Tag Archives: gang life

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withdrawn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

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.

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.

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.

Shortcomings

9 Jan

Sometimes in the name of staying clear of the danger zone we tend to be too conservative with our goals; we draw a line that we don’t want to cross to ensure our survival and we forget that we are individual human beings that have accomplishments and passions to pursue.

I remember being 13 years old and being asked to write what we wanted to do in life. I and several of my friends wrote about what they didn’t want to do in life: never get arrested (or at least not arrested as an adult), to live past 24, to live past 16 without fathering/mothering a kid, and to not OD. The list was an example of pretty basic survival goals that never went beyond an actual desire to bring to fruition the individual dream that lives in each and every one of us.

For a long time this was enough; I just didn’t want to fall into the wrong steps. I wanted to live long enough to move out of my neighborhood; I wanted to live long enough to help people; I wanted to live period. But things change as you mature, as you become a parent, and as you get out of your environment that keeps a mental helmet strapped around your head. The restraints start breaking apart and you start to allow yourself to dream that there might be something out there for you to pursue- something or someone that you can contribute to and it scares the bullshit out of you.

I’m 26 and as another year rolls along I feel stronger, healthier, and more frightened than I have ever felt before. There is no match, in my opinion, than the real fear that has crept inside of me now that I have made it well past 24 and well past the basics of my survival list. I’m not 13 anymore; joking about living another 10 years if I’m lucky; I am an adult that has cleared the hurdle and is now expected to take the next leap. What do you do once you have fulfilled your own expectations? Many of us have entered the territory of our dreams – the land of “what if” – and we should not forget that we are capable to take that dream and run with it without looking back.

Reflections can be cathartic; they can remind you of where you were and how far you have moved forward, but we should never allow the past to shackle us and keep us prisoner to our own mind – break through and run with it. Run towards what lays before you, run towards the possibility of happiness and drop the guilt of shedding your old skin.

I write this at midnight on a Saturday night because the thought occurred to me that it’s not only me that feels that I owe something to the inner me, the old me, many of us might feel the guilt of being happy. Many of you might feel that you do not deserve to be happy but you do. It’s as simple as the sun rising every day and as long as it sets every evening I am going to keep walking and running towards my happiness and keeping it in my grasp even if I am well past accomplishing the items on my “To do or not To do” list.

You have to go out and do something with your life. Don’t allow time to pass you by as you idly hide in a corner and keep playing the same tune.

With that note – Happy New Year

Beautiful Gina

10 Nov

It’s been over ten years but I thought of you Gina and I couldn’t help but cry. I felt waves of pain and choked up emotion overwhelm my body making me double over and gasp for breath. I’ve buried you in the back of my mind- filed you away and fought the urge to remember you. It hurts to wonder if you’re dead or alive; and if you are still breathing- if it hurts you to draw breath from this life.

Being pretty doesn’t do you any favors in this neighborhood; instead it makes you a walking target to strike down. The dirty men trying to paw at you, the ‘homies’ trying to get you big at a random kickback, and most girls would claw you down if you made their boyfriend’s head turn as you walk by.

Yet you had heart you know? You never backed down from a fight- your angular face set in stone and “china” eyes would turn into slits under the exclamation marks of eyebrows you had. I can still see you clearly if I close my eyes: you wearing your baggy Dickies tight at the waist with that black cotton belt and big silver belt buckle, your burgundy shirt tucked in pulled tightly over your breasts that we were all jealous of.

I always felt proud that I owned Vans just like you. You’d do me up with the Jordana Lipliner Pencil in Honey, my hair slicked back and loose in the back. You made me feel like a chola as we strutted across campus; cool and accepted as you wrote “La China” next to my “La Honey” on the bathroom stalls.

You were special Gina, a beautiful girl from East L.A. that didn’t take shit but always stood by me. I was Proud to be your friend.

Why does East L.A. swallow beautiful girls like you Gina? When I saw you again you were a shell of your old self. All that was left was a crack-heads skeleton of what used to be an Aztec Princess. I wanted to throw my sweater over your body and revive you. Gone were your Latina curves – those large round breasts you were so proud of, only a flat concave chest in their place. You were hardly covered in that awful see-through mesh dress you had hanging off your frail frame. I couldn’t find the beautiful almond shaped eyes full of fire- all I saw was dull glass…

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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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