Cuento

The silence of my days is deafening. It turns the usual noise in my head to a roar.

The release of the updated Jungle Book film has me hungry–nostalgic for my childhood and the girl that lived.

In the farmhouse, my brother and I would curl up, as much as our tiny bodies could curl, with our respective comfort objects–my blankies, his robe-o — as mom read in her crisp, authoritative way from Kipling’s The Jungle Books (because, you know, it’s actually multiple little stories about Mowgli (mow like cow) and his dangerous, furry friends).

She was the best reader, I thought, and we were the best listeners. Still and quiet we would become. Rapt and attentive to her words. She didn’t really do voices, but we weren’t the type of kids who needed voices. Being together and being noticed, being spoken to, were enough for us. None of us could understand later how reading aloud didn’t have the same effect on my younger brother and sister. They would get bored or distracted or start jumping on the bed. They could not land in the magical sphere of words and imagination.

The story of The Jungle Books mattered to me and the animated film managed to capture that same essence. The story of a human trying to make sense of a world he does not belong in, a world he wasn’t built for (no claws, no fur, you vulnerable man cub!)–that resonated with me. Because it was a journey that mattered. Fighting for survival, fighting for his basic needs to be met–making sense of something nonsensical. That’s what stories should be about. Disney’s The Jungle Book became my favorite movie. I would watch it over and over and over again. I memorized the songs and the dialogue and the motion of the characters. I quoted it far into teenager-ness and clung to it even in early adulthood. Only Robin Hood came close to knocking it out of my affection zone. But that too, was a story focused on survival and friendship and beating the man. All things I, for some reason, could identify with as a young child. All I ever wanted was a good buddy (little John, Baloo) and some trees to climb, some waterfalls to find. All I ever wanted was a little adventure for myself.

All this time

I roll over in the dark. It feels like I’ve been sleeping for hours. I turn my head to the clock: 2:20am. My clock is 20 minutes too fast. I do the math. 2:00am. I have not been sleeping for hours. Only 1,2,3,4 hours. I think. The wind is fierce, seemingly whipping in through the screen and then sucking back, pulling the screen into the window frame. The thumping and the whirling brought me out of sleep, keep me conscious as I roll back over to find that sweet spot in the bed. My sheets are soft. They rarely let me down.

The red of the dream the wind disturbed sits just behind my eyes. In the dark I can still see it. Red, red, red. Vibrant, lively, noticeable red. In the morning, in the gray light of this miserable Wisconsin spring, I will see similar shades of red as I walk across campus, and I will think of the vestige of that dream. Whatever it was.

I dreamt of nature and resumes. Jobs in prisons and jobs without roofs. Jobs. I dream of the future I have scrubbed from my mind. I dream of the future I have decided not to decide.

Sylvia Plath: “I want to eat my cake abroad and come home and find it securely on the doorstep if I still choose to accept it for the rest of my life.”

Hertha Marks Ayrton, who is this?

Adventure is worthwhile in itself.
The most effective way to do it, is to do it.
Never interrupt someone doing what you said couldn’t be done.

Did I learn of her in school? Do I know Thomas Edison, Albert Einstein, Benjamin Franklin, Eli Whitney. Sure, sure. Is it any wonder then that in first grade I did the book report on Amelia Earhart. Is it any surprise I did that junior year English paper on the Bronte sisters. Don’t tell me my stories will be remembered. Don’t tell me the practice isn’t worthwhile. Don’t tell me…We will forget, like we always do. We allow ourselves to be told, forget. We allow ourselves to be told another version. We stop fact-checking and we stop asking for proof and we stop challenging the louder voices. We stop remembering our dreams in the morning.

I found myself asleep again when my alarm gurgled at 6:30. I stumbled from the back (front) of my apartment to the front (back), where I chugged my glass of water and looked out on the quarry ridge. There was a bird sitting on the balcony. Fat and gray and typical of the fat, gray birds in the midwest. Sitting, sitting. It watched me walk up–closer to the window–and we looked at each other. I had the strangest feeling…I remembered the red of my dream and the words on the page and I felt like that bird had found its way–flown to me from hours before. Broken free from the bounds of my dream right onto my balcony. Like I escaped from sleep with the static of my clock. I felt found. don’t leave me, you pigeon.

Girl! Terror Pigeon
Please allow me,
To speak this clearly:
There is not will nor force or power on this earth
To keep you from me.
And where I’m going
Will you come to then?
Cause all I want to do and see
Would be infinitely better with you beside me!
I cannot say it,
Words can’t convey it,
The way that my whole body felt,
That night in Becky’s car,

When we were singing,
Well it clicked right then,
That four months of denying it could make it no less true,
I absolutely, positively, had to, had to, had to,
Kiss you.

I want to be there when you wake.
I want to be there when you need.
I want to be there when you laugh.
I want to be there when you speed.
I want to be there when you’re hurt.
I want to be there ’til you’re fine.
I want to be there for tonight.
I want to be there all the time.
All the time.
And you know what I know.
And you feel what I feel.
There is nothing about you I won’t love.

 

It’s not right, but it’s okay

We’re cutting our Achilles, no?

You know you can tear your achilles and not realize it. You know you can continue to walk on it, as it slowly deteriorates and poisons the rest of your leg. You know that the achilles tears more and more until it’s halfway up your calf. And then, then you have to get a replacement donor muscle and maybe will walk again in 6 months. All because you ignored that faint pop around the edges of your ankle as you came back down on your foot.

Student: “realizing the poverty…in Chicago…and then in St. Lucia…It’s like being told to save the Titanic. You’re the future– now save the ship. Their lives are so different from the way I live…I don’t have any idea how to make a difference…You know, seeing people work hard…but then realizing it’s not working for them. I can’t believe in meritocracy.”

This is the accumulation of my frustrations. I think my peers push themselves into their shallow appearances, their lighthearted friendships, their…Snapchat stories and their lacking witticisms because

My students know, and you know, what is wrong with the world. But then what? I hear it especially this election season…They feel that those people in D.C. don’t represent us/me/mine. What a disconnect. “They don’t care about any of the things I care about.” The intelligent, mobile young people I’m surrounded by don’t feel engaged or included or even spoken to. And their response, instead of demanding, instead of bringing down the house with their anger at feeling ignored and left-out, is to concern themselves with the life right in front of them. Fine, you don’t need me; I don’t need you. So they don’t hold anyone accountable, who could make a change, who could start a change. And they don’t blame themselves for that either, because those individuals are so far from them.

And that weight of responsibility is too heavy to bear, so what happens if I just leave it here. I’ll come back to get it later. I’ll draw a map. I’ll remember the exact location. Won’t I?

No, no, you fucking won’t.

You’ll get caught up in the tide like all the rest. Shown that it’s easier to not than it is to try. It’s easier to pretend than it is to care.

I hope not. I hope you do come back. I hope you do find the trail. I just think it’s sad that we’re all a part of this. We all contribute to this culture of first world problems and shitty memes and have somehow managed not only to invent but also sustain our own collectivist delusional realities.

I just wonder what our future looks like.

Insecure supply and demand

What would we talk about if we stopped talking about the things we want to buy?

Mark Manson: How insecurity is bought and sold

But perhaps capitalism is only the most efficient means of fulfilling a population’s physical needs — needs for food, shelter, clothing, etc. Because in a capitalist system, it also becomes economical to feed into everyone’s insecurities, their vices and vulnerabilities, to promote their worst fears and constantly remind them of their shortcomings and failures. It becomes profitable to set new and unrealistic standards, to generate a culture of comparison and inferiority. Because people who constantly feel inferior make the best customers.

After all, people only buy something if they believe it will solve a problem. Therefore, if you want to sell more stuff than there are problems, you have to encourage people to believe there are problems where there are none.

The only real long-term solution is for people to develop enough self-awareness to understand when mass media is prodding at their weaknesses and vulnerabilities and to make conscious decisions in the face of those fears. The success of our free markets has burdened us with the responsibility of exercising our freedom to choose. And that responsibility is far heavier than we often realize.

This is why I can’t scroll through my Facebook newsfeed without wincing in pain. Why I can’t look at one more god damn naked newborn baby picture, one more here I am at 6 months old picture, one more here I am with my boo in front of this tree picture, one more here is our house and our yard and our car and our SHIT OMG THAT WE BUY
The makeup and the gym memberships and the live shows and the coffee shops and the plates on plates on plates of food.
I’m exhausted, America. I subscribe and follow the writers the artists the thought piece-ers the explorers. Give me something else. Give me something besides your stuff.

A wolf in white clothing

I wish you could hear the sounds of the traffic from my window; I wish you could feel the cold April rainy breeze drifting in. I wish you could see the pinkness of those flowers in the jar against the blue-gray of the morning Monday sky.

I’m realizing that all I ever wish is to share with you, to be in your presence, to bounce my feelings off of yours. To use your feelings as a guidepost for mine. A north star to follow. Although I worry that sometimes my feelings aren’t mine at all, but me falling into the fog of yours. Me falling into the emotions that radiate off of you. I do not mean to be so susceptible. I do not want to be so open, but I think that is the effect of not making up my mind. Of sitting next to you and waiting, waiting, to see if the next thing I feel is yours or mine.

“The last thing the soul wants is to be fixed or saved, and any effort to do so will send it running back into the woods. The soul wants simply to be witnessed, attended to, heard.”

I just wanna witness you.

On scarcity mindset
“I’m not trying to argue in the book that the scarcity mindset is either shallow or completely useless. If you’re caught in a warzone, if you’re in a poverty-stricken area, if you’re fighting for your survival, if you’re in a competitive sport like boxing, the scarcity mindset does play a very important role.

Most of us are the products of people who survived in what was for a very, very long time, in our evolution as a species, a scarcity-oriented universe. Food was scarce, resources were scarce, fertile land was scarce, and so on. So we do have a very hard-wired tendency to be scarcity-oriented. But I think what has happened over time is we don’t have to literally fight for our survival every day.

I think that as intelligent beings we need to recognize that some of the vestiges of our evolutionary tendencies might be holding us back.”

Why so many smart people aren’t happy

I think we delude ourselves with what fighting for survival looks like, and we misapply that to many of our current situations.

On mindfulness and problem-solving
“…a mindless activity may indeed spark creativity: Researchers showed that a non-demanding activity like showering, gardening, and perhaps coloring, could lead to productive mind-wandering and creative problem-solving.

We color to feel like children again, and to flex creative muscles, but as Jenefsky says, the truth is that children are actually so creative that coloring books slow them down. “For children a lot of times coloring books can inhibit their creativity,” she says. Their natural creativity, she says, lends itself better to creating art from scratch.

Burned out adults, on the other hand, can be overwhelmed by a blank page.”

America’s obsession with adult coloring is a cry for help.

What the hell is wrong with us? I want to witness you because I feel like a blank page, and you give me creative juices. I don’t need the lines to provide me a space to express myself, I can do that all on my own. But I need your help…I  need your witness to inspire me, to motivate me. To give me the proper light.

Late night snacks

Pie and juice and cheese.

I don’t think in circles, so why do I write in circles? Are you sure you don’t think in circles?

My drafts start out so beautifully, and then lose their focus, in my opinion. So maybe it’s not that I write in circles, because circles are complete, but I write in cups and curves and lines and dips.

My sister called me today—

My sister did not call me today. She did not call me with her bad news. That is a narrative I tell whoever will listen. My sister did not call me today. I called my sister. I interrupted her long rambling misspelled texts with my phone call. The texts that were coming out of order and out of sense. Out of place in my quiet corner office.

Stop. I’ll talk.

She couldn’t talk to me, too overwhelmed with that emotion. That panic which announced her very existence for so many years of her early life. That shriek, that gasp, her lack of breath. Breathe, we used to tell her. Rolling our eyes, placing our hands on her diaphragm. Breathe.

She does it for herself now. She stopped forming sentences to breathe. I imagine how proud her 7 year old self would be of her 21 year old lungs. Strong, capable, patient. The air sucking in and pushing out. A strong, steady beat. The rattles gone. Absent. Forgotten.

I waited for her words.

It doesn’t matter how incompetent or bumbling or empty I feel at work, how detached I get from the faces in front of me– in this place, with these people. My sister’s voice on the other end of that phone brought me up. Sat me up. I was firm, clear, strong, present. The Big Sister. Unwavering. Bold. My light, tell me what is wrong.

Without having to talk myself through it, I talked her through it. I brought her back. I helped her find her way. I basked in her fears with her. Help me make sense of this. I pulled her worries out of her and spread them across my back. Here, here. I’ve got it.

My brother is sick. My blonde, happy baby. He will be fine, I think. He is only 19, I think. He has never been strong or healthy or robust. His shoulders are broad now, but still bony and poky and light to the touch. He will be fine, we say. The doctors will know. He is feeling better already. He has his family to think of. I didn’t tell my sister, I’ve been dreaming of him for months–is this it? Is this why? Is this the reason his baby face has poked up and stayed around and woken me in the mornings? Making me remind myself that those days and years are long gone. Are they? Were they? Have they been? He seemed so good, four months ago, and now you’re telling me…you’re telling me nothing is for certain, guaranteed, okay? Act like you haven’t always known this.

Now, go, eat your feelings, I told her. Buy the biggest container of ice cream from Ruler you can find, and go home. Take a hot shower. Eat your ice cream. Go to sleep.

She laughed at me, no! gross, then I’ll be sick. We laughed together. Healthy and sick. Able and not. Calm and afraid. I love you, my light.

We hung up the phone, and I thought, I know there’s nothing I could have done, but is there anything I can do?

Of 9 years

“Life is different when you live it and when you go back over it after.”

“Why attach ourselves to age-old stories in the belief that they are truer than the new ones?”

I write the words down in angst, convinced I will forget them before I can remember them–memorialize them. I watched you walk across the water and for the first time, the motion of your movement away from me was calming. I felt calm and safe and warm in the cold light. I felt…well I felt like, this is fine. Like I had worked out all the lumps in the dough. Like I had combed out all the tangles in my hair. Like I had watched the road level outside of Santa Teresa. Like smooth perfection when for a moment you doubted it had ever been a plane of existence in the first place.

Maybe my problem is I don’t have a brand. What is my brand? What is my image?

Effortlessly Cool

Detached like the camel who wore sunglasses on the front of the cigarettes.

I think they had to change that brand for the children.

Camels are too effortlessly cool.

I sat apart from the rest, effortlessly slobbish. Wondering why they had told us it would be special soup when it was only ham and beans with hominy. When it was not ham and beans and cornbread like from my mother’s, nor was it pozole with tortillas from my father’s. I took a break to drink the black coffee out of the styrofoam cup and I thought–What am I? What is it like not to be constantly confronted with who you are?

The woman who made the not special soup danced around some deeper ideas. “Historical trauma,” she said. And I thought, I know exactly what you mean.

I thought about how you get so frustrated, and what I don’t say to you is: Why don’t you work through your insecurities instead of lashing out at the people who make you feel insecure?

The redhead girl with loopy top eye eyeliner turned to me and said something I couldn’t understand, even though she was speaking English. I tried to follow. I nodded when her voice concluded. When the sound, the trill had finished. I wanted to ask her, what are you saying? But I knew that would not be okay. That would not be what should follow.

I know I should drop the words. I know they aren’t doing me any favors, but I don’t have anything else, do I, to work with. I don’t have anything else at my disposal.

I spent all afternoon listening to the rain and watching foreign films and wondering how many times I was going to have to watch women hurt.

You know what I want? I don’t know, but I don’t want to be stamped as me.

The other day, you tried to talk to me like you knew me, like you followed the pattern of my brain and the reason in my words, and all I did was shake my head at you. Take your words back because they do not serve you. The final score is love. I don’t know. Sometimes you say things exactly right when no one is looking but sometimes you get distracted by the idea of a spotlight and the words you let loose made more sense on the script. 

I don’t want to wake up one day and see I was only performing me this whole time. If I can play out the endings, then I’m doing it wrong. I just want the space to lay claim to my own feelings. My passion, my gut, my brain, my soul. Whatever it is that puts me to sleep at night and wakes me up in the morning after dreaming of clocks or water or palabras.
comes las palabras – On toast with jam on plates with knives on Tuesdays with coffee by myself at the table in the light on the couch without a napkin you don’t chew enough you’ll probably die young if you don’t learn to throw yourself over the back of the couch because that is super important. You’re not hungry, you’re just bored.