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By Gina Reyes*
This is the story of Joe. He was a helpful, loving, compassionate person. He did his best to prove he was worth the air he breathed.
In my time of need, Joe was there for me. I had just found out I was pregnant. My boyfriend, the father of my son, decided he was going to be with both me and another woman at the same time, until I found out. I confronted him. I told him I was pregnant. If he was not ready to be a father, be responsible, then goodbye. He did not care, so I left and never turned back, though it was devastating. I fell into depression, stressing about what I was going to do and how I could do it alone.
Joe was my shoulder to cry on. He was my companion to keep me occupied. He was there for me to kill time and help me keep my mind from getting stuck in a rut. We would lie around making jokes, laughing, playing spades over and over, and having a fun time together to pass time.
In the time we spent together, we built a stronger bond that turned into a love that was unmistakably precious.
He was willing to accept me and my unborn child, as well as the child I already had. He was willing to support us knowing he was not the father. He cherished my children as if they were his own. How many men out there are willing to do that? Boy was I lucky.
Joe came from a broken home. His mother was a single mom raising four children on her own. He was the oldest, so he took on the role of the father in their family. His mother did have boyfriends who would come in and out, but they treated her children poorly. In comparison, I was raised in a family that had more structure. I have two brothers and one sister; I am the youngest. My mother and father are middle class working people. He was raised in Guam and I was raised in California. Through our differences we created a powerful bond that we thought was invincible.
We had our differences. He felt the need to constantly prove his worth to others. I accepted him no matter what his struggles were, as he did with me. He was going to school, and trying to earn his GED. He was attending classes with my brother, David, and my brother in law, James. He was struggling on the essay portion of the exam partly due to English, which he didn’t speak well. He tried over and over, and failed and failed again. James and David passed the exam easily and on occasion would call him “stupid”. They made jokes like, “Are you ever going pass the test?” He also struggled getting a job. He was so driven. Out of determination, he would go to temporary agencies that pay the same day. When he was short on cash, he would ask his mother, but she would also call him “stupid” and tell him to go get a job.
In our relationship, I learned he hated the word “stupid”. It extremely offended him. I learned this because I would use the word jokingly. No matter how the word was used, it was offensive to him. At the time, I did not really understand why he was bothered and offended by the word.
Then, one night, we were fighting and in the midst of anger, I told him, “Get out. Leave me alone.” After that, I went to sleep for the night. It was a heated fight and I even put his clothes outside.
In the morning, when I awoke, he was gone. I was over the anger, so I looked for him. I could not find him, but his clothes were still outside. Later that day, I went to his mother’s house to see if he was there. He was not. His mom said she had not seen him, which made me feel worse. I continued on with my daily errands, wondering where he went. What was he doing? I stopped by all of the places that he would go. Nobody had seen him.
Feeling bad and confused I returned home. I began telling my mother all that had happened since the fight and she said, “He was probably just upset and when he calms down, he will be back.” And I remember telling her how weird I felt because I looked everywhere and I had this funny feeling that he was watching me.
A while later, Archie, my cousin, and Marky, his friend. Marky’s car was in my garage and they were working on it. The car had been there for about a week. It was up on jacks with the hood open. The right corner of the garage was blocked by the car; the garage was a mess, so I did not bother going out there at all.
They opened the garage opened, so they could work on the car. The next thing I heard was, “NO!” “NO!” ”JOE! “
I ran out. Joe was hanging there in my garage from a rope connected to the wood studs in the roof. He was wearing a grey windbreaker pants and a black hooded sweatshirt with the hood pulled over his head.
I screamed, “Oh, my God!” and repeated his name over and over. Why? Joe? Why?
How could a person go so far as to take their own life? I used to think it was impossible for someone to go to that extreme. Use your words wisely. The wrong ones can break a person’s soul.
*Gina Reyes is a student at San Joaquin Delta College in Stockton.
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