A lot of people have asked me why I write. Usually I answer with something along the lines of “someone with a little bit of talent has to do it” or something along those lines. The answer is always cute and often flippant. I’ll let ya in on a little secret, though. The reason I started writing had nothing to do with my “talent” or a desire for fame. It had to do with family.
My sister Brenda, the oldest of the middle children of four (I’m the second youngest], was serially homeless. Our family didn’t find out till later that she also suffered from disorganized schizophrenia. Disorganized schizophrenia is actually the worst form of the malady you can be diagnosed with. In the past we had tried everything we could to help her get on her feet. My oldest sister housed her, my Mom & Dad rented an apartment a couple of times for her, I had rented an apartment for her… nothing was successful. Once, convinced she was using drugs someone provided for her, I even set up thirty days of treatment at a private facility. Jeez, did I ever have to pull some strings to come up with that one.
Brenda never stayed long in any of the apartments we provided, never stayed in any place long, and declined the free treatment I had set up on her behalf. Those were the days before we knew she suffered from schizophrenia. We thought she was just irresponsible or too carefree, but when she needed money she could always find a job to make some cash. Near the end she was taking pictures, printing them and turning them into cards she would sell on the street to kind strangers.
During the earlier days of her disease [schizophrenia] I did everything I could think of to help her, to understand what made her tick. While she was homeless in Gwalala, California, I dropped everything and went to spend a week with her. That meant that I was to be homeless too. I didn’t mind if it meant I could figure out a way to help my sister. My efforts failed for reasons I would later understand were not my fault (even though my mind tells me I failed. “You fucking failure!” it screams).
It wasn’t until much later that Brenda was officially diagnosed. With the diagnoses came a great sadness that she was fighting an uphill battle, one that her voices she heard convinced her was a plot. With diagnoses also came guilt that I had missed all the signs for so long and that if only I had paid more attention I would have been able to see what was plainly on display in front of my face.
Here’s the deal. We, my family and I, believe that Brenda wasn’t born with schizophrenia. We think it was some drugs she used, drugs provided by a shiesty character she became familiar with. It was the same character I ran out of the country once I learned what was going on between them and my sister. We believe that the drugs affected parts of her brain and changed its chemistry, hence causing the schizophrenia.
I could write my way to helping Brenda! It was a sudden revelation. I had submitted a manuscript to a publisher beforehand and received a good response, so what was I waiting on? In December 2016 I moved back to Texas with the sole purpose of writing and making money so that I could take care of my sister, to try and get her the help she so desperately needed. I never got a chance to pursue that.
On July 2nd, 2017 Brenda was run over by a drunk driver. Jessica Roxanna Perez dragged my sister sixty seven feet under her car and then drove away. Brenda had twenty-seven fractured ribs, her spleen was ruptured, her hip bone was damaged, she had multiple contusions and abrasions, and she suffered for fifteen minutes while waiting on an ambulance. Brenda died on her way to the hospital. Her injuries were so severe she couldn’t be saved. It horrifies me to think of the pain she suffered, how confused and utterly frightened she must have been while she died alone, run over and left to die like a wild animal.
To this day I would take her place if it would guarantee she would live.
Even today the guilt of not succeeding as an author sooner, of not getting her the help she needed, still weighs heavily on me. The pain and sadness of losing my sibling in such a violent and tragic way tints my days. The rage I feel at the murderer who took Brenda away has not subsided. What that bitch deserves can’t be handed down from a judge or meted out by the legal system.
When I feel guilt I write. When I feel sad I write. When I feel rage I write. When I feel murderous I write. I write to remember, I write to forget. I also write when I am abjectly happy, though that isn’t often. Hopefully my writing will allow me to help my two remaining sisters, though I couldn’t help the sister I lost.
Now, you know the real reason I write!