Archive | September, 2012

Un Dia a La Vez “One Day at a Time”

27 Sep

My grandmother used to sing this song of worship “Un Dia A La vez” in her sweet low soothing voice and without fail I would close my eyes, smile, and breathe deeply as it never failed to calm me. It was a mantra to live life one day at a time with the hope and perseverance that the next day would be better than the last. My abuelita was a strong, kind, and friendly woman; I have never met anyone quite like her. Seemingly meek in her quiet way but once prompted by a friendly smile, she would sidle up next to you and become your new best friend as she chatted away and rewarded your willingness to listen with the sweetest of smiles and a twinkle in her eyes.

I think back on those days whenever I feel the urge to close in on myself, whenever I want to shut everyone out and live my life in quiet contemplation. I think about how much she suffered, how hard she worked to give her family a better life, and how she never lost that sweet composition. Growing up I thought there must be something wrong with her; she never yelled, she was never upset; she didn’t raise a hand to anyone. Even when my devil of a cousin would do outrageous things that made ME, a five year old, want to smack him silly; she would sigh and sing to him while she held him, rocking him back and forth in her bosom.

Whereas I cannot aim to be as sweet of an angel as she was, I derive strength from her memory, her simplicity in living life: care for your children, smile because it will get better, and devote your life to God by giving hope to others. Her seemingly simple outlook in life is beautiful in its selflessness and I do aim to follow in her example as such.

I take solace in the fact that things have definitely gotten better. So I say to you, there is a lot of pain to be found in life; sadness, tragedy, and injustice abound; but will you live life one day at a time hoping and working to make each day better or will you lay your soul to die when you quit the hope of a better life?

I have hurt inside; we all do, in varying degrees. My pain is no stronger, stranger, or sadder than yours. It is painful to me as yours is painful to you. But the beauty in the human spirit is that I will never give up the pursuit of being a better, happier, kinder, and more helpful human being and in the process, reap the rewards of mending my broken heart and healing old wounds, even when they reopen from time to time.

I hold your hand and I tell you, It Gets Better. One Day at a Time.

Thoughts after sharing

26 Sep

Thoughts swirl around my mind, words trying to get themselves on paper, stories pushing out of my mind to be shared and I have abstain from releasing them.

I started this blog with the purpose that one day I would be sharing these stories, the ones that are dearest (and most painful) to my heart, with the hope that someone/anyone would read them and relate to them and not feel so alone.

It has been a  few years since I first opened my wordpress account and for the most part I ignored logging in, I wasn’t ready you see.  I wasn’t ready to give that part of me because when I share these words with you I am giving you a piece of me and I must admit, they leave me drained at times.

When I go back and read my posts, I notice that I tend to share in segments, bursts of feelings and experiences revolving around a time period but mostly a person who was a central dominating figure in my life.

But after the last two posts that I shared I have been left with a gaping wound and I try to heal.  Maybe I shared them too soon.  Maybe I got a response that made me feel defensive.  Maybe when asked for more details and I dumbly agreed to divulge a part of my life that I was unable to part with, I crumbled a bit inside.

I lost you all over again and I realized I never grieved you.

I have many drafts saved here, many stories hanging from my fingertips aching to be shared but I hold them back because I am grieving you now my dear, a light that was extinguished much too soon.

I miss you my dear.  I hope you know that now and I hope you knew then.

Rest your eyes in sweet surrender,
Drift by sorrow of life,
Where the shadows may never reach you,
Darkness was never meant for you.


13 Sep

This is hard to share because there’s a certain shame and stigma to going through this in a first world country, but it’s important to know that it happens, here in our country, and that it is more pervasive that we like to admit.


When I had you Bella, it was so hard to leave you. You were such a little thing, born a bit early; you weighed 5 lbs. and 8oz. When you would curl up your tiny limbs up to your chest, you could easily fit inside a shoe box. How could I leave you? I only had six weeks with you before it was time for me to go back to work and when I went back that first day I couldn’t help it; the tears kept streaming down my cheeks and it hurt so bad to be away from you. I had taken one of your undershirts with me to work so I could smell your scent while I was away but it only made my emotions come tumbling down and the sobs rise in me uncontrollably.

I didn’t have to be away from you for long.

That week I went to a doctor’s appointment and they told me, “Congratulations, you are pregnant.” The doctor didn’t see you on the floor in your car seat and when he saw my shocked face and his eyes fell upon you, he understood. He was very kind and recounted a personal story of not being able to have children with his wife and how I would see how very lucky I was to have you both down the line. What a wise man indeed. 🙂

I gave my notice at work the following day and decided to stay home with you because the health insurance would be more affordable if I didn’t work and we only had one income in the family.

But times were lean.

When Iza came smiling into the world, I couldn’t imagine a life without the two of you. My two little joys, my two angels. No love had ever felt truer, clearer, or everlasting. What startling beauty I found in your little faces.

But times were lean and nobody knows how difficult times were back then.

We lived in a tiny converted basement that was damp all of the time and made Iza chronically sick. We would make weekly visits to the emergency room during her first months of life because her asthma and symptoms were so severe. I couldn’t sleep; I was so paranoid that I would collapse in exhaustion and not hear the awful purring sound coming from her chest. I slept with you, Bella, next to me and Iza on my chest so I could help her breathing fall into my own rhythm.

It was hard. But we found beauty in everything we rested our gaze on. When I took the two of you for long walks around the city, I pointed to the flowers and taught you the name to each one, I showed you my favorite buildings downtown, and hours later when we made our way back home, you were in a peaceful sleep and I comforted myself with the fact that you knew no better.

But the walks back were torture for me. Before I climbed up the steep hill, pushing and pulling the double stroller you and Iza lay in, we would stop by at the corner grocer’s market. I would pull out my change which I had previously exactly accounted $4.25. And I would make it stretch; measuring out exactly the amount of chicken, potatoes, tortillas, and a carrot or two that I would be making the following few meals with.

The grocer would “forget” to charge me for an item or two and try to give me change back. I would object but he would plead me to accept it with his eyes, and it was easier to relent than to look into his face full of sadness for me.

Once we were at the top of the hill, I would carry you on my left hip, pick up Iza and hoist her on my right hip, lean far back to balance the two of you without waking you, and fold the stroller with my right arm and leg, and carefully walk down the steps to our home. When I would lay you on our bed, I would stand there and look at the two of you and take in your perfect features, your smooth foreheads free of worry and the aches in my bones and pain in my heart would dissipate.

When dinner was done, I would serve the two of you and make sure I rationed and set aside the following meals in the fridge. Bella, you were so independent at such a young age that you would feed yourself in your high chair at just shy of a year old. You were such a neat lovely little eater. Such a good little loving companion.

And soon our home would fill with stillness; he would sit and eat his dinner without a word. His sadness was deeper than mine; I could never touch it. I would hold his handsome face in my hand and turn it up towards me, caress the stubble on his strong jaw and run my thumb lightly on his lips. But his eyes were so full of pain and defeat that I could never reach him.

The days got leaner and soon enough our daily fried potato tacos with cheese would become boiled potatoes and tortillas, with the vegetables saved for the two of you. And that’s when we would start to go for long walks that always seemed to end at grandma’s house right around dinner time. To keep her from realizing what was going on, I would feign that I was full. While you two ate with my parents and siblings, I avoided looking at the food and chatted excitedly with everyone, trying hard to keep my mind focused elsewhere. We would say our goodbyes and most of the time they would insist we stop by the following day if we were free and a weight on my chest would be released as I secured your meals for another day.

I can’t shake that empty feeling in my stomach, that gnawing hunger that clawed at my insides. Or the shame that I wish I could unhinge from my chest and lay it to rest. The two of you never went hungry; I always made sure the two of you were never acquainted with hunger.

We are at such a better place now; the three of us, but I can’t shake it, a sense of failure permeates my thoughts when I remember what now feels like a past life.

I will always make sure that the two of you never know hunger; whether it is for nourishment, affection, or love.  I pinky promise, and we never break those.  🙂

Two Lights

11 Sep

We would talk for hours every day. You begged me to draw for you, to write for you and recite the stories to you at night. We were One when you let the words of your poems slowly slide down my body, caress every inch of my damaged soul, and heal me with your dancing eyes.

I would get caught up on the lovely song of your voice and slip off into our world. I would lay on my bed with my legs propped up against the wall, let my head hang off the side of the bed so the blood rushing to my face would add to the happy high that you brought to me every time your whispers blew in my ear.

I close my eyes and see your sharp features; the razor sharp lines that made up your jaw and chin, your eyes – jagged lines resting on your cheekbones, and your mouth always in a crooked smile when you saw me. Always kissing me softly and whispering what a beautiful and perfect being I was.

I hadn’t seen you in days and I missed you. You sensed it and told me, “Susana, you and I are special. This universe is full of darkness with the blind shuffling amongst each other in a fruitless journey but I have you, You are my light. We are two lights amongst the darkness and we will dance together wherever we may be, however long we may part, we will never lose each other. We are two lights shining brightly for each other.”

I smiled into the receiver, pressing the phone closer to my lips and ear so I could feel you. Your hands always on my body, feeling delectably cool to the touch and soft against my teenage skin.

“You are on an altar and you will never fall in my eyes. You are an Aztec princess, with rich beautiful brown melanin and silky skin, you are my perfect kindness. I will always love you.”

I could never respond, I could never tell you how I felt. But I willed the love outwards, hoping that you would feel the force of my loyalty to you, my admiration for you.
Your words come back to me and they make me smile as if time never lapsed, as if you haven’t been in the ground for years. But your face remains intact with the softness of youth while I have aged over a decade.

For countless nights I woke up to the lingering kiss from my dreams, searching for your lips to brush up against mine once more. Your smile, the twinkling of your eyes, the endless wonder you held me in, the unbridled love you showered me with; what are they now but ghosts of yesterday?

How could you have forgotten your promise to always light my way? How could you have chosen instead to walk in darkness like the others?

The numbness you succumbed to daily took you away from me long before you left my arms forever. You wanted so much. You wanted all of me; you lived inside my thoughts, heart, and quickened flow of blood and still that was not enough. You understood that I could not bring myself to give all of me but that did not stop the pain it caused you.

And you thought I gave up on you. You thought you weren’t good enough for me. No matter the kisses, the embraces, the boundaries I broke daily for you; you could not believe that I loved you as you uninhibitedly loved me.

You allowed it to consume you; your eyes started to lose their depth and your laughter became an echo that I was left to chase.

You left me before you were gone and I could not, did not, rise up to the challenge to bring you back. I did not fight hard enough for you. I should have pulled harder, called harder for you to push temptation away. Instead I allowed you to slip away into a living sleep.



Hate on Sight

10 Sep

I run at ass crack dawn every day mostly because that is the only time I can squeeze in one more activity into my busy schedule but also in an attempt to avoid the creeps that stalk about waiting to harass women at night.

As I turned the corner I heard the familiar “hey baby, looking gooood” and noticed two cholos sitting at a bus stop bench that rudely corrected my theory that losers are too lazy to be up that early.

My body went on high alert; my stomach muscles contracted and a flurry of emotions threatened to make me double over as I felt the familiar rage within me: hate on sight.  As I inhaled I could feel my nostrils flare, my chest heave; and all I could think about was how I wanted to scoop up the dregs of festering hate inside my body and spit it out, cast it out like a spiderweb of fear.

They have touched my friends, cousins, uncles, and those too close for comfort that I can’t even admit it to myself.

They promise protection, respect, and money but all they do is strip self-respect away and spread shame, fear, and resentment wherever they go. With their broken promises they have lured so many away from me and away from life.

When I was 13 my mother took us to the mall and as we had done many times before, my sister and I window shopped and balked at the prices. Up to that point, we had been well supplied with the hand me downs from our various tias so we were never in need of our own clothing. We had birthday and Christmas money so my mother took us to actually shop that day. I bought my first pair of jeans, fitted bell bottoms and a spaghetti strap shirt with a flowery blue and black pattern. I could hardly wait to put them on.

The following weekend Rosie and I went for a walk down Cesar Chavez Boulevard wearing our brand new clothing. My waist length hair was freshly curled from a perm I got for my birthday, my body shone with the Nivea lotion I had lathered on, and I could smell the intoxicating smell of new cotton clothing. It was a heady experience every time I leaned into my shoulder to smell and confirm that the scent of newness was still there.

I strode down the boulevard like I was seven feet tall with my sister, who was smiling broadly and wearing her new outfit, next to me. That is until we passed by a couple of tattooed gangsters that were in their 40’s, real loser looking veteranos.

“Hey you little slut, you dropped something.” I felt the object hit my chest and slide down my shirt into my bra and stick to the side of my chest.  My cheeks burned with a sickening mix of anger and shame.  I didn’t flinch nor say anything. I looked straight ahead and kept walking in silence. They were looking for a reason to approach me, to touch my bronzed arms, to tear me down from my high perch of pride.

I kept walking and swallowed what I felt inside.


I bit down on the edge of my tongue hard so I couldn’t unleash its wrath.  I bit down until I felt the metallic taste of blood pool inside my mouth. I curled my hands into fists and pressed my nails down tightly until a row of angry half-moon crescents appeared on my palm. Only pain took my mind away from the rage that boiled inside me.

I had to will every ounce of concentration to divert my focus from wanting to face them, look straight into their stupid smug smirks and use my fists to pummel their face and bash it in beyond recognition. I had to tense my muscles until I was sweating to keep me from clawing at their eyes, until they fell to the ground and writhed in pain as I kicked them over and over in the ribcage until I felt the familiar crack of bone against my foot.

I can still see his face, the piece of shit cholo that saw a young girl of 13 walking proud and happy, and threw a filthy penny down her chest that immersed her in a sheet of shame.

Family, protection, respect. That’s what they promise you. Family, protection, respect; that’s what they take from you.

Too many of my friends are gone, too many for a thirteen year old to know how to grieve for.

So yes, hate on sight is what they incite in me. As I feel my body double over, it is not in fear, it is to contain the cold blinding white rage. Like a rabid animal foaming in the mouth I see nothing but decomposed soulless flesh to tear apart.

Too many loves you took from me. Too many smiles, hugs, and flickers of hope. You dashed them all with a piece of metal, with a tug of your fat worthless finger.

When I fear you, I hate you. I hate that you can walk around with your head held high when you should be sniveling at the feet of a filthy dog. You deserve nothing and you take it all. Your offer empty words to lost children and you turn them into angry listless half-humans that do your bidding. You take their warm brown eyes and turn them into flat ugly stares. You destroy all sense of community, of pride for their color, family, and roots and you replace it with a constant buzz of denial. You replace it with empty wounds to fill with hate; with bodies full of tattoos that mark them for death; with daddy-less babies crying for the attention of impatient girl-mothers.

You fuck it all up even more and you take pride in it; in pushing and knocking down anyone that hopes for a better life via honest means.  You laugh at laborers and those that try to study their way out.  You bully your own.  Miserable meaningless breath of disgust, you took from me too much.

When I returned from my run and approached the bus bench they still occupied, I mentally discarded them and completely disregarded their cowardly whistles and comments.  I feared only myself as I almost welcomed an excuse to be provoked and unleash the hurt from that 13-year-old that went home and once alone, tore off her clothes and hid them away in a drawer and only then allowed herself to peel off the penny from her skin and hurl it agains the wall.

Sea Lions

9 Sep

The blue in the sky was reflected in the glimmering water in the ocean, the bridge towering over this natural beauty, the air crisp and chilly as I ran past.  I could feel the wind pushing against me; my limbs were growing cold and stiff in the early morning San Francisco weather.  I kept looking around me and was entranced with every small detail: the stands in the farmer’s market, the purple figs, the fiery red and sunny yellow cherry tomatoes, the dazzling flowers in a multitude of colors, and the intense faces of the runners as they flew down the boardwalk.

I wanted everything around me seared in my mind so I could recall this moment over and over and feel you close when I thought of you.

I didn’t look at you; I wanted to suspend the feeling of knowing that you were next to me without having to turn for confirmation.  I wanted to take this moment with me and recreate it in my morning runs.  So I could run swiftly and imagine you next to me without having to realize you were gone.

When we stopped at the edge of the pier and you turned and smiled at me I knew I wanted to treasure you forever in my heart.  I wanted to lock away that smile in my heart so it would warm me when it grew cold and lonely.  The crinkling around your kind eyes told me that you are the type of quality person I have always coveted and hoped for, the company I had only previously dreamed of.

You led me to your favorite attraction and I could smell and hear them before I saw them.  The playful barking of the sea lions still plays in my mind and makes me break out into a wide smile at the thought of their piling heap of bodies slipping and sliding and competing for comfort amongst each other.

You bring so much happiness into my life and I don’t question it.  I openly welcome it and hope that we are equally worthy and up to the task of carrying this through because I cannot imagine a more earthly happiness than when I am next to you, than when I am in your arms and feel your bodily heat.   Than when I look up to you and see that kind smile full of love towards me, loving me and my imperfections and all.

Thing of Beauty

8 Sep

Thing of beauty, you catch my eye and tantalize me with your ethereal quality; remind me that of what was lacking in my childhood, can be mine today.

You have a lulling power over me, draw me in and captivate me with your undulating waves.  The sun glimmering in the water playfully winks at me.  I look out onto the beach and see dozens of people sprawled about so casually, seemingly taking it for granted.

I inhale a sharp breath as the beauty around me is so attainable and unending that it pains me.  I feel it inside me, calling to me, daring me to step closer.

In the water I feel alone, the only one in this universe.  I feel clean and washed of earthly worries and filth.  I am buoyed out to the sea and I am careful not to struggle.  If I lay very still and relaxed I will remain above it all.  I will not plunge into the darkness beneath me.  I open my eyes and I am blinded by the sun urging me to stand, to swim, to move and live. It burns me into reaction and I dive into the waves and swim back to shore.

The beauty of it all, the sweet call of merciful sleep is a melancholy melody that I try to ignore.  The whisper of the promise of a kind farewell caresses my ear, tugging gently but urgently.

And I stand there in awe of this amazing body of water that waits for me to give into its cocoon of certain fate.

But it calls me no more.  It is but a gorgeous thing to admire but keep at a safe distance, to guard my children from it.  I only let the waves lick at my heels as I firmly grasp my children’s hands as they frolic with joy.  I am unflinching and distrustful.  I know its pull and power over me is still there, under the surface, waiting for the moment when I blink and it tries to take everything from me.

Beauty that slips between my fingers, beautiful surrender with a hideous force masked under those radiant waves.  Thing of beauty, you call to me no more.

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