Having just acquired a new slot as a fashion columnist for my school’s digital news publication just two weeks ago, I was excited to start writing about frivolous things for a change.
I named the column “The Los Angeles Shoe Diaries” because I figured that if there was one thing I could write about, amidst the stresses of grad school and my own messy life, it was shoes.
I had been a columnist before, for the youth section of a Philippine newspaper. In fact, you were one of the first people who congratulated me on it, even if we had lost touch over the years. You even took the time to critique my work and read several of my articles afterwards. I knew this next step of mine was sort of a step back from the ideals of groundbreaking, inspiring journalism. In fact, I half expected a message from you to express your disdain at the fact that I had reverted to the easy stuff, at the very least a furrowed brow during our next encounter.
Now I will never get that critique.
The last time I saw you, we were both happy. It was a few days before last Christmas.
You had met the love of your life and I introduced you to mine. He was the one, I was sure of it. I let you two talk because you both shared a passion for cinema that I could not comprehend and I wanted him to feel a connection with at least one person at our snoozefest of a family reunion.
We left early. I wanted to take him out, show him a good time in Manila. My mom said you sat by yourself for a while.
I still haven’t forgiven myself for that.
The alleged love of my life, the man I was so certain I would marry, left me last summer.
A week ago, I found out that I had lost you forever.
As I sat down to write the very first entry for my new column, I broke down in tears. All I could think about was that I had lost you. I tried to type but instead, I found myself exhausting online search engines, going through every single news article and watching every single news package to make sense of what had happened. I didn’t understand. It was so soon and so senseless, how you had left this world.
One of the news videos I saw included crime scene photos.
I saw your body. Your long arms and legs were lifeless, splayed as you lay there on the floor of your father’s house, in a pool of blood.
I collapsed to the floor, wailing, weeping, pounding my balled up fists against my moss green carpet as I cursed the universe for taking you away. How could something so horrific happen to one of the sweetest, gentlest, most optimistic and idealistic person I knew? Did I even know you that well at that point? Was it my fault that we, family, had drifted so far?
What I imagined was going to be a simple task—writing a stupid article in the first person about a pair of shoes, something you would have laughed at me for—turned out to be one of the hardest things I have ever done in my life. But I wrote it. I imagined you there, shaking your head at me, scolding me for being dramatic at a time when I needed to get my words out there, or at least to perform a simple exercise that would hone my craft. It took me five hours to finish a 700-word column.
As the deadline approached for my second article, I sat at my laptop to write about a second pair of shoes that had meant something in my life.
When my fingertips touched the keyboard, the title they yielded was, “The shoes I would have worn to your funeral.”
For its dark nature, I will never submit this column.
But for you, Alexis, I will write it.
My parents understood that my class schedule here in Los Angeles could not permit me to fly home for your funeral. That is what I am sure they told the rest of the family. But the truth of the matter is that I refused to come home. I could not, would not see you like that, lifeless when you loved life so much, leaving this world that desperately needed you to stay in it.
It was one thing to have lost the man with whom I wanted to spend the rest of my life with. It was a whole other universe of pain for me to have lost the man who I thought would be there for me for the rest of my life.
I feel as though each of our encounters were precedented by some horrible event in my life. Every chance we got to hung out, I was transitioning through some new life trauma. However terrible or superficial the tragedy had been, you were always a source of comfort. I was (am) always so fucked up and you were just Eggy, my older cousin who rarely spoke at family events, but always made me smile. You never judged. You always listened. I’m pretty sure it’s because you are one of the few people who had picked up on the fact that I often attempted to mask my emotions with a facade that made people think I was simply enjoying myself.
That was exactly I was trying to do last summer, having lost who I had thought was my true love. My blatant (and quite transparent) acts to indulge my denial that I was suffering tremendously inside were amplified times a million when I lost you.
But how does one replace a close family member, a friend and a contemporary once they are gone before their time? With substances? Sex? Moving elsewhere? New friends? A hobby? One cannot. I could not. The fact that we were no longer as close as we had been left a vast, empty space in my heart. I tried relentlessly to fill the void you left in your wake, but to no avail. Shame on me for letting my self-indulgence delude me into thinking I could ever replace you. I cannot, I will never replace you.
There is no one else I will encounter in this life who can communicate so much by just being silent.
There is no one else I will ever meet whose carefully chosen words (which eventually broke your quiet demeanor) will be wiser than every formal speech or debate.
There is no one else (other than you and Chris) who I will call a step cousin but feel, to me, more like family than many of my actual family members.
The list is endless because you were so special; everyone loved you. I can’t think of a single person on this earth who had anything bad to say about you.
The world is at a loss without you and all the things you stood for in it.
Yet I know I have to carry on and pick myself up off the ground. You would have wanted that. And I want to make you as proud of me as I am of everything you accomplished.
The shoes I would have worn to your funeral are three-inch black, strapped heels I bought this summer. You would have laughed at me for wearing something so impractical, frivolous and silly to an event as somber as a funeral.
I would love so much just to hear you laugh one more time.