Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Sunday en Segundo

Sunny spring Sundays always brought the people out of their red brick apartments. The rows of doorways popped open and screen doors kept the flies out. Opened windows let in the fresh breeze and sunlight. The neighborhood knew to take advantage of it because there were only a few days like this in El Paso’s spring before the winds came.

            El Freddy walked down 3rd Street toward Stanton.  He’d just left from La Bowie where he ate a warm empanada. He’d passed on the cafecito even though he thought it always made the piña of the empanda taste sweeter, but it was too warm for café.

            As he walked, he passed some vatos who were riding around the barrio on their tricked out chrome blinding bikes. El Freddy nodded as he passed them and he heard their laughter as one of them hit the curb and almost wiped out. El Freddy didn’t laugh but just smiled. In the alley, he heard the sounds of chavitos as they kicked a worn soccer ball shirtless and barefoot up and down toward makeshift goal posts. He liked the sounds of his gente as he made his way to his compa Beto’s house. Cumbias spilled out of the windows and mingled with the vatos and chavitos laughter. La Señora Lupe was sweeping the sidewalk in front of her door and she nodded at him as he passed. Her eyes were steely and even though El Freddy hadn’t done anything wrong his gaze moved down toward his feet.

            Esa Señora era bruja, he thought and walked faster.

            El Freddy found Beto outside, like everyone else, sitting in his dark green Oldsmobile wiping down the dashboard with Armor All.  He wiped around a black sticker with white letters that said “Raza is Love”. Beto’s ruca had stuck it there one evening after they’d smoked because she thought it was beautiful.  He heard the easy notes of Malo’s Suavecito flowing out of the car.

            Laaaa-ah-ah, la-la, laaaa-ah-ah
Laaaa-ah-ah, la-la, laaaa-ah-ah

            That’s what today was. Suavectio. El Freddy leaned against the side of the car and shot the shit while Beto made sure the inside of his ride gleamed so bright it hurt the eyes of anyone walking by.

Suavecito, mi linda
The feelin’ I have inside for you
Suavecito, mi linda

They checked out the chavas as they walked by and laughed when the girls rolled their eyes at them. They were laughing so hard that El Freddy almost missed her. A mamacita he’d seen around a few times but never talked to was getting out of an old Buick across the street. He stared as she bent at the waist, arms against the window frame, to talk to the driver. Her tight bell bottoms hugged all her curves and he couldn’t stop staring at the jean clad corazoncito facing him.

            “Ay,” he said to Beto and jutted his chin in her direction.

            Beto turned to look, shook his hand fingers flapping freely and said, “Esa ruca, man. Tiene un culo,” then bit his lip.

            As she straightened up, she turned to look behind her and saw El Freddy and Beto staring. El Freddy froze, lips parted, but no sound came out. She smiled at him, flipped her dark hair, and disappeared toward the corner tienda. The Buick roared off.

            Never, I never meet a girl like you in my life
            I never, no, no yeah
            I never meet a girl like you in my life

            “Andale,” Beto said toward the store.
            El Freddy looked at Beto, smoothed his hands on his faded Levi’s, and nodded.   

Thursday, June 23, 2016

She was Fierce

I once knew a woman who was fierce. She stood at the helm of her ship every day, dark hair flowing in the ocean breeze ready to face whatever the sea held for her.  She manned her ship in the vast open ocean and always managed to keep the small ship from capsizing. The ocean, not always friendly to sea goers, seemed to regard her with respect.  She worked hard on her ship and even when waves and storms crashed against the sides of the boat, she held quick to helm in even the darkest skies. 

At night, she would stare up at the stars and plan for what was next. The pinhole lights against the stark black background held all the wishes she made every night. She lived like this for longer than anyone knew. Her boat was always moving back and forth across the sapphire seas. Until a storm that not even she could handle rolled in unexpectedly. The bright blue skies shifted into darkness. Try as she might, the boat capsized.  She fought and swam but the waves threw her to and fro. Hours later, shaking and worn she somehow floated on the surface of the now still water.  She cried, her tears adding to salt in the waters, alone in the ever-moving waves, but she seemed to stay still. She stayed floating above the waters of her sunken ship. And even as the waves tried to shift her toward land, she would not move. She heard them whisper to her, “We will move you to shore”, but she didn’t want to leave her ship. Even when the waves managed to shift her a little closer toward solid ground, she swam back, her heart knowing the location of her beloved sunken ship. 

I once knew a woman who was fierce. I once had a mother who was fierce. She blazed fire from within and was always in danger of scorching those around her. She taught me to fight, to be brave, and to never give up. She was the captain of our ship and always managed to steer us to safety. We all looked to her. A small tribe of four aboard a ship, we knew she would never let sink. Until one day, a storm none of us saw coming almost capsized the boat. The storm raged on and we worked hard to keep the vessel afloat.  Wet, shivering, and exhausted we realized we had lost one member in the chaos.  The last three of the tribe, we tried to keep ourselves safe, while my mother lay down and curled into a corner of the deck and slept. Even after the storm had passed, we tried to wake her, but she simply shook her head and fell back asleep. 

We watched as our lost tribe member floated off into the horizon. We mourned. For months we floated aimlessly and took turns crying at the helm not knowing where to go. And my mother? She slept. She stayed pressed against the small space of the deck and slept, and each time we tried to wake her she simply shook her head and smiled.

“I’m just so tired,” she’d say.

We three watched as she stayed in the small space curled into a tight little ball. But, the waves of the ocean kept moving. When we tried to travel to shore, she would wake long enough to point us toward another land, and another.  When we asked when we she would wake, when we could travel ashore, she’d nod and smile.

“It’s fine,” she’d say.  

Thursday, June 16, 2016

¿Y la Prieta?

My grandma, Ita, called me Prieta. She called me this because my skin is toasted brown. When I was born my mom says I was light skinned, but she knew “que iba ser morena” because the inside of my little baby thighs were already darker than the rest of me.

In the sun, I turn a darker brown. I get even more Prieta.

It was a term of endearment. My sister, who has a light complexion, was called guera or guerinchi. When I tell people who don’t speak Spanish what Prieta means, dark or the dark one, their eyes open wide and a small gasp escapes. I see the offense they feel for me sprinkled on their faces like the freckles I will never have. When I try to explain, the offense still shadows their eyes.

That is the problem with Spanish. Wait, maybe, that is their problem with Spanish. Even when I explain, they are suspicious. Their faces ask, “Is this true?” as if I am setting them up for a joke. But how can I explain the cultural and literal meaning of a word at the same time?

How do I tell them that when I heard Ita say Prieta I felt the caress of her strong hands on the top of my head as she braided my hair? How do I tell them that I never knew what Prieta really meant until some light skinned Mexican kids laughed at me and said I had to be more Mexican than them because I was “bien prieta”? How do I tell them that when they said the word it turned ugly, and I called them wetbacks in response? How do I tell them that now, even after the cruelty of children Prieta means love? That each time prieta fell from her lips, I learned to love my dark skin.  

No one calls me that anymore. I miss how her words sounded aloud.

My Ita called me Prieta. Eight years ago, she died and took the name with her. 

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Somewhere Between Blue and Elated

Sunday was the first day that I was able to relax since finishing the first draft of book two of the YA series, Love Letters, I'm writing. My bestie from another mama was in town. My bestie editor, reader, confidant had just returned from a trip to O Canada! Sunday I rested. I watched movies. I  got sucked into Netflix series Love.  I didn't want to do anything, but I wanted to do something. D asked if I wanted to go to the pool, and I did want to go, but I didn't want to get dressed, pack our pool gear, drive to the other side of town, then back. I stayed on the couch.

Monday, I pressed snooze instead of going to boxing. Two days in a row, I broke my 30 days of fitness goals. I slept in the with Faustino the dog and watched DVR'd Bones episodes. D left for work. I was annoyed with myself for still not wanting to do anything, but still didn't want to do anything. I took a shower. I put my phone on silent. The world was loud. I thought about writing and my hands preemptively ached. I sorted laundry and watched Blindspot.  I wanted comfort food so I made picadillo with sopita. When D arrived home from work he saw that I'd only moved from the bed to the living room. He said hi and I just smiled.

I hadn't spoken since the morning.

When he got home from boxing, I was posting stuff online to sell. When he asked what was wrong, I said I just didn't feel like talking. In fact, I didn't even want to talk to him, which never happens.

I am naturally a chatter box. I can talk to almost anyone. I say almost because a girl has to draw a line somewhere.

Tuesday, I felt better, but small things irritated me. The way a friend answered a text. The list of things I needed to get done, which was really not very big. I went to boxing thinking the exercise would help. It usually does, but it only helped a little. At lunch, I met another friend for wings, beer, and lesson planning. I went to Target and bought summer shorts and funny tees. My mood was lightening. When I got home, D looked at me his eyes weary. They said, "Is she still weird?" I apologized for not wanting to talk. In all my mood swing weirdness through the years that has never happened. I text my bestie from another mama and told her I'd been a grouch since she'd left back to Austin. She was having a bad day too. I felt better. Why do two grouches make a peas and carrots combo better?

Today, I am myself. On the way to a doctor's appointment, I sang my heart out in the car to the 90's grunge station on Sirius radio. I felt light. The lightest I'd felt in days.

This is what it is like to be creative. At least for me. I binged all the juice out of my brain and then I crashed. It is almost a manic episode, but it only happens when I write. This happened to me before, when I was writing about Ita for Por Un Amor, but that time I thought it was because I was writing about my Ita. My dead Ita. Various versions of this have been said, "If you want to live forever, marry a writer." It's true.

Even when I'm writing fiction the besties are there in various forms. D is there. I am there. I work so hard to make everything real, that I pour myself on the page. I thought writing YA romance would be easier. The last three days have proven that's not true.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

The Hummingbird at My Window

For the past week and a half, a hummingbird has visited me throughout the day as I write at my rectangular kitchen table. She swoops in and out around the banisters of the backyard porch and smells the herbs from the hanging garden.

I don't have a nectar feeder for her, though. So, I wondered what she was doing visiting me every morning. I watched as her wings fluttered faster then I could see instead of writing. As each day passed, I found I'd space out in the direction of the sliding glass window trying to figure out what my characters were going to do next and hoping she would come visit me again.

All day yesterday I wrote and wrote trying to meet a deadline for my editor. My hands ached after several hours, but then I saw the hummingbird and how her wings flapped, and I typed more. Later, I noticed, after she fluttered around, that she rested on one of the branches of the Mulberry in the back yard. Her tiny body moved left then right. Left then right. On a break, I went out to look at the branch and saw a tiny tiny little nest not yet completed.

Today, as I write this, I look for her but she hasn't come yet. I wonder if she is as tired as I am of writing. I wonder if in the next couple days when I begin writing again if she'll return so I can see her work as I do.