I am known for what has been coined as the epic email writer. When I was a kid we'd write, it was called a letter, the longer the better, sure I can create amusing synopses for my facebook posts, breaking words and stories down till a pentameter that resembles poetry occurs, but long form descriptions of our lives is something that people just don't take the time to do anymore.
I am happy that you have begun the recovery from your
harrowing experience, I do hope that all is going smoothly. Shock, well I
can say that there was once when it did occur, not a very pleasant
story, my dad killed himself when I was 16, gun to the head. I was with
my sister and her band of musicians in Las Vegas, New Mexico, the
troubadours. They would play for the underserved,
they once played for this mental facility in Albuquerque. I would tag
along and help out, kind of like a roadie. Well the attendees that day were all
types that one would expect.
I had grown up in a home where everyone was a little off, but
for some reason I was prescribed as crazy, it was a moniker that I
accepted and wore with pride, really the only things crazy about me was
that I was born with a vision, yeah I am going to grow up to be an
artist. Sure I was a sensitive kid, and not like anyone else in that
huge brooding clan, but it was that label that saved me, at least I
could be open about my dreams.
Anyway at the performance in institution all went well, but I
had a bad feeling suddenly as the band wrapped up and began loading
their instruments. I walked behind them as they left the facility,
somehow I got separated, the automatic doors closed behind them and in
front of me. A nurse came up and said "now where do you think that
you're going?" Maybe I am crazy, maybe this isn't a nightmare. I watched through a small pane of glass in the door that
cut me off from my freedom and my sister and her cohorts as they walked away.
"I'm with them", my sister looked back over her shoulders noticing that I was not there,
saw my face pleading for rescue, she came for me. That was panic.
Well the shock story, yeah so we all woke up in that rambling
home in the downtown area of Las Vegas, the home was weird in the way
that the doors were not locked, that whoever lived there, our absent
hosts, left everything in a very trusting way, out and in the open,
money even. I have aspired to live like that here in Santa Fe if
you ever need a place you know that my door is open and you take
whatever you need and then some.
It was that brilliant New Mexico light, the high altitude that
brings us closer to the sun, this natural light that propels me to
paint, to serve my friends, to live openly and create. The musical
performance was scheduled for later that day. Everyone was preparing
themselves, laughing, singing, someone was making breakfast. The phone
They give the phone to my sister. Something has happened. She takes
me into the bathroom, she begins to fix her hair then begins sobbing as
curlers fall, mascara running, she was so vulnerable, so raw, I don't want
to know. The show must go on, I must Perform.
My dad was some kind of hero to the poor, a community
activist. I come across folks here many years later that tell me stories
about him, how he was like a father to them. Really because he was kind
of an asshole to me. I do realize and appreciate the gifts that he did share with me, literature, words, books, ideas. When I was around six
and my sensitivity became apparent and he for some reason decided that I
should get the brunt end of the stick. He was a good man but in
retrospect I am sure that he suffered from depression.
My sister in the bathroom mirror, tears streaming through
mascarared eyes told me the news, you're dad is dead, he killed himself.
I went into shock, I didn't speak, I didn't cry, I went into myself and
stayed there. She was preparing through tear stained reflections to go on
with the show, one of our troupe insisted we get back to Albuquerque, we
got into the van and drove through that desert landscape that is
encrypted into my soul, the heat bearing down upon us as the van rolled through dried hills.
My reaction to the whole thing was one of a bystander. How
would this event really affect me? I did not speak. Then there was that
wake, the open coffin, the recitation of the rosary, my dad's mom, we
were close once, but this calamity would tear us apart. The flow of dad's
friends, the Chicano community pouring in, solemn condolences that
seemed barren to me, oh he was a great man. One of my other sisters and
her friend took me outside to their car, here take this, half a
Back to the greeting line, I saw my high school art teacher
walking towards me, we
are still friends, she comes up every once in a while, a truly
beautiful woman. When I saw her, my friend, my pal, my mentor, when she
came up and hugged me with tears in her eyes, knowing all of the shit
that I put up with in school, for just being myself, I finally broke my
silence, the quaalude kicked in, and oh how I let go of that story that had clogged my mind, the
one of my father who would no longer be there to torment me. His style
of child raising may have seemed appropriate for the time, and maybe it
did give me some bearings as far as who to fight and when, and that never
to back down from an oppressor, but really some occasional kindness would have been
So there was a few days of people coming through the house,
the ceremony at the church, even though dad was damned to hell because
he killed himself. There were promises from the community, that never
came to fruition, my grandma freaking out, kicking us out of the family house a week later mom rising to the challenge. We stayed at her mom's house till the
trailer was bought with a down payment from an insurance claim, the
double indemnity clause somehow overlooked. Cast from the land where I
grew up and then thrown up to the mesa in a tin house that rattled when
I skipped school for a month. One of the art teachers would
give the students his reports at year's end, the private messages
between him and the administration. I remember his notes, "I
understand the situation but really this is too much."
I wrote daily in my journal prior to that event, had two diaries, one that I left for my dad to find because he was famous for going through our things, one journal was where I wrote passionately about being unsure of being gay, that I was bisexual or maybe it was all just a phase. That month is mostly a
blank, there is a note in one of my journals from that time, one month
later, dad killed himself.
It would be just under two
years later that I left that creaking home that was never laid properly on cinder
blocks, New York City, my life, freed from expectations, free
to live my life, and thirty years later I return to New Mexico. I still
cannot find comfort in Albuquerque. I did though find and make a home
and life in Santa Fe.