Is it real if it doesn’t leave it’s mark?
Like my first real pet, a black and white kitten, the runt of the litter
Who left white scratches on my knuckles and passed away two years ago
Like the family trip to Canada, and the string of lakes like pearls and falling rain
And the slight pitting on the front of my right shin that will never go away
Like my grandmother who passed away last summer
And left her dark skin and fine cheekbones on my face
Like you, and our love, and these tear tracts on my face
It was real.
8:10 AM is seared into my eyelids by my phone screen.
I’m clocking 3 hours of sleep for the fourth night in a row and I feel like it.
Because Finals Week isn’t depressing enough, my phone pipes up with a very cheering reminder that it is in fact Friday the Thirteenth
Bad Things happen today, so I wear my lucky testing necklace, and I dress to kill, red lipstick, hair up.
Failure hurts less when you look good.
The hollow pounding in my skull is probably what’s left of my analytical reasoning trying its damnedest to squeeze out of my head through my eye sockets. Lunch is a haze of leaning on someone’s shoulder, nodding my head at the appropriate points in the conversation while trying to simultaneously keep my eyes open and eat a decent meal before I walk home to my apartment.
Rain… it is raining. Everything is cold and damp and I am entirely apathetic toward the situation. The apartment is dark and empty, but in the bed is a welcoming cocoon of blankets. No sooner am I face down, I am asleep.
The ring of my phone is like a jolt of electricity straight to the heart and reflex has it at my ear before I register I am in fact awake.
The silence on the other end is broken by a few choked breaths, and I can feel my throat closing. Nononononono…
“It’s grandpa… he passed away this morning.”
I hold my breath, waiting for it to start to hurt…but it doesn’t…I just feel numb.
Mama is sobbing on the line and I can’t think of a thing to say. My heart is in my throat. I want to deny it. He can’t be! I was there just last weekend!
“It’s alright though… the Alzheimer’s never got as bad as it could have. He was happy… at the end.”
I know! I was there! He remembered who I was and he asked me how my engineering classes were, and he sang karaoke after thanksgiving dinner, and he was so happy. He can’t be dead. A person can’t just die like that.
“The memorial service is Wednesday. I want you to concentrate on you finals. Don’t worry about this. Do good, and then come home.”
It’s hard to find something to say, “Alright mama, I will. I love you. I’ll be there soon. Bye,” it sounds so meaningless I almost wish I hadn’t said anything.
I can almost see her, red faced from crying, dark circles under her eyes, “OK, Baby, I love you, Bye.”
The line goes dead and I stare at it for a long while. Slowly, I crawl back under the covers and close my eyes.
What do you do, when someone you’ve lived with for nine years is dead? Should I put a picture of him on Facebook “RIP Grandpa P. I will always—”
That seems to be what everyone else in the family has done.
Is there something wrong with me? I don’t want anybody else to know. I don’t want the page of single sentence blurbs, “Our prayers go out to—”
If I can just keep it quiet, where no one but me knows, no one will ask. If no one asks, I will not cry, and it won’t really be real. If I don’t cry none of it’s real and I can just be. numb.
I’ve realized I don’t want to go home. If I go home everyone will be crying and sobbing and grieving… I am afraid I will stand there, dry eyed, face tingling, everything far far away, like I am now, and then they will know something is wrong with me.
I feel so strange, like I’m stuffed full of cotton balls, and all I want to do is sleep, but I can’t , there are finals and papers, and I can’t just shut down.
So I won’t and I don’t… but nothing seems real real.
Wednesday 1: 17 pm
The memorial service is like watching a funeral on television for a character who’s name you know but whose face you can’t recall. It’s not real. It really isn’t, until a slideshow starts to play and Dr. Antonio Penaloza’s voice, cracked with age, begins to sing. His voice fills up the tiny church as he belts out To God be the Glory, and I Will Always Love You at the top of his lungs. My eyes, dry till now are suddenly overrun with tears, too much to blink back though I try, slowly deep achy sobs drag themselves out of my chest, and I clutch my mother’s hand as my aunt presses tissues into my hand so I can contribute to the small mountain that is forming between the three of us.
In memory of my Grandfather Dr. Antonio Penaloza who passed away on December 15th 2013. Loss is hard, we all deal with it in our own ways. Rest in peace grandpa. We miss you every day.