Nathan Leon Rodriguez is a Sci-Fi author from New Jersey. As both a Latino, and a person of Transgender experience, his works include characters of vast diversity and weave themes of social justice into the fictional world.
The Soulmate Project, his first major novel, is available for sale now on Amazon and Blurb. His upcoming work With Hands Unclean is on track for publication in 2020.
While I knelt there, I started to wonder if the child in the coffin was really my brother. He looked like a close replica, slightly off in some way, visible to no one else but me. He was in a navy suit jacket with a white shirt and a silky blue tie, an outfit my dad chose, and that Gabe would have hated. This boy sleeping in the coffin looked like somebody I didn’t know, someone I didn’t even want to know. Why did my father, the bare-minimum parent of the year, get to dictate our final memory of him? I wondered if any part of my Gabriel was still in there, inside this mannequin.
My eyes focused on Gabriel’s mouth which was glued shut. Images of the day he died speared through my brain, his mouth hanging open like he was still shocked about what had happened to him. A line was building behind me, but I couldn’t move. I wanted to touch him, but I was scared. I imagined him feeling like a block of cold wood, where he used to be so warm and full of life. I wanted to cry, or at least felt like I should, but I couldn’t. I felt nothing, as if maybe I was the block of cold wood. Maybe my only life force came from Gabriel’s smile, our secret handshakes and inside jokes. How was I supposed to live without him?
Behind me, my father came and put his hand on my shoulder, but I still didn’t move. I just stared down at the body. Even as he crouched next to me, eyes red from crying.
“We gotta say goodbye, kiddo,” he whispered. He sounded broken. I wondered if he was finally starting to regret all the time he’d missed over the years. I wondered if he blamed himself, or more likely, me. There was a guilt on my back that the wrong son had died, and I felt like it was something I could never atone. Inside was the primal, innate knowledge that the weight Gabriel’s ghost would never leave me.
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