This is how it goes

I put on a tank top and soft jeans and walked out to the balcony to sit with my tea. There is a calm breeze that surges in abrupt drafts and it flutters the grass and bends the tree directly in my line of sight. The sun is bright but light. The birds chirp and the clouds just kind of drift on by. It’s summer, my favorite time of year, regardless of the conditions.
I went inside to eat. Two cups of tea and no food makes me a shaky girl. I had eggs with toast and avocado. Remember that day in the office you teased me for my love of avocado? [“avocado-loverrrr”]
I was imagining your movie and what you had documented thus far. I was imagining it in its final version. I was imagining you living your life, and I lost my shit. With a bite of egg in my mouth and my fork in one hand and a piece of toast in the other, I started to cry. Not hard. Not loudly. But enough to make the tears fall out of my eyes and my chest shake. I had to stop chewing and cry for a second. Don’t choke, Morales. Take a minute, Morales. Jesus, Morales, be careful. Then I started to laugh at myself. What a mess. I’m a danger to myself in these emotions.
I took a couple breaths. I swallowed my egg. Took a drink of water. Tried again. I don’t expect to feel better over night. Or right away. I don’t want to wallow in my grief, but I also know that if I don’t let it out now, while it is fresh, that it will only grow uglier as it grows stagnant. I’m trying to do my best. I think of you when I can, when you come up, but then remember to distract myself with other things when I get the urge. I wander from room to room. I lie across the end of my bed…I read a chapter or two of a book, I do a meaningless Google search and pay my bills.
I’m trying not to make a mess of the situation. Trying to keep my thoughts positive and my chin up. It’s not hard to do…but it is a commitment I was ill-prepared for. I’m going to miss you every day. I just have to adjust.


All things go

I guess I’ve learned that you can’t keep anyone from coming or going. All you can do is try to be yourself and hope for the best. People come and go…might as well make the most of it while you’re sharing the same space. Maybe you’ll remember them always, maybe only if reminded. It’s hard to say sometimes. It’s hard to know what kind of impression someone will make on you. If any at all.

“Days go by and still I think of you.” -Dirty Vegas


It’s not the world I need to mute. It’s not the traffic or the radio or the birds chirping that’s under my skin and grating my nerves. It’s my own fucking head. It’s my own clever, fully formed brain. Please leave me alone. Leave me alone so I can work, so I can eat a real meal, so I can run 3 miles and stretch and sleep at normal times. So I can match a top with some pants. So I can wash my dishes and enjoy endless hours of Netflix. Leave me alone so I can live my life. So I can go back to being me and caring about trivial, minuscule, meaningless details. Words. I’m drowning in words. And now I’m thinking of drowning and what a terrible selfish fool I am.

I just need my brain to stop humming. Please. For once. Just do me a solid. Do this one thing for me: Be Quiet.


It’s like I forget, and then I remember. And I don’t know which is worse. I want to forget, but I don’t want to remember. I don’t want to forget. I want to remember.


I just need it to be quiet for a while.

I don’t know how to do this, or what I am even doing. The sunshine pulled me out of bed this morning, pushed me into the shower and through the motions of the morning. I stalled in the closet. I put on a shirt and some pants and even my shoes. And took it all off. The material didn’t feel right on my skin. It felt rough, uncomfortable, unworn. These clothes I’ve worn countless times that have done me so well so often. I found something soft and cushiony. My skin feels raw. I feel chafed all over. My chest is exhausted and stretched-out-feeling. Cause I don’t usually have this many emotions rolling around in there. Doing that work. It’s like bumper cars. I walked to the kitchen. I contemplated lunch. Nothing will taste good. Nothing will have a taste. I have to try. Life is short, I should be living it happily. I am being selfish. Nothing is any different. It’s been 5 days. Me having knowledge doesn’t make anything different, I shouldn’t be feeling this way. How should I be feeling? What should I be doing? I need someone to give me the a-okay. I need someone to say that this is okay. That this is how to act. This is grief. I know. I don’t need anyone to walk me through it. But I would rather not feel like I’m a fumbling idiot. Thank god the sun is shining. The past few mornings have been rainy and dark. I needed that sunshine to remind me of other days. Of future days. Of new warm bright days.

It wasn’t until I was in the car driving to work that I remembered my dream from the night before. In my dream, we found you RiRi, there you were. Beat up and worn out, but whole and alive, and I don’t know how I had forgotten that dream from the time I opened my eyes til then, but I had. But suddenly it hit me, that feeling of hope and incredulity and happiness I had in my dream upon seeing you, and knowing that everything was going to be okay. You were present and found and fully alive. I thought I had turned that corner. I thought I had left Hope in the waiting room and gone in to see the doctor to get the prognosis. I thought…I was wrong. I guess. I don’t know myself as well as I’d like to think. All these words. All these words keep spinning in my head and I’m leaving a trail behind me. I need to condense them, make them into something concise, but I can’t seem to pinpoint it. Can’t seem to nail it down and get it to stick. Something else comes along and bumps it out of the way. Try this word. Try this description. Try this.

Who am I? So selfish to be sad, when there are so many others who knew you better or longer or newer. Being sad doesn’t fix anything or make me feel any better, or make you any less gone. It seems like a waste of time to be sad. But I don’t know what else to do. And no one will tell me. No one can tell me. And I just sit here trying to act like I know what I’m doing, but this is hard. Thank god for the sun and the other people around me.

This is my dream. This is my career. I never thought I’d be sending anyone off to their death. Misery, sickness, various ailments, sure. Uncertainty, discomfort, of course. Life is chaotic and crazy weird and anything can happen…of course I know that, but this…to turn away for one second to find you gone the next, no.

I was feeling hollow again so I walked down to the Mary sanctuary on campus. I passed under the Taiwanese flag. I was cold. Burrowing into myself. I sat there and I stared at the bugs crawling all over the benches and the statue. Life all around. So much of it. I look out at the river. I think about all the reasons to be sad and all the reasons to be happy. And then the clouds blow off and I look up and feel the sun on my face. There it is. It filled me up. All the warmth in that empty space. Here I am. I loved you, Richard. I love you, Richard. You are good people. I’m glad we met. I’m glad to have known you. I will know you forever. I will miss you forever. But I have to keep living and I have to keep living well. You know that. You would say that. I think you did say that, last night in my dream, today at the Mary statue. It’s going to be okay. I’m going to be okay. We’re going to be okay. You are happy and safe and whole, wherever you are. That is enough for me. That is all I need. I won’t be enjoying the ocean any time soon. But I can enjoy these days and these moments just like before. I can make the most of it still. I won’t forget you, RiRi, and I am always here to talk about you. To talk to you. That’s all we need.



Dear RiRi,

The last time I saw you was May 16, 2014. It was a Friday. It was rainy and dreary and blah in Champaign. I had just finished my on-campus interview with St. Norb’s the day before. I was feeling exhausted, distracted, my head wasn’t solid on my shoulders. I was supposed to go to work that morning, but I took a mental health day. You text me and said you were in the greenhouses. I wanted to see you. You were leaving for Brazil in two days. We wandered around in that way you have. So carefree and nonchalant. Like you own the world but the world owes you nothing in return. When I finally found you in the greenhouse, we ran into someone else you knew, who you stopped and chatted with. So many people who know you. We walked over to Turner so you could buy a t-shirt and some sunglasses for your brother. His graduation was the next day. We joked about the sunglasses, how you had gotten a pair for free during ExplorACES. We laughed about a lot of stupid things, you and I. You were good about that. About laughing at my jokes, and making jokes with me. Not everyone is like that. It can be hard to have a good laugh with someone. A meaningless laugh, if you will, but genuine. What did we do then? I had to pick up a gift from my advisor, so we walked over to the College of Ed (not as good as ACES, we discussed). We complained mildly about the weather and the misty rain. You were recording a movie. Richard Fu’s movie around the world. I told jokes for your movie, made funny faces. Even now, as I type this, I can’t believe it. I had to introduce myself for your movie. Alaina Morales, advisor forever. Guate-rica. What else did we joke about? Super cool party people. We joked about the gift from my advisor. It was a book. We walked out of the Education building and we knew it was time to say goodbye. I had lunch plans and you had lunch plans. We didn’t say goodbye, though, not really, did we? We said “see you later.” We had plans. You were going to bring me presents from Brazil. You were going to potentially visit me in Wisconsin, if I got the job. We were going to see each other again, soon. We hugged. We said “tchau” and “adios” and “ciao” “so long”


Where are you, Richard?

All the news reports I’ve found say you ignored the red flags, signaling the water was not suitable for swimming last weekend. Your birthday weekend. I snapped you on Friday. I was with Ofie, what were you doing? Making faces at us. That is classic Richard, ignoring the rules, do as you wish, whatever you feel is best. What are rules anyway? Stipulations to keep us from what we want. Sometimes they mean things, RiRi. Sometimes they are there for a reason, and we should heed them. You are not a strong swimmer, Riri. You did pretty well in Guate-Rica, but you are no champion. What happened? What were you doing? Where did you go? Did it hurt? Can you breathe? Will they find you? I am sad and I am not sad, Richard. Thinking of times like this with you, and all the other probably similar times you’ve had with so many others, makes me laugh. Aloud. But thinking of the absence of you… My heart is heavy, Richard. I used to be someone who rarely expressed my emotions. Now it seems like all I do is get my feelings all over everything. All over the place. That’s okay, I guess. For you, I do not mind. My heart, it hurts, and I have a strong urge to rub out the pain like a cramp in my chest, but it does no good. I just sit here and cramp and worry and wonder. “U of I student missing” it should not be you, RiRi. There are so many of us, why you. It has been 4 days. We had plans, Richard. You had lots of plans.

Tangled inside of me

“I couldn’t say what I was thinking, my heart shrinking. Wait one minute, I had to listen for it.” -Wild Cub

Songs are so much more than their 4 minutes on the radio. They’re short stories. Epic poems. Whole lives. In and of themselves. 

I’ve been afraid to be alone–afraid of how I would feel–what I would think. What would come up. Bubble up to the surface. And then it hit me all at once today. Knocked out by a tidal wave of my own creation. I had to be alone. Completely. Immediately. That urge just washed over me and suddenly, I was secured in my own cocoon, as if no time had passed at all. As if it hadn’t been weeks since I’d shut out the world and stood in the center of my mind. Blissfully, indulgently alone. No one to ask me questions I don’t care to answer. No one to react to, to gauge. Just me. Ah, fuck. And my heart didn’t shout out. There was no great secret–no great pain lying in wait. Just me. Here. Alone. But all of me. 

Some people have word vomit. I have alone vomit. That feeling like I might crawl out of my skin if I can’t separate myself from everyone and everything all at once. Space. Solitude. Freedom. (not Mel Gibson-William Wallace Freedom, but close enough)

Charlotte Bronte: “I care for myself. The more solitary, the more friendless, the more unsustained I am, the more I will respect myself…I am no bird; and no net ensnares me; I am a free human being, with an independent will; which I now exert to leave you.”