You woke me up in the wee hours of the morning, thank you for that. I had fallen asleep last night with a weird premonition that something was wrong, or that something was going to go wrong. When my daddy was very sick and in the hospital, I would fall asleep to Jose Alfredo Jimenez or Caifanes. I would wake up and still hear the music playing in my ear.
There was something different about last night. I tossed and turned and couldn’t figure out why I was so restless. I ended up moving the phone into the bathroom because it felt too overwhelming above my head on the bed frame. I woke up at about 1:15 am with what felt like a heavy weight on my chest. It felt as though I couldn’t breathe, and according to my husband, I mumbled some song lyrics and got up to turn off the music—something I have never done before.
This morning when I was sitting in the kitchen putting Queen Elizabeth’s head on the soda bottle, I got a text from your Uncle Joshua. It read, “I’m sorry to bother you so early, I need you to call me, please.” It was 7:40 this morning. I immediately knew what he needed to tell me. I walked to my room and called him so my children wouldn’t hear me react to his news.
I called him a liar, Nathan. I called your uncle a liar when he told me you were gone. I did this after I caught my breath and stopped myself from punching the wall. I lost my mind at 7:40 this morning and I still can’t find it. I can’t.
Do you remember the first time we met? I do. It was spring semester of 2015 and your uncle introduced you to me because he wanted you to know that I was someone you could trust on campus. You were getting off of work in the cafeteria and were going to give him a ride home. From that day forward, you said hello to me every time we passed each other on campus and each time you rang up my lunch. You always reminded me of someone, but I just couldn’t put my finger on it.
Before the semester ended you stopped me in the cafeteria and asked me if you could get some advice. I was excited that you reached out to me and so I eagerly agreed. You had been invited to take a trip with students up the California coast to universities that you would otherwise not have an opportunity to visit and tour. I guess I kind of expected that you would have wanted to go on the trip because it was free to students, so when I asked you why you would consider going, I was surprised to hear your response. “C’mon, Lorena. You think my life ends at Golden West College?” No, Nathan. I didn’t think your life would end at Golden West College; I simply wanted you to hear it for yourself.
June 1, 2015 with the students at Cal SLO.
Look for me in the top left corner and you will see Nathan sitting right in front of me.
I have watched my kids walk into a candy store. It’s no surprise that they want everything and their eyes bulge while their tongues wag. This is the vision I have of you when we finished visiting UC Berkeley and we allowed the students to explore the surrounding area. Dr. Gio and I escaped to Amoeba Records and you followed closely behind. I know why you let us walk ahead of you. You wanted the experience to be yours and yours alone.
Did I ever thank you for inviting us to watch your gig in Santa Ana? I had wanted to go to Beatnik Bandito for quite some time, but knew it was not really my scene. “C’mon, Lorena, what are you guys afraid of? You think you’ll be the oldest one there? HA!” I smelled a challenge, Nathan, or perhaps reverse psychology. You were good at that. I found myself rocking out to you and your friends in this 12 x 12 space that was not built for musicians like yourself.
You were bigger than life, Nathan.
It was the middle of November when you messaged me to tell me you needed to come into my office. Your dad died. You needed someone on campus to help you navigate work and school and all that goes along with keeping your head together when all you wanted to do was bury yourself with your daddy. I had lost my daddy 3 months earlier and you let me share my grief with you…it was time to pay back the favor.
In my office that day we went through every single emotion imaginable.
I hugged you as you cried.
I laughed when you laughed.
I stayed quiet when you cleared your mind with your impeccable speech.
I was exactly who you needed me to be exactly when you needed me to be there.
“How are you doing in school?” I would ask as you would drive by me on campus.
“Classes are cool, HA!” you would respond in your cooler-than-cool persona.
“I better not hear that you aren’t turning in your work, Nathan, or I will sit your ass in my office until it is done!” I would shoot back at you. I would smile as if I was joking, but you always knew I was serious. You knew I cared, didn’t you? You knew that I had this overwhelming sense of maternal instinct with you because you were the same age as my eldest child, didn’t you?
When Dr. Gio and I saw you on Wednesday you were speeding across campus on the cart. Your hair was flying everywhere (the hair that wasn’t tucked underneath your GWC staple beanie) and you looked as though a tune was playing loudly in your ears. We missed crashing into each other by a hair. We laughed. You waved. I was so happy to see you in your element.
If I would have known it was the last time I would see you:
I would have hugged you and held you and reminded you how much I valued our friendship.
I would have told you that your life was incredible and to continue being yourself.
I would have told you that you were exactly where Creator wanted you to be.
I would have told you that your perseverance was admirable.
I would have told you that you were loved by so many students, staff, and faculty.
I would have told you that your smile could light up a dark room.
I would have told you that you teach me about life just as much as you claim I teach you.
I would have told you that I couldn’t wait to attend your graduation…from a university.
I would have told you that I never wanted to write you this letter.
But, alas, I find myself in my room. It is both metaphorically and figuratively dark in here, Nathan, and all I can think about is that I wish you were still on this earth so I could tell you everything I should have told you. And I want to tell you that today your fellow students and friends from Golden West College will begin the inevitable process of grieving one of their own. You would be so happy to see the posters that Mostafa made for you. Ruby and Daniel helped him tape them to the easels. You would take one look at Han’s banner she made for you and say, “That’s BADASS,” with your crooked smile and off-center beanie.
You are irreplaceable, my dear Nathan. Our hearts are broken. My heart is broken.
Today the music died for me. Just like I can’t play Jose Alfredo Jimenez without thinking of my daddy, I won’t be able to play Caifanes without thinking of you.
I hope you and your daddy are finally reunited in heaven.
I already miss you. I will forever miss you, sweet boy!
Love, your campus mom,