Tag Archives: divorce

Savannah

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I’ve been best friends with Savannah since 7th grade, when we were forced into a partnership based solely on the fact that we were the only two middle schoolers who lived in Dixie Cove, the cul-de-sac where we lived, across the street from each other, for six years.

We sold lemonade together at yard sales, we tried to fry an egg on the sidewalk one particularly Texas-y summer, we carved our names into the fresh cement when new development began, and we somehow managed to survive our adolescence as two of the most awkward and weird kids to ever exist. I mean, we even had a “band” called Red Ink and we sold cassette tapes to our friends for five bucks, recording each cassette individually, with a song about the “client” added in. We saved up about $65 and decided to spend it going to a restaurant called The Magic Time Machine, where the staff dress up as various movie characters. We thought we were just about the coolest people on the planet.

Savannah had the crazy house—two yappy sisters, two yappy Pomeranians, an insanely bi-polar mother, and just…constant chaos. There was always a mess and there was always pizza. I absolutely loved it. I had the complete opposite—no siblings, strict rules, and endless quiet. Going to Savannah’s was like watching TV. I could sit on the couch and be entertained for hours, just observing.

Now we’re 30 and it’s kind of funny how some things haven’t changed much.

The other night, she came over with her Mary Poppins bag of who-knows-what, whipped out her eyelash curler, traded her Crocs for more acceptable shoes, and we went to a nearby bar. By the end of the night, she’d danced with a few guys (including an engaged fireman who was almost a decade younger than us) even though the bar wasn’t exactly a dancing type of bar… She made a group of men move over, away from the outdoor heater, so that we could sit by the heater. Then she made them buy us a pitcher of beer. She took the pitcher onstage and gave it to the drummer, proceeding to dance onstage with the singer. Back at my apartment, she raided my fridge while I was in the bathroom. She’d started to make us “tacos”. I let her finish, although I knew my fridge didn’t exactly have taco ingredients in it. She drove back to the bar to get her purse. She drove back over to my apartment. I sat back all night, just watching with wide eyes, like I’ve always done, sipping my drink, halfway wishing I could join her in her revelries and halfway wondering when I should pump the breaks on the whole spectacle. Then she drove to some guy’s place for “Fireball Friday,” which is really just them taking shots of Fireball until they have sex and pass out. Then she went home to her husband and son.

I think when you grow up in chaos, it becomes the only way you know how to live. And then there’s me—never quite getting the hang of drawing outside of the lines. Who’s to say which life is better or more lived than the other.

Savs is hands down the most fun human I’ve ever met. I NEVER have a better time with anyone else. We can go grocery shopping and have a blast. But she also has this pain and sadness and suffering that I can’t do anything about. No one can do anything about it—it’s just there, eating her away and maybe invisible to people who haven’t known her for two decades.

I’ve never known what to do or say—not when we were twelve and her mom would scream never-ending obscenities at her and not now when her husband does much worse and she leaves him for the fifth time.

It’s the perpetual paradox of Savannah, the happiest and simultaneously most depressed person to ever exist. A consistent mix of laughter, white tootsie rolls and mini bottles of vodka lining her purse, an amazing mother and a cheap drunk, never has more than 17 dollars or so but always shows up when you really need her to. I hope she knows that the same goes for me—I’ll show up for her whenever and wherever. My place is her place; my chaos-free life is hers to sprinkle some wild on whenever she needs to. She and her son can move in at any time of any day. I hope they do.

We can’t go back to when we’d lay on my trampoline and plot out our future adventures—we had so many ideas and dreams. When we were 30, we were going to be filthy rich, traveling the world together in our private jet. Our realities are so far from perfection, but one thing is for sure. A friendship that’s lasted this long isn’t really a friendship anymore—it doesn’t even feel right to call her family, because it’s almost more than that. It’s like Savs is a chunk of my soul. I’m always going to be hurting a little bit if she’s out there somewhere, hurting. I’m always going to try to mend and fix what only she can mend and fix. Until then, I’ll be here friend-sister-soul. If you need to take a few shots and belt the lyrics to “Goodbye Earl” at the top of our lungs, I’m here. If you need to cry and watch 15 hours of Christmas movies, I’m here. If you need to dance until the clubs close and then keep dancing through the whole Uber ride home, I’m here. If you just need to raid my fridge and make mystery tacos, I’m here.

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Selfless

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I guess it’s time I write about Uncle Chuck. I mean, I kind of already wrote about him here. But I mean write about his death, which is weird since I think I’m still in the denial phase…

I couldn’t decide what I wanted to write…all my other blogs (try to) have a common theme of sorts. There are just so many thoughts, so many emotions, so much roller coaster bullshit that I could write about this past week.

I want to write about my Aunt Gigi and how she’s dealing with this and how we now know how much Uncle Chuck actually took care of her. She didn’t even know where the keys to the house were. He did everything for her—drove her everywhere, paid all the bills, cooked every meal…

I want to write about how you don’t have to be blood related to be family. He was the closest thing I’ve ever had to a real grandfather—he’s actually the only man who’s been there for me every day since I was born. He was a father when I didn’t have one, a grandfather when I didn’t have one, always an uncle, always a friend, and always trying to fatten me up with carne guisada.

I want to write about my first real funeral experience. How I don’t want to put my family through a viewing, a rosary, a second viewing, a terribly long and mournful ceremony, and on and on… Catholics just can’t get enough of the whole drawn-out sadness, huh? No thank you. Give everyone a tiny bit of my ashes to toss on their next cool vacation and throw a BBQ where everyone has to wear yellow and share a hilarious story about me. Something like that. No priest who had never even heard of me and no hail Marys.

I want to write about seeing all the familiar faces of my childhood. All the Mendez’s whom I’ve grown up without, who kinda look like me, who are kinda crazy like me. I want to write about how strange it was for my dad to be there, the best shoulder to cry on, amongst all of his wife’s ex-husband’s familia. I want to write about how weird it was to realize that he was closer to Uncle Chuck than my real father was, who didn’t even show up. And how Mom, not even part of Aunt Gigi’s family any more at all, is like her daughter—the one Aunt Gigi asks for help going to the bathroom.

But mostly, I want to write about how amazing Uncle Chuck was. I’ve never met anyone more selfless. I don’t think I ever witnessed him doing something solely for himself. He always talked about wanting to play guitar and travel the world, but he never did it. He bought a guitar, but spent all his time putting in hours at the courthouse or tending to the yard or cooking Mexican food better than any gringo I’ve ever met.

When I was little, if I wanted French fries from McDonald’s, a bean and cheese from Taco Cabana, and a soda from the gas station, he would go to all three without question. If I wanted to stop and see the cows, he would pull over and “Moooooo!” with me for as long as I wanted. And best of all, he would let me do his hair!

He was that guy who was constantly offering and giving—do you want a beer? Do you need advice? Do you need gas money? Do you want to take these 10 pounds of leftover rice and beans so you don’t have to cook for weeks? No Uncle Chuck, no, no, no thank you!

I will miss saying no to all those things, Charles Gordon. I will miss your wrinkly kisses on my cheek, the familiar sight of you in a plain white t-shirt (the only thing he ever wore), and your dirty jokes that were always unexpected and always hilarious. I will miss Aunt Gigi yelling your name and watching you ignore her in the most creative ways. I will miss your big, droopy ears and how easy you were to shop for (house slippers, every year). I will miss sometimes saying yes to the rice and beans and I will miss you, Uncle Chuck, so, so, so incredibly much.

Over Half a Century

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My great aunt and uncle have been married since they were in high school, back when everyone was appalled that tiny, loud, Mexican Gloria Mendez would marry tall, lanky, quiet, country, white boy Charles Gordon. I think people were mostly appalled by the race thing, but also, the teenagers could not have been more different.

Somehow, after 60 years, they’re still together. She yells at him from all over the house—“Chuck! CHUCK!”—and he either can’t hear or pretends to not be able to hear. She still buys earrings like most people buy milk and he cooks the carne guisada she taught him how to make better than her now.

After I was with my ex for a couple years, they decided to buy a set of $500 Wolfgang Puck pots and pans for our future wedding… I recently convinced them to go ahead and give them to me now. They could never have children, so I guess I’m the closest thing they have. It’s just been the two of them in their house forever—complete with cars they hardly use, a massive parlor that smells like dust, purple carpet, a glittered ceiling, and a retro bar (also never used).

They are quirky to say the least. Very old and very old fashioned. Very annoying at times (they call me every other day and almost every time, ask me if I’ve met any boys). But they really do love each other. They still hold hands and she still gets lipstick on his wrinkly cheek.

I often wonder if they have some sort of secret—some magic recipe that no one seems to be passing on—the ingredients of how to never get divorced. They took me out to dinner last week and this is what was said on the matter:

Aunt Gigi: “People always say, ‘You have such a beautiful marriage!’ and I just say, ‘That’s what YOU think!’ Live while you can, Miss Alysha Mendez. Cause now, I gotta tell this man everything I’m doing all the time. I miss being my own boss of everything!” Purses her lips and looks at Uncle Chuck with disgust but then blows him a kiss.

Uncle Chuck: “There was this woman trying to get me back before we got married. She was ugly as homemade soap, trying to get me in bed! The fun is over once you reach a certain age. Now it’s just pat it and say goodnight!” Cackles and sips his margarita as I cringe.

Aunt Gigi: “If I ever have to put him in a nursing home and some young, blonde nurse is trying to give him a sponge bath, I’m gonna be right there with a bat saying, ‘WHAT DO YOU WANT?!’ You just take your time, honey. Take your time. We’re gonna like anybody you like. But have you met anyone? If you got it, flaunt it! And you got it, baby. If you have an itch, you better scratch it! Buy those short skirts!”

I can’t make this stuff up. I walked away laughing my ass off, like I usually do when I see the two crazy love birds, but gaining no secret, no magic ingredients, no knowledge whatsoever. They held hands, she yelled at him, she wiped lipstick from his cheek, and I dropped them off at their purple carpeted, glittered ceilinged house. Just another day.

Does this kind of thing still exist? How do you not get tired of all the little things? How do you not kill each other? How do you stay in love for over half a century? I feel like it’s almost impossible these days. But I want it, ya know? We all want it. I want that whole someone by your side, skin sagging simultaneously thing. Minds turning to mush so that the only way you can remember anything is by using what little is left in both heads. It might sound depressing, but it’s also quite poetic, right? Someone’s wrinkles to leave lipstick on.

Growing Old

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        I wrote the following when I was staying with my grandmother in San Antonio last year. She’s one of the best people I’ve ever met–full of stories–my favorite kind of person is one who is full of stories. But she’s also probably the loneliest person I’ve ever met. I’ve realized that I’m not afraid of aging. I’m afraid of the combination of old and lonely and divorced and depressed and stuck in a place I despise, full of stories. My grandma is a writer; I am a writer. She and I both love books and judging people and Luby’s (almost as much as we love books, to be honest). I guess that’s the way it is with family. There are so many things (whether you realize them or not) that you’re already emulating or you want or wish you could emulate…but then, in other ways, you strive to be that person’s utter opposite. It has sadly become one of my life goals, to be yellow where she is black. But I know she would approve.
         I am learning about growing old. My grandma teaches me about it every Monday and Wednesday, when I spend the night to save a little gas. She lives right by my office, in the same house she’s been in since she was young and working, having babies, married, and happy from what I hear. Now it’s the same house, but empty and stale, just her and two snoring dogs and one annoying, chirping bird. It used to be filled with laughter and cooking. Now it’s filled with stuff…stuff that she stares at and then says, “I wonder who will ever want this once I’m gone…” Stuff like her teapot collection, her spoon collection, her stamp collection, and her Princess Diana doll.
          I always say, “Grandma, you don’t even need to be thinking about that, it’s too early,” even though I know it’s not. And now the only cooking she does is toast with blackberry jam. She drinks her tea, eats from a tin of English cookies, and always has a full bowl of fruit on the table ready to be a centerpiece for the guests who never come. I am learning about growing old.
          “I like your sunglasses,” she says in such an innocent voice, begging me to love her, listen to her, be her friend, pay attention to her, notice her. She laughs at all my jokes and tells me about things she read in the newspaper or saw on TV. She is so much like her youngest granddaughter, although they are 80 years apart.
          On love life, she’s bitter and cold. She tells me about her only true love, buried in England, never really knowing how she felt. Her pale blue eyes are lost in 60+ year-old memories, forgetting I’m there. At that moment, I wish with all my might that she’s right in believing that Heaven exists, just so she’ll get to tell him, to be with him. She believes in God but not love. I believe in love, but not God. I’m worried that time will switch these beliefs.
          She tells me things I shouldn’t know about my Papa. I’d rather have the facade of some people. She tells me about being alone for over 40 years now. “Who would’ve wanted someone like me anyway? Too old, too poor, and four kids. It was too much.” She scares me, she’s created a fear inside of me–of pining after a grave of I-wonders and what-ifs. I am learning about growing old.
          She criticizes the world without hesitation. “People just used to be nicer, better,” she says over breakfast, as she scans headlines. “Things just used to be so much simpler,” she says when I explain my marketing job. “You know, you used to be able to go to the store and find all the good brands. Now the stores all have their own brand and that’s all you can find,” she says, shaking her head sadly at a box of blueberry muffins. “But your generation doesn’t care about that kind of stuff, do you?” I shrug my shoulders and grin.
          What am I supposed to say to that? I want to say, “No, we don’t. It’s cheaper and it tastes the exact same.” But I don’t want to shatter any protective walls. She’s built them up around her for decades. You can almost see the cloud of pessimism and depression around her. She hates this country, she hates this time period, and she hates store brands. I am learning about growing old.