When both of the cultures in your family are from other countries, you’re set up to have a really big family. Some of the cousins go amiss or you get a friend request from a family member you never knew you had.
“Hey, your T.t. Gloria sent you a request on facebook. She’s waiting for you,” my mom said.
“Your aunt? T.t. Gloria? Ay… just do it,” my mom said, “Or I won’t hear the end of it.”
I’ve accepted those friend requests, awkwardly replying to the hearts and hellos from cousins in the home countries. I’ve said so many how are you’s and love you’s that I’ve just begun feeling like a robot. Well, not a complete robot, more like the Tin Man at the end of the Wizard of Oz. There’s feeling behind those words, just not much connection, which is the fault of no one.
When time goes by, between those awkward conversations, people in your family have their own lives which was always weird to me. They go to work, party, have sex, and do it all over again. Some do more with their time, like getting lost. Those that are lost stay that way in big families like mine. It’s easy to become filtered out over time. I’ve kind of felt like that, like I’ve been on the side lines of my family. They do those things, like work, fuck, sleep, and repeat, but they don’t call me. I’m not part of their routine. So, I call myself one of the Lost Ones. I don’t pop into anyone’s minds until I call them, then I’m their relative for that hour we catch up.
You’d think a union would form for us Lost Ones. It’s almost too typical; the closeted artist, the one gay man who lives with his “best friend,” the girl whose crutch is alcohol, we all have something fun that made us perfect for the side lines. This is why Ahmed refused to say anything to mom or dad; the sidelines is not a fun place to be. I’ve learned to embrace it and my mom did too. She made herself lost, ousting herself from the family. Now, she holds my hand, admiring the view of others’ lives going by. I haven’t told her why I’m lost, I haven’t told her I am bisexual, that I went out at night with strange men. Sometimes, something in me said she might know and is afraid to mention it. As time went on, she learned and accepted it. A tearful revelation for me. I truly felt like she understood me, like she knew how it felt to be an outsider. I love my mom, I was so afraid she’ll let go… but my father was the one that let me go in the end. She’s the only Lost One that I constantly see and speak to. The others are off in their own worlds and it’s where being a Lost One makes you feel like we are in separate universes, constantly paralleled, never bound to intersect.
It takes something as little as a phone call to make you realize that there are Lost Ones more lost than you are. One day, we got one of those calls. When I turned to my mom, she slammed the phone down and let out a wail after burying her eyes into her hands. I just stood, waiting until I could learn what happened. It took some time and I gave her that. I know she prefers being alone for a bit in times like this. She didn’t move from where she found out the news. When I came to her, I wrapped my arm around her.
“Your cousin… Jared is gone,” she hid her eyes again.
“I don’t remember…” was what I thought I said in my head, but she turned to me, head on my shoulder.
“I know… he was older… he…” she remained quiet after that.
“What happened, ma?”
“He died from… overdose. In a hotel…” she cried again. I felt my eyes dry and they ached, like I ran out of tears for this stranger I don’t remember knowing. I hated myself for forgetting him. I suddenly missed him, like I needed him to be my cousin again. I tried racking my brain for a face, but nothing. I still can’t visualize him and it haunts me. I just remain on the couch, holding my mom and wondering what’s next. We lost a son, cousin, nephew, friend, brother… a Lost One. We lost one of us, and that’s what made it hurt all the more.
My mom and I