SOMETHING LIKE HEALING
The friend request I received read Patty Mora. I recognized my best friend Patty’s profile picture, but we were already friends and she died two years ago. My profile was private. I didn’t want to reconnect with high school acquaintances selling healing oils or sharing their fitness journeys. The people I accepted as friends were those who I worked with, who I was related to, and who I knew in my real life.
Patty Mora, my Patty, signed me up to LASO, the Latin American Students Organization when we were in community college. She said she meant to recruit me because she was looking for a new best friend. Between then and her passing when the last thing she said to me in the hospital was See you on down the road, baby, we shared a failed marriage, two cancer scares, two moves, a bankruptcy, and a successful online accessories business. They were ours. Part of our language.
Nothing about that day was what I expected. Clear day. Gorgeous weather. I hit every green light. I even found a $20 bill in my jacket. And then Patty passed. Outside of the hospital, the purple dusk spread like someone rubbed their thumb against the horizon’s cheek. Nothing changed even if everything changed.
Because she was buried seven hours away, I couldn’t visit her gravesite, so I visited her profile hourly. I reread our past comments, jokes, and rants, grateful they were documented. Then, hourly visits became daily, daily became weekly, and then the holidays arrived, and I’d failed to visit in a month, and I’d feel guilty. Even in a digital divide, grief cocoons and births something like healing.
I decided, consciously, to make an altar in her honor this November. To print and frame a physical picture because I was forgetting about Patty online. That’s when the new Patty arrived.
Who was posing as my best friend? This Patty was clearly a Russian fake. Some of the pictures were familiar. Some weren’t. No tagged photos. No mobile uploads or mutual friends. Lots of guys complimenting her looks in the comments. Digital cat calls. I had read and seen enough.
You, clearly, are not Patty Mora.
I received a message in return hours later: “I am Patty Mora. My married name is Gomez. I used to be Patty Mora.”
You have a picture of Patty Mora. It’s sick you’d try to take her life. Whatever scam you’re running, forget it. You’re pathetic.
It felt like a runner’s high. I don’t know if I would have said it if I had seen them in person. I hope I would. It felt good to think and better to say.
Then, the response arrived: “This isn’t how I wanted to introduce myself. I’ve been struggling how to write this. I’m Patty Gomez. Patty Mora and I grew up together. The two Patties. She was Patty Alvarez then. We even went to university together. However, back then, she was attacked in our dorm. She withdrew, and then she was gone. Dropped out and moved, and I never heard from Patty again. But for a while, we were best friends. Did she ever mention me? I reconnected with a mutual friend of ours by accident, and she mentioned Patty’s passing and sent me a funeral program. I saw she had taken my old last name. I reached out to everyone on that program. Really, I just wanted to know what happened. Not knowing just feels awful.”
I immediately visited my Patty’s profile. I looked at every photo she uploaded. I read through every comment again. No Patty Gomez or Patty Alvarez. Just Patty Mora. Was she ever my Patty?
I wanted to know about Patty’s old life. Patty Gomez wanted to know about her recent life. Where did one Patty start and the other end? Who was my best friend, and what about me made her think I couldn’t be trusted with her past? It was like a splinter in a callous. It didn’t gnaw. It aggravated. I couldn’t stop picking at it before the betrayal settled in. I visited Patty’s profile, and I hovered above the delete friend button. I’d show her. I crumpled her printed picture and shouted “Kobe!” before I tossed it in the trash.
After a week, I finally replied to Patty Gomez: Patty Mora passed away at 38 after bravely battling heart disease. I’m sorry. She never mentioned you. Maybe it means something she adopted your name when she started her new life. Even in the end, she kept it. Your name meant something.
I’d forgotten who I was writing to.
Later, I fished the picture from the trash, but I didn’t erect an altar. Maybe next year. I accepted Patty Gomez. I accepted Patty Mora. I’m still accepting all of it.
Abram Valdez is a Chicano author from Denton County, Texas, where he and his partner Marissa are raising four children. He is a lapsed poet, currently working in fiction and flash fiction. Abram's work has been featured in Hobart After Dark (HAD), Latinx Lit Audio Magazine, Exposition Review, 14 Hills, Complete Sentence, Bridge Eight, and The Daily Drunk.
"To me Dia de Muertos means almost. It means near. It’s like you’re waiting on a visitor who’s been on a really long car trip, and the closer they get to arrival, the less you are thinking about the distance between them and you anymore. You never stopped thinking about them on any other day. But for that brief time, the distance and time are abstractions that give way to the concrete and tangible. The things we lose sight of the other days of the year."