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22 January 2017 - 21:51

Several times, we tried to start a sentance, only to realize we were talking over the other. We'd pause awkwardly, then end up trying again at the same time. My voice had softened and brightened simultaneously the instant I heard his on the line. We giggled a bit nervously. I know my eyes were shining on my end of the line as I envisioned his, slightly slanted like mine, dark and sparkling. Mischievous. I know I asked him how he was doing at least twice, even though he'd already answered the question before I'd even asked it. Speaking to him reminded me of Nacho, or rather, I remembered and realized why I love my best friend so much: he reminds me of him, the first person I ever considered a best friend, my first brother from another mother. Tonight, I spoke with my cousin, Dani. I wanted to cry, I'll admit; I haven't seen him in about ten years. And I haven't heard from him in at least eight.

Daniel and his older brother, Ricardo, practically grew up with my sister and I over the summers in Mexico, when my family would go visit my grandmother there and spend the summer. They are among the first people I understood to be family outside of my immediate family. In fact, my earliest childhood memory is of my cousin, Dani. We had to both be toddlers (I'm six months older than he is), because I remember the world looking huge around me. I was holding on to the door frame to steady my teetering steps. I was stepping outside when I saw him: a dark imp with skinny limbs and a pot-belly, like a puppy. He was buck naked, standing at the edge of my Huelita's pila (it's an outdoor faucet with a semi-sunken in drain), peeing into the drain. I remember the feel of my own plastic diaper rubbing and crinkling against my paler, chubby thighs. Growing up, Ricky and Dani were like brothers to me, the two brothers I never had, that I'd always yearned for. 'Ama had two miscarriages before my sister and I were born, and they were both boys. When I was little, I felt my cousins were born so my sister and I wouldn't feel so lonely without those two brothers we never met. Because we're all actually just months apart: my sister was born first, then Ricky was born four months later. Nine months later, I was born, then Dani six months after that. Their house was adjacent to my grandmother's, and when we stayed there during the summer, we'd four spend almost every minute of every day together. We'd eat lunch together, nap together, play together. Over the weekends, my other cousins would show up, but there was always a distance there. I never felt as close to any of them as I did to Ricky y Dani. I wish I also could've spoken to Ricky, but 'Ama told me he was working.

Oh! Ricky works in a pastry shop! He sells cakes! I was so giddy to find that out, I practically squealed. My sister was quick to clarify that he only sells them, and is not a baker, but I didn't care. Knowing I have something in common with him still made my heart soar. A silly part of me even fantasized about opening my own bakery again someday, and recruiting him to work with me. I would like nothing more... I wish I could get with him over coffee and talk pastries!

Finding out the news also made me wistful. I remember when we were kids, and he and I would sit in the dirt outside my Huelita's yard, under the shade of an old tree, making mud cakes. We would even take twigs and tiny, inedible red berries to decorate our creations, sometimes even crumbling dead leaves over them like we'd see our mothers do in their cooking with herbs. Makes sense to me that now he and I are the ones drawn to the world of baking, in some form or another. I miss them both so, so much, and I wish I could be over there right now along with my mother and sister, even if the reason they are over there is a sad one. When I spoke to Rosa Isela, she sounded floored at being surrounded by so much family. I know she and my mom needed this. I need it too, but I feel I can keep a more aloof and collected disposition to hide my longing. Still, speaking to Daniel sent a pang through my heart. The sound of his voice instantly breaks through my defenses. I apologized for being unable to be there in solidarity through these sad times; I felt like crying then, missing my Tio Artemio, missing everyone. Dani's voice dropped down a pitch, like hot cocoa, warm and comforting. He told me not to worry about it, that they understood. I wanted to reach through the phone line and hold his hand, hold all of him, and the people he represents in my mind: his parents, his brother, his half-sister, my dead grandmother, everyone I miss and can't see. He told me that we'd get together someday. Someday.

I wonder if he married yet, after all. That was the last I'd heard from one of my aunts about him, that he was getting married. It wasn't the time to ask, though. The conversation lasted less than five minutes. After a decade, I get five minutes. So, a minute for every other year of not seeing him? It hurts, but it's a joyful pain.

It's the pain of love.

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