The time has come for me to become a man. That’s not to say that I have secretly been an alien all these years, but I have been slightly irresponsible, depressed and unfocused, swimming in a pool of self-deprecation and allowing my inner, negative voice to take charge and direct my life towards a waterfall of doom. I often describe 2017 as my most productive writing year. I’ve never ruminated on what exactly made that year so special, but, after spending hours alone, staring into the clutter inside my own head, I realized it was because I had some sort of financial stability. I didn’t have millions, but just enough so I didn’t have to worry about the next paycheck. Therefore, what preceded the rumination process was the resounding fact that I didn’t just write more because I was hyper inspired, but also because I had no monetary worries. I’m a Taurus, you see, and all of you who know the ways of the bull would agree that we Taureans must have stability. Otherwise, the ship of our limited patience would flip, and all our dreams and aspiration would drown faster than an evaporating fart in midair!
So I am going back -not literary- to 2017, a year where I used to work long hours and made some decent dough to nourish both my belly and writing aspirations. The only problem, though, and what makes ’17 painfully different from ’19, is that I will not be able to see all of you every Tuesday like I used to. Tears are filling up my eyes as I type this, by the way.
And here is the thing, for the last three years and a half, you guys have been the anchor that kept me going. I’ve always been one step away from calling it quits, but knowing that there are people out there who genuinely care, not just about me but humanity in general, gives me the strength to keep on going. You guys kept me alive, coming to the meetings was akin to visiting a random alley in the Eastside and getting a little bag with Miracle Powder.
But I won’t have you, anymore, at least not as often as I used to have you. Yet, this is not a goodbye. I will be back, the problem is I am not quite sure when, but I still want to be able to visit every time I can.
Before I go, I want to say thanks.
Bob: Thank you for teaching me how to slow down my speech so I could become a better public speaker. If it weren’t for you, I wouldn’t have been able to impress Cathy Murillo at City Hall while delivering short speeches during public comment; you have no idea how much she loves me, by the way.
Mike Evans, aka The Second Mike: Thank you for showing me how to berate myself more gently. See, your self-deprecating humor is a lot healthier than mine, and I am sure everyone else agrees with me on that. Your delivery is masterful. I will miss seeing you every week.
Mike McGinnis, aka The First Mike: Thank you for your kind words during the few evaluations you did on me. Even though I sucked more than a vacuum on steroids, you always had something good to say.
Albert Mercado: Thank you for the stories. You are quite well-versed in a plethora of genres, ranging from comedy to drama, and even suspense. I am never gonna forget the one about the doppelgänger, by the way.
Elizabeth Gould: Thank you for the free therapy sessions. You taught me how to be kinder to my inner child in moments when I felt how the world was opening up under my feet and the hand of despair grasp and yank my weak body into the Dark Place.
Anna (double ’N’) Romero: Thank you for helping me question myself: every time we talked, you would ask, for example, why did I join the Rotary Club. I would say, “I have no idea why.” And that was the truth, I didn’t know why at the time, but I feel like I finally figured it out. Also, thank you for being a shoulder to cry on when I was wrapped with emotions I hadn’t experienced before.
Gene Urban: Thank you for the magic and the kind and fatherly way you have to teach us all how not to use filler words. I was never able to be like you, but I promise I will try.
Kartik Pasumarty: Thank you for the falafel, the shoes, and the blessing of your friendship. You are quite a selfless man, always making sure to address the needs of others first, rather than your own. If Papa Gandhi were alive right now, he would be happy to see someone is following in his footsteps.
Bala: Thank you for making it easier for us to pronounce your name. I remember when I met you for the first time, you said, “just think of the word ‘bullet’ in Spanish.” That was very helpful. Oh, and before I forget, thank you for sending Kartik that website link I wanted to check out. I often think of you when I go to that building and visit that special someone. You know the one.
Mike Sandoval, aka The Third Mike: Thank you for being my first constant reader: every time you said to me how much you liked my stories, you gave me hope to continue. Also, thank you for giving me your blessing on that police procedural story I wrote. I have to keep working on that, don’t I?
Eve Leeds: Thank you for being my first honest editor: and I say ‘honest’ because I could see there was not sugar-coated excrement every time you edit my work. I had another editor before, and he was pulling my leg so hard it was gonna get dislocated. Oh, before I forget, we should go to Via Maestra soon.
Kaila J. Lim: Thank you for the inspiration. Every time I see you, it is hard not to remember that video you showed us, when you were at the gym, trying to jump and stand on that square stool, and using that as a metaphor for life to let us all know of the obstacles that needed to be conquered in order to keep on going. Oh, and before I forget, sorry you didn’t get those photos I took of you at the last meeting I went to. The Cloud wasn’t on our side that day.
Professor Sangwon: Thank you for the lessons. You had something to do, as well as other people, with my decision to pressure my previous boss to give me that position he promised to give me, and never did, by the way, but at the same time it prompted me to look for something else.
And last but not least:
Tracy Shawn: Oh Tracy, my dear Tracy. You knew I was going to mention your name, didn’t you? You are the link that unified it all, you are the solid amalgam, the friendly hand that pulled me back from the abyss more than once. I owe you and your husband so much. There would have never been a Bob, an Eve, a Gene, an Elizabeth or even an Anna in my life if it weren’t because of you. You. Before you, my list of acquaintances was more significant than my list of friends; I probably only had one ‘friend’ before all of you came along. His name is Toby, and he is my imaginary friend. That sunny, mid-July afternoon in 2015, on Chapala street, will always be tattooed in my mind, that auspicious moment when I walked up the street, holding David & Goliath by Malcolm Gladwell on my left hand, and recording myself for a then YouTube stardom wet dream I had. That moment when you passed by, and we started to talk about the book, and you mentioned you were a writer. “Me, too,” I’d said, happy to know I wasn’t the only crazy person in town who had a weird fascination with words. You promptly gave me a card (a Toastmaster card) and inviting me to the meeting. I hesitated, thinking it was one of those multilevel marketing scams I had fallen for more than once. Or, God forbids, a church! But I was curious too. So I came to the meeting, accompanied by the woman I had feelings for at the time. She hated the meeting. I loved it. I wasn’t concerned, she and I didn’t have much in common, never did. I ended up loving the meeting more than her. But that’s a story for another day.
Before I go, Tracy, tell Luna I say hi, please.
Everyone else, it was a pleasure to meet you. Nina, I’ll see you at Handlebar one of these days. Matt McLaughlin, carpe diem, my friend. Also the data, of course. Matt Lowe and Ray Estrada, can’t wait to see you naked at the gym like I usually do. Herbert, keep on Tindering away, my friend; one must need lots of stamina for that, I supposed. Brent Winebrenner, we should talk about editing again, don’t you think? Nevena, only you can make Math and computer science interesting. Avi, we need more young people like you; all of us dinosaurs are getting too old for this. Priya and James, from England with love, thank you for showing up. Bob was feeling bad for being the only Brit in the house, mates!
I know, it seems as though this is my last day on earth and I am pretty much hanging the gloves. But, see, it kinda is that way. These are the last days of the slightly irresponsible, depressed and unfocused Gabriel Lucatero. I remember a short speech I gave at Rotary once when asked why I joined that club (this goes back to my conversation with Anna since she asked me the same question). I told them that I had gone through a reversed, Franz Kafka’s Metamorphosis, going from a cockroach to a human being, and that’s why I felt I needed to join that particular group. But then again, where did everything start? Here, at Toastmasters. I wouldn’t have been able to give that speech, in front of about forty people if it wasn’t for you. I wouldn’t have been able to become a better human being if it wasn’t for you. I wouldn’t have been able to find love, in every sense of the word, if it wasn’t thanks to you.
The cynic in me is dying. I can feel it. And I thank you all for helping me kill him.
See you around, friends.
P.s. Let us not forget Nena Quiros. She is heaven, looking down on us, wishing us all a very productive and fulfilling life.