Cazador. I hadn’t seen him in ten years. As I remembered him, he had jet black hair, considerate eyes, and playful freckles that contrasted his sharp attire. He was a hard worker with big aspirations and the drive and intelligence to see them fulfilled. I had always admired him, and despite being older than him, I looked up to him. We had worked together as teenagers, we were friends and dated briefly. Not long after I returned to California, we reconnected on Facebook.
He was someone completely outside of my world, my situation. Someone who knew me before the chaos and the carnage. Before the scars. I could relay the ups and downs of the journey I was on. Everything that had happened over the years. I could talk. And he heard me. And I very much needed to feel heard.
He was charming and clever. He gave me compliments. He made me smile. It felt it had been such a long time since I smiled. He made me laugh. He made me blush. It was so incredibly delightful. And I relished every moment of the attention. I let him into my heart. I told him everything. Someone that I hadn’t seen in years. My thoughts. Fears. My hopes for the future. My concerns for the boys. I trusted him.
He told me that I needed someone. I needed someone to take care of me and the boys. Yes. I do. I need someone. After all these years of hardship and pain and difficulty. To just have a normal life. A healthy husband. A whole family. Someone to share life with. Someone that could love me and appreciate me. Someone who was well enough to actually be a husband to me. Not a patient, but a real husband. The idea was magnetic. And I pined for it. Sure it was soon after Dean was gone, I knew that people would have their opinions. They always did.
The phone conversations got longer and more frequent. I grew more and more attached to him. The idea of seeing him. The romance of it all. He started talking about moving to California.
He was a buoy. Where I was treading water in an ocean of pain that threatened to drag me to its darkest depths. How could I know? That buoy I was grabbing would become a lead weight.
He hinted that he was low on cash. That he just needed to be floated some money while he was waiting for a check. I was happy to help, what harm could it do? It was just for a couple of weeks. Although, I couldn’t explain the twinge of uncertainty I felt.
At night I would dream about Dean. He is yellow and sick. He is chasing me. He catches up to me. He grabs my arm. I knew it, I knew it would never end. I knew he would never die. I would wake up breathless. Terrified. Tormented by the memories of his last weeks. His falls. His deterioration. His smile. His frailty. The unfairness of it all. The memories would hit me all at once. Each one, a brick. Smashing me. A tidal wave of grief. On the ground, I would bury my face in the carpet. Sobs. Hitting the floor with my fist. Screaming into a pillow.
It should have been you.
It’s your fault, you gave up on him.
Everyone wishes that he was the one who lived. He was a better person than you.
He would’ve handled it better.
I could see him. Images of him looking at me. Talking to me. On his crutches. In bed. Those eyes. Those blue eyes looking into me.
Crash. Smash. Wave after wave. Until I was spent. Squeezed of every last tear. Purged of every last sob. Head throbbing. Limbs limp.
Exhausted from the high seas of grief. The relentless watery struggle. The current that threatened to take me.
Cazador needed me to come to New York. He wanted to rent a moving truck to drive to California, but didn’t have a valid driver’s license to do it.
“C’mon babe. It’ll be great. Drive across the country together. We’ll be able to talk the whole way. What a great thing to get to do together. You can spend a day here in New York. I’ll take you around to see some of the sights. You’ll love it. I need you babe. I really need you to do this.”
My heart and head seemed said two different things, but spontaneity won out.
I left the boys with my mom and her husband. I got on a plane. I went to New York.
And it set me on a course of events that would be devastating.