Life Has a Funny Way – Excerpt

How could I have ignored the time Rey commented on my neighbors’ little sister’s physical appearance? “Man, she’s going to be a heartbreaker,” he said in a way that no grown eighteen-year-old male should be using to refer to a ten-year-old. I found the comment inappropriate, but said nothing. And, how about the time a girl, who happened to go to my school, came up to me and told me that she was my boyfriend’s girlfriend? Or the time he implied that he’d lost count of how many girls he’d f-cked? Or the time when someone told me they saw him making out with some other girl at the beach? The signs were so many, right in my face, and I chose to look away.

It was hard to accept that my little fantasy was over. He was my first love, after all. He was my first kiss and the first living man I had ever shed tears for. Letting go was hard. But he was also the first boy to break my heart, and that was harder. If I’d stayed, I’d be stepping on my own dignity. There would be no back-on this time — we were off, forever.

Get Nostalgia and Deal Breakers: A Short Story Collection to read the whole essay. Available on Amazon Kindle.

Continue Reading

Me Too – And Hear Me Out

I learned about the terminology “Thirst trap” from my brother the other day. (I still laugh at those words, by the way.) All the brave women coming clean about their sexual assault or harassment experience these past weeks made me, once again, think of this social media–especially Instagram–slang.

There’s this short story I read on Twitter by a woman who, when she was a teenager, was raped by a group of human waste (they don’t deserve to be called men). She never told anyone about what happened and said that she had gotten in a fight when asked about her bruises. My guess is that she never spoke out because of shame. (SHE felt shame, when it should’ve been the other way around.) She said that she only told her mom in recent years, I think in her 30s, and that the first question her mom asked was, “What were you wearing?

What a chilling response… and to hear it from her own mother. My heart shatters for women like her because there is this incredible amount of pressure and BLAME put on us women, on any victim; there’s this belief in our society that WE are responsible for, not only our behavior but also for men’s behavior. It’s been said a million times, but I’ll say it again: a woman isn’t asking for “it” when she dresses provocatively.

Regardless, no matter the reason for a woman to show a lot of skin, never blame her for the actions a man takes. No one is putting a gun to that man’s head forcing him to do the unthinkable. There’s this thing called SELF-CONTROL and, dammit, common sense?? Practice it! It is men’s responsibility, not ours, to control their “thirsty” selves. Remember that.

Thank you to all the brave women sharing their stories. Keeping quiet only allows for more assaults, sometimes even by the same perpetrator. You  are loved, and remember it was not your fault.

So, fellas, are you with me?

Continue Reading

An Ordinary Body in Miami

Do I like Miami? Yes. Would I live in Miami for the rest of my life? Leaving out the fact that I can’t be at one place for too long (on this humongous planet with so many places to go and see), I can’t see myself calling this place home for the long run. However, when in the US, I can’t see myself out of Miami now either.

It’s been eight months since I made the move from previously living in Spain and Philadelphia. It was supposed to be Los Angeles. I had dreamed of California living for a long time, so I was very excited to go there and test the waters. In the end, things didn’t go as planned; I didn’t quite love any weather that wasn’t summery. So, I packed my trapos and came to Miami. I’m leaving a bunch of little details out to make this story short, but there was no financial planning when I moved here. I made that decision almost overnight.

It helps that I’m a single woman, unmarried, nomad-spirited as aforementioned, and with my only baggage being my checked-bag and my carry-on. (Life is so much easier that way throws peace sign up in the air.) I can afford to wake up and completely change my route. So that’s just what I did.

In Miami, I found better perks for me personally. There’s the much warmer December weather, rent is a tad cheaper than LA’s, and the nightlife scene isn’t just a thing of the weekend. I still use Uber or Lyft to move around (because I’d never drive in Miami), but so far it has been all right.

Some things I’ve found to complain about? I’d say, in general, LA folks were more polite than Miamians, especially on the road. There is no respect for pedestrians in Miami and I have a huge problem with that because I walk a lot. The non-walking culture that exists here, especially in suburban areas, may have something to do with the disregard for pedestrians. Unless you are in Miami Beach, you won’t see many people walking—and if you do see a person, it’s probably me.

But my main complain about the Miami culture, as I like to call it, is the insane hyper focus on women’s bodies. When I say insane I mean it in every sense of the word. I’ve been trying to understand what drives women to plastic surgery here, and according to my calculations, it’s very likely that the body issues were brought here from South America. I’m from the Caribbean, but we’re all about the same. Considering how relatively small the Caribbean is, this one is on South America.

From an early age, watching Telenovelas, I learned that a woman with a big round bust, small waist, a big butt, and straight long hair was seen as the epitome of beauty. We all know that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but sometimes when you’re young you’re kind of afraid to voice your opinion and contradict the public. Truth is you can’t aspire to be what you don’t know exist—and all they forced us to see was that specific concept of beauty. It was the main representation on Hispanic television. That concept continues to this date in our society. It is probably less intense in some parts this country, but never too short of body-shaming.

I’ve come into direct contact with this beauty concept again in Miami. Young girls in this city are under a lot of pressure, as proven by the insane amount of butt and breasts implants. Also, the hair. When I wear my curly hair I stand out, and it’s a funny thing because I know that, under that chemically straightened or flattened hair, most of these Caribbean and Latina girls have beautiful curls. I understand the humidity must be driving them crazy, but…everyone?

Reminds me of a time when I went to a club in South Beach and had to make sense of what I was seeing. Every girl looked the same. They had straight black hair (think Kim Kardashian) and wore tight mini dresses with a plunging neckline or some type of low-cut line. Cleavage is important here. It was like looking at the Latino version of the Stepford Wives. Must I remind them that our (physical) differences make the world more interesting?

For someone who’s been defying society and its beauty standards, moving to Miami has been a step back. I highly doubt that I will change anything in my body in order to “belong.” I’m too old for this sh*t. I already went through all that pressure and reached a point where I’m completely comfortable in my skin. I don’t see things changing much around here, either, since body shaming and sexism is so embedded in the culture, but there is also a good amount of young women here defying that idea, so there is hope.

What I’d say to any girls living in places like Miami is: it is up to you. Resist the urge to blend in because society says you should. Standing out is a lot more fun, anyway—trust me on this.

Continue Reading

Dancing In and With the Rain

When you are caught in the rain, do you let it ruin your day or do you flow along with it?

I get why people are so afraid of the rain — no one wants to get their brand new shoes wet, or the clothes they just ironed, or the hair they just blow-dried, or smudge the mascara they just applied. How many times haven’t this happened to any of you? It’s happened to me so many times and, maybe by instinct, my first reaction is to run for shelter. Well, it happened again. I went to a street festival the other day where no one seemed to suspect that it would rain. Vendors had their deep-frying pans and meats all laid out on tables; artists painted on the sidewalk; musicians soaked in sweat played their dry instruments, and pedestrians, like my friend and I, walked in the middle of the street with beer in hand.

All of a sudden, it started pouring and we had not many options for shelter. My first reaction was to put my hands over my head to cover my hair. (What is it with women and hair?!) We entered a bar in the meantime and waited there for the rain to go away. It never did. So, my friend said, “Let’s just get wet!” (Wording is everything.) I hesitated, but then I agreed. It was pure elation.

It was liberating to walk and dance in the rain. And I don’t know why, but it felt as if I was doing something illegal and, as it happens with the forbidden, I had to quickly enjoy it before I got caught. But it’s easy to understand why doing something that we’ve avoided our whole life feels that way.

The rain had no plans on stopping. If we had waited until it went away, about an hour later, we would’ve missed out on most of that fun day. Sometimes, we’re too restrained. These are the little things that make life a bit more enjoyable. It was also great seeing how many people didn’t give a cucumber and just poured themselves out on the streets, like the rain, and danced the day away. Yes, my mascara smudged, my hair curled up, and my clothes got soaked. But the good memory from that wild rainy day will remain.

Continue Reading

Batsh*t Crazy Makes Me Drink

Here’s a little story.

I remember the night of November eighth. I wanted to go to a bar, be in the middle of the action, get ready to celebrate Hillary Clinton’s victory–just as I had for Obama last two elections. But sh*t escalated quickly.

My friend wanted to go to her brother’s house instead, so I went with her. Now I was stuck at this house with nothing but one glass of wine and a baby sleeping upstairs. Add personal troubles to the mix and here was a worst-case scenario at its best. Meanwhile, as the results kept coming in, all I wanted to do was go outside and scream. At the moment, I could not believe this was the people of the United States of America digging their own grave. (Now we have a pretty good idea of all the shade behind this election.) Everyone around me started feeling sick. I wanted to puke. The last time I felt that sick to my stomach it was September 11, 2001. How did we get here?

This election has been particularly tough to assimilate for pretty much any person of reason and morals.

We ended up going back to my friend’s house that night–no longer needing to celebrate–and downed a couple of tequila shots as if it were water. I can never do straight non-chilled shots, mind you, but I had to calm my anxiety somehow. I tried drowning my repulsiveness in alcohol, but it didn’t work. It was a hell of a terrible, sleepless night. And, if the Electoral College doesn’t come through on December 19th, I’m hoping to be drunk for the next four years.

Drink responsibly.

 

Continue Reading

And Just When You Thought Your Eating Habit Was Bad

A thought comes to mind.

 

One day (last night) I had cereal for dinner. The next day (today), I had a banana and a cup of tea for breakfast; a plain lactose-full cheese sandwich with a cup of milk for lunch; and then, for dinner, a few chicken finger strips. That’s not gourmet, but it’s all right. It’s just that it is the worst series of meals I’ve had in a long time.

I thought, what am I doing disrupting my diet like that? Back-to-back. Then reality hit me: some people follow no regimen because they have nothing to eat at all.

Those of us who have the luxury to be selective with what we eat sometimes forget how lucky we are. You can’t punish yourself for having access to all sorts of foods, nutritious food, while some people starve. It’s not your fault. But I think it helps you to stay grounded and in touch with reality when you consider where you stand.
Maybe it’s the hopeless compassionate being in me, but I’m always thinking of the less fortunate when someone complains about what they ate or when someone leaves a crazy amount of leftovers on their plate — I hate seeing it go to waste.

As for me, I like staying on top of my game health-wise. I’ve skipped a few good meals due to nothing but laziness (and then there’s also the fact that I can’t cook). I’m one of those “freaks” who must eat right to feel well, physically and emotionally. That’s my only concern. But it takes only a simple thought to bring me down to Earth because, when I think of the world’s disadvantaged and how I’ll have access to a hot plate the minute I decide to go grocery shopping, I know I’m going to survive.

Continue Reading

I Happened in September

As much as I wish time stood still sometimes, it is good news when I make it to another September. Even if it means summer  — my favorite season — will start winding down soon.

Some of the most beautiful things begin to happen in September, too. The whole town blows up in flames; shades of orange, yellow, green, brown, and red paint the streets with the beautiful color of autumn’s maple leaves.

If you were born in September, there’s a chance you are magic.

Continue Reading

Broken Bonds

I parked my car by the blue line. The yellow line meant no parking, so I knew better to keep away. I was looking forward to seeing Aunt Marsala for the first time in forever. Before jumping out of the car, I double-checked that all the windows were up. Beep Beep. I locked the car. Aunt Marsala’s neighborhood looked dilapidated as ever. She had been a victim of life circumstances for far too long.

Once at the top of her doorsteps, I rang the bell and waited outside. Fiddling with my keys, rocking back and forth on my heels, moving my head from side to side in a watchful way… I couldn’t trust neighbors I never met. Besides, it was 95 degrees outside. Why am I wearing a long sleeve shirt precisely today? While I was reviewing my fashion choice, a tall bulky man opened up.

“Oh, hey!” I said. We made eye contact for roughly three seconds as he stuck his head out, as if to see who it was, but then his pupils wandered somewhere else in the distance.

“Um, hi,” he said in the coldest way. The only reason that I knew he was talking to me was because I was the only person standing before him. His voice couldn’t sound more apathetic. The man was my cousin Tito.

“Uh, is aunt Marsala home?”

“She’s somewhere inside.” he said, moving to his right side to let me inside. I walked in and went straight to the kitchen.

Not that I ever had a close familial relationship with Tito, but I remembered better times. Now, my presence annoyed him. Perhaps if I had stayed at the same illiterate level as him he would’ve shown me more attention, like he did to all my other cousins. But I guess I was too “refined” for his taste now. I brushed it off. After that awkward encounter, I couldn’t wait to see Aunt Marsala. I knew she would be glad to see me, unlike some people. I haven’t seen her in months!

Aunt Marsala always had some strange qualities to her that I could never figure out, but she was still more welcoming than other members in the family — and she always invited me to stay for lunch or dinner.

I sat at the kitchen table. Inches from me, was Tito, lying across the tan sofa watching TV. Thankfully, there was someone else in the room to make the air less tense, which moment didn’t last long, anyway, as Aunt Marsala appeared through the backdoor. She was holding a bucket and some scissors. Perhaps she was gardening. She looked strong and healthy, not bad for a 68-year-old.

“Amanda!” she said. She gave me a kiss on the cheek and then hugged me with much affection. “How have you been?” I used to visit her frequently in my teen years. As a grownup, I now have too much to do. I also moved out of town, which made visiting harder.

After giving aunt Marsala a big hug, she held me at arm’s length and studied me with palpable curiosity. My ear-to-ear genuine smile anticipated a joke from my favorite aunt, followed by endearing words. Instead, “Oh my god, your face looks like a balloon, you’ve gained weight, right?” she said. “Don’t let yourself go now!”

I could feel a burning sensation rushing from each side of my nose up to my tear duct. I looked away and blinked swiftly to stop myself before my eyes turned red. I was already battling insecurity issues, it was the last thing I needed to hear. It couldn’t have occurred to her that, maybe, the meds had caused my moon face. She knew I was ill.

Though shaky, my smile didn’t break, at least not on the outside. I stood there with no immediate response to her usual indiscretion, thinking of a hundred other things she could’ve said. I imagined she had a lot of better things to say. After all, she hadn’t seen me in two years.

Finally, I thought of something. “I have to go. I was just driving by and stopped to say hello.” She seemed surprised, but without further explanation I kissed her good-bye, and I left.

I could’ve sat down with her, laughing at the silliest things, like the old times. But that would’ve meant sitting through a potential hour of negative remarks because, when I revisited the memories I was holding on to, I realized that this was typical of her. She rarely ever had anything nice to say. I’d romanticized our past.

She was good to me, in her own ways; gratitude, that’s why I kept in touch. Memories of good times we used to spend and hopes that they could be repeated. Quite frankly, it was not the blood. It couldn’t be the blood anymore. We had grown old.

Continue Reading