried about how folks, whether they knew me online or in person, would react. But with everything on the line, I decided to dive into a moment when I made a desperate call to a suicide hotline, all sloshed and feeling hopeless. The thing is, they left me hanging for what seemed like an eternity. And when they finally did respond (or should I say, told me someone was on their way, spoiler alert: they weren’t), I just hung up and had a heart-to-heart with the “other” person on the opposite side of the bathroom door. The irony here is that this phone call was indirectly sparked by this very person. Oh, and there were other wild elements, like frigid showers, a hole I punched in the wall, and polishing off a whole bottle of whiskey. These experiences were so raw and intense that, when I finally penned a poetic rendition of it years later, I can only describe the feeling as downright blissful.

The scene etched in memory that I chose to depict retains a measure of ambiguity reminiscent of my earlier literary style, a period during which I often adopted the guise that these tales did not pertain to me directly. Yet, beneath the veneer of narrative distance, the stories were invariably my own, albeit cloaked in diverse pronouns and literary devices that created the illusion of detachment. This narrative strategy served as a protective measure while affording me the latitude to authentically articulate my emotions, as if narrating a tale from an external vantage point. Without further ado, I present the masterpiece—a literary artifact that evokes a potent nostalgia, one that still elicits shivers and, on occasion, brings a tear to my eye.

Showered with my clothes on, alone in the stall
Emptied the Heaven Hill, and put a hole in the wall
Called the don’t do it lifeline and was put on hold for an hour
Wrote a letter to my parents, and choked on the vowels
Bit on my tongue till the blood diluted the taste of the bourbon
Put a slit through my bandage.
Put a blade to my churches
Said a prayer so nervous.
Lay still for eternity
The shower ran through 6am.
I heard knocks on the door Answered with an imaginary gun that held me hostage. It’s more
Than what I made it out to be. Told them I fell and I slipped
Told a joke and laughed it off. Told her hell is a bitch
Denim has a subtle smell when drenched in whiskey and slaughter
Waited as an anonymous caller.
Speakerphone the rain of the water
Looked to the sky, dissolute, dissuaded, demise
Cried, laughed and told the operator I had already died
Asked me if I was alright. I knew I’d be never the same
Desolate rage. I wonder where my crucifix lays.
If they could talk, what would these broken walls say?
You only remember me when I start to walk away

The purpose of this page may appear somewhat unclear at first glance, but as I reflect on it while editing, several potential objectives come to mind. It could serve as a platform to facilitate personal reconnection, not only for others but also for myself. Additionally, it may present an opportunity for future monetization, offering valuable content or services. Furthermore, it could be envisioned as a space where visitors can delve into the wealth of experiences contained within my numerous journals, fostering connections with interesting individuals along the way.

What I am unequivocally certain of, though, is my profound love for writing. Writing isn’t merely an activity; it’s an intrinsic part of who I am, akin to the essential acts of breathing, eating, or sharing an intimate kiss with someone you hold dear.

Ultimately, my primary aim is to extend a helping hand, to contribute positively in some way. Thank you for joining me on this journey.

The Paradox of 4:05 A.M: A Poem of Codependency and Reclusion

I have so much to say, and nothing suffices
The honest truth is, I just want to cry
Enough violence of my energy marks being assaulted
My silence comes from expecting nothing less than the obvious
Misunderstanding, awkwardness, overall shyness.
I acquiesce solely out of exhaustion.
Closed captions underneath both of our eyelids
Touch my cheek with your hands as I squeeze them as tight-
as me clinching onto my blade ’cause paranoia has taught me to fight
Slightly understand the plight of women walking at night
I want to enjoy the things that so many like
Tired of looking into your eyes without me inside
of you
I drift off into codependency, where I’m rarely absolved.
Connected. I dissociate and stare off into space.
Finding it odd – an atheist when I’m alone in the dark
Having interrogations with God. Asking them who sent you.
My disposition to avoid pain has rendered me recluse.
My character arc is a biblical miscue
Noah memory thoughts, Euphrates flooding with  ‘I love Yous’ & ‘miss Yous’
We’re barely a speck. A floating rock in oblivion
Literally looking for something on the cusp of existence
Most of what my therapist says, I think is a trick
When I’m writing in my journal, I can feel you touching my wrist
I don’t know if I’m supposed to be thinking like this
My first poem titled: My last healthy relationship doesn’t exist.

I Met Somebody, And Now I’m Drowning In Radio Silence

I met somebody

I’m not sure if I was supposed to though
Not sure if she was approachable
Anxious and mellow
Standing with my hand on my elbow
Studied her curves with the Glance from my hello

But, I’m sure, you’re unreachable
And as A man (boy) wrapped his arms around her
As to slowly suggest an inflection
And grabbed her by the waist as they left
I was sunken by her destructive impression
Stroking napalm into my battleship eyes
And, swim across the nebula in the reflection of my iris
Pools of black pearls.
Pirate my last glance into yours
Raid my soul’s sunk ships, with your Davy Jones’ Dutchman’s
Bathe in rainbows
Dunked in your ratio sun rays
Your maybe so’s, some days
Stormy nights, to say hello
Rain checked and barely spoken
Alienated. Very broken
Soft spoke.
Can’t stay alone like this
Want to lay.
With no bias

And hope I can pertain to your highness
Gave you lifelines; everyday in code crisis
Feeling like Your favorite hoe
Your daily dose sidekick
I stayed through your radio silence
Your barely notes. Your barely spokes
Your careless, Hopeless odes of life
Where you told me you were miserable
I don’t know
I can’t hope to care
I hope you take care I know,
I don’t I know, you
Don’t care
don’t hope

Spellbound by a Hellhound: A Latino Man’s Unfinished Love Story

Spellbinding is the term used to describe when you’re holding someone’s complete attention, almost as if it were something magical; indescribably intoxicating. Have you ever felt light brown eyes lock into your soul, eyes surrounded by the most perfectly tailored bronze skin, like if you crushed up Jupiter and sprinkled the dust over an empty canvas, took Neptune and its many moons and melted them into paint – used brush strokes like Rembrandt? Rolled out the red-carpet entrance to one’s soul, these… windows surrounded by a sandy visage, grainy complexion smoothed out. Camera obscura but in IMAX – such a vicious assessment. Have you ever broken silence with a moan? Altered time with a touch? Felt a butterfly turn into a lion right in your stomach? Why are you such a force to be reckoned with, when your heartbeat writes me Morse code for the hell of it, dot dot, dot dit dot dot? Tell me why breaking down to tears right before conquering your neck with my tongue felt like an arrow splicing my heart at the seams, landed in your lap and decided to live there. When I tried to get it back, it growled at me. Why defocusing in and out on the most delicate image, at the utmost devastating angle – lighting that gives off an entrenching hue, like light cascading off a twinkling lake before sundown, glimmers of what ifs and perhaps. Failing to derail raw passion. Encapsulating one of the world’s most hypnotic views, hourglass, Pinot van Gris, pink, poisonous ceramic lacing around sober throats and tongues. Dripping flirty undertone, guarding carnal tenacity. Hints of strawberry oak and rosewood packed in alcohol and telling times. Turbo charged and blood blissful. Ignorant to the storm about to hit chemical beach, where endorphins masqueraded as hurricanes rush to wrap around your lips.

It’s funny. I spend the whole day thinking about you. I’ll daydream. Spend brief moments, pockets of time, between breathing and making coffee… just thinking about you. And yet, while I’m falling asleep, after a long day – soft linen beneath me, lids heavy, parallel to the floor. Dim light from another room providing the only discernible ray of light. I think about you. I wake up, concerned about god knows what, only to think about you. To check if you’re okay. My bed empty, vessel unoccupied. A silhouette of where you should be now takes reign. There’s a faint smell coming from a blanket you had. It smells like a mixture of me, you, sweat, and lingering lust. If it were to seem strange to me, I would be the most anxious person on the face of the planet. Preparing a doomsday kit, but for forgetfulness. Eternal sunshine of the spotless mind-esque, but with a hint of panic and dishevelment. I never thought I’d be so at ease thinking about your smile. There are so many things I want to do with you, and I want to open myself up to you completely. I’m dreaming about future instances where we’re laughing, and the constellations in the background light up our night, and your skin absorbs all the moonlight perfectly. Radiant, laser show; pores perfect in size. Stunning, really. This is the first time ever where I’ve been completely captivated. Enraptured by the stills of every dialect that fill your body language. Caught up by the negative photo solutions, where tiny secrets and code magically appear. That white dress turns into a sepia-blue toned spaceship, and suddenly the picture is an adventure, rather than just an admiration of your beauty. This didn’t particularly happen — yet. But I feel anything is possible with you. I’m slowly opening myself up. A crab, in his armor, feeling the warmth of a star permeate through the rock hard shell. Slowly, surely, intensely, moving at this frenetically awesome self-sustained pace. You’re the sun. I’m the crab. Constellations. It’s all too perfect. I can’t stop thinking about you, and it doesn’t even look like it’ll ever stop. I can’t wait. I’m so deep into you, I can’t look back. Thanks for this.

This is how it happened. You stole my heart and shaped it as you pleased. I want to tell you the story of how you changed my life, how you broke down the barriers around my emotions. I saw you from a distance, on the dance floor of a club. You were surrounded by lights and music, but you stood out from the crowd. You had a glow that I couldn’t explain, that I couldn’t resist. Glow is a word that I associate with you, that I use to describe your beauty and your energy. You were the reason I came closer, the reason I wanted to know you. Your name; engraved on my soul, like a tree that bears witness to our love. There are many images that come to my mind when I think of you, but they all lead to the same picture: a stunning portrait of you and me, in a place where we belong. I always wanted to take you to a place like that. I ALWAYS imagined you in the same clothes I first saw you in. Maybe, because that’s when I first fell in love with you. You wore floral pants that moved with your graceful steps, and a navy blue top that matched your eyes. Oh, yes, when I first fell in love with you. I didn’t mention that before. For good reason. Can I pause this story for a moment? Writing about what happened next, and how I’m feeling right now is very hard.

I remember the first time I got the flu. I felt like absolute garbage. I didn’t know it was the flu, and for quite some time my invincibility got the best of me. I just thought I was having an off day. Until a trip to the doctor confirmed that I was seriously ill. (not really, but I was able to take a deep breath because I knew my feeling like crap was undeniably justifiable). That’s what it was like falling in love. It wasn’t love at first sight, either. I felt I had seen you before. I definitely prayed that you existed. For a world in which you don’t exist, isn’t really a world where I want to be writing love poems, at all. I magnified everything about you and tried to find a flaw. Too short, maybe? Too good at dancing? Maybe her fashion sense isn’t great? Those flowers do look great on her. I wonder if she likes flowers? What type of flowers? Gardenias. Fast forward to me plucking off petals in a panicking sweat, like Alfalfa. ‘She loves me, she loves me not, she loves me, she loves me not, she lov…” Until, I mentioned Alfalfa and you would, without hesitation, recite the Little Rascals, in what would be your impersonation of Alfalfa

“Dear Darla, I hate your stinking guts. You make me vomit. You’re scum between my toes! Love, Alfalfa.”

The moment was unforgettable. It was one of those rare instances when we shared a cultural connection that transcended time and space. We grew up in a unique era, a blend of Latino American influences, pop culture references, musical genres, and culinary delights. We faced challenges and opportunities as first-generation immigrants, adapting to a new environment while preserving our roots. We were part of a generation that will never be replicated, that will fade away with the passage of time. Our memories, our stories, our expressions, our creativity, are all precious and irreplaceable. They are the result of a cosmic coincidence, a one-in-a-trillion chance, that brought us together in this place and time. I was amazed by how you understood me, how you could relate to me, how you could make me laugh and cry with a simple gesture or a quote from a movie. You carved your name into my soul, like a tree that bears witness to our love. You were the metaphor that gave meaning to my life. You were the impossible made possible.

I wrote this at 2 a.m., as the earth kept spinning and time kept ticking. I wondered if you ever thought of me, if you ever felt the same way I did. I heard a rumor that if you think of someone for more than five seconds, they are thinking of you too. You made me feel so many things, so many good things, that I felt grateful and selfish at the same time. Grateful for having experienced them, selfish for wanting to keep them. Sometimes, my eyes would fill with tears, like dew drops on a flower, like rain on a river bank, like a needle in my vein. I was happy that I could feel this. I never thought I would find someone like you in this world.

You inspired me to write with passion, to express my deepest emotions and fantasies. You made me feel like a fantasy writer who could create magic with words, who could defy the laws of nature and reality. You gave me the power to imagine trees and water without depending on the environment, or to manipulate time and space without any limits. You were like a miracle, a rare and precious phenomenon. You challenged me to face my fears, to expose my vulnerability, to move mountains that seemed immovable. You captivated me with your presence, your breath, your essence. You were the fantasy that became my reality.