Yesterday was the two-year anniversary of the passing of my cousin.
It had actually slipped my mind that this anniversary was approaching because my sister was preparing to move back to school so I was spending a majority of my time with her and my mom. What caused me to remember the anniversary was that I started thinking about my cousin more than I usually do.
I always think about her…but this was different. She was at the forefront of my mind when I woke up and thoughts of her were affecting my mood more strongly than usual. It wasn’t until a couple days of this that I remembered the anniversary of her death was approaching.
I’ve been practicing strengthening my intuition by simply using it more, so intuitively, I felt that she was reaching out to me. Perhaps she wanted some attention or perhaps I subconsciously wanted to actively remember her, or both. So, I decided to start talking to her.
It may seem a little unusual, it’s a little unusual to talk about it honestly….but it feels right to me.
I talk to her when I’m driving, which is usually to my girlfriend’s house because I don’t really drive anywhere else. The drive is about an hour, thus it’s a decent amount of time to talk to my cousin about what I’ve been up to, thoughts/feelings that I have, and I also ask her some questions. Sometimes she asks me questions.
My cousin was like an older sister to me, so allowing myself to communicate with her is…comforting and familiar. I used to call her frequently and she was always there to provide the insight that only an older sister can offer. I don’t have an older sister, in fact, I am the older sister to my sister, so the relationship I had with my cousin was and still is really special.
Another way that I’ve been remembering and honoring my cousin is by rewatching Freaks and Geeks, which is a show she had told me to watch during my sophomore year of college, and we had talked frequently about it. It’s a perfect show to watch as autumn approaches too.
At the end of the day, the little things I’ve been doing to remember my cousin are more focused on who she was to me when she was alive on Earth rather than focusing on how devastating it is that she is gone and feeling solemn that she isn’t growing with our family anymore.
To me, it’s more important to remember the life one had as well as acknowledging their spirit. It reminds me of some of the African spiritual practices I’ve read about in Jambalaya, which I haven’t finished yet but I highly recommend it. So many cultures have traditions for their ancestors…I want to make my own for my cousin as well as my other ancestors. I don’t know what I’m going to do yet but I will let y’all know what I decide to do!
Please provide me with inspiration! How do you remember and honor your ancestors?
My reflection is dark and difficult to see in my glass. It’s a passionate red mixed with the heaviness of black, of nothingness. Or it’s blood that is bled slowly. Painfully.
I frown, and so does my reflection. This annoys me. What does she have to frown about? I bet her life on the other side of the wine glass is fantastic, I mean, she gets to swim in wine all of the time!
I may sound a little jealous of her, but I’m not. My life isn’t not fantastic, it’s just difficult right now. Wine-glass women probably don’t deal with any of life’s challenges, whereas normal people, like me, do.
I swirl the merlot around and I guess my reflection gets scared by the sudden tsunami because it disappears. Finally, I’m alone at last, lone for the screeching crickets on the other side of my front porch.
My knees begin to pinch so I uncross them from underneath me and rest them on the small foldable side table in front of me. A mosquito must’ve smelled my freshly exposed legs because it immediately begins to fly around them, so I swat it away. I should head back inside soon. First I want to finish my last glass of wine.
I take a meager sip and the bitterness of the fermented juice bites the tip of my tongue. Then I take a gulp and it burns my throat, but not as much as it did with the first glass. Still, I relish the slight pain and the way the wine causes my balance to swirl.
I down the rest of the glass. The rest of the expensive wine is gone at last. Thus, any remnants of him are gone too. I set the glass down on the table, next to my feet. Don’t drunkenly knock it down when I get up, I stress to myself.
Leaning back in my rocking chair, I close my eyes and succumb to the deafening screeching of the crickets. I reflect. I feel good…not great, but good. I feel different than how I was expecting to feel though. I thought that finally being done warranted a celebration, but instead it just feels a little empty. Not necessarily in a bad way. There’s just more room in my heart for other people.
Satisfied with this conclusion of a chapter in my life, I rock forward and pull my feet off of the table, and my feet gracefully knock the wine glass to the ground. Shit.
© 2018 Vic Romero
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
Despite how heavy my foot was on the gas, it felt like we were driving in slow-motion. I was weaving around the cars in my way and tailgating them as my dad clutched his side and dry heaved into a plastic bag. I had never driven so recklessly and aggressively.
I pulled to the front of the emergency room and he pulled himself out, hobbling toward the door. I quickly parked in the deck and with shaky hands, I put on my sweatshirt and sprinted to the ER after him. He was already inside, sitting in a wheelchair and checking himself in when I arrived. He had stopped shouting in pain and was relatively calm as he sat there.
They told him a room would be available in a few minutes as they wheeled him to the side to wait. Suddenly, his calm expression broke into one of agony and his mouth opened wide to verbally release the torture his body was causing him. I rubbed his back and reminded him to breathe deeply, hoping it would pacify him. It did not. He continued to cry and shout in the waiting room while people checked in. Then he started vomiting into a plastic bag. I got him tissues to wipe his face and I asked the administrator when the room would be ready. I was impatient at this point.
Fifteen minutes later, a nurse slowly meandered over and wheeled him to the room he would spend the next six hours in. Ironically, it was the same room he had spent nine hours in, the same time last year. That time was for a different emergency though.
After several hours, multiple doses of pain medication, and many tests, the doctor diagnosed him with kidney stones. He was able to pass it in the hospital and be released the same day.
Life is obviously uncertain, but it didn’t use to scare me as much as it does now. My cousin’s death has completely transformed the way I perceive the world and it has caused me to raise questions that I otherwise wouldn’t have asked or even considered. While I feel like I have more compassion and gratitude for life, I have also come to recognize as life as being very fragile. This has caused me to develop fears that I did not use to have. Some of the fears are silly while others make more sense but… I haven’t seemed to overcome them all yet.
The terrifying experience I had with my dad on Monday as well as the volcanic tragedy in Guatemala, among many other tragedies that people experience, has caused me to reexamine the reality that life is fragile.
I had shared this realization with the grief group I used to attend about two years ago now. Many of my peers had solemnly nodded their heads in agreement as I shared my concerns and worries about this fact. The therapist, however, raised the question: how do you deal with uncertainty?
One method for coping that my peers came up with included acknowledging the challenges we had faced previously and that anything that comes next can be overcome too. Another idea was to focus on the present rather than worrying about what might never occur.
Since I’ve been learning more about yoga philosophy for my yoga training, I’ve learned another effective method for challenging my fears is to be in a state of mind that is described in the Yoga Sutras, which is upeksha, or “indifference.” I learned about this idea in an article from The Yoga Journal written by Frank Jude Boccio titled, “Calm within.”
Boccio deems it is more apt to regard upeksha as “equanimity” rather than “indifference.” He defines equanimity as “a state of even-minded openness that allows for a balanced, clear response to all situations, rather than a response born of reactivity or emotion.” He adds that it is a balanced state of mind and heart. It allows one to experience pleasure and pain without clinging to it or condemning it. In other words, equanimity is about experiencing life and different situations without judging it as good or bad and therefore, maintaining an emotional detachment from it.
For example, my dad had kidney stones and needed to be hospitalized. It’s not good or bad, it just happened. He was able to get the care he needed to alleviate his pain through hospitalization, and he was working from home that day which enabled me to drive him there. So..while it may seem unfortunate that he had to be hospitalized for this condition, it was actually perfect timing and everything panned out well. In the moment, however, it was scary and awful but it needed to happen this way. If he was at work, he would’ve been taken to a hospital that was further away and it would, therefore, take the rest of my family longer to get to him.
Equanimity is also about realizing that while you can’t be responsible for nor can you control what happens in life, you can control your reactions. I controlled my reaction by driving him to the hospital, and I let the doctors take control of the situation.
The last aspect of equanimity as Boccio describes it is that you have to open your heart while simultaneously letting go of expectations and attachment to results. This aligns with what I’ve been reading in the Bhagavad Gita, which is Hindu scripture traditionally written in Sanskrit. It is part of several books of epic poetry.
The god, Krishna, tells a warrior, Arjuna, that it is important to act for the action’s sake, and not for the results, whether that be success or failure. This equanimity is yoga. (The physical aspect of yoga that is the most popularized is only one limb of yoga philosophy. Yoga is actually a more comprehensive philosophy with eight limbs).
I believe this type of mindset and state of being would be beneficial to me and it is something that I would like to practice in both my asana practice as well as in meditation. This way I can keep a level head when difficult situations emerge and I can also live with less fear than what I live with now.
How do y’all feel about equanimity? How do you live with uncertainty?
The glossiness of the dark wooden casket reflected my teary-eyed face. I have never cried so much in my life, and I’ve never been so devasted by a death before. Your death was unexpected, not that death is ever really expected…it was an accident.
My mom squeezed my shoulder when she touched the smooth surface of the box in which your body lied. Your sister, your parents, and the rest of your family were all there, desperately trying to connect with you through this touch. Most of us didn’t get to see you one last time before we buried you…because it was an accident. It was probably better that the only memories I have of you are from when you were alive anyway.
My parents did see you in the critical condition you were in though: they were the first ones at the hospital. You wouldn’t have known that though because according to the doctors, you were brain-dead upon impact. My mom said she had clutched your feet when you were lying there, in the hospital bed. Now, we all touch the wooden casket, seeking some form of relief from it. Trying to connect with you.
As my family drove through mountainous farmland on the winding roads to where your body lies, I reflected on how you would have felt about the location. You hated the suburbs, let alone the rural atmosphere of Virginia. You had made it clear that you aspired to be in the city since your decision to attend Pittsburg University, and then later by moving to Jersey City and then to Newark. You were getting closer and closer to Manhattan, but you never had the chance move across the Hudson River.
When my dad parked the car and we ambled out, the entire family encircled your gravestone. It was beautifully engraved, and your mom ensured that you had fresh flowers daily. We prayed, and then we cried, and then we laughed…reminiscing about our lives with you. Honored to have gotten to know you. By connecting with each other about the past, we reconnected with you.
I walked around to the back of the gravestone and noticed the depiction of the city skyline. I remember that I thought…that it looked like the city crossed the Hudson River to come to you.
Happy 27th birthday.
© 2018 Vic Romero
All Rights Reserved.
all this is, is a fling
i remind myself as you grab my waist
all this is, is a fling
i repeat in my head as you hasten
to pull your shirt over your muscular back
allowing my fingertips to explore the expanse of your chest
inhibitions, we lack
all this is, is a fling
i feel the words form in my mouth
but then your tongue pushes its way in
knocking them out
your body forces me down onto your bed
your body covers mine
and you seek to pull apart my threads
all this is, is a fling
i grapple with the meaning of those words
because i constantly seem to forget
my heart subverts
these fucking words in my head
your lips are kissing and sucking down my body now
i’m so hot and turned on now
you’re torturing me
both physically and emotionally
why can’t you fucking stay?
why can’t you please fucking stay?
all this is, is a fling
i clench my teeth when i remember
that there is no future come the spring
because you’re leaving at the end of december
this is just a fling, Vic
i finally accept it
and every time i do, i feel sick
but then that feeling is quickly replaced with elation
© 2018 Vic Romero
All Rights Reserved
Of a forlorn face
In the grimy window
Of the bus as it creaks along.
I try my hardest to look beyond it
To look at the landscape as we drive along
But the grimy windows don’t seem to permit it.
The white smoke escapes my lips
While black tar enters my lungs
I sigh, in bliss
My head buzzing and ears ringing
Enjoying the silence from the cold evening
Later, I reenter the party
Mingle and mix with everybody
And smile because for this one night,
I’m not lonely
Even later, there are
Dark bedrooms and
Faceless bodies with
Forgettable names but
The absence of a heartbeat.
In the form of a woman
Caramel skin and dark,
A soft smile when her lips say my name
The golden sunlight-
An unwelcome guest
Shines through the cracks
Of the closed blinds
Seeping through the thin skin
Of my eyelids
Making itself known
The sunlight illuminates the caramel skin
Of the woman wrapped in the sheets
Entangled in my limbs
Eventually, I succumb to its insistence
That I arise
I disentangle my limbs and
I welcome the sun
To this new day
Stretching my arms over my body
Then folding over my feet
Bowing in respect
To be alive
© 2018 Vic Romero
All rights reserved.
I stared up at the ceiling fan as it whirled overhead. It was attempting to provide a breeze in the sweltering evening heat but to little avail. My oversized t-shirt clung to my back, sticky with perspiration. I raised my feet into the air, feeling the slight breeze tickle my soles. Then I rolled onto my right side and stared directly into the electric fan. The wind it created was aggressive and loud. My hair blew off of my face and I sighed blissfully.
Then my phone pinged.
I glanced at it, unamused, and snatched it off of the chipping, white side table. It was Ashley.
I heard what happened to you and Tom. I’m so sorry.
I frowned and turned off my phone. She’s not sorry, she is probably thrilled that he’s now available. She always liked him. I could tell by the way she looked at him and how she talked to him.
I rolled back onto my back and resumed staring into the ceiling fan, hoping to be hypnotized into a deep sleep.
Sleep. What a foreign concept to me at this point. I haven’t slept since we broke up a week ago. It’s been even longer since I’ve slept alone. Two years. It’s been two years…I don’t know how to sleep alone anymore.
I closed my eyes, hoping that if I pretended to be asleep, I’d eventually trick myself into falling asleep this time. Instead of looking at the back of my eyelids though, I was confronted by Tom’s face hovering over me, illuminated by the moon through the window. He was smiling mischievously, some locks of his golden hair falling into his eyes. Then I felt his warm, calloused fingers draw circles on my right arm. His breath was warm when he leaned in and whispered in my ear, “Tell me what you want.”
I smiled, relieved that he was back. He tenderly kissed my face, but when I tried to kiss him, he shook his head, his grin widening.
“Tell me first,” he said, kissing my neck. The sensation sent chills down my body, and simultaneously ignited my skin. “Tell me what you want.”
I slid my hand across my hot stomach and brushed the top of my pubic bone.
“I want you,” I gasped as my fingers dipped lower, probingly.
“What do you want me to do?” he asked, kissing his way down my chest.
My touch sent a wave of warmth over my body. “I want you to…” I panted.
“What do you want me to do?” he asked, looking into my eyes.
“I want you to—”
Then my body shook, and everything felt like it was on fire.
When my breathing slowed and I relaxed, I whispered, “I want you to be here.” I opened my eyes expectedly as if I had just performed a spell to summon him. All I saw though, was the whirling ceiling fan in my dark room. I was alone.
My face crumbled. The satisfaction that I created dissipated and tears streamed down my cheeks.
© 2018 Vic Romero – Performance Poetics Spring 2018
We ignited quickly,
The sparks between us
Became consuming flames
We burned bright
On dark, cold nights.
It was refreshing
To inhale you
And to exhale loneliness
You may have been comforting,
But you weren’t good for me
You sucked out all my oxygen,
Filled my lungs with tar,
And singed my fingers.
I had held onto your fire
For far too long
So I let you go…
Dropped you to the ground
To find a way out
Of your ensnarement.
You were addictive, though.
A couple of days would pass,
But I could never last
For very long
Without your fire
© 2017 Vic Romero – Creative Writing Fall 2017
Read the original version of this piece here.
you will be dumbfounded
your heart will plummet
into the depths of your stomach
as the whole world before you
as if the entire universe
was shoved into a dryer
on someone’s shoulder
you haven’t seen
since you were a newborn
all cluster together,
donning dark colors
touching the glossy wood
of the coffin
the magnitude of death
will feel heavy
need to sit
and your aunt
will comfort you
when you call her up
because you start to forget her voice-
but the line has been disconnected
when her seat at the table for the holidays
year after year
when her sister
has become an only child
when you get older
and she doesn’t-
the passing of time just means
that she’s been gone longer
you will understand
the finality of death
© 2017 Vic Romero – Creative Writing Fall 2017
On December 22nd, my girlfriend unexpectedly had to put her dog, Angel, down.
I accompanied her to the vet, which was two hours away, and the doctor’s prognosis was that the dog had a large tumor across the front of her neck, and she recommended a veterinary hospital to visit.
The following day, we were able to take her dog to the hospital, which was earlier than the original appointment we had had. When my girlfriend put angel in the backseat beside me, she was in worse shape than the day prior. This time she was drooling a ton and wouldn’t even prop herself up; she just lied beside me. I petted her head for a bit while my girlfriend drove, but then after about fifteen minutes, Angel started coughing a lot and had a seizure. She was gagging on her saliva. The rest of the drive to the hospital was very stressful.