Letters to God and Loves Lost: Day 7


Your name is forbidden in my home. It’s a devil I don’t want to invoke.

I only visit you now because I think I have to forgive myself. For opening the door to you in the first place. For the extended stay that ended so pathetically, so tragically, so predictably.

Maybe my emotional immune system was weak. I met you only months after having gotten my first home and on my own, months after having moved away from my beloved New York City, months after having escaped from under the cloud of September 11th. A trip to Cuba, my very first and Mami’s first in over 40 years, was thick merengue on a madwoman’s cake. It’s no small wonder I didn’t lose my mind.

I didn’t want to go to Cuba. I wanted to go someday, but not in that moment. Not while my heart was still finding its way back into my chest.

I knew I was not okay. But Mami had been waiting for the planets to align in her favor for over 40 years. Her first try had been postponed by Papi’s sudden illness and passing. Her second by my own sudden, life-threatening illness. Her third by 9/11. I couldn’t bear letting her down again. She wanted to go home.

But I was only barely holding it together for Mami’s sake, clenching my teeth through the endless contractions of worry that a trip to Cuba creates, from the moment of inception. The waiting for visas, the shopping for things that my Tia and Tios and primos and Abuela might need, the prospect of an almost four-hour plane ride, it was a lot for me. And while Mami was strong, able, and still mostly independent at the time, all the running around, all the arranging, and the responsibility, including her own heart’s peace, was on my shoulders.

Do you care?

In the end, in our end, she blames herself for insisting on going, and for all the heartache that came of it.

“Dios no quería, pero yo insistí.”

My family adored you. And what was not to adore? You were there for them every day, soothing their fears, making them laugh, hearing their troubles, swooping in with your hero’s lab coat and your easy smile. El médico. The rock star. You could do no wrong. And you had been wronged, which made you extra special. A wounded hero.

Despite the fact that you’d be two thousand miles away, that the lines of communication would be limited and monitored, that no one on this side of the divide fully trusted your intentions, I went for it. And stayed with it. For seven life-altering years.

It took a while to understand myself in it, to remove myself enough to see the truth of it. And here is the truth:

You were the first relationship I was in that was driven by fear. On those long, quiet nights, when sleep would not arrive and I’d ask myself, over and over,

What are you doing?

And I’d answer, Whatever it is, don’t walk away because of fear.

Not once did I stop to ask,

Is fear making you stay?

Had that side of the argument, the one between my heart and my mind, revealed itself to me, I might have backed out a little earlier.

Because yes, even after only a year of waiting to see you again, I already knew that something was missing. I would not admit it, wanting things to work out so badly, the truth would only reveal itself in the recesses of my dream world, where I’d often find myself walking through a dark, muggy, underground maze of rooms, a seedy, faceless character in this or that corner chair, looking up at me, pointing me toward you. It was a place I didn’t trust. A place I didn’t want to be.

And yet I stayed. I told myself that if I was supposed to stick things out with someone in good times and in bad, then the bad had come early for us, and the good would come later. I told myself that that pull of desire, that joy and giddiness and electrically charged connection between two people in love, was no longer the kind of thing that should matter to me. I told myself that this was mature love. Responsible love. That eventually, when we were finally together, physically together, the bond, the pull, would strengthen.

What I did not say out loud was that I was tired. That I didn’t know if I had the strength for yet another ending, or held the hope for a new beginning. That I didn’t want to be alone anymore, didn’t want to face my everyday life with only myself to count on, to carry its monotony, its burdens, its questions, and its joys. That I was willing to let go of being in love for being in partnership. That I was exhausted, down to my bones, of the silence, and I wanted the noise of a growing family in my home.

In the end, in the waiting, I lost all chances for that. The last of my childbearing years fell away. That’s what my fear got me.

Still, I’m glad that things got bad. That I had no choice but to back down from marrying you. Even though I paid heavily. Even though you made me pay heavily. Even though you’ll never forgive me.

Wounded heroes don’t own their shadows. But I see it. I may be the only one, but I know you didn’t feel big love for me either. You were thrilled with the prospect of your freedom. Happy that your struggle to escape had found a worthy, stubborn foe. But did you love me? I don’t think that love takes advantage. Or lies. Or poses as something it’s not. The rings, the new clothes, the bragging, the telling this and that Fulano de Tal that I was not that pretty, but that I was a good person…

You have excuses for all of it. But own no shame. Only entitlement over your anger, over the right it gives you to never pay me back, even though you knew the monetary price was high, even though you promised to once you got here, even though you know that I was on my own, and that thanks to me, you are free.


My kind, soft-spoken, faithful Tia tells me to pray for you. That God grant you gratitude, appreciation, and compassion, so that you’ll be compelled to repay me.

“Tia,” I tell her, “Yo no le pido a Dios que me pague. Lo que le pido es que el dinero no me haga falta, para cuando me lo pague, le pueda decir que se lo meta por el culo.”

Because I’m furious too. With you. With myself.

I try not to dwell in our time together. It feels like the dream. Dark and muggy and suspicious. A place I stayed in too long. And if I pray for anything more, it’s that I forgive myself. Free myself. And that I find the strength to start again.

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