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I had to leave the house. Lupita was going to be cleaning and I didn't feel like dealing with her questions. I grabbed my bag and dashed out, before Senora could ask and before Lupita arrived.

I was a block away when I realized I had no idea where I was going. I was just moving mechanically in the directions of most things I went to - school, the mall, and yes, the Minerva. 

I settled back and decided I would get off the bus when I felt like getting off. Since I had no particular destination, there was no hurry to get there. 

I passed the stop for the school - no reason to be there anyway - and Centro Magno. There was too much potential there to see other people from school who might still be around. I kept waiting to get close to the Minerva but when I finally saw it, I immediately looked away. 

So then I was heading out toward Galerias. Of course. My go-to destination to get cheered up. Of course my situation is a bit too serious for a mall trip to fix, but I didn't have a better idea. It would at least give me a place to wander. 

But like before, I was drawn like a magnet to Liverpool. Like I could find Christmas, childhood Christmas, and escape for just a moment from my so-adult problems. 

The atmosphere was just the same as before - Christmas trees all over, Christmas lights, Christmas music, Christmas smells. But there was some rot about them this time. I can't pretend anymore that my issues are a passing fancy that I can be done with if and when I choose. Someone is dead. Alejandro is dead. It is my fault. I saw things I cannot unsee, and I am tied to these horrible events forever. 

When the weight of these realizations hit me, I thought for a moment that I might faint. Then I remembered I'm not an 18th century damsel and that I probably haven't had enough to eat and should sit down. 

There was a bench and I sat on it, staring at the brightly lit tree in front of me, clinging to the vain hope that the Christmas spirit would suddenly descend on me and somehow make my situation less dire. 

That did not happen. But I did start hearing the song playing on the sound system. It wasn't familiar, but the voice sounded like Judy Garland. The tone was melancholy, which suited me, so I listened. The singer was begging someone, a lover, to stay with her until "After the Holidays," after which she could let him go. 

A dagger in my heart. Yes, Alejandro, stay with me, just a little longer. 

Of course that wasn't what the singer meant; she was trying to delay someone from breaking up with her, or at least pretend. Judy Garland's lover wasn't dead. Or was he? How do I know what she meant? It might as well have been written for me, for this. 

Suddenly my eyes filled with tears. I can't accept this! This can't be my reality! Alejandro can't be dead, and I can't be left here like this, after this, after making the biggest mistake, series of mistakes, I could ever possibly have made. I threw away my whole life for this one person and he was just ripped from me. 

In Spanish when someone is dead they'll say, "Ya no existe." He doesn't exist anymore. Of course they don't even believe that, because there would be no point in putting out those altars then. But it's so jarring. He doesn't exist. Vanished, gone. He left me. 

How can I tell someone who is already gone not to leave? But I am doing it, anyway. I am begging him. I am sitting here in this damn department store, crying, this crazy white girl sitting here looking at a Christmas tree and trying not to audibly sob. What did people think, that I just had a really bad case of homesickness? I didn't really care. Of all the things that don't matter anymore, what people think when the look at me about tops the list. 

Anyway, I'm back now. I stopped at a Starbucks before I left the mall so I could buy the song on iTunes, and I've listened to it about 50 times since then. My initial shock has subsided and now I feel my mood matches Judy Garland's (I was right, it was her). Unhappy, wavering between resignation and protestation, depressed acceptance and outright denial. 

Senora is calling me for dinner. I'm not sure I can eat anything. I suppose might as well keep pretending; it's been working for me so far. 

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