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Leaving LA

9 Jul

The process of moving and telling others that I am leaving LA has been a mixed bag of highs and lows.

I am a native Angeleno and I love my city with all its misunderstood and under appreciated idiosyncrasies. I grew up in Boyle Heights near El Tepeyac and Evergreen cemetary. I moved around but always in LA: downtown, Chinatown and a brief stint in the valley.

I’ve experienced so much within one county which includes the large swath of land that is home to 15 million.

I’ve lived the LA of East LA where you naturally fall into the lyrical song of Spanish, the early conversion to cool of Downtown LA, the ridiculous parties and outings that only LA can outlandishly provide, and the quieter and sweeter moments of growing a parent community as a mother.

Every memory of this city remains etched in my mind; from my early years of living on Union by McArthur Park: drive by’s, elderly neighbors who always had hot apple pie, my grandfather handing us a quarter for a bag of pepinos and even the kind LAPD beat officers who handed out baseball cards to us.

Now it’s a golden sunset setting on my rear view mirror.

I drive past the grapevine, by the acrid smell of cows, the rolling hills covered in blankets of wheat and the fruit stands of Gilroy – to land here. Silicon Valley.

I’ve been here less than a week and already I feel the dull ache of a lost one long loved. I sense the need to see the awesome landscape below the hills of City Terrace. I miss the daily reminder of my connection to a city, a place, my memories… I fell the pull.

Los Angeles.

The bad, dark and shallow times we shared remain on my mind. The empty promises linger on the avenue of broken dreams. Not Hollywood. The place where broken dreams go to bury the pain is always darker than the pretense of the avenue of the stars. In the streets of daily living lie the real stories of LA. On Cesar Chavez Boulevard, Whittier Boulevard, Hoover, 41st, 18th, in every single corner that the downtrodden go to blend into the indistinguishable mess of sadness.

Los Angeles. Like a good-looking love that I can’t get rid of, no matter how bad you know they are for you. You cling to me. Days of fear and anger intermingle with days of triumph and evenings spent toasting on rooftops thinking we’ve done it all. I love you.

But for now, we need to take a break. I need space, I need time, I need a place to lay my head and make a mark before I come back to you. To you I toast, dear city of mine.

Ciudad mia, adoracion de mi corazon, dame tiempo y paciencia y con los aires de la suerte llegare a tu lado de nuevo.

Until then dear LA, find someone else to claw your heartless charms into. I need a break.

Tengo Una Tristeza y no la Puedo Borrar

4 Apr

Tengo Una Tristeza
y no la puedo borrar
Se me cuelga del cuello
y no la puedo despegar

Camino por las tinieblas
Y no me puedo enfocar

Siento que lo mas que camino,
lo mas que me pierdo…
Pierdo mi lugar

Me diras tu?
Como me encontrare de nuevo?
Me diras tu?
Como me encontrare de nuevo?

Tengo Una Tristeza
y no la puedo borrar
Se me cuelga del cuello
y no la puedo despegar

Dentro del corazon
lo siento muy obscuro
Muy pesado
No lo puedo cargar

Y me pongo a pensar
Y me pongo a pensar…

Seras Tu?
Seras Tu?

No te puedo encontrar…

Helpless

15 Mar

The tide recedes
each time
a bit further
taking with it a little pain
and a little strength

When the sun is out
it warms my face
On my palms
it tingles
and I sigh
relief

I hear the birds sing again
the sky, a gorgeous hue of blue
beauty everywhere
fresh air
never tastes sweeter
sharp
full of promise

I want to run
but not away
towards something, someone, somewhere
Clearly defined

peace

I smile
wide and free
show my teeth even
and giggle endlessly

Self love
the color of my skin
the way it shimmers in the sun
the shape of my body
the softness of my lips
in harmony with my strength

I feel
and more importantly
I Want
to feel

A day, a week, or a month goes by
and I wake up
feeling strange
unsettled

Heaviness sets
my thoughts pained
a cold sweat
as the memories take hold

Alone
the quiet scares me
as it creeps in
the lack of sound

In a fog
everything hurts
my mind lays
Dormant
withdrawn

Those muted days
I don’t wish on anyone

Sadness fills me
at the thought of
Wasted youth
in a frenzy to feel nothing
to fade

Release the gray days
for the clear blue days
learn to feel again
Not so
helpless

You’re incredibly beautiful, but you know that

28 Feb

You’re incredibly beautiful, but you know that.

Beauty
Skin Deep
Every day older
Wiser
life and hardship

Outward
Face up
Bold, strong, and fierce
Strides to success

But so
Tired
Swinging to and fro
Only gradually
moving forward
emotion
self satisfaction

You’re incredibly beautiful, but you know that.

A hurricane
of movement
Tearing inside
pushing out
wailing
breaking
Agonizingly slow

Torrent
of shame
self-doubt

Precariously close to
Tipping over
Roaring winds all about
Pushing
Edging
Closer and Closer

Scream

You’re incredibly beautiful, but you know that.

So strong
So Beautiful
Pulled Together

And inside
it crumbles

You’re incredibly beautiful, but you know that.

Lost in Translation

28 Jan

I was 15 and missing class for the day as I walked along my dad to an immigration one stop shop to renew his green card. By then, our relationship was distant, making for awkward conversation as we waited, mostly in silence, for his number to be called.

He had walked into my room the previous evening, looking slightly nervous, to ask me if I could take the day off school and help him with paperwork and translating questions. He didn’t mention what kind of paperwork and I didn’t ask. I simply said, “Claro que si papi!” And he walked back out, his shoulders noticeably relaxed.

The following morning we got up early and briskly walked to the bus stop. As we waited, he asked if I would miss much school work. I shook my head and we rode in silence, using the noisy backdrop of multiple conversations, music, arguments, and laughter from our fellow bus riders as noise filler.

“Numero 143!” The loudspeaker was all base and garbled sound that you had to strain to hear it, followed by multiple questions of, “Que dijo? Cual numero?!” I looked down at our number, #257…

I looked around and saw the snaking line in front of us, and even longer mess of a wait behind us. I had the large manila folder close to my chest, its contents all neatly filled out and in the appropriate order. We went through the questions: Color of Hair -, “Negro no?”, Color of Eyes -, “Cafe”, Height -…and so on. What year did you enter the US? Have you ever illegally done this, that, and other idiotic questions that were meant to trick you into losing your green card.

“Numero 257!” We hurried up to the window, my father a step behind me, and I beamed brightly at the zombie-esque employee behind the window. I pushed the paperwork toward him and he rattled off a litany of questions, each to which my father would look to me before responding in the affirmative or negative. He looked so serious, that face that I came to know every time he was in front of a figure of authority, that face that thinly masked the knots of nervous terror that threatened to snake through his pores. His yellow pallor and slight suffle from his left to right foot reflected his fear, this precarious arrangement by the US government that allowed him to be in the North side of the Mexican/US border with his family – his wife and kids that is. I was standing next to him so I did the only thing I thought to do, I reached for his hand and held it in mine and gave it a slight squeeze. To my surprise, he squeezed back and released a pent up breath. Those long heavy breathes that you release when you forget to breathe.

Thump. The stamp of approval came down on my father’s paperwork and the zombie gave me the proof of renewal as well as intructions of things to watch out for in the mail.

As we stepped away I saw hundred of people just like my dad, a yellow tint betraying their fear, their unsteady stance on slippery ice of the INS.

As we left that dimly lit and dingy building and walked out into the bright sunshine of Olympic/Soto, he cheerfully asked me if I wanted to grab a bite. “Quieres una Hamburguesa?” I didn’t. I wanted to go home and rid myself of the depressing images of hope and broken dreams that the building had left behind in my mind. I wanted to stop the awkward company of my father and lock myself up in my room to listen to music and read a book. But his smile was so rare, it seemed out of place in his usual solemn face, and I remembered how he had returned the squeeze when we held hands that I nodded my head and smiled so he could remember his five year old Chuchi that had always quickly done anything he requested.

Instead of hopping on the bus we walked to Tom’s Burgers on 4th/Soto and ordered burgers, fries, and a shake for me. I told him about how my swimming was going, about my history class, about all of the subjects that I enjoyed. That afternoon I had my father back; the one that used to help me with homework art projects, read to me and protect me when I was in pre-school.

It dawned on me then how hard and embarassing it must have been for him to ask me for help for a matter that I would never have to face since I won the lottery at birth and was born in this country.

My mother always came to me when she needed translating, documents filled out, appointments for me to attend with her, but my father… He had never asked for my help before then and I was happy that I had quickly assented, that I had agreed energetically to having lunch with him.

He told me about his adventures as a young man; stories about crossing the border, the comedy he peppered in didn’t quite hide the perils and unfortunate events that crossing illegally with a pollero invited. The fry scratched my throat as I chewed and tried to swallow the mouthful along with my sense of shame of not having wanted to prolong my stay with my dad. But the shame was nothing compared to the ache that I felt for the millions of unfortunate undocumented fathers out there whose standing on the North side of the border was even more precarious than my father’s.

President Obama will release his immigration reform plan tomorrow and I have a seed of hope hesitantly sprouting that his plan includes a major upheaval of our class system: the third class that suffers in silence and moves noiselessly from unwanted job to job without any right to vote or voice their injustice, the second class that holds green cards but are not yet citizens and do not have the right to vote, and the rest of us – US Citizens (via birth or naturalization) that are free to enjoy 100 % of our rights, as disparate in education and economic mobility opportunity as they may be, there is still a door for us that grants us 100% of the right to seek those opportunities. And with shame I acknowledge that I have often forgotten how fortunate I am for having a US birth certificate, that sacred paper that allows me to live the life I have led…

I hope that President Obama pushes his immigration plan forward and doesn’t allow for the stories of suffering undocumented millions to be lost in translation.

Moving Forward

20 Jan

How do you balance your own dreams and ambitions with those of the collective good? The collective good being: your family, your people, and for those so inclined, society as a whole. How do you balance any dreams with the reality of a failed attempt? How do you move forward when life seems stalled or worse yet muted?

When I was a kid I thought anything was possible. I was living in low standards (in quality of life, expectations, and interaction) that I drew up my own world of existence. When I try to recall memories, many of them are of me just sitting, lying, standing – alone, lost in thought. A loud buzzing is in my ears as I lose track of time and wake from my fantasy to find that hours and sometimes only seconds have passed.

The hours spent dreaming were my escape from my life. My time spent reading and writing were a respite from admitting where/when I was living.

And in these dreams with limitless skies I saw myself as an attorney, as a businesswoman, as an inventor – with an empire that would spread its wings in Boyle Heights and provide a higher quality of life to its residents: to teenage moms, to boys on the cusp of being lost to drugs/gangs/apathy, to immigrant parents providing for a better life. I dreamt of a world where I wrote my way to the top, sharing my stories, and then my profits to this community. Buying a beautiful house for my parents and siblings; making enough money so my parents could stop their backbreaking work; financing the education of my siblings so they could escape the soul crunching cycle of poverty; realizing these goals would make me happy I thought.

Yet along the way my heart wasn’t strong enough, my mind became weaker, and I dreamt longer and longer. My escape became a necessity and I would lose track of time, lose track of my goals and ambitions, until I just lived. I breathed, I ate, I woke and I slept. I loved with an immature sense of what this meant or what it would bring.

And those goals became silly notions meant for another. My self-questioning became louder, a feverish pitch of self-doubt that drowned out any positive thoughts and immobilized my inner sense of worth.

A failed marriage, an unaccomplished degree, and single motherhood at 23.

It seemed the only dream I had “accomplished” which I couldn’t even take credit for was growing into an attractive woman. As a child, I had wished daily to be beautiful, graceful, to possess the ease of human interaction – the ability to connect and feel with others, but this desire was misguided as I did not know the difference between healthy and unhealthy connections in relationships.

I was in a downward spiral that was quickly finding its way to the bottom. I had no sense of where I could go from there, of what life meant anymore if not my definition of a perfect loveable family.

But with pain, failure, and darkness comes revelation. You cannot hide from yourself when all that is left is you.

So I took the shreds of my motivation and began a painstakingly slow mending process. I recognized my faults, which were many, and realized that no matter how sympathetic a past I had, it did not constitute an excuse for where I had landed.

And 5 years later you find me here, full of life.

I didn’t give up on life. I placed one foot in front of the other and though I had many missteps, I keep walking forward. And I feel a sense of pride in my life; I have two young daughters that grow lovelier every day, I have a career that I enjoy and brings me a sense of fulfillment, and I am ready to go back to my restarting those childhood dreams – even if that only means coloring the life of my loved ones with my happiness.

We can spend days philosophizing about what true happiness means and what we need to possess it. We can spend an equal amount of time debating whether the singular task of making ourselves happy contributes to the improved happiness of the collective; I believe that it does. By being a happy mother, daughter, sister, friend, and partner I am bringing that positivity into the lives of those connected to me. By sharing my stories, I hope you feel the hope that has carried me through daily and how this hope has changed as I have gotten older. I once thought happiness would come when I married and had children, a family to love me and receive my love.

But I learned that you can’t smother the darkness, you can’t swallow the bitter memories, you can’t hide from the gray that is nestled inside you and lures you into endless sleep; you have to face it in order to bring a sense of peace and happiness into your own being.

Imagine that you are in your dark hole, surrounded by darkness that eats at your perceived happiness away, that chips at your will to live, that hammers you down when you try to move forward, that suffocates you when you try to take a breath of hopeful air. You are left slumped on the ground choking on the hurt, the pain is so strong it keeps you pinned to the floor and no matter how hard you try to ignore it; the ringing in your ears makes it impossible for you to function at a higher level than mere existence. It becomes a sub existence and time passes by, passing you by.

But there is a ladder amongst this darkness. Barely visible at first but you feel it with your hands as you wander around unrelenting in your desire to escape. Each rung on that ladder brings you a different memory – a painful shameful moment in your life; and in order to move past a rung you have to come to terms with it and the implications it has caused in your life.

If you were abused, you need to know that you did nothing to invite this undeserved attack onto yourself. There is nothing wrong with you. You do not have something in you that can elicit this behavior in others toward you. You may have been repeatedly abused, by many, but you need to realize that it is not your fault. You were a victim but over time and with a lot of work you can heal and stop living like one.

Whatever hard reality was or is your life you have two choices, same as anyone else; climb the ladder or cower in the false safety of your known darkness. Don’t beat yourself up for decisions and choices you made, even if you ended up hurting others. You have to learn to forgive yourself and push forward. If you don’t, your “reality” (your self-inflicted continuation of that twisted world) will always remain your captor.

I’m not credentialed to tell you how to get better, I can only share what I have gone through and have done to get to a better place. One thing I can tell you, when you climb high enough up that ladder, you will savor the ease with which you keep climbing and you will begin to shed your old tattered self and embrace the new stronger, happier, and more productive self.

I am not at the top of the ladder; I don’t know what I will find when I get there. But I do know that I am relishing the journey upward and that I am improving this world a little with my own sunshine brightening this beautiful new day.

Runaway

18 Dec

Oh I try to stay away
in my own quiet darkness
I plot 
To runaway

It’s too good
Too kind
Too normal to be real

Isn’t it sad?

I can’t accept that I deserve this
Or at the very least 
Accept that I don’t deserve
constant pain

It’s all so very bleak inside
The cobwebs that linger in the corner
They remind me of those years

Clinging to me
They refuse to disappear

It’s all so hideous
So very sad

Don’t you see?
Isn’t it clear?
Runaway

Let me be
So much easier to bear this pain
Neatly tucked behind the smile of a promise
That the year end is near

Year after Year
The end is near

Why don’t you just
Runaway?

 

Whispers of Sadness: Echo of Love Always with me

30 Nov

My heart pushes against my chest
To rejoin you
Belong to you

Our moments together
Tenderly sweet
Leave an intense ache
In your absence

I miss your eyes
Drinking me in
Your smile that always meets mine
when I turn to you, To admire you

You, So kind
Generously loving and unmeasured with your affection

Every gaze makes love to me
An electric response to every caress

I feel you inside me
In my soul
when you hold my hand
When you see me
All of me

Such kindness
I will never tarnish
this love
the trust you have in me

I have been honest and open
about my past
Yet you see
only the good, the strength
of every moment

You inspire me
To be better, To be more
To deserve this gift that I never want to lose

Series of Non-Moments

27 Nov

The glow of the downtown skyline below me, so close I can almost step over the edge of the hill and walk over to it, but such a distant world from me. 

I look down at my evergreen ribbed sweater top and pull the sleeves over my tight knuckles and crouch down near the dead grass.  The cool air feels good against my cheeks.  The frost is coming, I can feel the weather turn as it nips at my cheeks and the edges of my ears.  But the burning of my eyes from all of the crying is all I can feel at this moment; the ugliness of the most recent fight still weighs me down and forms a pit in my stomach.

The cramping in my legs forces me to get up and as I inhale sharply I realize I haven’t been breathing.  I keep doing this; suspending reality and letting time slip by as I fall into my non-dream world.  I can’t even tell you what I think or don’t think about during these moments, but it scares me that I kept doing it more and more.  A series of unaccountable non-moments is preferable to the waking moments that I keep walking back to.

We lived in a tiny two room illegal unit carved into the side of a cliff and had to walk twenty steps up and down each time I would ascend or descend into our out of our self-created hell.  I opened the door and found him sitting by the dining table, mirror red-rimmed vacant eyes looking right back at me.  I don’t bother to acknowledge his presence and walk past him into the bedroom.  How depressing these walls are, seemingly pushing in all around me, inching closer and closer with each passing day.

We thought we had been happy once but when I try to think of what we spoke of, of what we shared in thoughts and likes, or even if we relayed dislikes, I can’t come up with a single conversation we had. 

Wherever we’d go, they would ask if we were siblings.  Tall, with dark thick hair, lightly bronzed skin, and striking features – there’s worse to be compared to.  I don’t think we saw anything beyond each other, at least nothing real, other than skin deep.  I thought I saw a shared pained past, an inner struggle to contain demons, a desire to move forward and work towards a new life with each other.  The last one is what bit me in the ass, that was just a projected shared trait, a one-sided fantasy that never took any real root in our relationship.

I didn’t drink then.  That wasn’t until I wanted to drown out the pain of failure. 

He didn’t drink much either, I figured (hoped) he didn’t like it and only did it socially but it quickly became apparent that it wasn’t the case once we were married.  Once we were married… How could it change so drastically? 

Back in the bedroom I changed into a t-shirt and crept into bed.  As I heard the sound of the light switch flick off I closed my eyes and pretended to sleep.  I heard his shuffling as he stepped out of his clothes and slipped in beside me and I concentrated on willing myself to sleep.  As the bed shook from his silent sobbing I squeezed my eyes tightly and gripped the blanket so my eyes wouldn’t accidentally give me away.  But as I felt him slither towards me I quickly fell into my non-dream moments and slipped away..

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.

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Zack Hunter | Phenomenological Fiction

Zack Hunter is the pseudonym of a Californian poet, author, artist, musician, and researcher. He lives on a farm and spends his free time reading and writing about whatever it is he is passionate about at the time.

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