Owing a debt

Mother is the name of God

Podcast Version

Him: Why do you stay in contact with her and people like him?
Me: I owe them a debt. Anyone that shows a kindness to my family, I owe a debt.

My head’s quiet again.

That’s more than I can say about the state of the nation, what with a pandemic, murder hornets, cannibal rats, state-sponsored murder, and now race riots.

The thing is: I get it. As my buddy from my gym said, you never get over the anger. And what’s the anger all about? Inequity.

It’s bullshit that Alison died so young, so close to her dream of finally – finally – getting a family. Bullshit.

I said earlier that I couldn’t watch the whole video. I stopped when Floyd cried out for his mother.

That broke my heart. As a regular, run-of-the-mill-normal human being, it broke my heart. That someone could die for no fucking reason whatsoever.

And what crushed it to powder was the thought that in the darkest moments of his life, my son will cry out for me. Because he didn’t know Alison.

And I’m half the person she was. You see, Mother is the name for God in the lips and hearts of children.

Except for mine, that is. Fuckballs.

I counted the days. Alison lived exactly 13,893 days. HALF of what she was promised. What we were promised. The inequity makes my blood boil.

Alison and George are gone now, for no good reason whatsoever. So, I understand the rage.

But there’s another facet to the rage. And that’s the debt.

In 1847 – after the Trail of Tears – the Choctaw heard about the starving Irish during their potato famine and somehow, managed to scrape together and send $170 (about $5,000 today) to help these people strangers.

For every bit of inequity – where one isn’t given what one’s owed – there’s a flip side. There’s grace; that’s when you’re given something you didn’t earn.

When Alison was sick, the grace I saw, humbled me. To those people that helped us, my family owes them a debt. That’s it.

We owe them a debt.

The Choctaw owed the Irish no debt but they paid a value to someone in need. And 173 years later, the descendants of those with the debt paid back some of it.

I think I hold a special place of contempt in my heart for those in mixed-race relationships – particularly white male and Asian female relationships – where the white male doesn’t realize the debt he owes the African-American community.

Like the the officer that murdered Mr. Floyd, who is married to a Laotian woman.

That officer doesn’t realize the debt his family owes to the black community, that was regularly lynched for just looking at a white woman, and had to go to court to gain us all the right to marry any one of any race we wanted.

I was able to legally marry Alison because a white man named Loving – of all things – wanted to marry a black woman, named Mildred. My family would not exist but for Mildred and Loving. The debt every interracial couple owes to them cannot be overstated.

If you’re white and in a mixed-race relationship and you don’t feel any rage over what happened to Mr. Floyd and don’t recognize the debt you owe to that community then I gotta point it out to you now.

You owe them a debt.

But rage against inequity works both ways.

Chauvin’s wife just announced that she was divorcing him.

Podcast Version
Location: 95th and Broadway
Mood: angry
Music: so sick of being so lonely; miss all my family (Spotify)
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Damaged people are dangerous

They know they can survive

Well, my neighbors are back. So much for the afternoon screaming.

Years ago, I was casually talking to someone at my gym and I mentioned that I grew up poor.

A fella there overheard and scoffed.

Him: Nonea y’all know what it’s like to be poor.
Me: What do you mean by that?
Him: (shaking head) You’re not poor unless you’re black and’ve gone hungry.
Me: Well, one of those two applies to me. I’ve had sleep for dinner plenty of times.

I grew up before the microwave. Or, at least, before the microwave was affordable.

Both my parents worked, so I’d come home, alone, and unlock the door to our tiny apartment and go to the sink.

I’d go to the sink for two reasons: (1) To wash my hands, and (2) because my mom would always put two unopened cans of Chef Boyardee in a pot with hot water trickling out of the faucet to warm them up.

Ideally beef ravioli but, really, whatever was on sale; cheese ravioli was always such a disappointment.

Then again, I grew up wearing homemade clothes. My grandma knit those hats my brother and I are wearing in the pic above.

Anywho, my mom always left a note that said something like:

Please try to save some for your sister – I love you!

It was then that I realized that “serving size” was a joke. That was dinner. She wanted me to put it in a bowl but that just meant something else for me to do so I’d just eat it outta the can and tell her I washed the dish.

In hindsight, the canned spaghetti and meatballs were the worst.

I mean, I still ate it, but, yeah…

Watching the news these days, I’m reminded of things like that. People waiting in lines for food at the food banks.

I remember all the goddamn lines we stood on, growing up.

One fall day, my mom bundled my sister and me (my brother was away) in our warmest clothes and we stood in line for hours for something. I complained the entire time. Finally, she grabbed me by the shoulders and said:

They’re giving away free vaccine shots and we can’t afford to get you two shots any other way. If you want to eat tonight, you’ll wait.

And then she turned away and tried to hide the fact that she was crying.

Man, I felt awful at that moment.

I was 12? I’m 47 now and, while I don’t remember how the shot felt, I remember how making my mom feel inadequate felt.

As a parent now, I feel it all the more. I do what I can. They did what they could.

Realize it’s a luxury that I don’t have to worry about my next meal any more. If I want a party pack of tacos, I buy myself a goddamn party pack of tacos.

I have sleep for dinner these days outta choice, not necessity.

This lady named Josephine Hart once said something like: Damaged people are dangerous. They know they can survive.

This pandemic is filling my head with such sad thoughts, I cannot even begin to tell you. But, perhaps that’s for the best.

Cause, I know I’m damaged.

If nuthin else, I survive shit, even when I don’t really wanna.

Podcast Version: Damaged People are Dangerous
Location: my empty apartment, now with lots of cheesecake
Mood: can’t look at another piece of cheesecake
Music: Man, I was dealt these cards and I played dem out (Spotify)
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Isolation Days 7-8: Keeping busy

Nobody believes it, or Mr. Gray

Been waking up late – after 9AM most mornings – but also going to bed late. Mainly working on projects that I’ve been meaning to do but haven’t been able to because of time and the kid.

That’s what I tell people, at least.

Closer to the truth is what I told you about years ago: Everybody knows they’re going to die, but nobody believes it.

I do what most people do when Death makes himself known – keep myself busy and try to ignore him as best I can.

Household stuff

      • Did my taxes – right before it was announced that we had until July 15th. Just as well.
      • Filled out the census.
      • Patched, sanded, and repainted a hole in my bathroom.
      • Assembled some new dining room chairs and tossed the old one – the one, above, on the left is the old one, the one on the right is new. Need to fix the bottom of the new ones.
      • Assembled a new entryway seat and tossed the old one.
      • Collected all my knives I had hidden around the apartment (more on that in another entry).
      • Practiced doing what I do with said knives.
      • Cleaned my oven and then baked a ton of low-carb cookies for myself (more on that tomorrow)
      • Dusted. Oh, the dusting…

I think the reason it took so long to toss out the chairs and benches was because I remember Alison and I putting them together, together. Now I did it alone. It made it harder than it should have, for a multitude of reasons.

But one thing that she firmly believed in was that things had to be useful.

If they weren’t, she insisted that they be tossed. If not for her, I’m certain that I would be (a worse) hoarder. So, I did take solace in that.

Still, it was…difficult.

Technology stuff

      • Converted my wired network from a hodgepodge of Cat4, Cat5, and Cat5e cable to pure Cat5e. No, I didn’t have any Cat6 and I find it too rigid to work with.
        • Used to know how to terminate ethernet cable from memory but I knew I’d forget, so that printout you see above I made 20 years ago at my old job at CNET. Kept it all this time.
      • Upgraded my mixed powerline network from 100mb to gigabit (!).
      • Laid a mesh network over my current 801.11ac network, backhauling upstream data through the aforementioned Cat5e network.
        • As a sidenote, my internal speeds went from a laughable 10-17MB/s to consistently above 100MB/s. I’ve never seen that ever before, ever.

Went to sleep on night 8 with a massive headache and an aching jaw. I felt like exactly what I was afraid of might happen, was happening – I was getting sick by myself.

I’ll tell you about more about that tomorrow.

For now, I will say that I had to go out because: (1) I needed to see a doctor and (2) I was out of peanut butter.

Hard to say which one was the priority.

Ended up buying five pounds of peanut butter, which should last me the week. The quarter and rum are there for size comparison.

Had both the peanut butter and the rum for dinner tonight.

I wrote this watching the CBS weekend news. In the segment on Italy, the magnitude of what this virus does didn’t really hit me until he said the following at minute 1:17:

The cases that don’t make it end up here, with the morgues overflowing…Every person died alone. Without family or friends.

It’s that gaping yaw of existential loneliness that I told you about earlier. Everybody knows they’re going to die, yeah?

I wonder if I’ll die alone.

Man, I miss having a family. My own, that is.

The boy sent me that image over Skype. If you’re with family, you’re lucky. Because I have to love someone through a television screen.

Not gonna lie, I’m jealous. I used to have my own family, you see. For all of five days.

And now, during this historically crazy moment in time, I find myself completely alone with just Harold, five pounds of peanut butter, and 3/4 of a liter of rum.

Well, it’s not altogether  bad, I suppose.

Location: an empty UWS apartment building but with killer network speeds
Mood: inebriated
Music: you’ve been on my mind, honey (Spotify)
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Scaffolding and seasons

Like the finger pointing to the moon

Me: We should have a chat at some point soon.
Him: That sounds serious
Me: (shrugging) It’s not to me, but it might be to you.

In Enter the Dragon, Bruce Lee said, “It is like the finger pointing to the moon…”

He was paraphrasing the Shurangama Sutra, where the Buddha noted that, if someone points to the moon, don’t just look at the finger, because you’ll either:

      1. Miss the moon, or
      2. Think the finger is the moon

Got into an argument with someone recently and I said something in passing over the length of argument.

Found out from someone else that he mistook the passing remark as the crux of the argument. He mistook the finger for the moon.

Me: Wait, what…?! (rolling eyes) Oh for f___’s sake…THAT was his takeaway?

At some point, it’s meaningless trying to communicate to some people because you’re speaking English and they’re speaking Martian.

 

The boy’s birthday is coming up and I’ve been looking at all the people I’ve collected since he was born and everything went to hell.

Some people I’ve met have changed the path of my life, others have merely come and gone from my Venn Diagram, although I’m grateful for the experience, good or ill.

Boy: (in front of Grey’s Papaya on 72nd) The scaffolding. It’s gone. It looks different.
Me: Yes. Scaffolding is only supposed to be there a little while and then you take it down.
Him: Why?
Me: The building needed help for a while. And now it’s ok again.

Some people in your life are permanent while others are only seasons.

Figuring which ones are which, that’s the difficult part, I guess.

Location: earlier this morning, listening to the boy read to his class
Mood: nostalgic
Music: They say people in your life are seasons

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Messrs Everman, Cellini, and Vaźques

Unicorns: Artist, warrior, philosopher, and businessman

Her: Every father wants his son to be something. Do you know what you want him to be?

A buddy of mine named Vaźques stopped by the other day for some Cuban food and we chatted for a bit about the path of his life. He’s younger than me; and with that youth comes an open future.

I asked him if he played a musical instrument and he said no. Told him to consider it cause there was a fella named Cellini once said that a well-rounded man is an artist, warrior, and philosopher.

I’d personally add to that “businessman” but that’s just me.

In any case, I’d read about Cellini in seventh grade in social studies while discussing tank warfare (odd thing to remember, I know). Decided then I wanted to be that and spent the next 34 years trying.

The gold standard, IMHO, is a fella named Everman who was:

      • The guitar player for Nirvana and the base-player for Soundgarden and OLD.
      • A US Army Ranger and Green Beret
      • An Ivy League graduate with a degree in philosophy with Columbia university; he’s currently pursuing his masters degree in Military history.

I meet tons of dangerous people in my personal and professional life. They are clearly dangerous – they wear their lethality clearly and conspicuously, like scorpions. I’m only marginally impressed.

I also meet tons of hyper intelligent people in my personal and professional life. They talk about the latest million-dollar deal they just closed on or their latest cool project. Again, marginally impressed.

Finally, there is a small group of people I know that seek understanding over rote knowledge. A very small group. These people impress me a bit more, but only a bit.

At least they think of the cascading consequences of all their actions.

But there’s this incredible minority of people like Messrs Everman and Cellini that have achieved what I think encompasses what a man – or woman – should strive to be.

A man named Danaher – whom I met when he was a bouncer and I was a club promoter – and the Devil I consider as one of these people as well with both of them fulfilling that fourth requirement of “businessman.”

These are the real unicorns. To be in their presence is humbling because, in my mind, they understand what’s valuable and what’s just a waste of time.

We’re all given 24 hours, every day. It’s what they do with those hours that separates them from everyone else.

Honestly,  my children can be anything they want to be. Doctor, plumber, race car driver, whatever. As long as they are those three four things first.

As long as he’s a unicorn.

Me: Yes.

Location: the basement of my brain…plotting
Mood: ambitious
Music: could have stayed for more.
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Butterfly or man?

Unexpected places

Him: Are you alive, Logan?
Me: Biologically? Yes. I respirate, ambulate, defecate, urinate, and – occasionally – fornicate. But everything’s a copy-of-a-copy-of-a-copy again. (looking at my hand) And my goddamn hands won’t stop shaking.

This fella named Zhuangzi once wrote that he had a dream that he was a butterfly dreaming he was a man.

For the rest of his life, he wondered if he was a man dreaming he was a butterfly, or whether he was a butterfly, dreaming he was a man.

Between that story and the that line about everything being a copy-of-a-copy-of-a-copy is how I’d describe functioning recently.

I use “functioning” loosely. Dunno what real and what’s for sale.

The last two months have been rough but the last week has been absolutely surreal. I’ll tell you about what I can when I can.

However, some things are clearer in my head than they’ve been in a while, which I think is probably a good thing.

I once said that all of your life’s problems can be divided up into health, wealth, and relationships.

If one goes south, you’re a wreck. Two, you need to stop everything and right the ship. Three…you need help.

All three came down on me in the past 10 days in unexpected ways. Very unexpected ways.

But help comes from unexpected places too.

Fiction

Him: Here. (hands me cash)
Me: That’s a lot more than the gig required. Honestly, the kid coulda handled it himself. (thinking) If I didn’t know better, I’d think you were trying give me some pity scratch.
Him: (slight smile)That doesn’t sound like me. But I do think I owe you like $5K.
Me: That you earned. (thinking) Someone’s been breaking into alla my accounts. Is it you?
Him: I’m old school. You know I don’t do tech. (shaking head) I’m a businessman now. For everything you think of me…. Look, we were kids. I’m sorry.
Me: A chick I met at a party once told me that I hurt people and I laughed and said, “If I’m honest, how can I hurt anyone?” But I get it now. Everyone’s sorry for the awful things they do to others. I know I am. (laughing) You know, at this point in time, you may be the only friend that knows who I really am and stuck around?
Him: What’re you saying?
Me: I’m saying I  hope this isn’t a long con, man. I’m rough. I need sleep. I need scratch. I just wanna forget everyone and everything but the boy.
Him: You already got fucked by the world. For what it’s worth, I betrayed you when you were up. You have rules? I have fucking rules too. I don’t kick a man when he’s down. And you – friend – are the most down motherfucker I know. Like you said, it’s all just time and chance. We’re not kids anymore, hustling nickels and dimes. (sighing) Keep the money. Get some sleep, Logan.

/Fiction

Location: nightmareland, still
Mood: so exhausted
Music: It couldn’t be a dream, cause too real it all seems

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It all fades to black, Pt 2

Even though I knew

It all fell apart, two years ago today. I remember writing this, hoping for a miracle that never came.


I was alone but heard a female yell out my name in my apartment the other day.

I ran out of my room and yelled, “Alison?” even though I knew she was gone.

I don’t believe in ghosts or anything like that. I do believe in auditory hallucinations caused by insomnia and copious amounts of self-medication. Yet, it seemed so real.

This is my life these days. Most days are ok. Some actually good, like when the boy and Mouse are here. Some are bad. Some are horrible.

This was a horrible day. I screamed in my blue bathroom, like I always do.

I have no plans to hurt myself. Instead, I plan on just going on a massive bender; apologies to my liver and those that will be running into me this weekend.

Still…I’m tired. I’d like to rest.

But, I have promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep.

The boy: Why do you (imitates a sighing sound)?
Me: I’m sorry. Papa’s just tired.
Him: You need to rest.
Me: (nodding) I will. One day, I’ll rest. But not for a while, ok?
Him: Ok! (looking at me) Are you sad?
Me: (smiles) What do I have to be sad about? I have you. That’s silly.
Him: (laughs) That’s silly. Silly, papa.
Me: (nods, turns away)

Stop all the clocks,
Cut off the telephone,
Prevent the dog from barking with the juicy bone.
Silence the pianos and, with muffled drum,
Bring out the coffin. Let the mourners come.

Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead
Scribbling in the sky, the message: “He is dead!”
Put crepe bows around the white necks of the public doves.
Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.

He was my north, my south, my east and west,
My working week and Sunday rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song.
I thought that love would last forever; I was wrong.

The stars are not wanted now; put out every one.
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun.
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood.
For nothing now can ever come to any good.

Location: the bottom of my staircase and of a bottle of rum
Mood: hollowed-out
Music: Hoping for the best, but expecting the worst
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Logan’s 46: The Guard dies

…it does not surrender


It’s my birthday today.

I remember for years that I used to say, Wish me a Happy Birthday, alla you bastards that read me and never say anything.

The last time I said that was 2014, before everything went to hell.

This year, I pour out my soul to you with a simple admission: After Alison died, three words kept ringing in my addled head over-and-over again: The Guard dies.

The Guard dies.
The Guard dies.
The Guard dies.

I said those three words to myself hundreds thousands of times after she died. I would fall asleep to those words in my head and wake up to them as well.

I plotted for months on how to do it the right way, if there could ever be such a thing.

Because, I promised her parents and you that I would keep her safe. And I failed.

I failed you. I failed her parents. And, most unbearably of all, I failed her.

Failure has a price and I’ve always been driven to pay my debts.

There’s an apocryphal story about the Old French Guard during the Battle of Waterloo when the Middle Guard turned and ran, a solider from the Old Guard asked the general if they should run as well.

The general replied, La Garde meurt, elle ne se rend pas.

The Guard dies, it does not surrender.

In my drug/alcohol/grief/anger-fueled haze, I only remembered the first part.

Alison was my charge and I failed her so it was only fitting that I follow her. Because, wherever she went, I was always close behind.

It’s remarkably selfish and self-centered, I know. I wasn’t thinking clearly then.

But, due to a number of interesting bureaucratic twists and people like my mother-in-law, my father, Daisy, Gradgirl, and – of course – the Gymgirl, the fog slowly lifted.

And I remembered the boy. I am so ashamed to say that I forgot him in my grief.

Well, more appropriately – in my head – he was better off with people that were functioning, and I was clearly not functioning.

Moreover, I was so focused on Alison needing me that I didn’t really consider that he needed me.

Interestingly, the thing that really pulled me out of this mindset was a conversation with my mother-in-law one day. She said that I needed to raise the boy and that she would help but that he was my responsibility. I suspect she had some idea where my mind was.

In any case, that triggered a memory of a conversation that Alison and I once had: She told me that, if we were ever in an accident and I was given the option to save her or the child, she would never forgive me if I saved her.

And that, in turn, caused me to remember the rest of the quote: … it does not surrender. That’s when I realized that leaving would be surrender, not staying.

I lost my charge. But she had a charge too, one that she cared about more than herself: The boy. So, even if he weren’t my son, he would still be my charge because he was Alison’s.

Because she loved him more than anything, including her own life.

The boy’s given me something as well: A chance for me to redeem myself and my failure.

Essentially, the general was saying that the Guard does not run or surrender to overwhelming odds. It either does its job or dies trying. Like Alison did.

I’m 46 today. If ever there was an Old Guard, it’s me.

And the Old Guard does not surrender.

Him: Will you come get me today? From school?
Me: Of course. What am I gonna do, leave you there? That’d be silly.
Him: (laughs) That’d be silly! You’re silly, papa.
Me: (nodding) Yes.

Location: this afternoon, my blue bathroom, thinking of my possible pasts
Mood: heartbroken
Music: I’ve lost my place. I’m close behind
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Falling to the level of our training

Defining things

Me: Can you pack stuff for a picnic and I’ll meet you in the park? It’s beautiful today.
The Gymgirl: Pier?
Me: Perfect. I was also thinking of getting us half a roast duck.
Her: Woo-hoo!

I had run down to Chinatown for a haircut and some food but the weather was so nice that we made last minute lunch plans.

We’d not been out in a few days because we both got sick with a stomach bug so it was nice getting out.

We’d also not been able to get to the gym, which we both wanted to do.

This fella named Archilochus once said that, We don’t rise to the level of our expectations, we fall to the level of our training.

In a way, at our gym, we’re both training for something that will hopefully never happen. But I thought about that quote for a different reason.

You see, if not for this blog, I’m not really sure how much I would have remembered about our meeting.

Don’t remember much from the last several years. My mother-in-law thinks it’s because I slept so little and sleep is when your memories are set.

This is probably a good thing. There are horrors I experienced with Alison that I don’t wanna remember. But there are things I wish I did remember. About Alison. About the boy. About the Gymgirl.

All I know is that, after Alison died, I could barely function. So I just did that which I trained myself to do – after all, you are what you constantly do and after years of womanizing,* that’s what I defaulted to.

Well, that and drink to excess.

And as the fog of all the alcohol, craziness, and misery slowly faded, the Gymgirl came into focus and what I thought initially as another disposable relationship became anything but.

My life and luck has been – admittedly – complete s__t. But she and the boy are welcome outliers to my otherwise execrable existence.

Me: I wanted to say thank you. For everything. For all the things you do around here. With me, with the kid.
Her: Of course. (laughing) It’s not a big deal. But what brought this on?
Me: (shrugging) No reason. Life. Just…thanks.
Her: You’re welcome, Logan.

*Alison hated when I used that word: Womanizing.

But I don’t know a more appropriate word. I don’t think what I did/do really falls squarely in the realm of dating, or pick-up, or what have you – for reasons that are my own. They’re different things to me.

And once I met Alison, I stopped so I never spent any time thinking of a different word.

And once again, I’ve stopped. So it remains the most appropriate word I have.

Location: noon, yesterday, Pier I in NYC
Mood: grateful
Music: we’ll never know when, when we’ll run out of time
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Happy Birthday, Alison

I would only do this for you

Alison woulda been 39 tomorrow.

A friend of my sister’s dropped by yesterday with gifts for the kid – an owl plush toy, and a children’s book – plus a gift for me: Rum.

Her: I didn’t know her but I wish I did. She sounded like an amazing person. I hope you don’t find it strange that I show up here as a stranger.

And I spoke to an old friend I’ve not spoken to in ages.

Him: I met this girl. I’m selling everything and moving outta the city to be with her. I  wouldn’t have imagined doing something like this before but then I thought of you and Alison.

In their own ways, they apologized for reducing the sum of Alison’s life to a life lesson or story.

But I told them not to apologize and related a quote I like from Margaret Atwood: In the end, we all become stories.

All I have left of her are a handful of pictures, two videos, and these stories in my head. And the boy, of course.

In honor of her birthday, let me tell you a silly story. It’s for me, really. To put it out into the aether and make it real again, if only for a bit.

She disliked beets. But I loved them.

Her: You like beets?
Me: As my buddy would say: Nothing beats beets.
Her: (rolls eyes)

So I came home one day to find her wearing gloves and covered in beet juice. When I saw her, she pretended that I caught her in the middle of a murder (we loved Dexter, you see). She wanted to surprise me with some roasted beets and dried beet chips.

In any case, I asked her if I could take a picture of her and she resisted. She hated having her picture taken. But I insisted. And I asked that she recreate the scream as well. She did.

She disliked all those things: The beets. The pictures. The recreation. But she did them all because I asked. Because she loved me so much.

It’s an amazing thing to be loved so much by someone you love so much.

Dammit, I wish I insisted on more pictures and videos. We never think we’ll need things like pictures and videos until it’s too late.

I f__king hate that I only have two videos of her. It guts me.

For her birthday, do me a favor?

Take a picture – or even better, take a video – of someone you love that loves you as much as she loved me. As much as I loved her.

As for me, I drink. I cry. I drink some more. I’ll be going to a party with friends and drinking myself silly.

And I try to forget that I had someone that loved me so deeply and so much that I loved so deeply and so much.

Her: Why do you want to take a picture?
Me: Because I want to remember it.
Her: I look terrible. I spent this whole time cooking.
Me: You look beautiful. Please?
Her: Fiiiiiine.
Me: Can you recreate that scream?
Her: (laughing) OK. But only for you. I would only do this for you.

Location: in front of pictures and rum
Mood: gutted
Music: you lose something you can’t replace

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