Growing up

The Devil and God Are Raging Inside of Me.

Ten years doesn’t seem like a long time. When you still refer to everything in the past as 2006. Ten years ago, man. Ten years ago. 2006 was such a pivotal year of growing up for me. I find myself going back to that year in photographs, nostalgia, and through listening to albums that seem like came out yesterday.

Ten years ago, I sat in my parents guest bedroom, staring out the window. I laid in my bed watching the clouds go from grey to slate. Hearing every cloud rupture with anger and sadness, as the rain fell from the sky. In a room I didn’t grow up in. In a room, I felt like I kept coming back too. I was in-between places, still trying to figure out what I wanted. This wasn’t home but Fresno wasn’t home either. Where do I belong? Where do I fit in?

Ten years ago, I didn’t want to go back to school. Even though I knew getting older meant it would be harder for me to do things. My odds were against me. I was finding myself fearful of people and a fear of my peers is what always told me not to go back to school. It takes me 10 minutes to get out of my car to do simple tasks, without feeling like the world was against me. I didn’t realize I was sick. I didn’t realize that this wasn’t normal.

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Ten years ago, I let the wrong people in. I let people hurt me. I let people use me. I let people cloud my judgement of what good really was. Instead I harbored a pain so great that caused me to cut open my outsides, to understand what my insides were feeling. I was burning in this vessel of a body, with this need to please everyone. To be there for everyone, while people have done nothing but watch me fade in the background.

Ten years ago, I thought I was going to marry a variety of different people. A drummer in one band, a bass player in another. Plotting how one day they would look at me differently then they had in the past. That I wouldn’t be self-conscious. I wouldn’t be awkward. They would look straight into me, as I have looked up at them, many times before.

Ten years ago, I feel in love too easily. Always someone different. Always people I shouldn’t have loved. But I wanted to love as I always felt in the deep depths of my heart. How they play out in movies and we see on the big screen. I was hopeless in wanting something I wasn’t prepared to understand. In a way I used people. I just wanted what everyone else had. A hand to hold to keep themselves from falling apart. Because sad was better than lonely. And now I can’t remember the name of the first boy I kissed.

Ten years ago,  I wanted amazing things to happen to me. I wanted to stand in an open place and watch life happen to me. In a big city, miles away from my mediocre small town. Far from the same people I see every day. Maybe if for once instead of running, I would finally allow things to happen. Watch love open doors, see my careers unfold, watch myself change from strange into something beautiful. I waited forever for things to happen. I waited for people to move. I waited for things to happen. I waited too long and feel as if I am running out of time.

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Ten years ago, an album came out that changed my life. I didn’t think it would. Many albums come and go and still I remember this as if it was yesterday. From the weather changing from the warm fall days to the chill of cold of the soon to be winter months. How it felt wrong to buy it from some mass production corporation, how I needed to purchase the album how I had purchased all their albums. Straight from the band, straight from the source. How I ripped open the package and watched my life change in front of my eyes. No one understands how that feels. How something so simple as opening a padded envelope could change your life in so many magical ways. How I needed to get out of my house and play every song loudly. Loud enough to where my insides would wake up. How every cigarette I smoked, I exhaled out the smoke and watched the smoke slowly leave my lungs open to the cold air. The rain kept falling, as this soundtrack continued to play. How perfect this seemed. My favorite band, playing the songs that for that moment I didn’t understand. It didn’t matter how many times the windshield wipers wiped my windshield clear, the rain still managed to leave a mark. Which is how I feel about this album. No matter how many times I try to wipe this away, a small mark still remains. I could write forever about every line in the songs. I could. I have. But today, I want to live in it’s memory.

Ten years ago, I didn’t understand. Ten years later, I finally know. We are not suppose to fit in. We are not suppose to be normal. Sometimes you don’t realize how bad you’re hurting until the years pass and you become someone else. Someone completely different then the person you were ten years ago. Its hard to come out of the darkness and back into the light. It’s hard to understand that even though we feel completely alone, we are never truly alone. Even when you think you can’t start over, life throws you something completely unexpected.

Today, I watch the rain fall from the sky to the tops of each tree and rooftop, from some place far from home. I think back on those memories. I think back to my sentiments and feelings.  Ten years ago, I had no idea where I was going. I stopped believing in love. I stopped believing in myself in the years in took to get here. I stopped wanting to marry the boys that would never love me. I stopped dying for a hand to hold. Ten years ago, seemed like such a long time ago. Now, I sit here wondering what happens next.

Ten years ago, man.

10 years.

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“Baby, I’m going on an airplane..”

.”..and I don’t know if I’ll be back again.”

It’s 12:17 am.

My flight leaves in the next 6 hours. It takes me an hour to get to the airport (traffic permitting). About the same to get through check-in, security, and head towards the gate.

My Mom always asks about weight limit for luggage. Seeing if I can squeeze another two pounds in my suitcase.

Una sueter para tu Tia. A sweater for your Aunt.
Una falda para tu Abuelita. A skirt for your Grandma.

A new toy for someone that just had a baby in the family. Don’t forget that each pile is for each family. She continues. I am lucky enough to fit an extra pair of shoes in my suitcase. She does this every time. If I am allowed to take three pieces of luggage, I’d take them full to the max, with a carry-on packed tight and personal bag. But all just two pounds below the weight limit. With all the restrictions there is to fly and each airline charging for luggage, I make it always two pounds below the weight limit. 1 suitcase per ticketed passenger and a small bag for carry-on.

All packed tightly.

Going to the mother country takes months of preparation. Figuring out dates, budgeting costs, meanwhile securing the best deal possible. Of course flights based on luggage allowances doesn’t hurt either. An extra cushion to bring something for someone you love. If the months prior of shopping for each family member hasn’t prepared us, its the extended family members as well. She does this without even flinching. If she had her last dollar on her and found something that reminded her of someone; she would buy it.

That’s my Mom. Always thinking of others.

Then you have the special requests. Various family members asking for items that are too expensive in their country but cheaper and easy to come by at home. Never giving you notice. Always when your bag is packed and you’re ready to go; that your whatsapp sends you an alert.

Hola, te puedo pedir un favor? Hello, can I ask you a favor?

Sometimes I want to throw my phone out the window. Why do you wait until 3 days before I leave?  When you’ve known for months I was coming. But still, I always oblige. It’s what my Mom does. It’s what I have always been taught.

I can’t tell you the countless times I’ve been to Ross, Marshall’s, Target affiliate stores to prepare for this trip. Or the countless times we’ve been to the Segunda. Not including the countess times I’ve complained, begged, pleaded with my Mom to stop buying things. Nobody needs anything. They have more than enough. Remembering a Prima that just came back from the states and went on a fancy shopping excursion. Or mentioned about a family member that always cried about being broke, yet has money to vacation everywhere. I am always told to be quiet malagradecida, ungrateful.

It’s 12:37 am.

I’ve watched as she unpacks then repacks everything. Remembering a hidden shopping bag of items she had bought for my Abuelita. She’s had this suitcase packed the minute after I purchased my ticket. Confirming that it wasn’t as much stuff as last time. Tu Tia a ayudado mucho (Your Aunt has helped a lot), reassuring that every item had it’s reasons.

I am lucky if I could fit my own stuff in the suitcase. A pair of shoes, a book, something.

If it were up to me, I wouldn’t pack anything. Puros malagradecidos. No one ever says “Thank You” anymore. It’s as if they expect something every time the plane lands. Especially after the last time. Where everyone pointed a finger at my Mom, that she was the dramatic one. Too sensitive, too passionate, always wanting everything in her way. She’s been away for so long, she doesn’t understand how we do things here.

I remember thinking. You try living miles away from your mother. Not in another state where you’re just a bus or plane ride away. In another country, where you have to adapt to a new language and completely new customs. After the last time, I wondered what they think. Do we seem better off because we live in such a glamorous country? Because honestly, I don’t feel better off. Traveling back and forth isn’t easy with just a swipe of a credit card. Including when you have no money, including when you haven’t worked in a few months. But the glitz and glamour of gringolandia makes people believe otherwise.

I sit starting at the suitcase wondering if she remembers what I do. If that even matters to her. I harbor grudges. I become angry. If they only knew the things we have suffered here with no sense of family. If they only knew the things we have been through being miles away from people we could trust. But I am the ungrateful one? Malagradecida. I wish I could put everything back. Return everything. Get my Mom something she really deserves. Because she of all people deserves a suitcase full of everything she loves. Not them.

I remind my Mom about the many times our family members come to the states, without thinking twice about coming to visit. Using the pretext of shopping in bigger states, going to awesome theme parks, and how it’s just not easy for them to travel like its easy for us too.

How easy going to Vegas must be then the extra miles it would be to fly out to SFO. How silly of me an American to understand spending money in the most expensive country in the world.

My mom thinks of everyone. Even after they have yelled at her. After they have talked behind her back. After she spends a few days in silence after some new bullshit arises.

Remember this bag is for your Prima.
Don’t forget to tell your Abueilta, this sweater is for when she goes it temple..

I wish I had my mothers heart. Able to forgive people as easily as they have hurt you.

It’s 12:55 am.

I go over my flight itinerary, who’s going to pick me up, who I will hug first and what I am going to say when I see my family.

I know she’d rather go in my place. That I am in no position to be going anywhere with my current financial state. I should be home instead of boarding a plane and enjoying every moment being somewhere else.

I sit with anxiety and wonder what awaits me. Will I still be angry? Will I learn to forgive?

When I wake up I’ll forget everything. I will board the plane, sit in my assigned seat and watch the plane take off into the clouds toward Benito Juarez International. I’ll sit and fidget the 4 hours it takes to get there; wondering why I make this trip at all. I think about going back. Taking the trip back home and sitting in my miserable state.

It’s at that moment I wish my Mom came on this trip with me. How she would be sitting by the window, making her plan for the whole week. Going over ever last detail of the contents of the suitcase and how happy it will make everyone to see what they will receive. I think about how happy it makes her to see the people she cares about happy. How happy she was for me the minute I purchased my ticket; knowing I will be spending time with my Abuelita. It’s at that moment, I do feel like a malagradecida (ungrateful).

I shouldn’t be here. I need to stop being angry. I need to get over this feeling, just as my Mom does the moment she comes back home to the states. Because out of all the people in the world, she deserves to be going on this trip. She deserves to spend time with her Mami, my Abuelita. Not an ungrateful person that holds grudges such as myself.

I know the moment I land in Mexico, it will all be different. My attitude will change and my anxiety will lift away. The moment I see my Abuelita, every feeling I had will disappear. She deserves to be here where I stand, not me. But I promise to be grateful on this trip, just like she would want.

But I can’t help but wish she was here. Because she deserves to be here more than anyone. Not me.

 

 

A clove of Garlic on my window.

My Mom always had a thing with putting a clove of garlic on the window. As far back as I could remember, it was one of her little superstitions. Like having a glass of water by the bed before you sleep. Eating 12 grapes at midnight on New Year’s Eve. The garlic clove on the window became her little quirk.

She had been doing the garlic thing for so long that when I was younger I believed all windows came with a clove of garlic. When I’d see a window without one, I’d assume the window was broken. It wasn’t until I was a teenager that I understood it was one of her many superstitions.

“Para la mala vibra.”, she would say. For the bad vibes.

When you’re 15, you think anything your parents do is crazy. Everything they do is just weird, off, and super Mexican.

“Mom, you sound crazy. Who would want to give us bad vibes?”, I’d say.

“People. Not all people know the vibra they put out”, she’d respond.

Just another thing to add to the we are different pile. We mexicans are a rare breed of crazy. Superstitions, bad vibes, all of the cosmic universe hocus pocus.

We have a superstition for everything in my family:

Do the sign of the cross before you start a journey. To ensure your journey is blessed.
A St. Christopher medallion to ensure safe travels.
A glass of water by the bed, to trap the bad dreams.
Never place your purse on the floor, that way you will always have money.
A clove of garlic on the window to suck out the “mala vibra” before it enters your house.

I didn’t believe her at times. I didn’t want to. I refused to believe that anyone would want to harm us. Who could want to put out a crazy vibe like that? What would they gain? But I obliged her wishes. I wouldn’t mock or say anything. I just allowed her to work her brujeria  and hoped for the best in everything. Keeping a “buena vibra”, a good vibe going.

Two weeks ago, I had a crazy spell of insomnia. Something I have never experienced. My body would collapse on the bed but I couldn’t shut my mind off. I would find myself falling asleep only to wake up an hour later in a panic.

“Something is wrong. Something happened.”, I would think.

I would look out the window and see my street, black as night. For two weeks, I couldn’t get it together. I tried everything. I took baths with essential oils. I slept with lavender on my wrists. I would watch tv until my eyes felt heavy but nothing worked. I would have resorted to sleeping pills, had it not been my mother handing me 3 cloves of garlic.

“I’m sorry, mija. I’ve been so busy, I haven’t changed your garlic. Here, put this garlic on each of your windows”. She instructed.

I haven’t told her I hadn’t been sleeping. Just briefly in passing. I didn’t want her to think it was serious or that I needed to go to the doctor again. But somehow, without saying anything, she always knew.

I haven’t slept right in a few days. I find myself staring at the ceiling at night, praying to sleep. I hadn’t spoke to God in a long time and these past few days, I’ve been having long detailed conversations with Diosito. I refused to believe this is a coincidence. That this garlic clove is going to solve anything. It’s just a vegetable on my window. Everything has an explanation, a scientific answer. But I could hardly keep myself awake anymore. I wanted to cry from all this stupid exhaustion. I am not sure how much longer I can keep this going.

I replaced each clove of garlic, one clove for each of my windows. The first garlic looked like a raisin. Completely brown with the life sucked out of it. Nothing out of the ordinary, it’s how they usually look when my Mom changes them. I find myself doing exactly as she would do when she would change the garlic; saying a prayer to each garlic, something only she would understand. The second garlic started its stage of regrowth. Equipped with a sprout of life inside of itself. My mom always said when a garlic sprouts life, you have buena vibra, good vibes.

Upon replacing the second garlic, I didn’t understand why I had a third. The only rooms I occupy are taken care of, maybe she miscounted? Then I remembered that nothing my mother ever does is without reason. Handing me 3 garlic cloves for each of my windows, means something. I was too tired to ask her; another lecture of why we do this and what it’s for, etc. It wasn’t until I remembered the third window, that I remembered why the third clove. A window in a room that I don’t normally occupy. A room I only go into to throw miscellaneous items away. The room has always been too warm, too cluttered with objects, old relics of the past that I haven’t had the time to clear out. I never go in there, I tell myself. But it’s worth a shot.

I walked toward the window and see the shell of the garlic. I pick up the shell and start replacing the garlic. I say my final prayer, my wish.

“Please allow no harm to me and my family. Please protect us from negativity and harm from the outside world.”, I said.

I start walking toward the trash to throw away the last dried up clove. Upon inspecting it the clove started disintegrating to ash. As if the clove of garlic held on enough just to become a pile of dust. I didn’t know what to do. I just stood there, with the skin of the garlic and felt every emotion inside turn to dust.

“They can’t hurt me no more. They can’t hurt us anymore.”, I found myself saying.

I didn’t wanted to just throw it away in the trash. I wanted to rid myself of that “mala vibra”. I flushed the ash and the garlic skin in the toilet. Walked toward the sink to wash my hands from what happened. Its through that, that I felt a weight lift off my chest and completely off my shoulders.

Was this the reason why I stopped sleeping? Was this the reason of my insomnia? There’s a reason for everything, right?

I walked toward my bed, turned off the light, and covered myself with blankets. I didn’t have a chance to look toward the ceiling before falling into a complete deep sleep. It could just be coincidence. Just my body finally giving out and allowing me to sleep. But I tell you, I have never slept more soundly then I did that night.

Brujeria, superstition, or not, I will continue to change the garlic on my window. As long as it guarantees me a good night sleep.

 

 

 

 

 

Self portrait with Chopped hair.

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We grow our hair like weeds for people that will never love us. To later chop off all the dead weight, once they leave us. This time, I wanted to do the leaving. I wanted to cut the man at the source, and resort to every dramatic episode I could think of. Because it was never his choice. It was my choice, my decision, and it was my turn to leave this time.

If you cut your hair, I will leave you.

How I watched every strand of hair grow to the middle of my back. How happy he seemed as he ran his fingers through it, paid no mind to the person before him. It’s when I think I have him, that he leaves without notice. His ghost that trails behind then lingers once he leaves. It’s when I think I have won, that I have lost everything before me.

When you believe you love someone, you’ll fall for anything. Even something simple as leaving every strand of hair on your head, just as they like it. I loved him, from the deep parts of my soul, to every long strand of hair that fell across my back. I watched as my hair became my shield, my armor from the world. My way of hiding these feelings of doubts and worries. My hair continued to grow into a tangled, tousled, mess. I continued to listen to his threats, as empty as the love he gave me. No matter how long my hair grew, he never came back.

Frida Kahlo - Self Portrait with Cropped Hair - 1943

I wanted him back for all the superficial reasons I hated. I wanted to stop this numbing suffocated feeling of being alone that drugs nor alcohol could fill. My hair continued to grow and I continued to wait. He said I was perfect and to never change. If I cut my hair, he would only leave me. He would never come back. And I continued to wait. Until the weight of my hair became the weight of my worries. Until my hair became heavy, that I could no longer hold my head up to the sky. We do these foolish things for love but at what cost does it love us back? At what cost do people understand that we are people underneath all that hair? That our hair doesn’t make you love us any less. There were days I wanted to rip every strand from my head. Tear apart the existence of what I believed he wanted. Because for a brief moment I was perfect to you, don’t I ever think of changing.

I watch as the strands of hair fall to the ground. Inch by inch. The memories of you and the ghosts before you. If you cut your hair, I will leave you.  I try to keep myself composed. Hold the tears back. Love was never what held us together. The strands of dead hair that laid before my feet; bear witness to this change that comes over me. I am more exposed to the world without my shield. I am showing the world who I really am, beneath the hair.

 

When the final strand of hair falls, I will forget you. Someone will come in and sweep away the memories scattered on the floor. It won’t be me this time. For the first time, I have stopped listening to ghosts.

 

Do me a favor and don’t reply.

He wasn’t a character I normally liked. Then again, I fall in love with people so fast it’s almost a joke. A slight change in the weather, a smile in September; before I know it, I am hooked.

I knew it wasn’t love, it was nothing like it. He had a way of making butterflies flutter out of the dark caves of my soul, and I liked it. I had closed myself off of male attention for so long, that any attention made my heart skip a beat. The more I tried to place him, the further he would get away. I wait too long for people that don’t exist. He was no exception. When you wait too long for things to happen, you start making up stories in your mind. Maybe thats what this all was. My crazy mind getting the best of me.

I am crazy. I am absolutely crazy. I know nothing about him, but I can’t stop thinking about him.  This is how crazy people think, right? This is how it starts when your mind starts to go? I can’t stop myself. I find myself jumping right back in, after I promised myself I would keep myself 10 steps back. Here I am standing on the ledge between reality and make believe. I am a rational person. I am crazy but I am not bat-shit crazy. I know the difference between whats right and whats completely stupid/foolish/wrong for me?

Here I am standing in front of the man that could possible change my whole life. The man that ignited the spark after the years of broken solitude and sadness.

I can’t help but look at him.

Boy, is he something. It was a spark, a break in the melody that I would die to hear on constant repeat. A drum beat that kept my heart in constant motion.

I should have known better. Should have seen all the red flags, paid absolute attention to all the signs, but I didn’t. You never know who you will open yourself up too. Never know who your heart will decide gets the keeping. I am crazy to think that stupid sparks mean something. Including when everything feels one sided.

I always end up the girl in the pretty dress that cries at the end of the story. The girl that makes up all these weird scenarios of “what if” and breaks her own foolish heart in the end.

But maybe this was different.

I mean. Why else did he keep coming back?

“I just need to be alone for a while”

Of course he does. He wants to put an end to the narrative that hasn’t even started. Everybody needs to be alone for a while. But nobody really wants to be alone, right?

I feel myself screaming on the inside.

“Give me a chance. Choose me! Look at me!”

Now I am sitting in the pretty dress, wondering what I did wrong. If I did anything wrong at all. If my crazy fucked up mind got the best of my reality.

Why is it when shit starts to get real, men just want to back track. Like they weren’t hitting you up at all hours of the night. Like they weren’t asking all these personal questions, pretending to be invested. Only to need to be alone.

“You understand what I mean right? You’re alone”

Ouch.

I seem to bring that out of men. This breath of honesty that men can’t help but exhale out, and I can’t help but inhale in. He just happened to be no exception. It becomes natural for men to be so brutally honest with me, like we are the best of friends. That talking with me is like talking with one of their bros. I wonder if thats what they think of me. Just one of their bros, their friends, their buddies. After a while, I don’t know who to blame anymore. Is it my fault for being quiet about how I feel? Or their fault for assuming I am no different then they are.

Its been months since we’ve talked but I couldn’t rid him from my brain. I keep replaying the same image of us. Me the dreamer, him the realist. Me, believing that he would see through my armor. He, just feeling this need to be alone. I knew it was a lost cause. I knew deep down inside that everything was a no-go. But curiosity got the best of me. Because why are people that are not meant to be together, keep coming back together again. Even if it means nothing, why did the spark hit me like a lightening bolt?

It had to mean something.

Then the water works start to form. I become the girl I have come to know and fear and hate and just can’t stop myself from becoming. What in the fuck is wrong with me that men feel the need to be alone to find themselves. That I am some sort of stop on the way to their destiny. Are they aware that the manic-pixie dream girl died for men years ago; that we as females can be the heroes of our own story??

I don’t want to be the girl that got away.
I don’t want to be the girl you marry at the end of the day.
What in the fuck is wrong with the “right now”?

This “alone” time ends up being everyone else but me.

I start seeing images of him with someone new, every few weeks. I am not a factor in his mind until it doesn’t work out. Then like clockwork, he comes back. Maybe a second look would do the trick. Maybe, I am what they want in the long run, but just not right now. Not right away.

Meanwhile I sit here, miserable. Asking myself, what did I do wrong?

Everybody wants everybody else.
Someone prettier with their shit together.
Someone thinner.
Someone imperfectly perfect to their own liking.
Is it too much to want the same thing everyone else wants?

Seriously, why the fuck not me?

Yeah you go ahead, be by yourself.

Me too, dude. Me too.

Oakland, CA. 2013

Shake it out.

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I should have written this a long time ago. The minute my heart changed, and we went our separate ways. Like a broken record, I yearn for the tragic melodies of yesterday. The pain that cuts you straight down to the core. Bleeding through your veins and making your heart beat faster. I love the hurt, I need the pain. This sick desire for self destruction never leaves. But at this moment it has started to escape me.

You can take everything you want from this. Every letter, every word, every sentence, every verb. Everything. Let it manifest itself into what you want to believe. Because if I cared even an ounce about you, I wouldn’t feel the need to rid myself of you.

I do not break for you.
I do not cry for you.
I do not love who or what I believed you were.

You’re the needle that scratches my record player, wanting to hear only my favorite song. At this moment, everything sounds differently now. Even you look different now. The past always stays in the past, no matter how many times a ghost haunts you. The ghost lingers then drifts away, just around the same time the melody ends. Ending with the memories, ending with the sadness and all the tears.

Its through this pain that I thought a million things about you.

I thought I loved you.
I thought I missed you.
I thought I would self-destruct without you.

Thinking only leads to dreams that never truly existed. An end to our story. Waking from the blissful dreams into our badly lit reality. Its then we find ourselves back at the start. Back to the beginning.

Scratch that.

We can’t take things back to the start. We have maxed out our ideas of new beginnings. What’s done is done and every girl after me is just filler space. Because men like you hate the voided vacancy of present tense.

I will shake you out from underneath my skin. Out from every inch of my bones, into the dusty mist where you belong. Because I am doing just fine without you. Every night is another night to forget you. I watch as memories turn to dust and leave behind all these scattered thoughts about you.

I am doing just fine.
I am doing just fine.
Just you wait and see.

Duele.

It doesn’t hurt, I am okay.
No duele.

Jump to your feet.
Dust yourself off.
Pretend it doesn’t hurt.  While the tears are forming at the corners of my eyes.

No duele. No pasa nada.
It doesn’t hurt, everything will be okay.

Be strong. Fuerte. I am bigger than my cuts and my scrapes. Bigger then my falls and failures. Bigger then the embarrassment of the hurt I feel inside.

It doesn’t hurt, no duele.

It hurts. Straight to the core. In the deeper depths of my soul. I could paint the wound any color, but it never stops hurting. How strong am I suppose to be? How strong am I suppose to allow the world to see?

Levantate. No pasa nada. Pero todo duele.

Everything hurts. From my skin to my bones to the very depths of my soul. I have been programmed to make every scrape disappear. Every broken blood vessel nonexistent. But it hurts. It hurts every inch of my skin and I am too afraid to say so. I was brought up to believe that if you can’t see pain, the pain doesn’t exist. Cover up every cut, bandage every bruise and broken bone. If it’s not there, it doesn’t exist.

I will lie through my teeth. Clinching my fists to stop the tears from forming.

It doesn’t hurt.
It doesn’t hurt.
It doesn’t hurt anymore.

No duele tanto. Pero, duele suficiente.

 

Hotel Chelsea.

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She was easy to lie to. I don’t know why I did it, but I found myself lying to her a million times. It never phased me that it was wrong. The way I figured, I was protecting her from something.

I have learned that with people, if you tell a person everything, they will use everything against you. All your secrets, all your dreams, everything. I loved being secretive, being able to keep something for myself. She just never understood that, instead I was a liar. I defied everything she stood for. I led her to believe I was someone else, when I wasn’t. I did this to myself, this I know. I lied, I made myself into a different person for different people, and often forgot who I was. When you make a mockery of yourself, you become the caricature you create instead of yourself. Just a fragment of a person you’re suppose to be. With her I only gave her a fraction of who I was. I could never be myself around her and she was my best friend.

It had been years since we had actually been friends to each other. We were more like acquaintances that tolerated each other. We lied to each other constantly, that it felt like nothing at times. She could lie about everything, but no matter what I did, I was always the liar. I found myself distancing from her. Becoming my own person with my own life and voice. Maybe it was all the lies we told each other. Or maybe we were just finally growing apart from each other.

We had gone to New York before. We made up stories of living in different boroughs and meeting in the middle. Talking hours about our dreams and made up lives of the future. Childish dreams that never came true. Every time we stepped off the plane, we had different experiences. She craved this indie celebrity that came with the internet world, and I just wanted to be a complete nomad. I wanted to hide from the world underneath every skyscraper, write in a million notebooks from tiny hole-in-the-wall cafes. Anything to get away from the boring and mundane of my tiny hometown.

We may not have agreed about a lot of things, but the one thing we could agree on was New York, and The Hotel Chelsea.

My apartment in LA, held photos of my New York.
A New York she never knew.
A New York she never saw.
A New York that she had never seen with me.
Where we weren’t looking up 5 star reviews.
Where we weren’t seeing who ate where.
A New York that felt New York to me.

During a visit is when she asked me about those photos, I lied. Those photos weren’t mine. I had never been there, I could never go without her. When talks came about the Chelsea, as she held a photograph of the Hotel, I told her I had never been.

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I should have been honest. I should have said everything I felt at that very minute. I don’t know why I did that. As she stood there looking carefully at each photograph, I couldn’t help but continue this stream of lies. Something inside made me believe that had I told her, it would just break her heart into a million pieces. This fear of missing out before it became the moniker “FOMO”. We were suppose to do everything together. We were suppose to share our hopes and dreams, and here I was defying those thoughts.

For all she knew, The Hotel Chelsea was her thing. New York was her thing. Even if we shared the same hopes and dreams, it was always her ideas. Her wishes, her dreams, and everything I loved came in at second. She would speak enthusiastically about things I had already heard about. Films, I had seen a decade prior. Bands I had known about for years, songs I had heard weeks before she did. She would make these elaborate mixes of bands I had heard, and bands I had never heard of. Sometimes she would play songs I had heard weeks before she did. If I made a mention of liking any of the bands or any of the songs, she would complain that I copied her, that I was being her. All of the lying had made me into someone else.  I had lied to her multiple times that I didn’t have the heart to explain. Every thing was her thing. From the men she loved, to the people she obsessed over. If I spoke up about anything, I was her carbon copy. How could I, a person of my stature know these things? My character was making her believe what she wanted to believe.

I was ready to move on and grow up. To pack my bags and leave to bigger cities. To fall in love with people that I didn’t make up in my mind. But I waited for her. While she was afraid of being alone and paralyzed by self doubt, that she locked herself into her room and dreamed about life in a big city.

“New York could save me. The Chelsea will save me.” she’d say.

I couldn’t help but feel the same way too. As if she had taken the words out of my heart and spoke them out into the universe. This idea that a big frightening city could change everything. But all of it was just a dream, and reality was living in cities closer to home with people who made us feel at home.

I wasn’t allowed to go to the hotel without her, let alone New York City. It was an unspoken, unwritten word, among our friendship that we wouldn’t go without each other. I would watch the months go by and realize I was waiting for the dreams we shared to start. Start over as different people in a completely different city. I was waiting as the days came and went, as each year we toasted to the future. Every birthday card lined with false illusions of what our future would be. She was the star and I was the assistant. She pulled the stings and I made the things happen.

Still I waited.

I knew it was wrong. I was becoming the fraud, a mere caricature of myself.

The photographs scattered around the apartment were mine. Had she been someone else, I would have recounted all the stories. With her, I didn’t have the heart to tell her anything. That every inch of the hotel I wanted to keep for myself. That I still had tiny shampoo bottles hidden in my dresser drawers, underneath the ticket stubs of our scattered youth. I wanted to keep this New York for myself, my story. I have waited for my life to start that I couldn’t wait any longer. I wanted to keep that part of New York in my story. Keep every inch of the hotel for myself. It was just another lie, amongst all the other lies I’ve told. Lies about everything. Hide every inch of the hotel’s memory deep within the confines of my apartment. Even through the lies we couldn’t hide from our reality. The truth was we were growing up and growing apart, and neither of us had the guts to tell each other.

I was the liar. I was the carbon copy. Because someone like me, should never know the greatness of the Chelsea Hotel. I should have never grown up with stories of artists being inspired by that very hotel. A hotel so grand and majestic, with it’s ghosts trapped inside every inch, crack, and scratch. I never understood how lost I felt, until I walked the hallways of the Chelsea. How sitting on window sills, looking down at the lights of the city, made you crave warmth from people. How cold February nights made you wish for people that no longer existed. How being deep inside the bones of a hotel can play tricks on your mind and your soul.

She would never understand. How my needs of comfort and growth, could ever surpass her loneliness and self doubt.

I grabbed my camera and took photos of every inch of that hotel. The famous stairwell, the beautiful bohemian art, the beautiful architecture of the building, everything. I wanted more than just a mental memory. I wanted something to look back on. Something that was mine. A memory of sitting in an empty bath tub and crying over boys that break hearts and friendships that are going no where. This fear of growing up and being everything that I hated. Realizing that adulthood is frightening and sometimes, you have to fly halfway across from the familiar to find yourself.

I could never explain to her, how I slept with the big thick drapes of the hotel shut and wanted to breathe it all in. Breathe the hotel deep into my lungs and take a piece of that hotel everywhere I went. How haunted it felt in my soul, and how I left a part of myself in that hotel and still want it back. People are so afraid of missing out that they forget, we are all missing something too. Sometimes you need to fly across the country, on a weekend where it’s suppose to be about love, and cry in the tub of a dusty hotel.

I was a liar. For the first time I didn’t care. I felt no sincerity in apologizing in my life. She would never understand, like she never truly understood me. Because in the end our friendship was nothing more than two people lying about who they really were.

I found everything I was looking for at the Hotel Chelsea, and I’ll never be alone.

 

Los Angeles, CA. 2009

“White” Mexican.

I don’t sing Corridos.
I can’t dance Salsa.
I have brown hair and dark brown eyes, but my skin is pale as snow.
If it wasn’t for my last name, you would think I was like everyone else.

“She’s not like a Mexican, she’s white.”

People have a way of being cruel without intending to. Saying a variety of ignorant things without realizing the sentiments. No one will ever see the words that sting like tattoos on my flesh that no amount of ink could cover over. My pale complexion does not show the color of my blood that flows through this vessel. The blood that roots itself down like the roots of a tree; each root firmly planted in each equally diverse culture. I stand here amazed at the words that make no sense to me. Am I not the product of my ancestry, because of the way I act toward you? Do I insinuate more of one culture than the other? Am I not a true Mexican, because I lack all the stereotypical characteristics you think of? I was not aware that being a product of two different nationalities, I had to prove myself to everyone.

 “She’s more of a white-washed Mexican.”

I listen to Joy Division and stand in the background like a wallflower; bobbing my head to the music.
I sing old latin folk songs, while also singing every motown love song.
I didn’t grow up in a rancho, I grew up in a suburb.

I was born and raised in the United States. I say  “Like”, “dude” and every other juvenile slang word you can think of. The only time I give myself away is talking an octave above everyone else. When I am passionate about something, I become loud and obnoxious, much to the dismay of my peers. When I express myself, I use my hands when I talk, and over exaggerate everything. I am not hiding who I am. I do not have to run with the Mexican flag across my chest to prove that I am Mexican. I was raised in a predominately american environment that has allowed me to be close to my american culture. I am not white-washed, because I do not have an accent when I talk. I am not white-washed because I love american customs just as much as I love mexican customs. I was raised under the belief that I could be who ever I wanted to be. I don’t have to prove my identity to anyone. This isn’t a sick competition of who is better at their culture, because no one will ever win. I am American, I am Mexican, I am both. I am born American with a Mexican ancestry.

But none of that matters to you.

“She’s a coconut; brown on the outside, white on the inside”.

I don’t have an accent when I speak.
I seldom ever wear a color louder than neutrals.
I have tattoos you will never see; none of which are my last name across my back.

I am not a coconut.  I like what I like for my own personal preference. My style is understated because that is my aesthetic. While I talk with my hands, I speak fluently in both languages, and I love chisme/gossip just as much as the next person.

But, no.

Instead you see the outside and will never understand my insides. You think you know my struggles just by looking at my face. But you don’t know. You think that by saying words, they don’t hurt after they have left the tip of your tongue. The words stay with me long after you have gone on to the next subject. How dare you defy my identity, on the basis of not being your stereotypical race. I am not the spokesperson for being of two different ancestries. I am not here to prove to you how much of my nationality that I know. I am a Mexican-American. An american born, mexican-american culturally raised, citizen of the United States. I am not a “White” Mexican, nor a white-washed mexican, or a “white” girl.

I am just me, and the best I will ever be.

 

Se Habla Espanol.

I speak Spanish.

It’s not a sign I wear often. I don’t scream it from the rooftops. It’s not perfect, but when I need the language to communicate, it amazes me how it rolls off the tongue. I don’t advertise it on my skin, but I do wear it like a badge of honor. In an English dominated country, I find myself torn between the two languages. I am very proud of my languages, my cultures, and my roots. I am very proud to be of two different and very diverse cultures. Even prouder to be able to have my heart in one country and my roots in another. The past couple of months have been a wake up call to my heritage. I am watching people whom I have considered friends and family, turn around and speak against the very foundations of my language. It’s only cool to know the Spanish language when people see fit to their needs. When a holiday comes up, or after a few drinks, and everyone thinks it’s funny to say a word or two. I have watched people make a mockery of my language in a series of comedic jokes and racist rants. I have sat and watched my peers ask me the correct pronunciations of words, to later mock someone speaking in their native tongue.  These are my languages that I speak to communicate with everyone. English or Spanish, Espanol o Ingles. I may not always get the words right, I may fumble and mispronounce sentiments, but these are my words.

My language is not here to intimidate you.

When I speak in a tongue that is not natural to you, I am not here to intimidate you. There are many misconceptions about knowing two languages, but I use my language to communicate with my gente (my people)–my familia (my family), my friends, my colleagues. I am not observing you, I am not judging you. I have nothing to hide from you. I speak passionately, poetically and profusely about my life, in a tongue that is natural to me. Using my hands, speaking an octave higher than most, because that is how my language expresses itself. My first language, my second language; voices that come from me in the moment that I need to communicate to a variety of different people. How can a person who doesn’t know me at all, ask me to speak in a tongue that is natural to me? Both languages come naturally to me, and I use them how I see fit.

My language is not a party trick.

When I speak the words you do not understand, it is not an open invitation to entertain you with. Yes, I know another language other than English. No, I will not sit here and prove to you that I know how to speak said language. I am not a magician. I am not pulling words out of a hat, while wearing a sparkly costume. My language is not a party trick, my language is my lifeline; it’s my alma/soul and my corazon/heart. My secret power that allows me to be close to my roots –to my ancestors, to my family, to people who understand me. I did not come here to impress you with my words that you will use against me. Telling lies of how my language holds me back from my peers; the same language you want me to repeat.

My language is not here for you to state “Say something in Spanish… It’s so much prettier in Spanish“.

Spanish, as well as English, is a beautiful language.  Both languages with written words have a poetry about them. Spoken in terms of endearment or passionately in a rage, but my words are not here to turn you on. I will not roll my “r’s” at you. I will not come at you in a rage of anger and speak obscenities for no reason. I am not here to fulfill your fantasies or desires of a certain cultural stereotype. I am not spicy, I will not call you papi, carino, amor, or any other stereotypical terms of endearment. I have a Papi, and he didn’t raise me to belittle myself to become a caricature of your fantasies. So, No. I will not say something in Spanish. I will speak to you in English, because it’s just as pretty as Spanish.

Spanish or English, Espanol o Ingles, I will be protective of my language. Speak passionately and not allow anyone to make me feel less of a person by speaking it. My language gives me the strength to be brave and to feel a sense of pride of where I have come from. A pride in my heritage and the people that have spoke the language before me. Something that has taken a long time to realize.  Proud of who I am. Proud of the very roots that have allowed me to grow into the person I am today. One language isn’t stronger than the other. As the years go by, I realize it is a blessing more than a curse to know both English and Spanish. No matter what anyone says. I may not always get the words right, but eventually I will make things right.