jueves, 16 de agosto de 2018

Stray

I worked in that store for longer than anyone had expected when I first applied. Five years just last month. I mean, yeah, it wasn’t a big deal but it paid the bills. Things just changed after dad died. Plans stopped making sense. Nothing ever stuck; business school, moving abroad, or that origami store project. None of them lasted. 

So I accepted that was my life now. I accepted I’d never get married, have kids, or a house of my own. I accepted that maybe I wasn’t born for  it. That was Javi’s life, not mine. It was Javier the one who made it. The one who had it all: the wife, the job, the house, and the wisdom. Dad would’ve been proud. 

That’s why I woke up early every day. That’s why I pretended to shower for five minutes before giving up and putting on the worn out khaki uniform. That’s why I jump started my car that morning and drove to the same place to stack shoes and books. That’s why I fantasized about quitting in the most absurd of ways... but settling wasn’t so terrible after all. 

After work, I’d drive back home. Every day, except for Thursdays when I’d drive to Javi’s for dinner. He’d rarely visit, made me go to him instead. “If only you welcomed order into your life,” he’d say. He loved pretending to be a grown up now, home-ownership and all. Kept acting like Design and Home just interviewed him, when it was Lore who did everything around the house.

It was a little family tradition, that weekly dinner thing. Mom thought it’d make us closer —love each other more or something— and we went with it. It was at Javi’s place either way, so all I needed to do was show up. We weren’t always in the best terms, but we got along. Sometimes he’d give me a weird fatherly look, like the one you’d give a toddler who got lost in the park. He’d try to give me money and all. “I can pay for my own rent,” I’d roll my eyes but accepted on occasion. 

Nothing was exceptional about that Thursday. I survived the day with a couple of Lunchables and made sure to grab some cheap wine before I left —to look put together at dinner, of course. I drove there purely through muscle memory. Maybe that was the ideal estate, you know? Being so absorbed into one's self, everything else seemed irrelevant.

I was only a few blocks away when I spotted the weirdest kitten in the street. He had half an ear cut off, hair scruffy and in chunks, and looked at me with big sad eyes. Without giving it much thought, I stopped to grab it and positioned it softly in the passenger seat. I made one last turn and parked right outside Javi's house. Cat in one hand and wine in the other, I got out and knocked on the door. Lorena was the one to greet me.

“Come in, Fer! How are you?” She stopped talking and realized the content of my hands. “Is that a kitten you’re holding?” She asked.
“I found her and she looks like she needs some help,” I replied.
She inspected the kitten from afar. “I might have some of Marbles’ vitamins left, if you wanna take them,” she said.
“Could you? That’d be great.”
“Good. You’re finally here. I’m starving!” said Javi, as he approached us. 
“This cat cannot come in. No way,” he said as soon as he understood what was happening.
“Don’t listen to him. It’s fine,” said Lore. I was causing trouble. I could tell, but I didn’t mind. I held out a smile and pretended to ignore their argument.
“But she could get Marbles sick!” Javi replied.
“She’ll stay in the backyard and Fer will take her after dinner,” she said.

Her word was final. I followed her through the living room and the window panels. I deposited frightened Cat on the floor and headed back inside. 

Dinner wasn't exceptional. Lorena wasn't the greatest cook but it was better than anything I’d make. She was nice enough, Lore. She wasn't particularly good at anything, though; average looking –almost mundane– with spongy long curly hair that fell carelessly on her shoulders. She tried playing housewife and sometimes succeeded. She spent her days working one of those boring bank jobs, where all she did was count money that would never be hers. 

They loved each other, though. I could tell in the way Javi always assisted her in the kitchen; or how she always made sure his pockets were inside his pants and not sticking out like that of a child's. They were in synch, almost like siblings, one would say. Or like an elderly couple that’s been together for too long and learned to ignore each other instead.

“You’re  into cats now, huh?” Javi asked.
“It seemed like she needed help,” I replied.
“You do know that pets are a responsibility, right?” He said. “You gotta pay for the food and the sand and… oh that vet bill is gonna be through the roof!”
“Thank you for the unsolicited advice, Mr. Cat Expert, sir. I’ll keep it in mind,” I said with a smirk.
“Take some of Marbles food and please don’t kill the poor thing”
"So... how's everything at work?" Lore had found a way of making things better yet again.
"You know, lots of people, lots of stuff to sell. Nothing new," I replied.
"What happened to that online poker tournament you’d mention?" Javi asked.
I sucked, I thought. 
"Being a professional gambler sounded depressing," I said. Which was also true.

Javi started talking about baseball or the stars or his job. I barely heard them on the background; like a car radio during a long road trip, only receiving interference. I couldn’t listen anymore and they knew it. They were used to changing topics and leaving me behind. I never tried to catch up.

Javi was repairing the sink, so it was Lore who walked me to the door.

“Give this to her every morning. It should make her feel better,” she said, as she handed me a little bag.
“Thanks, Lore”
“And remember to take her to the vet as soon as you can.”
“I will,” I promised her.
"Are you sure you're ok?"
"Yeah, yeah. Don't worry"

She hugged me tightly, as if it was the last time we would ever see each other.

"Take care," she said.
I drove back sweating and sick to my stomach. Nameless Cat had been fed and was now asleep in the passenger seat. Did she do it on purpose? No, that couldn't be. That could never happen. 

I bathed Smuthy Cat as Lore had instructed and showed her her new home. So what if it was a rushed rushed decision? Everything would be fine. Javi was overreacting, as he usually did. 

“He thinks he knows everything about animals because he’s around one, but he never even looks at it,” I confessed to Listening Cat. “Plus, animals are highly recommended for people with depression... not that I am, but it can’t hurt.”

I couldn't fall asleep that night. I kept trying to remember every detail about dinner. The wine made my memory fussy but I hadn’t imagined it. Suddenly, it hit me like a cat in the face: I loved her. I loved her manly clothes, and how she talked about the same movies, and how her nails were always red and a bit uneven. And how she always cared... but it was pointless, wasn’t it?

I imagined dozens of scenarios where I confessed my love and we ran away together. We’d leave town and settle somewhere in the West Coast; far enough to run away from Javi, but close enough so we could keep in touch once he forgave us. I imagined our kids, running around and playing with Sister Cat, sporting their mom's wild curly dark hair and their dad's constant fear for life. They would never be sad. No, I would never let that happen... but it was pointless, wasn't it? 

I wondered if it was worth fighting for. I was tired, you know? Filled with a sadness so profound, it exhausted me. It had been tiring me for years; preying silently, waiting to eat me slowly from the inside out. It never rested, but rotted every intention of improvement instead. I spent the rest of the night shifting between joyous optimism and overbearing anguish.

For the first time in those despised years, I didn't get up for work. I stayed in bed with Sleepy Cat and pretended it was only the both of us. Abandoned and lonely and hopeless. We’d found a place to hide from the world, and hiding was what we would do. My phone rang a couple of times —my boss, maybe— but I didn't bother. I lay in bed instead of having breakfast, or pretending to shower, or driving. I lay in bed instead of reordering boxes, ignoring customers, or getting ready for close. I lay in bed and the world around me stood still.

Around mid afternoon, I heard a knock on the door. It was persistent, even after I pretended not to be home. I was forced to get up against every fiber of my being and investigate.

“I saw your car on the parking lot,” said a voice from the other side. Javi’s voice.

I walked, cat in hand, to confront my torturer face to face. 

“What are you doing here, Javi?” I asked as I opened the door.
“They called from the store. They hadn’t heard from you and got worried.” 
“So they called you?”
“I’m your emergency contact,” said Javi irritated.
“Well, I have the flu. Thanks for stopping by, but I got it.”
“Is this about the cat?,” Javi asked.
“Have a safe drive home, Javier.” I said, closing the door.

“Can you believe Javi is trying to come between us?” I asked Thoughtful Cat as we walked back to bed. She meowed at me, understandingly. 
“I know. He can be such an asshole,” I replied.

When the sun rose again on Saturday, insomnia had gotten the best of me. The dark circles under my eyes were almost bright enough to shadow any other feature I might’ve had before. I was not a man anymore, but a shadowed face. Not a man but an entity; oblivious and lost. I grabbed my car keys and Passenger Cat, and closed the door behind me. Muscle memory helped me once more.

Driving gave me much needed clarity, or so I thought. I was ready. I had found it, my source of motivation. I had found her. Who gave a fuck about Javi? He already had the house and the job and the wisdom. It was unfair he also got the girl, and I was going to tell him just that.

"Look, Javi. I love you, ok? You'll always be my brother, but this is what we both want and I have to put our happiness first," I practiced. 

"Take that! You thought you were so great? Well, not anymore you're not!" I switched gears and speeded up to my brother’s house.

I walked to the front door while holding clueless Cat in my arms. Oh, were we ready. We stood there as an an outer force knocked, mere spectators of our own chaotic life.

To our surprise, Lore was the one to open. With those old ragged clothes of hers, and that hair that made her face look like a balloon, and those lips that kept craving moisturizer that never came. What horrible children would she bear. 

“Are you okay?” she asked, as we both cried in her arms.

miércoles, 6 de diciembre de 2017

XV

De la primera vez que me deprimí recuerdo mi fijación por llorar en el piso.
Nunca públicos. Nunca ajenos.
El de la cocina, el de la ducha, el de la oficina.
El de la habitación de hotel, en unas vacaciones navideñas que pasamos un año planeando pero que arruiné con varios episodios de llanto incontrolable.
El predilecto: al lado de mi cama. En posición fetal, con un par de almohadas, lejos de la puerta, escondida del mundo.

Recuerdo sentarme junto a mamá. Mi cabeza en su hombro, su mano quitándome el cabello de la cara. “Me duele el espíritu,” decía. Era lo único que lograba verbalizar. Le costó entender.

Pasé un par de años yendo a terapia una vez al mes. Olvidando tomar antidepresivos que no hacían efecto. Llorando en sitios inesperados por culpa de ataques de pánicos. No recuerdo cuándo se fue o si se fue del todo, pero sí recuerdo cuándo volvió.

Depresión es ser físicamente incapaz de levantarme de la cama.


Es estar convencida de que mi existencia es irrelevante. Que mis esfuerzos no valdrán la pena porque soy promedio y hay gente mucho más competente que yo afuera.

Es saberme miserable incluso en los momentos más felices.
Es cuestionarme las intenciones de las personas que me quieren.
Es la incapacidad absoluta de conectar con el mundo que me rodea. Es aislarme porque no encuentro otra alternativa.

Su reaparación fue lenta pero certera, poco después de que mamá murió. Compatible con mi duelo, los sentí a ambos abrazarme, cubriéndome poco a poco hasta envolverme del todo.

Un montón de manos se encargaron de que las piezas de mi vida resquebrajada permanecieran en su lugar. Un montón de manos me sostuvieron mientras yo pretendía que podía hacerlo. Intoxicada. Distraída. Quebrada.

Ahora las manos ya no están. El hogar se quedó a miles de kilómetros de distancia.
El hogar desapareció. Murió también hace 8 meses.
Ahora las únicas manos responsables de que las piezas no se extravíen son las mías. Mis manos pequeñas e incapaces.

Desde entonces retomé la terapia. Una vez a la semana, esta vez sin pastillas.

Depresión es ser incapaz de apreciar los lugares más impresionantes que haya visitado, o las cosas buenas que me han pasado, o la gente que he conocido. Es también sentirme como una malagradecida al respecto.
Depresión es preguntarme cuántos días podría quedarme en un vagón de metro sin que nadie se diera cuenta.
Es llorar hasta el cansancio sin saber por qué. Hasta que los ojos arden, hasta que respirar por la boca es la única opción. Hasta que la cara se hincha y las uñas dejan marcas en la piel.
En lugares públicos. Frente a extraños. Por cualquier cosa. Por nada en específico pero por todo a la vez. Anhelando consuelo que no termina de llegar.

Es ser incapaz de hilar ideas coherentes. Es tener pesadillas cada vez que duermo. Es escribir un montón de basura. Es dejar de escribir porque los resultados no valdrán la pena. No es romántica ni inspiradora. Es paralizante.

Es la imposibilidad de vocalizarlo todo. Es la falta absoluta de empatía. Es el desánimo. Son las respuestas hirientes para alejar porque no ha de ser compartida. Es la lástima en los ojos de terceros.

Es descuido al punto del asco: prendas de ropa que dejaron de estar limpias hace semanas pero que siguen en rotación, sábanas que deberían haber sido cambiadas, el plato de la cena junto a mi almohada haciéndome compañía mientras duermo. Son las flores que compré hace más de un mes y que siguen en el florero, marchitas, casi podridas, porque no soy capaz de intervenir.

Es no querer despertar en las mañanas. Es que las pequeñas victorias sean no haberme quedado encerrada todo el día. Es hacer todo lo posible por sentirme mejor, intentarlo con todas mis fuerzas, y que igual no sea suficiente. Es no conseguir refugio. Es preferir la nada.

Es la peor versión de mí misma que se niega a permanecer oculta.

Pero por sobre todas las cosas, es un desbalance químico. Es mi cerebro no produciendo suficiente serotonina. Es una predisposición genética. Una condición médica que soy físicamente incapaz de controlar y que no siempre logro sobrellevar. Nunca había logrado hablar públicamente de ella, pero creo que ya es hora.

Me duele el espíritu.

domingo, 8 de octubre de 2017

I've lost things too, Brian

Based on Brian Arundel’s “The Things I’ve Lost”.

I lost my favorite headband at the beach when I was 7. It fell in the sand and proved impossible to retrieve. I haven’t stopped mourning it since. My Lion King shoe and part of my pride in the playground when I was 5. My aunt made me walk with just the other one on, and I cursed all the way back to the car. Or the five-year-old version of that.

My pink transparent glasses I lost at 20. I was doing my makeup while in traffic and bumped the car in front of me. I got out to apologize and forgot I had them on my lap. Both cars were fine, though.

2 mixtapes, my favorite sandals, and a cute bomber jacket were lost in 2012: the year my car got stolen. I’d go and blame myself for leaving so many things inside, but also because I forgot to lock the gear. The police never found the car, so I guess I lost it too.

I lost my faith in god right after mom got sick the third time around. Once a true believer, the notion started to seem absurd to me. It still does. My anxiety over paranormal and horror films, I lost after she died.

Mom’s gold earrings: during prom. She told me I shouldn’t worry, they were meant for me anyway. This only made me more miserable. My stubborn need to stay in Caracas: when I realized I had outgrown everything that had once defined me, but also after mom died. There was no point to it anymore.

My hopeless romanticism was gone at 23, after my first love slept with multiple other people and told me about it in detail. My need for revenge, on the other side, disappeared after he begged me to take him back and I didn’t open the door.

My love for black mascara: after I accepted crying as a possible occurrence in my everyday life, and decided I didn’t want the world to partake in it. My water bottle: at least once a week. It’s an impressive ability I can’t seem to control.

I lost my unfair favoritism towards dogs once I adopted my cat, Ilana, and realized how much better, smarter, and significantly less annoying she was. I also lost my unfair favoritism towards her after she chewed and broke 3 laptop chargers. I still love her more than the average cat, I must say.

My shame towards my anxiety and OCD: about a couple of months ago, when I decided to embrace them instead of defining myself through them. Sometimes it comes back, but not as often as it used to. My love for academia was also lost recently. I don’t think that one will come back, though.

This year I also lost my fears. I suddenly realized that everything I held dear was gone. I had nothing else to lose. The world was no longer an intimidating place.

miércoles, 20 de septiembre de 2017

Overdone

It started Tuesday morning. I woke up right before the alarm went off. A sharp pain in my left hand did the trick. I could tell everyone was still asleep; not a single disturbance to that precious –and oh so rare– quietness. I stopped myself from shutting the alarm, almost too sad to broke it off. 

Ten minutes later, everyone was up. The pain wouldn't go away and an itch was starting to accompany it. I searched with no luck through our medicine cabinet, hoping some allergy lotion would help. Ibuprofen, Xanax, some Tums. 

I finally accepted my fate and took a shower. From the bathroom, I heard Mati getting the kids ready. His voice filling every inch of the house, them laughing like their lives were perfect. I felt my finger swelling up. 

By breakfast, it was the size of a small grapefruit. I hid it behind my back so Mati wouldn't see. He'd nag me about not taking my medication, or warn me about the dangers of not being careful with my health. Oftentimes, I felt more like his daughter. I brushed it off, of course. That was his way of protecting us, I told myself. 

I felt the finger pulse as the pink swollen skin stretched to its limits. I wrapped a cloth around it and pretended I was busy. I kissed babies one and two goodbye as Mati grabbed their bags. I think I might have kissed him too, but I can't seem to remember. 

Once they were gone, I analyzed my hand for the first time. What I had discarded as a minor thing had taken over my ring finger and was already spreading. My skin, red at first, was now acquiring an even more sinister purple tone. 

It was the ring. It had to be the ring. I knew wearing it for too long would bring consequences. I knew things would get out of control, and I tried explaining it to Mati but he wouldn't listen. He thought we wanted this. This life. So I went along with it, but I couldn't keep up anymore. 

I tried taking the ring off, but it was pointless. My finger was declaring independence from my body, no longer interested in living the life I had decided for my other nine fingers and myself. 

So I did what any sane person would. I grabbed the kitchen knife, my favorite one, the one I used to chop onions when I was feeling rebellious. I grabbed it firmly with my right hand, and slowly sliced it down my left one –not all the hand, of course, I am no lunatic. 

I applied pressure to my recently acquired stub and stared with disgust at the swollen flesh I had just butchered. The ring was barely noticeable anymore, completely suffocated by the ever-present redness. 

"This is probably a good time to talk to Mati about divorce" I finally said out loud.

jueves, 31 de agosto de 2017

The Green Year

I remember you staring at me with that annoyed conspicuous look you got when you thought I was being irrational.

"So what if our hands are a little green? What's so important about that?" you said. A little was an understatement and you knew it.

We had spent the past couple of weeks watching people rot around us. We assumed our own time was coming but decided to ignore the possibility anyway. "We could always chop them off and try selling them at the Farmer's Market. I'm pretty sure someone could make a smoothie out of them," I suggested. You didn't find it funny.

The greenish tone was only the beginning. Our skin would lose all elasticity and softness. It would start with small spots here and there, that would then grow and expand. Islands that would turn into continents and then one vast Pangea, until the necrosis took over completely.

At first, no one seemed alarmed. Doctors assumed it was caused by tropical food, brought home by naive tourists traveling from remote places. "Completely harmless. Nothing to be worried about," they declared on the news. Celebrities and politicians were just as exposed, and began showing it off like a trophy, claiming inclusiveness. Experts predicted it would go away on its own in the same style it had altered our lives, to begin with, but it didn't.

Eventually, limbs began to detach, causing road blockage and public safety hazards. The streets were suddenly filled with anonymous hands, and ears, and feet, and grief. You became an expert on dodging them every time we went for our walks, but you couldn't ignore them anymore. You couldn't pretend this didn't concern us. We were suddenly faced with the realization there was nothing else to do but to accept our new fate.

"What if it happens to me first? Will it smell?" you seemed curious.

"Maybe. I'll get you poppies to cover it up, though. The arrangements will be your new arms. You'll become the most stylish rotting model to ever grace the Earth" I answered.

"And what if it happens to you first?" You replied.

"Then I expect you to do the same."

That was the last time we ever talked about it.

lunes, 10 de julio de 2017

40

Estelita se consideraba indispensable. 
Tal vez lo fuiste, tal vez lo eras. 

Tus tiempos siempre fueron cortos. Como un delirio febril, o como la desgarradora premura con la que se advierte a la muerte en los últimos segundos. 
Como el infierno mismo transfigurado en mi presencia. Ese momento en el que mi alma se desvanecía, junto a mi moral y mis buenas costumbres. 

Te llevas todo a tu paso. Sin reparo, sin piedad. 

Yo me quedo sola, inocupada. Usada y vacía. 
Preguntándome si vivir en la ignorancia era realmente tan malo. Si hubiera soportado coexistir con ella toda una vida, sin que nunca me hiciera falta más. 
Las lecciones también son importantes. 

Estuviste sobre mí. Me pisoteaste tantas veces que lo empecé a sentir natural. 
Me hice cómplice por no mantener mi palabra. Pero no más, eso ya cambió. 

Esta vez sí es en serio. Son más que amenazas, lo juro. 
Esta vez me despojé de toda noción que consideraba cierta. Te vi a través de los ojos de terceros y presencié lo que tantos ya habían confirmado. Que fui yo quien no entendió tu naturaleza, tan incompatible con la mía. Que yo no haría milagros, ni merecía esperarlos. Que era hora de darme golpes con otra piedra. 

Por eso te dejo, Estela. Porque el masoquismo y la desesperación no se me ven tan bien, y la poca dignidad que aún tengo no ha de ser compartida. 
No te deseo nada, porque ya desearte no es mi problema.

sábado, 13 de mayo de 2017

XIV/04

Debería empezar siendo honesta contigo. Debería decirte la verdad solo porque así fue siempre.

La verdad es que no tengo ni idea de lo que estoy haciendo. Ni la más mínima. 
Ya tenía así un tiempo, también es cierto, pero este último mes ha sido una pesadilla.
No es tu culpa, yo sé. Te prometí que iba a estar bien. No ahorita, pero eventualmente.

La verdad es que me aterra ese eventualmente. Me aterra la idea de estar bien sin ti.
De aceptar que ya no te voy a ver más.
No sé qué es lo que estoy haciendo porque no entiendo este nuevo universo del que no eres parte.
No entiendo dónde estás ni a dónde te fuiste.
No entiendo por qué las cosas tenían que pasar así, después de todo lo que planeamos.
No sé cómo carajo ser un adulto porque hoy, más que nunca, soy tan solo un recién nacido que busca cobijo. Que grita desesperadamente para que lo mezan en brazos y cese su llanto.
Pero nadie mece. Nadie cobija. Ya no. 
Sigo esperando ilusamente que alguien solucione mi dolor. Que reaparezcas y me digas que todo va a estar bien.
Pero eso ya no va a suceder.
Y no entiendo, te lo juro que no. 
Solo escucho frases cursis y lugares comunes que, como ambas sabemos, nunca ayudaron a nadie.

La verdad es que no soy valiente, ni fuerte, ni un carajo. Pasé un montón de tiempo pretendiendo para que estuvieras tranquila. Pero mentí. Nunca fui nada de eso. Sigo sin serlo.

Entonces ya no sé qué hacer.
No sé qué hacer más que levantarme todas las mañanas y ocuparme de tareas triviales para que el hueco en el pecho no se apodere de mí. Mantener conversaciones superfluas. Pretender buen humor. Llorar en solitud para que nadie quiera intentar consolarme.

Porque me dueles en el alma y aún no me he acostumbrado a que así será por el resto de mis días.
Y aunque sí quisiera sentirme mejor, en este momento el dolor es todo lo que tengo. No sabría vivir sin él. Al menos no por ahora.

Estás tan presente en todas partes que me cuesta creer que éste haya sido realmente el fin.
No estoy lista para dejarte ir, nunca lo estuve. 
Y aunque sí te prometí que iba a estar mejor, éste aún no es el momento.

Perdóname todo. Te amo por siempre.