366 Days of Ofrendas

Today marks an entire year. That’s 365 days. Well, 366 actually, since this year was a leap year. Fuck that extra day. I wish it were fewer days. But more than that, I wish it was none at all. I wish I wasn’t counting days since you died. Does that sound morbid? I know the numbers will only grow with time. There will be no cutting them down or subtraction. It’s a number that will get bigger, and bigger, and bigger until it becomes too high to count. And at the beginning of that number, at -1, there you’ll be. You will always be stuck at -1. The number will grow, but you will not.

Your ofrenda has recently been cleaned. I don’t know if I ever told you this, but we like to remember our dead with pretty little altars. You definitely have your own. Remember how we used to have “the talk” with our respective partners? The one that went something like “hey, I have this really close friend and we have a lot of history, but it’s not romantic, but they’re very important to me”? Well, thanks to the ofrenda on my bookshelf, I am still having that talk with people. I point to it and with a straight face, say “oh that altar is for my dead best friend.” Deal with it.

The last few months, as I’ve written about, I’ve struggled to feel certain things. Sadness hasn’t really made an appearance lately. That’s good, right? Joy pops up sometimes, and that’s nice. But one feeling that I do have, most notably, is anger. When I see your picture, or when I think about this day one year ago, and everything about that time, I get angry. I get so angry that sometimes I can’t see straight. I want to grow wings and wreak havoc on strolling passersby like some sort of mutant gargoyle, or break all of the dishes in the house. But since I can’t do that, I settle for exercise. I run at full speed until my legs start to give out, or I punch a bag with every single drop of rage I can summon from my body. If it was socially acceptable to start screaming at the gym, I’d probably be doing that.

What about your body? Where is it now? That dirty blonde hair that went from long and floppy, streaked with gold, to short and cropped, clipped to the muddy roots, and then to none at all. Your eyes blue like a melted iceberg. What about those eyes? Your cupid’s bow that dipped just so to make a perfect pout. The chest hair that I loved to rub my face into. That tattoo on your hip that, in hindsight, you thought so silly.

Baby we’re so high.

Where is that body now? You’re sand in a box. You’re a trinket on a finger. You were whittled down with metal and heat. You’re living in a t-shirt. One of your t-shirts, one that you wore shortly before Day 0, is strange. No matter how many times I wash it, after wearing it once, it starts to smell a bit like mildew. Almost like your particles are still on it, and signaling me that it’s time to let them sink back into the earth because they’re starting to rot. 

I still wash it and wear it anyway. If all I have are nice memories and you in a t-shirt then I will take that. I’ll hold on, just in a small way. Not in a life-altering-I’m-going-crazy-ruined-for-others kind of way, I promise. I know you would hate that.

Your ofrenda has a few components. It’s on a little beaded mat that I got in Bahrain. I wasn’t sure what I’d use it for when I bought it, but I was drawn to it, and now it has a perfect purpose. There’s obviously a photo of you, as is standard. A photo of the person is essential, a selfie you had sent me a while back before you got sick. I try to maintain a fresh flower or two, though I’m not always successful (you know I can barely keep a plant alive). There’s a stick of palo santo, to cleanse the space. A big shell from Piha Beach in New Zealand, since you never got to make it down there. And a smaller shell from the beach we went to in Florida some years back. Even though I’m not a Catholic anymore, there’s a small rosary from El Salvador just in case. A lot of times I light the guardian angel candle. I don’t believe in angels. But sometimes lighting it makes me feel like you’re around, just visiting. And when I blow it out at night, I like to think that your visit is over, and we say goodnight, until next time.

I’m actually starting to feel kind of okay. I guess I’m “coping”, as they say. I don’t know why, but I hate the sound of that word. Maybe it’s that hard ‘c’ followed up by the ope. It just sounds offputting to me. But for the first time too, I’m allowing myself to feel angry. That’s usually an emotion that I try to erase with logic. It’s okay to be angry. It’s okay to feel everything, all at once. But I never carry that to your ofrenda. When I clean it or look at it, it’s with nothing but tenderness and well-wishing.

It’s been 366 days since you’ve been gone. If you’d like me to try to summon the forces of evil to resurrect you in some form, just send me a sign and I’d be happy to give it my best shot. But until then, I can only make one promise. I promise that I’ll keep going. Having you in my life for so many years, and so many of them being formative years, helped shaped me into the person that I am. Even after your death, you still influence my life so much. It’s because of you that I am better, that I strive to be better and more whole. And I’m looking forward to 366 more days of that.

All of my love, always


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