When do you grieve for someone?
Several years ago a friend of mine called me to let me know that Victor Manuel Ruiz Gonzalez had died. Victor had been my first boyfriend, the guy who took me to senior prom, my ever-loyal enamorado. He was my best friend’s brother in junior high and became my boyfriend when I was 14. It didn’t last long, we broke up over a fight about nothing. I didn’t speak to him for more than a year. When I finally did start talking to him again it was to spite someone else. Not exactly the nicest thing I’ve ever done, but it did make us friends again.
Victor was the guy that hung around me and my friends. I was always very clear with him. But I guess he figured that as long as I didn’t have another boyfriend he still had a chance. And I never did have another boyfriend, at least not while I was in Mexico. And, because I knew he would never misunderstand, I asked him to be my date to prom. I remember that he brought me flowers that day. And I remember that we had a great time. And then I moved away.
My childhood bedroom is filled with tokens of his affection. Little things that my romantic soul couldn’t get rid of. And he remained my enamorado, even going so far as sending me a letter here in Houston asking if there was a chance we might ever get back together. And I never answered the letter.
I heard he got married shortly after that. Four months later, he died in a car accident. And I grieved. I felt so sad, so sorry. I had known him for so long and had nothing but good memories of him. I didn’t even get a chance to go to the funeral.
Yesterday I received another phone call. The other all-consuming male presence in my teenage life, Gabriel Ybañez Ybarra, died the day before. Gabriel was my first truly physical relationship. I could look into his beautiful brown eyes and feel irritation, excitement and friendship. Frequently all at the same time. And I loved it.
Gabriel was the bad boy, the guy I wasn’t supposed to like. He drank, he smoked, he got into fights a lot. He was guy all the girls wanted. He was nice to me and he made me want to do things that good girls didn’t. And I loved it.
Describing my relationship with Gabriel has always been difficult. We were friends. He was never my boyfriend. It was never anything serious. He respected my personality and loved to argue with me about everything. We liked to spend time together. We got along. And then I moved away.
I grieved for Gabriel 6 years ago when I found out that he had been sent to jail. His sister is married to my uncle and I’ve kept up with him through her. He was caught up in the drug trade in Mexico and was sentenced to 20 years. I can’t imagine being buried alive for 20 years. Having everybody else go on with their lives while yours is stuck in limbo. Even though a part of me wants to say that he knew what he was getting into, a part of me felt very saddened by it. And I grieved for his loss.
I cannot feel the sadness I should right now. He’s dead. D-E-A-D. Why don’t I feel anything but a pale sort of distress? Shouldn’t I be grieving for him now? Or did I do all my grieving when he went to prison? Is it really that simple? I can’t believe that my heart and my mind would have written him out simply because he was behind bars. Or maybe I saw this coming and did my suffering ahead of time.
No matter what the reason, my soul está de luto. The two most important guys in my teenage life — my first loves, I suppose you could say — are gone forever.