Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Four Year Itch

            Election Day works as a sort of tab in a binder full of papers (not women) representing your life like a presentation tended to be handed in to God or Buddha or whoever or whomever the binder will be thumbed through nodding their head and looking over the work you’ve done.
            Every four years, the climate of political action begins to stir and the media buzzes with the constant newsfeed their viewers are now suddenly engaged in – it’s a whole connectivity that occurs on that fateful day when we all take a moment and step outside of our daily lives to make a decision for a much grander, broken picture that we want to hope we can fix.
            Or at least that’s what I think.
            But that’s the point of being American, no? That I can toss in a metaphor about a life binder and make an opinion about how voting awakens people and unites them in remembrance that they live in the United States of America.
            Four years ago I could give a crap about everything I just stated.
            For reals.
            I’m not proud about being frank here, but regardless, I really didn’t care. I had other concerns at that time like graduating and figuring out what the next step was in my life. What did my next goal entail and where would I direct my ambitions and drive? Where would I focus my personal power (I know, dramatic, but that’s what was crossing my mind: personal power)?
            I was plagued by the weight of my decisions in 2008. But so was Obama. And McCain. Hell, maybe even Palin took a moment to consider a few things…or maybe not. I’m not sure. That woman makes me nervous – and not in the exciting whoknowswhatshe’lldonext kind of way. No – she made me nervous in a I’mgoingtoclosemyeyestillit’sover way. But I digress.
            The way I voted back in 2008 was that of typical ignorant young voter. Again, I’m not proud. I looked at my ballot like I would look at my Scantron in my oceanography class: bewildered and slightly panicked. My eyes grew big as I realized I only knew one answer: the President. That’s it. That’s as far I went when I allowed myself to get caught up in propaganda and the immediate coolness of Barack Obama and his “Yes We Can” magic. It was the first time I was charmed by a politician and the first time I welled up with tears during speeches given in several middle, square states watched closely in the small frame of my laptop screen.
            I let myself walk right up to that cardboard voting booth, and pass casting my vote for Obama, stand idle as I wished I could copy off my neighbor.
            It was a democratic low – a personal low – that I did not inform myself because I was busy with “other things.”
            2012, I registered myself (not a kind volunteer doing all the work for me on campus), I looked up my polling location (not merely walking to school and following the rest of the crowd), I studied (versus not), and I confided in close friends who knew more than I in certain propositions. During my last vote I didn’t realized that they even existed, furthermore, whether I was suppose to mark “yes” or “no.”
            It’s a surreal and humbling thing to realize you’re never you’re best. There’s always need for improvement, even if you don’t see it at the time. I sure thought I was the best thing ever having conquered four years of college on track and with an above average GPA back in 2008.  I was the shit.
            It’s embarrassing.
            Settling comfortably at 26 years old (in three days to be exact), I am accepting my own endless lists of improvements and making daily mental notes on what I should do versus what I want to do. I’m trying to cope with my current status as yet another writer lost in the white noise – figuring out how can break through because it will matter. I matter. It’s even hard to write that – that I matter – as a writer. When you both accepted your infinite state of progression and passion to lead – be it literary or political - it can be daunting. Just a little. 
            Who knows what I’ll record on the next tab, 2016, and who knows who’ll be reading. I can only hope to be better.
            So I voted.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Lady Sings the Booms

****Prompt: Write about music. 

I can't wait to see her live for myself Oct. 5th...

  Since YouTube first hit the viral scene it changed things. It made superstars in basements, in bedrooms, and in their living rooms. People made their computers: the PCS and their Macbooks into their studios. They press record and just go for it.
            The Internet does that – all that space between your computer screen and the audience you don’t know; it’s conquerable. Magic happens; it’s like lightning interrupting your connection when you watch a video and someone important emerges. A voice you can’t get out of your head. A beat that pulsates still even after the loading bar has finished. You drag it back to the beginning just to see it strike all over again.
            This is Kimbra – at her live recording of “Settle Down” at SXSW. She sets herself up with two mics and her band: her iPads, standing side by side on a small table to hold each close to her. A large green billboard advertising her sponsor: an Internet radio player. Who thought any of those words would be said altogether?
            She’s adjusting the height of each microphone as a large crowd is already standing and waiting to see what will happen next. A few heads from the poke from behind their neighbor’s back to see if they’ve missed anything - just in case.
            There’s a sense of anticipation in all their faces. Their eyes darting back and forth to the crowd around them wondering if they’re thinking the same thing they are: who is this girl?
            Kimbra, meanwhile, is attentive to having her instruments opened and loaded. Her black bob envelopes her thin and delicate face. Full bangs complete the frame and you could almost mistake her for pinup doll if not for the unkempt waves that make her wild. Natural.
            She licks red painted lips and begins to form a steady hip-hop beat and then finishes it with a hiss.  Punching the air with the beat and softening it with the hiss she loops the first layer of the track and hits repeat. It continues to play as she brings her mouth back to the mic to lay the next layer: the booms.
            Her cheeks hard at work to make it bump.
            She glides her fingers and the booms mixes with the beat and the hiss. They play altogether and the volume rises.
            People begin to get excited. More heads begin to move in and out of the crowd to get a glimpse, make sure it’s real.
            And then she sings.
            Pops her cardigan’s collar and that’s when I love her
             When a fan is born.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

The Battlegrounds

***Class Weekly Prompt: Play with description. 

          The thick clear glass is fully erect in front of me. Framed by two large metal poles. It’s sleek and the world behind its wall is still alive and buzzing unhindered by its presence. Its first priority belongs to the pastries, the tarts, and the sandwiches that look to it for protection. Both a bodyguard and a thing of beauty, the glass wall stands before the busy crowds of patrons to let them know,

            “Hello, welcome to Paper or Plastik. Do not touch, but please look all you want.”

            It’s like a cocktease really. But I digress.

            A white paper towel follows my hand as I smooth the surface of the glass and wipe away any remnants of fingertips, the markings of a hungry and not yet satisfied customer. However as I wipe I’m curious of the number of prints I see today – only a few.
            As I return myself to the other side to join my allies amongst the pastries, the tarts, and the sandwiches, working for the greater customer service good with my fellow soldiers, I see her. She is a tall opponent. I estimate five feet and seven inches. As she approaches the clear sparkle of the glass she bends down and looks. I smile in her direction and allow her to have her moment with the edible merchandise. Every person likes to have that moment, even if it’s just a quick one, but interrupt and you will incur the wrath of your enemy earlier than necessary. Hence the brilliance behind our weapon of choice: the glass. Not only there to protect but state, along with its welcome,
            “I am the boundary.”

            I see its purpose. She, the five feet seven inch she-devil, does not.

            As she begins to unbend her knees and rise over the glass, it happens.
            With as much ease as blinking an eye, she takes her large, thin arm and strikes. The massive ringing sounds of alarm fill my eardrums. I panic and can’t help but watch the act of violation occur in slow motion. With her entire right arm over the glass barrier, her finger points and settles mere inches away from the croissant in question to satisfy the hungry beast within. She has the audacity to make eye contact:

            “What is this one?”

            The ringing in my ears stop, I swallow my urge to run and defend the glass that so helplessly stands underneath the arm: powerless, useless. I can no longer look at it I’m filled with such disappointment. As I answer that the croissant is filled with Gruyere, sage, and sea salt, the register is ringing and I’m accepting dollar bills from the very same hands that tainted my loyal comrade, the glass. She walks away quicker than she came, and I stand there before it: no prints to wipe but just clear vast emptiness that is before me.

            “You failed.”  I tell it.
             And fantasize about smashing the Gruyere, sage, and sea salt eater’s head into it and killing two birds with one stone - so to speak. 

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Me and Frank

The prompt: inspiration from John Jeremiah Sullivan's "Pulphead Essays." My piece was drawn from Sullivan's essay on Axl Rose and Michael Jackson. I took the story of icon and where I found myself in his fame and his legacy. 

Naturally, I pick this guy. My favorite guy's guy. 

           The trumpets blare and the clarinets sing into key. And then – there he is. Taking over the song. The space. Even from the small area of each one of my headphones as I listen to him while I write.
            He’s there – taking over my heart again. With that voice. That voice that never makes a love song sound the same again to me.

            I was fifteen when I first found him. I think it was tape. As I pressed the play button he came a-booming over my stereo speakers. I turned the volume higher and I just kind of sat there. Entranced. As he bellowed his last note, I had yet to move. Still cross-legged between my bed and my closet, I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. And that’s what I fell in love with- the inability to believe that one man could sound so good.
            Now you have to understand that before this moment. On the carpet with the tape, I had toyed around with short trumpets and reckless drum beats of Ska. The teeter-totter of a man’s or woman’s voice that take you through a story of rebellion all the while the band kept playing. It was fun. I enjoyed it, but that’s as far as it went. I had yet to find an artist call my own. Until Frank, I was uncommitted. And bored.

            Listening to all of side A I remember hesitating to flip it over: side B.
            Could I handle it?
            Handle nearing the end of it?
            I had to.

            I know this all sounds a bit dramatic but what’s good ol’ blue eyes without the drama? Even with his happier tunes, there’s still the dramatic tinkle of the piano that makes you want to slow dance cheek-to-cheek and hold on tight. And perhaps this is just me - the fangirl with the heart for theatrics.

            Frank was a troubled man, fantastic crooner, and horrible lover. It’s all he ever needed before he stepped up to the mic, grabbed it by its neck, and snapped his fingers to whisk you away.  I’ve often heard that when it comes to writers, “writing happy” can be difficult. That is, if the writer is happy and content with his life, then the writing suffers. I believe this to be horseshit. But I wonder, does this saying circulate in the music world? Can a crooner sing happy?” Even as he swoons over his beloved in track number five, is there not echo of potential lost over the fact that the love is so good, her face so beautiful, and that it may all gone?
            The famous “The Way You Look Tonight,” by Sinatra, is a sweet song describing the love affair of a face, a demeanor that’s so lovely. However as you listen there’s something in Frank’s voice that leads you to feel that it’s just the moment. That it’s fleeting.
            It’s sad.

            To think of love and admiration as a fleeting notion whether that may be one day or ten years is a heavy thing - that whole journey to an end, to the loveliness, to the sweetness, to the ooo and the ahhh.

            Frank never kept love long. He tried four times: the first wife being the only mother of three. Rumor has it that he recorded the deeply melancholy “One for My Baby (And One More for the Road)” short after his divorce from the vivacious Ava Gardner. She broke him, it was whispered. When you listen to the track, the words melt in his mouth like he can’t control it: the ache. The man in the song speaks to his loyal bartender and says, “the torch that he’s found has gotta be drowned or it soon might explode.”
            I get it Frank.
            We all get burned -
            and you sing it so well. 

Monday, May 14, 2012

Hostile Disneyland

***The prompt: "I didn't want to go, but I went anyway." 

And so after holding onto this story for a couple of years...        

 I didn’t want to go, but I went anyway – to the gun show. It was Andrea (the writer, the curious pain my ass) that whispered in my head that I should go.
            Come ON- you gotta experience everything at least once. It’s always another story to write. Another place to people watch. GO!

            I hate to admit that I’m a total pushover when it comes to my creative voice. It says jump, I ask how high, etc. At times, I believe the muse within just pushes me for sick pleasure, like the gun show.

            These are the things I enjoy: dancing, food, Jazz, books, art, coffee, and film. These are the things I do not enjoy: warehouses that smell like sweat, guns, gun accessories (seriously - you want that trigger thingy mu-jig that cost over a hundred dollars so you can fire your bullets faster?), confederate apparel (it’s tacky), and my ex-boyfriend.
            All of the latter were present at the gun show ’07.
            It was held at the Del Mar Fairgrounds. However, nothing was outdoors, it was just one large warehouse housing table after table of pistols, shotguns, handguns, and even a few ninja stars. When I spotted my first pair at the third or so table, I tried to stifle my laugh. Well, no, I laughed. And then power walked quickly to the next aisle when the vendor of the ninja weapon gave me a “go fuck yourself” look.

            I went because I pretended to be in love with my ex-boyfriend, and his younger brother, the gun enthusiast, of the group was in his version of Disneyland: hostile, confederate, Disneyland.
             It was lovely.

            When my ex asked if I wanted to go, I knew it was more of a pity invite because he didn’t want to break our previous plans to be with each other on that Saturday afternoon.
            Go to the gun show with you baby? Why- how you know?!...

            I said yes.
            I said yes because of I was in fake love with my fake man because he was still a boy even though he was seven years my senior at twenty-seven. I said yes because the creative genius within my conscious, said
            “Sure, what the hell.”
            So I went.
            The most exciting event came when a Fat Bastard from the Austin Powers movie look-alike found his way towards me as he mused over semi-automatics and I snuck a picture of him on my phone. That was my story when I went home and came back to my college roommates.
            “How was the gun show.” (Add thick coat of sarcasm)
            “Awesome! -  I saw Fat Bastard.” (Add thick coat of faint joy)
            I’ll give the gun show guys some credit for having a table of jewelry and Marilyn Monroe/James Dean/ Betty Bop merchandise.
            A table.
            A girl can only walked around a single table for so long. After forty-five minutes and without a purchase, I started looking creepy and perhaps ready to steal. At least that’s the vibe I got from the Santa with suspenders sitting next to the register.
            When I found my ex and his younger brother, both smiled and asked if I bought anything. No, I responded, and put my hands in my pockets: my body language that I was ready to get the hell out of this place. It was close to mid afternoon and the strong July heat of San Diego was settling into the warehouse. The aromas of burnt hair and bad cologne were threatening to become one with the fibers of my t-shirt.
            Taking mercy on me they agreed to leave. Young bro got all his brand new dangerous toys and he was content. Ex mulled over the idea of finally buying his first gun and the whole drive back I realized that I didn’t want to go, but I went anyway.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Dishin' It Out

***This was based off a prompt about learning through pain or something of that sort. I know, I'm really bad at remembering the exact wording of the prompts, but you get the point. I will forewarn you: this staggeringly personal. And yes, I am voluntarily sharing this to the world wide web. But that's just the type of crazy I am. 

P.S. I dedicate this essay to my younger sister, Julia: young and strong. 

            I am too smart to wash dishes. It was the only coherent thought that I could process at the moment. I washed one cup, then a plate, a spoon, and fork. I washed another cup, a plate, a spoon, and another fork. I found comfort in the routine, in the rounds of dishes and forks and spoons. The warm soapy water is soothing in an odd sort of way. Like a blanket. It’s the literal warmth of the water that pushes me further - one tear falling after another. Faster. I am too smart to just wash dishes. I add another word, my thought is trying to evolve but it’s as far as I go. I bend over the sink and try to find a breath. You cannot, can-not, cry here. Another thought! I’m so excited for this one that I almost forget the deep depression that’s assembling in my heart.  Wait.


            Like any other college graduate I rushed back to school or at least the comforting future of a school. I could go for another two or three years learning more, putting off the inevitable fright of being in any sort of “real” world. Give me a library and a classroom; give me a reason to stress and drink absence amounts of coffee; give me grad school.
            I knew I wanted to continue to write. A minor in creative writing was a teaser to what a Master’s in creative writing would teach. 
            It was expected of me after earning my Bachelor’s in English.
            That - the expectation - would be my downfall.

            I picked eight. My guide to applying to MFA programs told me to at least do eight, twelve was preferably if your budget could allow it. I did eight.  Despite the help by my very supportive parents, I didn’t want to put them out. I should have paid the fees on my own, but with two jobs I still lived paycheck-to-paycheck. I made sure my eight counted; I went big or I went home: Michigan, New York (three different schools), Iowa, Indiana, Chicago, and Pennsylvania. On average, each program accepted four students per genre. 
            I’ve always been this way: going big, my ambition larger than myself, direct and fearless. Bee-lining to next great goal I could accomplish, my target was not only fast, but it was aggressive. Hungry too. 

          (I will tell you this: it hasn’t change. Am I intimidated by it most days now? Yes. Am I aware of the contradiction of being overtly ambitious and scared simultaneously? Yes. I am alone? Definitely not.)

            I graduated college on a four-year plan. Never going off track by changing my major or failing classes, I left San Diego State right before the Cal State system began to crumble financially. My close friends had a different fate, needing to stay an extra fifth year to obtain the classes they needed to graduate, especially with heavy cuts in the curriculum. All this is bittersweet, though. I’m still making coffee and still at the coffee shop on campus, and still even using the messenger bag that once held Milton’s Paradise Lost and various other used paperback novels. Only in my “fifth” year, I’m carrying merely a wallet, Chapstick, and my cell phone. Yes, I graduated on time but it feels too early, especially compared to the busy schedules of my friends still in school; there is an envy I do not know how to process. The extra space in my messenger reflected all too well what was going on inside of me. 

            That’s the thing about higher education; you spend four years, or more, filling your brain with information every day or every other day for at least six hours. Those numbers add up fast. However, you take it all for granted because on Tuesday night when you tried cosmopolitans for the first time, and had seven, Romantic Literature at nine-thirty in the morning is just downright painful.

            Only a month into the new school year that did not have Andrea Galvez registered, I began my yearlong excursion with applying to grad school for creative writing, fiction. I packed my messenger bag with my guidebook, a binder filled with lists of application items to each school, my laptop to begin my writing portfolio, my wallet, my chapstick, and my cell phone. The weight on my right shoulder felt familiar and exhilarating. I went to work and recited to all my regulars that “yes, I graduated, but I’m applying to grad school to get my Master’s in creative writing.” The sentence ran dry in mouth after my first morning shift and I rested the words in the back of my heart till the next morning when I would wet them once again on my lips and smile them out to another batch of regulars, friends, and colleagues. I had a purpose and my ambition was satisfied.

            I wrote my longest short story to date for the main piece to my writing portfolio. I was proud and surprised. I sent it off to a handful of trusted friends to critique and edit. I asked my favorite and most influential professors for letters of recommendations, I charged $60, $75, and $95 to my Visa for application fees, I wrote highly about myself and personally stated why each program would be better with me in it. Invest in me, I wrote between the lines. Believe in me.
             I stamped, sealed, and sent eight large manila envelopes to eight states far, far, away, and I waited. Seven months later from the first day of school, I waited while everyone else began to wind down towards the glory of graduation. 

            I worked two jobs in order to make all my bills on my own. Graduating college meant I needed to take care of myself without the financial security of my parents. With no realistic potential of a rise in my current barista job, I took another coffee gig inside a bookstore.
            Working at a coffee shop in a bookstore seemed like a perfect combination to a reader-barista like myself.  Match made in heaven, I thought. But “heaven” was quickly broken into hell.
            Hell, incorporated.
            The corporate expectations and structure made all the difference and a little bit of “me” died every time no one cared to make direct eye contact. It was the worse timing mixed with the worse place that had me in the middle of impromptu breakdown in front of a pile of wet dishes swimming around in soap that smelt like nothing.
            Literally nothing.
            Half-hour before, I gunned it to the backroom for my lunch. Falling into a cold, metal chair and dusting off chocolate from my black pleated skirt, I listened to Alex’s voice as it told me that two letters came in the mail today: University of Michigan and Sarah Lawrence.
            “Give me a call back when you get this. I love-“

            I dialed before he could finish and he answered after the first ring.
            “Hey, sooo...do you want me to tell you now or do you want to wait till you get home?

            I had two more hours till my shift was done. Another hour on the trolley till I got to San Diego State and twenty minutes till the bus dropped me off near the apartment and ten minutes till I walked to the door. These numbers-there were too many. I needed zero minutes till I could make my fantasy of crying and jumping up and down in joy come true. I wanted to jump up and down. My feet were locked in springing position. I was half way off the chair as I answered to Alex,
             “I want to know now.”

            I heard the ruffled of Alex’s big fingers ripping through the first envelope.             
            Paper unfolding.
            Anxiety has a way of heightening the senses. I believe I heard everything in the background of that phone call.

            “I’m sorry sweetie. Michigan said no.”

            The first blow.

            Rip, unfold, unfold, cough –

            “And a no from Sarah Lawrence…I’m-
            “That’s fine –“ I caught him off.
            “It’s fine. I gotta get back to work.”

            I don’t remember his goodbye but only hanging up. I stood, both feet planted on the ground, and walked back to work. The dishes were piled high and dirty in the back and I wanted to avoid, if only for awhile longer, any insincere social interaction. I could barely help myself; furthermore, a customer craving to be “bad” and finally having that whipped cream on their mocha.

            Fuck: it was as though it was scrawled in black marker all over the tiled walls. Heavy and each letter bigger than the next, Fuck is all I could see. I grabbed a plate, bent over the first sink filled with the nothing-smelling soap, and scrubbed.

            A cup: my hand circulated with the sponge, the bubbles settling and then dispersing.            
            A fork: I hugged the sponge along each spike and ended with a final stroke for the handle.
            A spoon: I circulated again. I get through one more spoon, and I cave.

             Huddled over the sink I began to break. Wet balls dropped against my cheeks and I sighed. It’s the kind of sigh that’s so heavy to drop out of your mouth. A sigh that built itself in your stomach and soaked itself in your nausea, flows upwards to be lodged in your throat and strips away any voice you can use. It tightens your vocal chords as it grows bigger, and proceeds to travel behind your eyes where it explodes. Popping as fast as a balloon, my sigh broke through my mouth and ran from the corners of my eyes. It settled in my head and ached.
            It would still be there, waiting for me when I got home.

            My sense of failure planted a seed in my heart and I vow to initiate change in my life. I accept that grad school may not be here now rescuing me from washing dishes but I can. I can change my environments, change my approach, and drop any expectation of what should be. My path is curving and the straight road ahead is nonexistent - meant for someone else’s life. This clarity is what I possess today. But back on that day, I went home all ninety minutes after leaving work and I screamed.             Yeah, full out screamed.
            It’s all we ever want when we hurt, to know why: a very simple request that we anguish and tear our voices apart calling out for it. We’re messy with tears and our faces - unrecognizable. We are hurt and wounded, never sure if it’s our hearts or our egos that we need to mend. Writing exposes us, makes us come out of the backroom and cry in front of an audience. But nevertheless, we come. We stop washing dishes, even if it’s just for story’s time.

Monday, April 2, 2012

The Pool Incident

***I can't recall the prompt that this essay was inspired by so I suppose we can call this the wild card. As I'm posting these one pagers, I realize that a lot of my essays are based on my childhood and family and home. Perhaps because my book is about other people and work and my professional self, I sub-consciously find it refreshing to narrow in on very personal memories. Or maybe I'm just conceited. Who knows. But I've never considered myself to have good long-term memory and yet, writing, has helped find memories I thought I lost. It's been interesting to explore this type of memory exercise.

I drowned once. For a few seconds. I was five. My older sister was nine. My father was thirty-two. My Abuelita was house sitting for one of her clients she cleaned for. She invited my sister and I to the house, told my dad that we could have some fun in the pool. There was a slide. I was sold. We lived in an apartment and the sprinklers were what we knew of summer fun. A large pool not populated by the entire community was beyond our dreams.

A whole pool?!

To ourselves?!

I was overjoyed.

A slide?!

I was pissing my neon biker shorts.

As my Abulea and my dad sat inside in the kitchen, Karla and I ran to the pool. Karla immediately headed to the slide and did a freefall into the deep end. I, on the other hand, took my big toe and placed on the first step leading into the shallow end of the pool; I shrieked and giggled. I dared to put my whole right foot onto the step and Karla teased me to just get it over with. I was never easily swayed, even as a child. Firm and stubborn, I did the same toe-then-foot process with my left side and was at waist level when I saw Karla make another slip down the slide. She had both arms up in the air, her hair like a flying kite following behind her. Her wide-open grin was infectious. I splashed the water, applauding her joy, the slide, and the fact that we had it all to ourselves.

I’ve never been one to watch from the sidelines. I had my eye on the slide and I wanted to feel the same exhilaration my sister did. There was no way she was going to hog all the wild giggling to herself. I stood from the shallow end and waddled my way to the slide, marking my path with moist footprints. Karla yelled reassuring things to me as she already saw a mixed expression of fear and excitement grow on my face.

“You’ll be fine Georgi! It’s so much FUN!”

I smiled back at my sister and began to climb the three steps to the top. There was not much time that passed before I was at the top and then I was at the bottom – of the pool.

I don’t remember sliding. I do remember hitting the water and realizing that all my kicking was getting me nowhere near the top. I needed to breathe; I knew that much. I wanted to cry but the water wouldn’t let me. I didn’t know how I could breath as my arms moved aimlessly around my sides hoping to push me upwards. Nothing.

I closed my eyes. I didn’t want to be here anymore. If I closed my eyes for a little while maybe I’ll be at the top, I thought.

I felt his arm wrap around my waist: large and strong. I was pulled away and I felt the sun and felt the air in my mouth. I gasped and coughed.

The next thing I remembered was my father bent over laying out his one-dollar bills and his fives on the concrete next to the pool. The sun was still bright and I could see his clothes were already close to being dry. I remembered seeing my father, delicately placing out his money, his hunched back facing me and feeling incredibly guilty.

I got Daddy’s money wet.

He’s going to be so mad.

After the last bill was arranged, he turned to me and put his hands on my shoulders. We locked eyes and he told me in Spanish that I needed to be careful - that he loved me and I needed to take care of myself because he loved me.

Don’t do foolish things, he urged me, think about what you can and cannot do. Don’t be angry if you can’t do what your sister can do yet. She’s older and soon I would be old too, but no matter what, you take care of yourself and understand when something is not right - that it doesn’t feel right.

He kissed me, and I hugged him.

Looking over his shoulders, I hoped his money wouldn’t be ruined.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

The House in Highland Park

Of the weekly one page homework archives...

Prompt: use description.

I remember the clocks the most. The ding and dong that caught me off guard every hour that it would proclaim had arrived within the four walls of the house. Even from depths of the basement, those grandfather clocks would reach my young ears. For the rest of my life, I would associate the sounds of a tick and a tock and bong with the house in Highland Park. The house that my mother cleaned for four days a week till 2 in the afternoon, the house that my mother noted in my school’s transcripts under my current address, the house that took one hour on the train to get to from the city where we really lived. That house felt like home at the same time it didn’t, this mixed emotion would confuse me as a child as I try to both play in the house as well as respect it, as other rooms were mine to play and roam free in while two rooms were strictly forbidden to even linger near.

The Highland Park house was the biggest house I’ve ever seen at age nine. Light brown with black window shutters, the roof a perfect point, and a driveway so steep and windy that it felt like every time I walked up it to the front door, the house was telling me I had to put in some effort in order to be worthy.

Walking through the front door, the foyer was simple. A coffee table to the right beneath an ornate mirror where I could see the top of my dark brown hair and my mother’s worried face that the kitchen counter hadn’t been clean off enough from her last visit. My mother would take me through the hallway towards the kitchen and I take a peak at the bathroom under the stairs to admire and giggle at how small it was: it was my favorite bathroom to use. In the wide and open kitchen, I stare up at all the different pots and pans, some gold and large, others small and black, a few the color of copper and altogether they made me think that cooking was a special occasion.

As my mother fussed over not understanding how to retrieve messages from the answering machine, I open drawers to see what I could find. I was always wondering when I was young, I needed to see something, touch something, to understand it. I hated the drawer that had all the pills and its boxes that kept all the pills. Looking like a bunch of pebbles to me, I wonder why Mr. Taxman needed all these smelly, stinky things in his body. More often than not, I open the worse one of them all, the one that had the yellow label in an amber see-through bottle, I turn the ridged cap and pull out the cotton swab and hold it between my fingers as I dared myself to take a whiff just cause: youthful curiosity knows no bounds.

The kitchen was only the first stop before my mother let me go to my room in the house while she cleaned and took care of the dogs. Up three flights of stairs to the very top of the perfect pointed roof, I find myself in my room; the one Karla and I would sleep in when mom had to watch the house during their vacations. It was right across the gym room where the only purpose it served for me then was just another room to watch TV, a change of scenery when I needed it during the latest episode of Days of Our Lives.

In my room there was a large bed, like when Karla and I would push our beds together to make the big bed but without worrying about falling in the middle. Two windows were on either side of the walls, one overlooking the garden in the backyard, and the other facing the front out into the street. Under each window was a desk: a large treasure chest of pens, papers, staplers, and more fun things to play “office” with my sister. I sit in my wooden chair and wrap my fingers around the tiny golden horseshoes that pull each drawer open. I write and highlight, pile up my papers, and tap them on my desk, put them in folders and continue on my important business of the afternoon.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

A Series of One-Pagers: "How To"

***Preface: I've decided to make good use of my one pagers from my writing class. Every week as homework, on top of my book project, I write a one page essay based a numerous prompts my teacher gives me. I feel like they should have a home, and hopefully, an audience here until they are published elsewhere. Happy reading!

Much love,


Prompt: write a "how to..." piece

How To: Read While Eating.

There comes a point in every person’s life when eating alone is no longer a problem or a “weird” thing to do. It could happen at anytime, 20’s, 30’s, or the late bloomers in their 40’s. But nevertheless, it occurs: you do not need social interaction in order to enjoy your meal. Congratulations, you’re one step along in our lesson.

Step Two:

Once you’ve embraced your love for yourself and food, another suitable companion in your newfound love for solitude is your book. Literature is a lonely pursuit, whether you decide to read it or write, the printed word is no group activity. Do not mention book clubs to me. Continuing on, a good book with your breakfast, lunch, or dinner, is as important as the meal itself and whether you decided to go for soup or salad. (I will briefly mention here that soups and salads are friendly options for the reading while eating activity. Later in the steps we will cover other manageable and efficient food options). The book that you chose to read should be something of great interest to you, but remember; others can see what you’re reading. Whether they want to admit or not, if you’re eating alone and reading, people are going to watch you because they envy your independence, intelligence, and you’re crispy chicken wrap with the house salad. So, keep it mind that the book you chose to bring along to your dining outing is essential to the type of image you want to project to your neighbors. I will list a few examples to give you a clearer idea of what I mean.

Books that say you love vampires no matter how badly written they are:

· Twilight, New Moon, Eclipse, or Breaking Dawn

Books that say you want to be in a book club without the whole club part:

· Any new addition to Oprah’s Book Club

-Disclaimer: if you do chose an Oprah Book Club be prepared that the shiny sticker proclaiming such news could get one of your neighbors to be bold enough to start a conversation with you. If such an incident occurs, promptly answer in Spanish that you rather be eating your hair then to interrupt your solo lunch to talk about a book you haven’t finished and do not want be spoiled. Smile and return to your eating and reading. The Spanish can be substituted for any other foreign language.

Books that say you want to be taken seriously despite your chilli cheese dog and jumbo fries with chilli and cheese

· Tale of Two Cities, Crime and Punishment, Swann’s Way, Jane Eyre, etc. etc.

Once the book is selected the meal is the next decision. While looking over the menu consider the following:

· It is messy?

· Do I need both hands?

· Can I use silverware?

· Is it going to get on the book?

· Is it so good am I going to get distracted from reading?

This last point is especially important to consider. You do want to neglect your book for your meal or vice versus. Most meals, however, can be worked around the book. Take for instance, something that needs hands versus silverware to be consumed: a burger or a wrap, even a sandwich. When you cannot hold the page down to read your third paragraph implement a paper weight of some kind: the iPhone is an exceptional paper weight from many personal experiences, but other cell phones can be useful. The salt or peppershaker, the fork, or the knife at your table can also get the job done.

Undoubtedly food will find its way to the page or even more so, the spine of the book that works like a perfect catcher to all your crumbs. When you decided to read and eat you must understand the risk. Dirty books, in my opinion, give character and memory to your ownership of that particular book, but by no means do you want to bring your first edition of anything to your table. Keep all eating books under the price of $20 to make you okay and at ease if balsamic vinaigrette smudges over “you” and “can” on the fourth paragraph.

Overall, enjoy eating and reading, and most especially, your undivided attention to – you. Join me next time when we discuss how to put on your make-up while watching your favorite television show.