The Final Act

Panic attacks. I used to get them periodically and what always triggered them, it was never anything else, were thoughts of death. I guess that’s what happens when at a young age you begin to lose people.

The attacks would always start with a small thought, something innocent like seeing roadkill, or hearing a piece of news on the radio about some celebrity’s passing. I would start to think about how they’re no longer able to soak up the day’s sunrays, or ever appreciate what it feels like when a spring’s breeze kisses your face. I’d begin to think about how their loved ones somewhere out there in the world would be heartbroken for what it would feel like a lifetime to come. The thoughts would then trickle into my personal life. What if I lose my mother?… or my sister? What if right now someone crashes into me, T-boned, and POOF! Lights out?

THAT’S when the panic would slowly slither in.

It would start with a slight flicker of the pulse in my neck. It felt like a double click; trigger being pulled. My throat would feel constricted by only a little at first, making it an actual thought to swallow instead of the instinct that it is. My hands would begin to get clammy and would ball up in anticipation of what was to come, and a cold sweat would soon then follow. Thoughts all the while tumbling around my mind, detailing the sudden death, a death that hasn’t happened yet.

This went on for a number of years at times being almost debilitating, but with the help of things like meditation and such, I slowly was able to control these attacks. Instead of having such a fear of what is death, I in turn decided to change my mindset and learned to adapt a healthy respect for it. Regardless of the respect, there are times in which I simply do get caught off guard by what is the final act in this play called Life. Especially when someone so amazing suddenly goes.

It makes no difference the way in which a loved one passes, it’s never easy. I do find it excruciatingly difficult to grasp when someone who is young and full of life dies without one ever seeing it coming. I’ve lost many people in my life this way, more than half of them being when I was still too young to fully understand the permanence of what was happening. Recently however, the ones in my life that passed have really taken me back, almost to those moments of panic because now I do understand the permanence of it, as well as the randomness. I see and logically comprehend that amazingly good hearted people, wise souls that shine a light onto this sometimes dark and violent world, aren’t immune to being taken early. Emotionally I cannot understand it. My heart doesn’t compute why the good ones go so young and as I get older, I don’t think it ever will.

No matter how hard I try to put words to how I feel about my friend’s recent passing I simply cannot. When I tell you that this world lost an amazing person, I cannot describe to you how much I seriously I mean it. An intelligent, compassionate soul who truly did make a positive impact on this world, because anyone who came across him would forever be changed in their most positive of ways. To extinguish that torch was to make this place just a little darker, but if you believe in heaven, it just got a heck of a lot brighter.

However sad and painful, I still try to find the silver lining. I guess it goes to say that I haven’t really lost them, but if anything I now have quite a crew waiting for me to get back. I am in no rush, but I do find comfort in that. Until then, all can really do is clichély live my life in tribute to them and seize the chances and opportunities, living for those who could not.

Welcome Back

Death always has a way of stirring up thoughts and emotions that one sometimes ignores.

My grandmother almost died last week. The little firecracker put a real scare into everyone. All seven of her kids flew to Colombia to be by her side. A couple days later she made almost a full recovery. As full of a recovery that an 86 year old lady who just happened to catch a bad case of pneumonia could. She also had blood clots forming in her lungs which is what made the doctors question how much longer the little lady had to live.

The scare reunited the family together. For a week they all stayed by her side, laughing, crying, reminiscing over the good and bad times they have shared together. For me, my grandmother’s close to death experience made me think long and hard about all of the sacrifices this woman had to make in life raising 8 children, losing one of them, all while married to a husband who hadn’t loved her as much as he should have. It made me think about my life and how I never wanted to sacrifice my entire existence to please others instead of pleasing myself.

I hadn’t realized how unhappy I had recently become until a few things happened that triggered a shut down. When I say I shut down I mean I shut down. Other than getting up for work and robotically moving throughout my workday, I couldn’t muster up any energy to do anything else. No writing. No painting. No socializing. All I wanted was to come home, crawl into my bed and get lost in a world of Netflix and YouTube videos. The night would end and the next day would start, the same routine all over again. I was depressed and I hadn’t even realized it until an argument was had with the guy I was seeing which really placed things into perspective for me,  which was then followed by the news of my grandmother’s declining health.

I decided to take certain matters of mine into my own hands. I made a firm decision to walk away from a situation that wasn’t working for me. It’s been a few days and I can’t say I regret doing so. I hadn’t realized how stressed out I was before, and now that changes have been made it is like my days are a little brighter and I go about my life like a summer breeze, cool and calm. I feel like I am almost back to being me again. Even as I sit here and write this I wonder how I could let such outside forces really determine whether or not I have time to do the things I love to do. I blame myself for giving so much of me that I had no energy to then give to myself. It is a lesson I learned before but I guess I had forgotten about. I will not forget again. I will not lose myself or lose the energy to do for myself to simply make others happy.

Hi Me.

Welcome Back!

 

A Wish On A Bad Day

Getting out of bed can be a feat.

It takes every ounce of energy to even whip off the covers.

To look in the mirror is almost cruel and unusual punishment. Who is that that stares right back at me? A familiar face with distraught features. A shell with nothing in it.

Sometimes feeling utterly alone, all I want to do is yell loud at the top of my smokey lungs, simply to be heard. I want to scream so loud, “I’M HERE!” that I burst !POOF! into a trillion little, itty bitty particles, dissipating  into a different dimension. Slowly float away, every piece moving into a different direction, never getting back together again. This is me me on a bad day.

On a bad day there is no me getting out of bed to conquer the day, no. If I get out of bed on a bad day, you’d be lucky if it’s to shower. On a bad day I eat ice cream for breakfast and straight out of the carton. I watch sad movies and t.v shows, listen to sad songs, and ignore any and all responsibilities.

There isn’t a phone call I will answer. There isn’t a text I quickly respond to. On a bad day no communication matters. Not even the one I have between pen and paper. On a bad day I have no friends. I have no family. On a bad day it is me against the world. Even the sunniest day on a bad day is doom and gloom.

No books of fantasy and make believe can snap me out of  having a bad day.  To read word after word takes too much energy. It’s energy I rather save for the fits of rage that will later come and go. Energy I rather save for my pillow that will be soon fluffed to death by punches of sorrow.

I hardly have these bad days but when I do, world prepare, because these are dark dark days. I am a glass half full that has been knocked over. On a bad day I am damaged like a rotten apple that has fallen from its branch and left sadly on the ground. On the grass I lay, dying,  as I stare up into the sky. My wishes of better days to come float up into the heavens only to be ignored by the angels of the white light. Saints of darkness, instead, breath them in and cough them out.

Wishes of better days go on to die… and again, I’m left totally behind.

A dying wish alone on a bad day.

Raver’s Paradise

****** Fictional Story ******

 

The night was dark and mellow. Although the music had stopped for the night, the vibes still carried throughout the cool, crisp air. It was an invisible blanket that enveloped her allowing her to feel safe and pleasant. She hadn’t been ready for bed yet. There was no way she had lied in order to skip work for three days to just simply go to sleep. Work had taken up most of her time these past few months and although grateful she was to have had that as a distraction throughout her ordeal, still she was happy to be here present in this moment. It felt amazing for her to get away. She was out in the wilderness not only camping and being one with the Universe, but she was among her kind. Here she didn’t stand out. She was able to be herself, she was able to enjoy the present without a thing negatively getting to her. Her focal point for this trip was a journey towards absolute happiness and throughout her first night here she was beginning to feel it.

She still had the buzzing of the music playing in her ears so even if she wanted to try to sleep, she knew she wouldn’t be able to. If anything she’d just lay down and stare up at the sky for a bit, contemplate life for a while. He had already gone to bed. How, she didn’t know because she had remembered him taking a bean not too long ago and that was of what she saw him take. Who knew how many he had already bought and popped. Yet when they made it back to the campsite he had gone straight to bed. That spelled one word to her “duds.”She knew who he had bought them from and advised against it from the beginning. Sure, she had been away from the scene for quite a bit now but she still knew the dealers and their product as well as the quality. A schemer never stops scheming and so when he had bought the beans from Valco that had made her laugh a little. Money poured right down the drain.

She was hiding behind the tent popping a squat and couldn’t see very well. It was pitch black except for the fire that was still burning bright, yet its comforting light couldn’t reach where she was. She maneuvered as best she could trying to shift her wide leg Jnco jeans away from the stream she was creating.  She couldn’t help but giggle when she had almost lost her balance, one jean leg skimming the puddle that filled up under her. When she finished, she grabbed the toilet paper that she had left sitting on top of the cooler for easy access. She searched it for bugs and once she was sure there was nothing on it, she tore of a few sheets and quickly wiped. At the same time she felt a bite or two on her exposed thigh. “Fucking mosquitoes..” she mumbled as she pulled up her jeans and made her way back to the tent. It seemed that no amount of bug spray could ever really protect her from the bugs.

Instead of laying completely inside the tent snuggled in her sleeping bag, she decided to leave it unzipped, moved her sleeping bag closer to its entrance, and laid on her back with her head sticking out of it’s opening. She wanted to drift off to sleep staring up at the stars. As she laid there she couldn’t help but feel as though the tent was birthing her. Laying there, gazing up at the crystallized night sky, she let herself get carried away, slowly allowing for the last of her dance buzz to wear off. She went over the night in her mind remembering how comfortably numb she had felt as she let herself get lost in the lights, floating away on the music’s current. Nothing had been able to touch her. At one point she had even taken off her sneakers and socks to totally vibe out, the soft grass slipping between her toes as she danced.

She had almost drifted off to sleep when all the sudden a sense of doom crept in, breaking up the bliss she had created in her mind.

Her cheeks were beginning to grow warm and she wondered that even though she was quite a ways from where the fire pit burned, would it still be close enough to make her warm like this? She sits up and feels her face. She was incredibly warm and oddly enough her lips too were beginning to feel weird. Puffy almost. The doom-like feeling she was surprised with was growing more intense. Her legs were now feeling itchy. She felt under her pant legs and traced her legs with the tips of her fingers, shocked to find raised bumps completely covering every section her slender fingers roamed over.

A slight panic began to rise within her and so she turned into the tent,

“Babe! Babe! Wake up!!” She shouted in a whisper. They had been sharing their camp site with his friends from work and she definitely didn’t want to wake them. The last thing she wanted was to make a crazy ordeal of what may just be a tiny incident. He hadn’t heard her so she quickly began to tap him, harder with each time. Her lips felt as though they were swelling with every second that passed and now she could feel it in her throat. “I don’t know what’s wrong with me babe! Seriously, wake up. Please!” Full panic was starting to set in. She smacked him on his chest hoping this would wake him up. He began to stir, waking up to a look of panic deeply set within her cranberry brown eyes, sheer terror dancing there.

“What’s wrong? What’s going on with you??” He was sitting up right, looking to see what was going on but had noticed nothing other than her freaking out. “What the fuck did you take? You know you’re not supposed to be taking shit babe!” He was frightened it was obvious in his eyes. He thought that she was on a bad trip of some sort and she knew that if she panicked the situation could turn into something dramatic. Still, it was now that she realized that it was getting harder for her to breath. The fear of what could happen crept into the back of her mind. It was like death was standing far off in the corner trying to decide whether it was hungry or not. She began to think about how she should have never come here to begin with.

The weekend of the rave she had been scheduled to work and instead she had done something she hadn’t done in years. She had ended up lying to her bosses to get that weekend off. This of course wasn’t her normal behavior, or at least it hadn’t been for the last 17 months. Once she had decided to get clean things had changed.

Her throat was feeling warm, but worse, it felt like it was thickening, threatening every breath of air she tried to take.

“I didn’t take …anything…” her breath she tried to maintain slow and steady.

“What do you feel? Tell me what’s going on!” He was analyzing her, probably trying to make sure she hadn’t really taken anything. He ran his fingers on her legs, “Oh my God babe!! What the fu..” He placed his hands underneath her pant legs this time, “You’re covered in bumps!” He grabbed her face so that he could get a better look at her. She angled her face up towards him to allow him a better look never forgetting to keep her breathing steady. “What’s going on with you babe? Did you maybe drink something that someone gave you?” He was beginning to feel guilty for having brought her out here camping with him. The situation had been compromising for her and they both had known it, yet they had believed she was strong enough to have keep herself away from anything that would have messed with her sobriety. Now his doubts were setting in and it was unnerving her. Her eyes were closed and her thoughts distant. She was trying to keep herself calm and stayed silent for a few more beats before she answered him.

“All I did… was dance. I went to pee….. a few times. I got you… beers between… bathroom breaks.” This was all said barely above a whisper. She had to try to keep a slow pace when she spoke to try to steady her breathing. Her throat was thick and it was getting extremely hard to swallow her saliva. Quickly she discarded that thought. “Focus on breathing. Stay Calm” is all she could think about right now.

“Should we go to the hospital??!! He shifted around in his sleeping bag as if trying to get untangled from its grip. “Like I don’t know what to do!” He still wore his winter beanie which was in the shape of a bright blue teddy bear face with evil clown-like eyes. The red and veiny eyes, out lined in sharp black lines, were staring directly at her, deep in to her soul.

“No! No hospital…” She closed her eyes hard. She could control this. She’s heard about how your mental state could determine how certain things in your body affected you. This was their first night of the camping trip. She refused to be the one to ruin it. “I can work through this,” she said out loud but mostly to herself. “I just need to… breath.” She remained sitting in the tent for a second until she realized how intensely he was looking at her, his anxiety radiating off of him in waves.She needed to be away from this. It was as though his anxiety was causing for her throat to swell even more. Her entire face felt hot, her cheeks feeling like hot lava cakes. Her mouth had swollen up badly, her lips feeling like a duck’s bill. She needed out of this tent NOW. She lurched to her feet slightly losing her balance for a second, then quickly decided to sit back down for a few more seconds.

“What are you doing?? Sit down.. here drink some water.” He hands her the bottled water, the cap already off, and she takes a small sip just enough to wet her mouth a bit. She takes in a little more, realizing that she’s actually thirsty but could barely swallow it.

“I just.. need to get.. outside.. and … chill. I need fresh .. air.” This time she took her time getting up and made her way through the tent’s opening.

“Yo, are you sure you want to go outside? Why don’t you just lay down instead, c’mon babe.” He pats the empty space beside him. Under normal circumstances she would have found him adorable in that moment. His big brown eyes were full of worry and reflected the dancing flames that continued to burn in the fire pit fiercely.  His creepy bear beanie had slid down, hanging on only half his head now,  a smirk escaping from the raver bear’s lips.

“I’ll be.. back… I just .. need fresh… air. I need to… calm.. myself down.” She turned away from the tent, internally repeating to herself that she would be alright. She believed that the power of positive thinking would get her out of this. She slowly made her way to the chair that sat right in front of the fire pit, making sure not to trip over all the crap that had been thrown around the site during the rave’s chaos, and then plopped right down into it. Her head felt like it weighed a million pounds. She couldn’t even lick her lips her mouth was so swollen. Not being able to deal with the weight of her head any longer, she leaned her head back and stared straight up into the night’s abyss. The sparkles that danced within its void captured her, trapping her gaze, and seemed to conspire in never letting her go. She sat there captivated, eyes locked onto the diamonds of the night, and there she remained. Lost in nature’s trance. She remained there long after the fire pit’s flames smoldered out. Still so as the first signs of the rising sun began to show.

Ben abruptly woke up. How had he just fallen back asleep? He had waited some time for her to return and must have just drifted off to sleep when she didn’t . He crawled out of the tent still heavy with sleep. His eyes quickly squinted against the daylight but he still searched the campsite for Lily. The place was a disaster, riddled with garbage from the night before. He then spotted Lily sitting in the chair gazing up into the sky.Poor Lil. It broke his heart that she hadn’t come back to the tent and more so that he had fallen asleep instead of staying up with her. She probably hadn’t slept at all, too freaked out to.

“Babe?! You feeling better doll?” He kept his voice low to not wake anyone else up. Rubbing the crusties out of his eyes, he made his way over to her. Either she hadn’t heard him or she was sleeping. “Hey, wake up. You’re going to get a crick in your neck lounging out like that.” It was with one more step that he then realized what was really going on with her and stood there too stunned to take another step.

Her lips were the first thing he noticed. They looked like she had spent the night sucking face with a vacuum cleaner hose. They were extremely puffy, dried out and cracked, and instead of their pretty shade of pink they had turned a deep purple. Her chest was covered in huge hives that were no longer red, just puffy. They went from the sides of her neck all the way down her chest, disappearing under her bright pink Hello Kitty zip-up. Her face had lost all color and had now set into a light blue, highlighting the tunnels of veins under her skin.

He had known almost immediately that she had been dead, but it wasn’t until he got a little closer and saw her eyes that his breath caught in his throat, eyes instantly welling up with tears. Her eyes were wide open still, staring up into the sky, and hidden within the corners of her eyes, a slight smile. A smile one could only see if you truly knew Lily for it was not obvious, it was just faintly there. He knew she was gone but her expression looked  more alive now than ever. A desperate wave of sadness washed over him. He reached up to stroke her cheek and the instant his skin touched down to hers he fell to his knees.

“Fuuuuucccckkkk! Lily!!” A groan similar to a wounded animal’s escaped his lips. All he had wanted was for them to get away for the weekend. She had been working so hard on getting her life back together. She’d gotten clean and had held two jobs to keep herself busy and away from temptation. It had taken some time to convince her to get the weekend off but with a little effort she agreed to. Music had been her religion and nature her church of worship. When the rave had been initially announced and he saw it was to be held at the campsite he was convinced that this would be the place to take her. Now she was gone.

Ben looked up and just stared at the shell that had once been his girlfriend. He stared at the face of this girl he now hardly recognized. Her eyes were the only things about her that still looked familiar. He had loved her eyes from the first day they had ever met. A beautiful deep brown color with specks of dark red. Cranberry Eyes.  As he stared at her he noticed movement by her nose. He moved in for a closer look when he noticed a bright red fire ant crawling around her nostril and quickly flicked it off of her. He then noticed a few more crawling on the sleeves of her sweater. As he continued to scan her body, he was shocked as he spotted more and more. Instantly he knew what had happened. The proof was there, what seemed like hundreds of them, roaming over the new territory they had recently conquered. The bottoms of her Jnco jeans looked like they were covered in a moving blanket of deep red. He took a near by twig and carefully lifted one of  the pants legs up to get a look at her legs. Just as he had suspected, her ankle and leg were mercilessly bitten, now severely swollen, from the evil bugs.

It must have been during the night as she danced, numb to the world except for the music, that these silent killers took a hold of her. How hadn’t she felt them?? She hadn’t been high nor drunk, but music to her was equally as intoxicating and so he believed that she truly hadn’t felt a thing until maybe it was too late. Everyone who knew Lily knew she had been allergic to certain insect bites. Her mom had always joked about how the bugs loved her sweet blood. He had seen small allergic reactions with her before like slight swelling around the bite, but had never seen anything remotely close as to what he saw last night. He didn’t even think Lily knew what had struck her last night. Neither of them had. He quickly flashed back to a time when her mother had asked her to see a doctor in order to find out how allergic she was, but Lily argued that her lack of health insurance was what had been stopping her.

“I can’t afford a co-pay visit, testing, and then maybe later on an epi-pen.” She waved her hand in dismissal. “I got other things to work through first.” Now he wished so badly that he would have made her go. If he would have made her see a doctor like her mother had begged her to do, she would probably still be here. Still, she had taken precautions for fuck’s sake! Her zip-up and long jeans in the middle of September in Florida, her four cans of bug spray that she had strategically placed around the camp site for easy access. She thought she had had her bases covered and all for what? For her to fucking die anyways? He sobbed like a ravaged wild animal. She had beaten the drugs but that hadn’t meant she had beaten death. Death had calmly waited for her, watching for the perfect moment to come and sweep her away. It had come during a time in which its prey was most vulnerable. When she had been lost in her religion, while she had been out attending her church. He sat there by her, sobbing, until a stranger wondering by discovered them.

Lily watched as the heart and the soul of Ben mourned for her. This would be his story, his challenge to overcome. His journey here was to put back the pieces that have shattered away from his soul due to this in order to become stronger. From this point on, it would be his story to construct, the ending still unknown. She lingered there for a while listening to his cries, not wanting for them to fall on deaf ears. She, instead, absorbed them, and in return, sent him a current of love, vibes to help him with his journey. She placed a hand on his shaking shoulder, leaned in and whispered in his ear, “I’ll see you later,”  a phrase commonly uttered between the two, for they never ever said “good-bye” Within seconds his cries stopped and she knew that he had felt her there beside him. She would make sure to always be there whenever he needed her. It was a promise she made to him before turning to go. With that she turned towards the lights that had been patiently waiting for her. Colors of red, blue, greens, and pinks outlined the direction she was to gravitate towards. She feels the music’s bass pound to a rhythm she had never heard before and she begins to drift towards the swirling lights.The music grows louder the closer she gets, penetrating deeply into her soul. She feels a cool breeze and it makes its way around her like a blanket, stirring the side of her head with her long hair, whipping it into a mess, and tickling the side of her shaved scalp like imaginary claws slowly tracing the zigzags buzzed into her short shaved hair. A feeling of ecstasy erupts within her and with that she closes her eyes, allowing herself to get lost in beat of the music, and off she carried by the breeze. Her body moves to beat of the after life and just like that she soars off into the clouds of a raver’s paradise.

008-2 Photo Credit: Natal Galvan, Muse: Angie M. and Sebas, Location: Day Glow Fort Myers, Fl 2013

Sandbox Blues

Mother swings me off her hips and gently places me into the box of soft white dust.

“Sit here and play a bit. Mommy is going to sit over there and have a chat with Suzie.” She points her painted red nail to where this Suzie woman is already sitting. Mother kisses me on the head but before she walks off she points again but this time directly in front of me and says, “Look, you have a play pal.” and with that she turns and walks off. I glance from my mother back to the kid sitting. It’s a boy and he looks as if he has black snakes slithering around his head, but what looks like snakes are actually his thick curls slightly swaying in the breeze.

“Lets make friends.” As my mother would say. Determined to not sit by myself any longer I get up, my legs wobbling a bit at first. I slowly and steadily make my way over, smiling to myself. My joy is cut short. As I finally make my way over to him I notice the trails of  moisture off of his cheeks sparkling in the sun. He’s crying. I reach him but I don’t sit at first. I’m just standing there staring at him and after a few beats he turns to look at me with his big blue watery eyes. He takes a couple of quick deep breaths, which gives away that he had been fiercely crying earlier, I know the drill. I plop down next to him and he turns to look away, bunching up dust in his tiny little fists and then slowly releasing it, allowing it to slip between his fingers.

That was the day I had met my best friend Henry. Now looking back I should have known then what was going to transpire later on in life. A relationship that begins on such a sad accord could only be giving clues as to how it would later play out, no? The day we met we spent the entire time doodling in the sand. His tears had eventually dried out and replaced by a tiny smile. Since that day, any time mother took me to the playground I always looked for him, and he was always there. Henry didn’t have a mommy. She had died while giving birth to him, a tragedy that he was never able to forgive himself for. His father was some big wig over at the DA’s office and was never home so Henry’s nanny was the one to really raise him. Henry only lived a couple blocks away from me so we ended going from playground buddies to classmates. As we got older we became inseparable. If we weren’t in the same classes, we met up at “our” lunch table and made sure we caught each other up on whatever we had missed out on. If we didn’t have the same lunch period that school year then it was on the bike ride home we played “catch up”. If either of us missed school, you better believe  that the other would show up after school with arms full of homework along with updates on the latest gossip. Of course we each had other friends but they didn’t come close to being as tight with Henry and I as we were with each other.

I remember it was sophomore year in highschool when my good girlfriend, Cherie, asked me, “Kira, why don’t you and Henry just date? He’s cute and you two get along so well. You’d never fight! Might as well!” She said enthusiastically. “Have you two ever done stuff ?” I slapped her arm. It was almost a natural reaction.

“Cherie!! No! Of course not!” I laughed loudly.

“So, No you wouldn’t date him or No you two haven’t done anything?!” she giggled.

What no one knew was that Henry and I had been each other’s first kiss. We had been in the 7th grade and it was a couple hours before before we were headed to our first middle school dance. We had dates and were speaking about them as I finished styling my hair for the night.

“The slow dances are going to be cool. I never really slow danced with someone before.” He said. “Well actually, ma and nana did a couple times when one of her favorite songs played. That doesn’t count though.” He then seemed to get a little distracted. I could tell he was thinking about her. Henry’s nanny died the year before and it was a tremendous loss for him. Since he never got to know his mother, his nanny was “mom” for him. To be honest, he probably missed his nanny more than his own mother.

“Well..” I tried changing the subject. “the last song of the night is always a slow song. It’s when you’re supposed to kiss your date.” The distraction worked for his full attention was now on me.

“Na uh! How do you know that?!” he asked skeptically.

“I heard the other kids talking about it in the hallway yesterday. They were talking about how you had to time it perfectly so you’d get done kissing before they turned the bright lights on.” I finished doing my hair with one final spray of my hairspray. I made my way to the bed where Henry was sitting. He was picking at a little lint ball that was holding on to my comforter.

“Well I wasn’t nervous about tonight until now. I’ve never kissed anyone before. What if I mess up? Or what if we kiss for too long and they turn the lights on!? Or what if she doesn’t even want to kiss me?” His mind was racing. It was pretty typical for Henry to get anxious. He was beginning to sweat a little.

“Dude! Relax! You’ll be fine! I happen to know that Amy is ecstatic to be your date tonight so why wouldn’t she want to kiss you?”

“I don’t know! What if I begin to stink or I’m not as decent as a dancer as I think I am?! Who knows! Girls are fucking weird!” He wiped away sweat from his brow. Any second now and he would start hyperventilating.

“Hey!” I shoved him.We both began to laugh and it wasn’t long after that my idea struck. “I have an idea!!!” I shot over to wear my CD player sat. “What if we practice?! I’ve never kissed anybody either and Brian’s like an expert. I don’t want to seem like a complete amateur. We could just practice on each other!” I was super excited. I mean, what are best friends for, right?

Henry thought about it for a moment, “I don’t know.Won’t it be a little weird?” Just like him, always questioning everything.

“How would it be weird?! We’re best friends! Who better to practice with?” I was rummaging through the stack of CDs that were shelved right next to the player.

“What are you doing?” He asked, still sitting on my bed but this time staring at me.

“I’m going to play a slow song and we’re going to practice kissing. It’ll help us to get the timing down too.” I found the CD I was looking for, popped it in and went to track 11.

“I never agreed to this. This is a really weird idea.” He ran his long slim fingers through his hair.

“Oh come on. Why do you find it so weird? Am I not pretty? Do I smell bad? Is there something in my teeth?” I walked towards my bedroom mirror.

“NO! You look great and there’s nothing in your teeth. I would have said something by now. He stood up and walked towards me. He stood a few steps behind me so that I could see his reflection in my mirror. “You don’t just find it a little weird two best friends practice kissing? It would make us each other’s first kiss! That’s not weird to you?”

I turned around and walked over to where he stood. I took his hands and placed them around my waist. I wrapped both of mine around his neck. The music had been playing and soon we began moving to the beat. We danced for a minute and once I felt like the timing was right I reached my lips up towards his. He met me halfway and we stayed there for longer than anticipated by either of us.

“Kira! Henry! Time to go! If you want to meet up with your dates and drive together we have to leave now!” My mother’s voice shook us apart like an electrical current. We began to laugh hysterically.

“Ok mom!” I shouted through my laughter. I ran over to the Cd player and shut it off and before running out the door grabbed my purse which sat on the bed. Henry was right behind me as we reached the door but before I opened it, I turned to look at him, “Honestly, I’m glad you were my first kiss.” and with that said, I turned the door knob and headed downstairs.

We had a great time at the dance that night and when the moment came, we each pulled off a spectacular kiss. Deep down inside, I felt like it was nothing compared to my first kiss.

The school years passed and towards the end of senior year we both found ourselves suddenly single. We went to our senior prom together and neither of us found it anymore appropriate. That night we ended up at an after-prom party. It was at our friend’s cabin right out on the lake and everyone was invited. We all partied hard and once the sun was about to make its appearance, Henry and I decided to end our festivities like any other normal teenager and headed to Denny’s for some early morning breakfast.

We’re sitting opposite of each other and spread before us was smorgasbord of breakfast foods, a personal buffet line. Except that we didn’t have to get up to get our food, it was all in hands reach. We stuffed our faces with blueberry pancakes, french toast, bacon, home fries, omelets, homemade biscuits, cinnamon sugar pancake puppies. You name it, if it was a breakfast item, we made sure to get an order. Halfway through our meal Henry takes a deep breath and leans back into the booth. This is one of his dead give-a-ways in letting you know that he had hit his limit. Me? It’s like I have a bottomless pit in my stomach so I just keep gorging myself. After a few minutes of silence Henry blurted out, “I’m joining the military, Ki” I was in the middle of chewing on some seriously stuffed strawberry french toast and hadn’t realized I had yet to swallow. There was sweet cream cheese stuffing on my lips, I could feel it. All I could was stare at him at first. Had I heard right? I was chewing so maybe I had misheard. The military?  “I know,” he continues,”You’re wondering where this came from and how it’s not “me” but…I really don’t know what else to do once we graduate. I hardly know what I want to do tomorrow let alone 5 years down the line. How could I dish out a shitload of money on college classes when I don’t know what I want to do for the rest of my life?” I slowly swallowed what I had in my mouth. The taste of the sweet strawberries and the deliciousness of that cinnamon battered french toast made my stomach feel much better. “I already took the entrance exam. I tested pretty high,” he smiled. “I passed the physical too. I feel like this would be good for me Ki. It’ll buy me sometime while I decide on what to be when I grow up. Plus, they’ll help me with school and great benefits.” He forked through the pile of blueberry pancakes.

“Hey! Don’t! Not unless you’re going to eat them!.” I fanned his hand away from the food. I take my early morning Denny’s sessions seriously. “So I did hear you right. At first I was questioning my hearing.” The shock of it all was still trying to sink in. “My best friend Henry is going into the military. That’s no joke, Hen. I’ve seen documentaries with kids just like you. They join for the money to fund an education they cannot afford. You know what happens, Hen? They comeback losing limbs or in a box, dude.” I was working myself up now. How could he leave? Off to fight other people’s battles for some extra time to think of what he wanted for his future? “Plus, who’s going to be my bestie while you’re gone? I’ll be stuck in this  town just going to college with no cool friends.” I protested selfishly.

“Ki, stop being dramatic. I’ll be fine. I’ll come back in one piece I promise and not in a box.” He picked up a strip of bacon and chomped half of it off. “You’ll make friends at school too, just watch. You’ll forget all about Hen.” He smirked at me.

“Those “friends” I meet won’t be half as cool as you so forgetting about you is out of the question. I am really going to miss you. I can’t believe you’re really serious.”

“Before you know it I’ll be back, Ki. I’ve just got to do this for me.” He just stared at me. I knew he meant business. He was that kind of person. Once he had made up his mind about something he stuck to it no matter how nervous or anxious it may have made him feel. It was one of the qualities I admired about him the most. Not like myself who was fickle and a complete walking contradiction. I grabbed his hand and held it tightly between both of mine.

“I’m going to write you all the time, Hen. I’ll keep you posted on everything. It’ll be like you’re not over in some weird and unfamiliar country. You’ll feel like your home.” I said.

And I did.

I wrote him, if not everyday, than every other day. I wrote to him about everything. I gave him every detail on the college life so to make him feel like he was attending with me. I of course kept him up to speed on the latest town gossip so he felt like he had never left. He would write me letters back talking about how awful the food was and how he was slowly adapting to military life. The years went on and the communication stayed constant and before I could even fathom the day was here. He was finally on his way back home.

He arrived a week after my college graduation. i drove 3 hours to go pick him up from the airport. I was so excited to see him. I hardly remember the last time I got to see his face in person. As I pull up to the curb I see him standing there. His curly hair was gone and although he looked more muscular, he also looked a lot thinner than what she remembered. His eyes wore dark circles and were a little sunken in. He smiled when he saw my car but the light in his eyes didn’t look so bright. I had barely placed the car in park when I ran out and over to where he stood. We embraced like we did that night of our first kiss, hugging tight like lovers would. A strange feeling hit me then. I stare up into his eyes and saw so much sadness that my eyes teared up. “Are you ok?” My voice barely more than a whisper.

“I feel much better now.” He said as he too stared into my eyes. At that moment we were frozen in time. It was at that very moment we both realized what was so obvious to everyone else all these years. To be there in his arms was exactly where I needed to be. Cars began to pile up around us, some of the drivers beeping for us to get out of the way. On the way home we were silent, only stealing glances at each other while the radio filled the air.  That night after we made love he said to me, “You were the only thing that got me through the dark times. You and your letters. It was through your letters that I soon came to realize how much I loved you and how I couldn’t wait to see you face to face again so I could tell you. I was a nervous mess when I was getting ready to fly back home, but once I saw you pull up and looked at that face, I knew it was going to be alright.” He smoothed hair away from my face and kissed my forehead.

“I love you too.” Were the only words I could get to come out.

I now stand here staring at Hen, thinking about all the beautiful memories we made together. I will make it my mission to allow only the good memories out weigh the sad ones, out weigh the final one.

When Henry came back, he was a truly changed man. Where as before he was an average boy with slight anxiety and nerves, he now was suffering from constant panic attacks during the day, and horrible nightmares at night. His moods would sway from one extreme to the other within a blink of an eye. We went to various doctors and psychologists but it wasn’t long before Hen was wrapped up in complete and utter depression.

I had just gotten home from work the day I found him hanging in the living room with a note at his feet that read, “I’m sorry Ki” and to this very day I carry that note around with me at all times. Some people carry around pictures of their loved ones around in their wallet. I carry my boyfriend’s suicide note. I always go back to thinking about the day we met in the sandbox and how since that very day we had become inseparable. We had grown to become so close and it took us so long to make our friendship into something more, yet it took absolutely no time for life to take it away. I lost my best friend and the love of my life in the same day and because of that I carry with me a heavy blanket of sadness. Beyond that sadness there does hide a bit of joy though because I knew Hen like no one else in the world did. I had the opportunity to not only know him but to love him and that is something for me to truly treasure. On a good day, when I close my eyes I can recall so many beautiful memories and I am undoubtedly so blessed to have them.

I give him one final kiss on his cold, pale forehead. I place my hand on his and let it linger there before I pull away from him. With every step I take my chest constricts knowing that he would be in that box forever, his final resting place at age 26.

I reach the church doors and push open. The sun beams immediately hit my face warming my cheeks and my soul a little. I take in one deep breath and as I let it out heads down the steps and towards my car. I unlock my car but before I get in  I take a few seconds to stare at what was across the parking lot in front of me, the park, and two little kids playing in the sandbox.

Death Under Intoxication

In the months following my DUI, life for me did a complete 180. Nothing to me mattered other than buckling down, saving money, and making sure I completed every step and order demanded by the courts. I did everything with no complaints and no hesitation. When I initially succumbed to all that was going on (not to me but BECAUSE of me) I told myself that I would just go through the motions. I would do what I needed to do and just move on with this chapter of my life. What I didn’t expect to happen was that I, the person I was on the inside, would truly change.

It has been only three months since the fortunate night I got pulled over. *Note here that I said “Fortunate” for I am firm believer in that every thing that happens, happens for a reason.*  This night was peril for my soul’s evolution. A change I always knew I needed. A change I desired but never knew how to set those wheels of change into motion. I’ll begin today’s blog with who I was before all this. I’ll speak of that ordinary night when I was pulled over (because for me it was just another ordinary night), and how it completely changed my life for the better. If you’ve just begun to read this, I hope that you’ve got time for a little bit of family history is needed for where I’m going with this.  Do also realize while reading and taking in a little snippet of my life, that although I have been more than honest with friends and family about this incident, this will be my first time speaking so openly about it with people like you.. strangers. So here goes nothing:

Growing up in in a Colombian household, the motto always was work hard, real hard, and when you got the chance, play harder. During the holidays, it was the norm to watch the adults drink, and drink to excess. Christmas, New Year’s, birthdays, ect… are all memories wrapped up in blankets of liquor induced laughter and roaring good times. As kids we would watch our parents work their asses off, strictly. Most of them worked back breaking jobs and not just one, but two even three jobs at a time. When they were given time off and were able to all get together, they drank. I always knew it was going to be a party when I’d watch them come home with bottles of Aguardiente, cases of beer, tossed within the bags of food they’s be cooking that night. The excitement within me would build because I knew this was their time to let loose and enjoy themselves. I loved watching them tell jokes and stories of when they were growing up. They’d play music all night long and dance. You could always tell once they started reaching past the point of being drunk because their dance moves weren’t as precise, their jokes became more absurd, and the laughter was just non-stop and over everything. I loved it.

10616553_800352903319854_1642631823_n-2  Photo Credit: Natal Galvan Location: family gathering in NJ ’14

I’ll never forget the first time I ever got drunk. It was Christmas and I was 14 at the time. I was at that stage where I was no  longer a kid who wanted to hang out with the little ones and was slowly making my way into hanging out with the grown-ups. That night I was in charge of pouring the shots of Aguardiente for them. What they weren’t aware of was that I was being sneaky (imagine that). Anytime I saw that one of them didn’t finish their entire shot, guess who’d make sure to clear it to make room for the next shot? THIS GIRL of course! Before you knew it I was letting loosey goosey. I was funny and goofy, making sure everyone’s eyes and ears were on me. It wasn’t long before they realized what had happened and instead of being upset, they let me steal the show for the night. Even my super religious, always serious grandfather (whom I adored so much) was laughing his ass off at the ridiculousness of it all. The very next morning I was awakened by my crazy aunt (who we now know is literally crazy) nudging me, “You were grown enough to drink last night, you’re old enough to get up and clean with the rest of us adults. Now get up.” As I went around picking up shredded wrapping paper, empty beer cans, bottles with only about a shot or two left in them, dishes, all and any evidence of a good night before, I had realized how “fun” could be amplified by what I call today, the devil’s brew. It didn’t matter to me that my head was pounding like a jack hammer, or that the smell of food was making my stomach churn. The night before had been FUN for me in a different way.

Now don’t go thinking that this began my love for drinking. At 14 I had no time or business getting drunk. It wasn’t for  few years later that I began to have a drink here and there. Be it at a house party, special occasion, or on the rare nights I was able to sneak into a club or bar, which was extremely easy to do in the city. When you’re a girl all you have to do is bat those lashes and slip the bouncer a $10 and presto, this 17 year old was being let in to 21 and over clubs left and right. Normally, I was always known as mother-hen among my friends. Sure I would drink but not enough to loose my senses. I always felt like I had people to look after, friends to help out once they had a bit too much. When I began sneaking into the clubs and bars, I tended to just have one or two cocktails. I loved to dance so for me I had just enough to help me feel the music better. With maybe just a night or two of over doing it in public, embarrassing myself by falling or what not, that at the time was enough for me, for I knew I didn’t want to be “that” girl. It wasn’t until I was older that I began to overdue it.

I’ve got a nomadic nature. A care free spirit who wants to roam every inch of this earth and experience anything and everything. So it was no shock to anyone when I moved out of state at 19, away from all I knew, to a place I knew nothing about. The first few years all I did was work. I was responsible, I paid my bills, went to school, saved up money, ensuring to make my momma proud. By 23 I began to really follow in the steps of my elders. I worked hard, real hard, and played harder. By this point I was what you would call your average stoner and in many ways I was totally ok with that. I found that under the influence of pot I was able to control myself and my spending way better than when I went out to drink. Weed is what I would say my substance of choice was. It relaxed my always “on the go” nature as well as sparking my creative juices. Still, I would join my friends out for drinks a couple times a week. By 25 I was an expert at handling myself no matter what influence I was under. Or so I thought now looking back. Hindsight is truly amazing. How many times have I not driven knowing I had one too many? But I was ok. I made it home every night safe and sound. Even on the mornings I would wake up, not remembering half of my night, not knowing how I got home, yet looking out my window and seeing my car there, I felt ok. I hadn’t harmed myself, or most importantly anyone else. I was a happy drunk each and every time. I never once woke up feeling down about myself or my life. Again, drinking was my “fun” juice. It amplified my inner joy and unless I KNEW I was going to overdue it, I always drove. I was what my friends could call the designated drunk driver.

In March of 2013 I decided to move all the way across the U.S to California, my dream. No I wasn’t headed out there to find fame or fortune, but adventure and change. Originally from Jersey, then living on the gulf side of Florida, life for me became boring and stagnant. I had money saved and had one day randomly decided, “Hey, why not?” As a kid I had read so much on California. I’d seen awesome pictures of the mountains and hiking trails. The beaches looked way cooler to me than those here on the east coast. I was young and thought better now than never. When I arrived, I was bombarded by how cool it was. There was anything and everything to do. The art scene was awesome. The music scene even better. I was centrally located to all I loved to do. Naturally I went ham.

It was maybe my second month there when I had my first thought to lay off on the drinking. My sister, who had also moved with me, and I were at a bar we both liked to frequent. It was quite a ways from where we lived at the time but the drive through the mountains and into the city was totally worth it. That night we had both had way too much to drink. So much, that on the way back to the car, I tripped on an uneven sidewalk and fell face first busting my entire face. Neither of us truly remember the details of the fall and the reason I even know this was because once on your way back home, my sister who was black out drunk at the time of the fall came to, and was horrified by what she saw. There was blood all over my face and clothes, “What the fuck happened to YOU!!!!!” I too barely recalled what had happened. I was so concentrated on trying to get back home that I hadn’t even looked at myself to see how bad it was. Needless to say we were BOTH freaking out. In all this, I get lost, and there begins an argument between her and I. That night there are bits and pieces of what I remember. Sort of like snap shots taken of my life. I do remember that at one point, we were shouting at each other, loudly. I went to take a u-turn to head back on the right direction, and I was so angry that as I turned the wheel (quite aggressively) the car turned and at one point was on two of its four wheels. We had almost flipped.  By the grace of god or some unseen force we made it home that night. We went to our separate rooms and it wasn’t until morning that we both put the fragmented bits of our memories of that night together.

We made it exactly a year in Cali. We were both flat broke. So broke that in order for us to get back home to Jersey we had to borrow money from friends and family (and paid back every penny). You would think that a night like that would have scared anyone straight. But no. We were lucky and what do lucky people do? Well they push their luck of course because in all reality, things happen, but horrible, worst case scenarios never happen to you. They happen to other people, right? I could tell you all the drunken stories I have up my sleeve but this would turn out to be a novel not a blog. So let’s fast forward to the night of my DUI.

I’m in Florida again. I decided to move back since Jersey was just NOT for me, hence why I had moved away in the first time. So here I am in my own little comfort zone of familiar places and new friends. On this night, I was out with two girlfriends of mine. I was to spend the night at Emily’s house. I had to work quite early the next day and at this time I was living out in the middle of bumble fuck in order to save up for a better place (this is another blog for another valuable lesson to be learned). In the mist of hanging out with these two girls, I ran into a buddy I had not seen since I had initially moved away to Cali. We’ll call him Jake. Jake isn’t the best of influences. He’s a business man who wheels and deals in the drug trade. Whenever you hang out with Jake you KNOW it’s going to be a hell of a hangover day the next day. The girls I was with at the time know of Jake and don’t like him very much, which is understandable. They’re “nice” girls who’s idea of going ham (a term I stated earlier) is going out for beers to the same bar, sitting in the same bar seats, while chain smoking cigarettes, as Papa Roach plays in the background and ordering soft pretzels with extra dipping sauce. I don’t mind Jake. Yes, he’s trouble. But I have never been one to judge people on what they do in their spare time. If I can laugh and have a good time with you, hey, we’re friends. Anyhoo- on this particular night I gave in to the pressures of Jake and had shots, which I RARELY ever do, especially if I have to work the next day. But after being at the bar for a while with my ladies, by the time Jake came into play, I was pretty boozed up on craft beers and it was easy to talk me into shots. By the time “shot” time came around, the mother hen of this group had gone home. Before leaving she had told me to make sure I stay at Emily’s that night and not to drive home. By this point Emily’s boy toy had also arrived on scene. The four of us had decided to take our group to another bar right down the street since they also served liquor vs only beer.

010-2  Photo Credit: Natal Galvan

A long story short, and many shots later, I had begun feeling uncomfortable for Jake had begun to insinuate I stay at a close by hotel since I was pretty toasty. I wanted to go home. Emily was having a great time with her guy and in my drunken stupor I had thought that the two were going back to her place and I didn’t want to be the third wheel. It was getting pretty late, midnight was creeping up and I had to be up for work by 5. As we got back to the cars, I reassured everyone I was with that I was ok to drive home.To be honest, I had driven home in even worse conditions than the one I was in so I felt quite confident that I’d make it home just fine.

I tore out of that parking lot like there was no tomorrow. In my mind, I had almost an hour drive home. That meant if I hurried, I could make it home and at most have four hours of sleep before heading into work. Tunnel vision kicked in. All I saw was the road ahead of me, so 30 mins later it was a shock to me to find cop lights flashing in my rear view. “Where did HE come from? Err, No problem. I got this”, I said to myself. Once pulled over and asked the typical initial questions, “Mam, Do you know how fast you were going? Do you have license and registration with you? Proof of insurance? Have you been drinking? How much have you had to drink? Do you have any weapons on your body or in your vehicle? Any weapons of mass destruction? Any drugs of any sort or drug paraphernalia?….” He took my information and ran my plates. I at this point still wasn’t worried. It wasn’t until he came back and handed me my documents and asked, “Would you be ok with doing a few field sobriety tests just to make sure your not impaired to drive?”, that I kind of became a little worried. I obliged. What was I going to say, no? So I played his game. I followed the pen with my eyes. I walked the line while looking straight ahead. I touched the tip of my nose with my index finger. Passed every one. So WHY was I arrested for drinking and driving? The police report reads, “due to the heavy scent of alcohol present on her breath and watery eyes..” Cuffed.

The police officer was doll. You can look into his eyes and see he wasn’t a mean cop. He was doing his job. He left the cuffs loose on my wrists, so  much that while I sat in the back of the cop car on the way to the booking station, I slipped my left wrist in and out quite easily. He made small talk on our way, much of which I don’t remember. My mind was too wrapped up in the situation I had found myself in. I laughed at myself for how stupid I had been. I even told myself that this is what I deserved and more since I had been so careless not only this time, but many of times before. That night, sitting in the back of the cop car, the girl I had always known had died. Death Under Intoxication. In her place sat, a humble young lady who stood at a fork in the road. She looked to her left and saw a path in which she could just step over the twigs and branches that stood in her way. I was a semi familiar path, slightly darkened, but still it was familiar and not all too scary, so it would have been easy to find her way through. It was a path she seemed to have taken many times before. Then as she turned to her right, she saw a forest full of thick trees and hardly a path to follow. It was unfamiliar, but as she looked deeper down this direction, off in the distance she noticed the brightest light she had ever seen. She knew that if she truly wanted to, she could make her way through the thickness of mother nature’s greenery and appear on the other side, with not a scratch on her. Only life.

The details of my ordeal while going through booking, then being locked up for 14 hours and within that time having to stand before a judge, and even all that has happened since then will be for a later blog. But for now I will leave you with this. Although I am still in the beginning phases of my “punishment” for the crime I had committed, I feel victorious. In this small chapter found within the novel of my life, I did come out sitting on top of the world and although what goes up, must come down for even briefly, for now, I am a very happy and positively changed girl who’s been living happily so ever after.