Growing up

One last look.

“I hope you find what you’re looking for.”, she said. As I slowly walked away from her desk. Life is all about last looks, this one was no exception.

I imagined myself doing different things with my life. Going on different adventures, then what was happening before me. I never imagined coming back home. I never thought that failing was an option. As I always do, I picked myself up and started over. Starting over by going home until I come back to this fucking city.  I am going home to regroup then come back to this town to be somebody. Anybody then the person I was before. Not the broken person I was when I came here.

Big cities don’t take to kindly to lonely hearts. Broken people don’t always find what they are looking for. But I will be the exception. The exception to the rule.

I walked away from her office and watched the room glitter with the sunlight. The same golden color. The same sparkle from the afternoon sun. What I would give to be outside  but instead, I am saying goodbye to everything that was familiar.

Life doesn’t prepare you for goodbyes. Life doesn’t prepare you for last looks and the words that haunt you after. Instead, you move forward and hope for the best. Praying, wishing, hoping, that all of this will be a distant memory. Just another story to add in the book of life.

It’s been six years since I have been back. Six years and I still feel like like a visitor in my hometown. This doesn’t feel like home but neither did that big city. Which is why I felt the need to burn my bridges and watch them crumble behind me.

Yet, those words haunt me.

“I hope you find what you’re looking for.”

As I make another last look through the glistening rays of the sun behind me.

One day I will. Someday soon.

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Golden Hour.

I feel like I have lived a thousand lives. Ones more tragic than the next. Then the sun hits every inch of my skin and I feel born again.

Different.
Brand new.

It’s the shadows from the golden rays that peek through the blinds. Straight from the outside, for I am always inside. It’s neither cold nor warm, just this glittery feeling of gold etched in your face and every parts of your skin. It’s what photographers try to photograph and emulate. With artificial lights and colors. Holding still until the light is just right.

It’s through the shining of this magic hour I think of everything. Every sun drenched memory. Every crazy golden moment. My breathing gets slower and my eyes start to well with tears. Each tear sparkling with the effervescent sun.

If I loved you last, I would love you best, I kept telling myself. I say this to the shadows that wave with each motion of the words. I don’t know what love is anymore. We are all rose gold and amber in this light. We are all love in this glittery way of speaking. We are all warmth in this sunset of light that we see before us. Yet, I don’t even know who the “you” is anymore. At this moment is could be anyone. I could have loved you more. I could have believed every single word you said. Instead, I find myself talking to shadows to keep away all these ghosts.

We were once all silver and now we’re gold. In this golden hour, one of the loneliest moments. As the gold sprinkles across its flecks on ever inch of the white room. When you’ve let everything go, it’s when you start all over again.

If I loved you last, I would love you best.
The sun sets and the darkness overcomes us.

“Quédense, unos minutos con nosotros…”

“4 and 3 and 2 and 1”..

It’s the street where we grew up. It’s the block where we came from.
To the people who look like us, who talk like us, that grew up just like us.
No matter what people say. People can’t help but think we are all the same.
We are loud in the quietest of places.
We are overly expressive in the sounds of the oppression.

We are the bad bass on every street corner. Playing the same played out Chente song.
Big banda, cumbia, salsa, ranchera songs that your heart can’t help but mimic into heart beats.
Watching your head sway as your feet mimic the beat in your Nike Cortezes and your Converse Chucks.

It’s Domingos in the church in our Sunday best.
Clutching our Jesus pieces and praying tomorrow would be better day.
Light a candle to guide your way, because Mañana is another day to be extraordinary.
As we rush through the rituals and sign of the cross at the entrance of the wooden gates.
Paciencia y fe, as we look to the cruz.
Paciencia y fe, because we have nothing to lose.

We are bright colors on your plain unmarked white walls.
We are Graffiti on your pristine street signs.
We are Old schoolers playing oldies as if time never skipped a beat.
Los viejitos on the front lawn in their lawn chairs with the same stories of what could have been.

We are big hoops and bright red lips.
We are the loud printed fabric that clings to our every curve.
Ladies with the big bags walking on the sidewalks in the sunshine.
Always places to go. Always places to be seen.
Walking out the streets like this week’s Vanidades cover.
Even when you mocked us. Even when you said we were too much.
Mucho mas y todo eso.

We become your aesthetic.
We become your mood board.
Your own reflection of cultura that you seem to know more about then me.
We become what every young person thinks they know about but they never truly lived through. Because if you knew what we lived through can’t be taught, until you lived through these breaks. You can’t scream out our words in the attempts of filler space.

Latino and Proud isn’t a t-shirt you can put you.
Latino and Proud isn’t this seasons look in this month’s Vogue magazine.

You ask me where I am from.
You ask me where I am going.
We all beg to leave but afraid we stay.
We can’t be proud.
We can’t be who we are.
Unless it better fits your mood, another look to add to this month’s pinterest board.

So, when I tell you I am Latino and proud. I watch you shiver in places in your newly bought huaraches. Hiding behind your $99 dollar serapes that the urban commercial markets be capitalizing on.

You want to be like us.
You want to act like us.
You want to take everything from us.
But don’t let us be proud of who we are.
Until the next season fad shows up.
Another culture to add to your bookcase.

When the chorus comes in, don’t forget where you’re from.
Latino and Proud, then on to the next song.

I tried to drink it away.

I tried to drink it away.

I can’t stop thinking about that line.

It’s a haunting reminder of a past and the person that goes with it. Who I am, who I was, and everything in between. But the way the words linger, I can’t stop hearing over and over.

If I could drink it away, I would. Every last drop. Every thing to keep this memory from forming a nostalgic image in my romanticized past. Everything through rose colored glasses. Everything blurry, messy, vile and perfect.

All I have are memories. The late nights in crowded rooms. The cigarettes I’ve smoked. The countless men I have kissed, just to wish it away. The countless times I tried to drink it away. Nothing worked. Even sitting here going over lines in my head, I can’t keep it away.

I rub my hands together in nervous energy. Running the fingers down the palms of my hands. Thinking of a million things. People I have longed to forget. Everything just keeps coming back. If I say everything out loud it just puts words into the atmosphere. It makes the names disappear but the faces remain. When all I want is to do it take this pain away.

I drink to forget. I drink to let go. I hold the bottle close and wish this away. Years will pass eventually and the nostalgia of you will disappear. Until then, I continue to drink these feelings away. Putting out words in the atmosphere until you disappear completely.

I am going to let you go.
One drink at a time.

 

San Francisco, CA
January 21, 2009
#thisishowIletgo

 

 

 

 

 

 

Your English.

WOW. Your English is very good.

If I had a dollar for every time I heard that sentence. I would probably be out of debt by now.

I try my best to bite my tongue. Because no one wants to hear what I have to say, let alone care to hear where I come from. If they only knew how many times that happens. How people often talk to you in Spanish because they hear the thick accents of your parents. How people assume you don’t know a lick of English. How people assume that you were born in Mexico and ask you questions about where you are from.

My Mom would tell me how ladies would look at her and ask what part of Mexico my brother and I were from. When she would reply, “They were born here”, they more then often would repeat the question. They would ignore her. Because her accent gave her away. You’re not from here and neither are your kids.

Growing up people always asked how I spoke English so fluently. Because the minute they saw my name on paper, they went straight to my last name. Didn’t matter that my paperwork was in front of them.  All they saw was my last name before they saw me. I remember how my childhood friends parents would talk. Talk as if I wasn’t in front of them. I was always “that little Mexican girl”. How it was amazing how the little Mexican girl can enunciate her English words. Just as fluently as the Spanish words come out.

How do you speak without an accent?
Is your first language English or Spanish?
Why is your English so good?

I wish people would stop talking. Or when they try to be funny and talk in Spanish to me. As if my language is a party trick for their amusement.  After they had second guessed my English.

It doesn’t matter what I say. It’s not what they want to hear. They want to hear my accent. They want to hear me mess up my words and be there to correct me. They want to prove a point that no matter how many times I say I was born in the States, they want to tell me I am from Mexico. They want to hear me get angry in Spanish. They want the Mexican to come out of me.

One day, people are not going to like what I have to say.
One day the taste of blood in my mouth will not hold back my tongue.
One day  I am going to say “Funny, how English is my Second Language and I speak it better than you do.”

But I won’t dare. That’s what people want from me. Instead, I bite my tongue. Allow my mouth to overflow with the blood of my tongue. The blood that keeps me together. The blood that keeps me sane. I have learned that at this point, it’s not worth a fight. It’s just best to let this all go.

My English is good because I was born in the states.
My English is good because I was born in the states.
My english is good because I was born in the states..

Am I making myself clear yet?

 

Two First Names.

My Mom has two first names. Not a first and a middle name like we do in American culture. But two first names. She rolls them off her tongue with such ease that it intimates people around. She hates when people  use only one name. She hates when they call her “Rosa” or “Rose”. The names that remind her of being reprimanded by her Mami or reminded her of family members with the same name.  The way people over enunciate the name once they see her last name. “Row-za”, just the thought of it shoots a shiver down her spine.

That is not her name.

She speaks clearly and firmly, and repeats herself often. It’s uncommon to have two first names. Even though there are names like Anabel, Isabella, etc. Names that look so beautifully together. It’s almost too hard to comprehend that she was so special she needed two first names.

The name field is never big enough for her. Always cutting off half way through the second name. Having to remind every person she does business with that her name is composed of two names. Not first and middle name, but a full strong fuerte first name.

I didn’t understand it when I was younger.

“Why does it matter what they call you?”, I would say.
“Porque no es mi nombre”, she would reply.
Because that is not my name, she would say.

I didn’t understand why it was such a big deal. She is “Rosita” at home in Mexico. She is “Vieja” or “Honey” to my Dad. She is “Martha” to people who know her best. Why one name made such a difference. Why was it so important.

It was in the way people say her name. In the way people hesitate and question as soon as they read off her last name. They way people break down each name into individual entities. How people acted forgetful when they said her name. Then later annoyed when she corrected them. It became this battle between what was right and what was culturally correct. Another chance to Americanize her with what they think is right. It was taking something away from her that was a part of her. Taking away her name that she fought hard to protect all these years.

When she got sick, I understood. It was me correcting the doctors. It was me telling the nurses to re-do her paperwork correctly. It was correcting people who called her by one name as she walked into the office and watching them roll their eyes when I corrected them. It was correcting every single one of their hesitations and even correcting how they enunciated her name. Something that for years I thought wasn’t important, until I understood what it was like in her shoes.

Stop calling me by a name that is safe to you.
Stop trying to correct me as if I don’t understand you.
Stop hesitating the minute you see my name written in front of you.

I think back to the times I would argue with my Mom about it. How she needed to let it go, that people would never understand. Now that I am older I realize how important it is to her. How much it truly means to her.

My Mom has two first names and everyone should be okay with that.

 

 

 

It happened to me.

He says he’ll leave me if I cut my hair.
So I wear it longer on the days I see him.
When all I do is hide behind a curtain of hair to hide every scar I am feeling.

He doesn’t like it when I wear that color. It reminds him of her. So he bans me from wearing it in order to please him. I don’t hesitate. I don’t say no. I just do as I am told. To avoid an argument. To avoid the words that he holds still and strongly behind his tongue.

I am afraid to speak at times. The outcome outweighs the lasting effects of anything I could ever say. I don’t know myself at times. I was a smart girl. I was a strong girl. Now I am letting someone else dictate my thoughts and actions.

I don’t know who I am anymore, I tell myself.
I am not me without you, I say out loud.

It’s not the fists I am afraid of. It’s this unseen power a person can hold over you with the mountain of words that follow. How easy it is to say how you feel and mean what you say. How easy it is to cut down a person without giving it a second thought.

I found myself saying that I’d wish he’d hit me. Something to show the world of the vile person he was. Create the villain among the sinners. All they see is my reactions to every one of his actions. All they see is my skin burning red and my tongue lashing out at everyone that defies me. All they see is my anger and his calm demeanor. Because he was always too cool and too good of a person to hurt people. He was always the cool guy in his nice kicks. He couldn’t hurt a fly they’d tell me. How I wish he’d hit me just to prove them wrong. Just to show them that I was right and they were wrong. Then all these feelings would be real not under the surface.

People always say “That would never happen to me”. I hate that. As they see a girl cover her face or hear a story of a girl who just couldn’t take it anymore. They don’t know what it’s like. They don’t know what it’s like to hide from your friends and family. To pretend your okay when your whole world is falling apart. How it feels to cut your arm in places because the words were too big of a burden to keep to yourself. So you punish yourself for being the sad expectation of who he wanted.

I was the dead weight he refused to carry, he’d often said. If I was skin and bones he would love me more. Hold me tighter. I believed him. I was stupid and I believed him.

I used to say “It would never happen to me“. That I would be one of the lucky ones to fight until my hands were red and my throat was raw. They don’t know that sometimes when a man loves too much they just ignore you. Tell you how worthless you are. How every time they see you it makes them sick. They don’t know how sometimes it’s more than physical. That words have a way of leaving bruises and scars on every inch of your skin. But they’ll never see it. They’ll never know.

They’ll never know that the reason you stopped dating is that you hear his voice in the back of your mind. That nobody will want you after he has had you. That nobody will ever love you as much as he had loved you.

Nobody.

It would never happen to me, they’d say.

But it happened to me.

Tracy, CA. 2015
#ThisishowIletgo

Latino Representation.

 

A year ago, I read an article on Remezcla about a Gala that was dedicated to Hispanic Achievements in the Arts. Each guest was asked about the First Latino they saw on television. While the guests replied, Rita Moreno, Desi Arnaz, Freddie Prinze Sr., etc.  After reading everyone’s responses I started thinking to myself, “Who is the first Latino I saw on television”. I came up blank. I could name a dozen Latino actors that are killing it at the moment. But the first Latino actor I saw on television,  I couldn’t think of anyone. I could remember the first actor I saw on TV. I could remember the first cartoon I watched. But I couldn’t remember the first Latino I saw on television.  For some reason that question struck a chord with me. I spent the last two weeks after reading that article thinking about that question.

How could I not remember the first Latino Actor I saw on Television? In the span of two weeks, I asked my fellow Latino friends if they remembered the first Latino actor they saw on television. We each went over every sitcom we grew up with. We talked about the Latino film scene, actors on the rise, even the late night circuit of Sabado Gigante and Siempre en Domingo. But to remember an actor on American television, we each came up empty. After a few back and forth conversations, it finally dawned on us. The first Latino actor we ever saw was Sonia Manzano.

Sonia Manzano as we all greatly remember is “Maria” from Sesame Street. Sesame Street was big in the 80’s, I don’t need to go into detail that  Sesame Street was ahead of it’s time. Being at the forefront of groundbreaking television and being first and foremost a children’s program. I grew up on Sesame Street as well as many other children from my generation.  I remember very clearly how big of a deal it was that Sonia was on the show. Every time she would come on the screen my Mom always made a big deal about it. “That’s Maria, mija. Ella es Puerto Rican/ She is Puerto Rican.”. I didn’t understand what that meant at the time. I just knew that when I looked at her, she reminded me of my Mom. How gentle she was with all the characters and how much patience she had explaining letters and lessons to each person. Even after I stopped watching Sesame Street, it took me a long time realize how important the character Maria was. Maria was our neighborhood. Maria was our community. Maria was our Mom that comforted us and took care of us. It took me a long time to understand why my Mom always pointed her out. Why she felt the need to say that she was Maria and she was Puerto Rican.

Growing up, I watched a lot of television. I grew up with the 90210, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which later turned into the Sex and the City, and 30 Rock, etc. As much as I loved those shows and commented how I was a “Brenda” or a “Carrie”, I realized that I wasn’t any of those characters. Shows would come out yearly that would generate buzz and be marketed toward my age group, but I found myself disillusioned with them. They were the same faces, the same flawed characters, the same unlikable people, but none of them were me. While people around me were applauding the groundbreaking characters and direction, I just couldn’t do it. Not that I was trying to be difficult but I wasn’t these girls. I just wasn’t these white characters. Characters that as entertaining as they were with their beautiful hair and hilarious one liners, I wasn’t any of them.  If anything I was the complete opposite of these characters. I found myself re-watched my old favorite shows. Soon realizing that as much as I loved these shows, I stopped relating to these characters.

I think back to Maria. How my Mom would point out that her character’s name was Maria and she was Puerto Rican. How honored my Mom felt as a Mexican woman living in the states that this character, a latina of Puerto Rican decent was on a highly popular children’s program. It made me think  back at all the shows I watched and how I lacked a character of my own. I lacked families that mirrored my own, I lacked a sense of diversity, I lacked a sense of color. I realized why it was important to point out characters like Maria on Sesame Street, to show that we latinos could be on any of these shows. I spent year watching countless shows come and go on TV. The House of Buggin, George Lopez Show, Freddie, Ugly Betty; shows that showed a fraction of what it was like growing up in a Latino household. As shows would be cancelled and a new wave of shows would start, I would scan the trailers and hope to see characters that looked like me. Characters that reminded me of home, of my own family. Shows that I could point out and say “Mira Mom, that’s Maria. She’s Puerto Rican”.

Latino Representation isn’t just a gimmick. It’s not our way of pushing other characters aside or saying how our values are more important. It’s showing that we can play characters that are flawed, broken, and misrepresented. We are more than just sidekicks, vixens, and thugs. We are more than just the maids that clean the houses. Our families are more than just some comedic relief to generate cheap laughs. Latino Representation is everything. It’s seeing a new character on Star Wars and hearing his accent that reminds me of my Mom’s accent. It’s seeing the Abuela on Jane the Virgin and seeing the face of my friend’s Mothers and Grandmothers. It’s watching George Lopez’s standup “Why You crying” and remembering stories your Dad told you of his youth in LA. Why Princesses named Elena and Sofia are important, because they’re the names you grew up with. It’s more than just ratings and shiny award shows. It’s seeing faces that look like every member of your family and feeling a sense of home. It’s showing that we each have a story to tell and they’re just as funny and as entertaining as everyone else. It’s pointing out the characters and saying “That’s Jane, and she’s Puerto Rican”. “That’s Oscar Isaac, and he’s Guatemalan”. It’s pointing out that character and saying “Hey, that person is Latino. That’s character is like me”.

Every year I am thankful to a new breed of shows that showcase Latino actors. Every season I sit and watch through the trailers and see how my culture is represented. Every season I hope for a new batch of characters that remind me of people I grew up with. Characters that remind me of home. Every time I see a latino character, I won’t stop pointing out the characters and saying they are Latino. Because that’s what Mami would do.

 

Tobacco and Peppermint

He didn’t smoke. But everyone else around him did. It was so easy back then to make conversation. Just standing next to a shivering person in the cold, asking for a light. It didn’t matter much to him. He didn’t smoke and everyone else around him did. He would just keep the conversation going.

He’d say things that I would find absolutely fascinating. Stupid things that I think back upon years later. How easy the lines flowed from his tongue. Captivating a shivering crowd just keeping warm from a storm. How he loved lines like “Tobacco and Peppermint”, how each item went well as a before and after thought.

Things about him made him seem off. He didn’t drive. After having his license revoked from driving recklessly in his hometown, he relied on other people to get him where he needed to be. Things I understood. Everyone drove me around and driving always seemed like an after thought. Stupid things I still remember. Why do I still remember these things?

They could have been twins. The same sentiments, the same sense of humor. They couldn’t have been more alike. His only downfall was a dry sarcastic humor that people believed made him a genuinely likable person. We saw through that. Making jokes and calling him every name under the sun. He was not the sun, but how he acted like he was. I don’t know why I thought of him today. Or why after ten plus years, he seems to creep into my mind. But when my head hurts I think of the last time my head hurt. How weather changes my emotional state and it comes back to him.

I always wanted to say goodbye, but I never had a chance to. I wanted to say so many things but every word came out wrong. Tongue tied with wanting to say the right thing but every word tying together and  coming out wrong. I find myself talking to him in dreams in cities far from my hometown.  In dreams the words flow out easily then they do in my waking day. Some days, it’s easier to see people in dreams then in my waking day.  Instead I left a space for other people to fill with words and stories. I live off the adrenaline of other people’s stories. The words that flow so easily off their tongues. When I am left tongue tied with goodbyes.

Tobacco and Peppermint. How I tend to think of that line often.

I think of that crowded bar and watching bands play. How easy they made it seem. How their emotions came out in song and I still struggled to express myself. How the room was muggy and how none of it mattered. The rain poured down and I see you walk with her. Hand in hand not thinking anyone was watching. Just as you walked through the door your hands break apart. Gone back to reality and gone to different ends of the room.  Why was I so fixated on that moment. Why that memory about everything else. How poetic it seemed to see people walk in from the rain and break apart once they found shelter. For a moment they were each others shelter, until the real world settled in. That night creeps back to my mind once the weather changes. When I think of rainy days and crowded rooms; finding shelter from storms.

How the singer of a band came up to ask for the time, and stood and stared at a button on my coat. Almost waking me from my haze of dream state. We both became silent for a minute. Maybe in that moment we were both in that dream state. Trying to find the words in waking day. Or maybe he was just staring at a button on a coat of girl that reminded him of something else.

You can have it?, I said
Really?, he replied.
Yeah. it’s just a button.

I handed him the button.
While, he stood and watched.

Tobacco and peppermint.
Before and after thoughts.

 

San Francisco, CA 2003

I can see your aura.

A psychic came up to me in the mall today. Which sounds weird just saying it right off the bat, but this isn’t the first time. I always wonder when stuff like that happens, if they could read everything in your mind. What you’re feeling, who you’re thinking of, and everything else in between. It caught me off guard. When I was busy thinking of people I thought were long forgotten in my mind. I know it’s a hustle, I know it’s some mind game, then I start thinking, “what if?“.

What if she knows something I don’t know? What if everything isn’t just some bogus hustle and she really sees me.

“Your energy is very strong…I see good things coming your way but something is holding you back”, She tells me. Hands me a card and then walks away.

I’ve written about psychics before but something about today made me think back to the first time. I remember it so vividly to the clothes I was wearing and the deep cigarette smoke of a crowded Vegas casino. I was in Planet Hollywood and a lady looked at me and said “You look like you need someone to talk to..” I wanted to cry right then and there because she was right. I sat and listened to her talk about my life at it’s current state. The people who have hurt me. What I was doing to myself. How I needed to stop being in love with people who would never love me back. How my Aura was bright but I lived in a state of complete darkness.

I don’t talk about my problems. I talk about my dreams, my ambitions but to talk about what’s hurting me, I don’t talk to anyone.

At that point in my life I was keeping a variety of secrets and dealing with my own personal demons and self destruction. I’ve had people tell me “If you need someone to talk to, I am here”. Which I am grateful for, but I am stuck in a memory of my problems aren’t half as bad as everyone else’s. This isn’t a pity party. It’s easier to hear everyone else and fade softly into the background. But here I am, seven years later and someone tells me: “Your energy is strong, good things are coming your way but something is holding you back”.

I know what’s holding me back. I am holding me back. I am holding back everything I can to not let people in. I am holding back my life in order to let others feel happy. I know this all too well.

He used to say he could see my aura.

“I am looking at your aura”, he’d say
“No you can’t. If so what color is it?”, I’d reply.

He would fidget and laugh, then never answer. Always changing the song and tapping his fingers to the beat. Songs that I never understand until long after he had gone.

“I can see your aura”, he’d say. Over and Over, again.

Many times I wondered what that meant. Just another ploy to make me believe he cared. That he was the only person that could see me. The only person that saw straight through me. He always gave off this impression that he knew me best. That he knew better than what I was putting out into the world. Telling me that I wasn’t living up to my full potential. Words that have remain triggers to my self-esteem, after I swore that I was letting go of everything that belonged to him.

Seven years later, my heart stops when someone says “Your energy is very strong..”. Because I don’t doubt that my energy is strong. I don’t doubt that I need someone to talk to. I just can’t help wonder how these people find me. Is it through the cosmic energy I put out into the world? Is it my big dopey sad eyes that go looking for them? I know it’s all bullshit. I know it’s all some hustle for money. Still I nod, smile, and take their card. Tracing the number on the card, over and over, until my friend returns. They always find me, just when I am ready to let go.

Sometimes I wish I could tell you about this, where in some universe we were still friends. Still able to talk about things as if nothing had happened. But then I remember that you’d always turn this around like this was my fault. That I asked for this to happen. Always my fault and it would end in an argument where I was the one apologizing. This is where I should be angry, this is where it still hurts. I can’t help but think that you never saw my aura, even though you said you did. You lied to me when I thought you were being true. I am tired of letting this sadness hold me back.

It’s at that moment, I completely forget you. Completely let you go. I fold the card in half and stuff it in my pocket.

I can see your aura“, you would say, but could you see me?

This is how I let you go. This is how I let go.

 

 

 

Daly City, CA.
June. 2016