Still, I Can’t Breathe

My feet up on a table, hands writing my life. Papers, sticky notes, cheap street art. All overlapping each other, hanging from a wall so plain and white. Receipts everywhere; months old, years old. What’s the point of holding on? Organizing them is futile, I long gave up. Paper towel wasted, not my doing. ‘Til Monday I’ll be buried in them, when the trash truck comes.the climb

Outdated tapes hiding years of better days, and people by whom I was betrayed. Standing there begging to be watched, yet another pile of shit I don’t give. A dried bamboo plant wonders why I let it died. But we’re all dying over here, maybe not as visibly as its leaves.

There’s no more room on the coffee table; my bags and other random objects have taken over. I used to be better at putting these away. It’s the end. Can’t find room, can’t find time, can’t find motivation, can’t find…life. It’s as simple as living, if only I remembered what it meant.

Computers with connection. Not one, not two, not three; they’re about six. The great escape is as easy as 1, 2, 3. Walls, they’re more than four. The ceilings are high. Functioning doors from July to July. Big windows welcoming the air. Not too far from the ground if running I should need. Still, I can’t breathe.

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White Matter

The town was completely white. Cars, trees, power lines…everything was covered in white. I climbed up the couch by the double window and slid the curtains to the side. Kneeling on the seat, I cross my hands on top of each other under my chin and watch the white matter fall from the sky. It doesn’t stop falling.

No different patterns, no colors, nothing but white when I look up and around. The brick houses in my neighborhood are untouched, except for their roofs. Up there, the white matter does stick. The roof on some of the houses have a very thick layer hanging on for dear life, while others only have some flakes scattered all over the edges.

A squeaky sound disrupts my absorption. I turn my head to the house next door to the left and see Mr. Claude, our neighbor, resurfacing from under his garage door with a shovel in hand. He walks about two feet from the garage to where the white matter is accumulated and he starts clearing the driveway. Mr. Claude is wearing a big black and blue coat and the hood almost covers his whole pale face. He doesn’t notice me staring out the window.

I watch in fascination as my neighbor cleans all the walkable spaces around his house, only to be hit by more and more of the same white bits. Mrs. Claude storms out of the house, running after Gregory — Mr. and Mrs. Claude’s only child. My new mom says he’s hyper than me and my two sisters combined. I thought maybe Gregory was in trouble and that’s why Mrs. Claude was chasing him, but she’s just being playful. They start playing with the white matter and now I’m really tempted to touch it.

“Do you want to go outside, Emma?” says a sweet soft voice. My mom is standing behind me in her pajamas, smiling and holding a cup of…I think tea. I nod enthusiastically at her question. “Okay, let’s go bundle up and wake your sisters!” I can hardly contain my excitement.

I’m bundled up and ready, waiting for Annabelle, my oldest sister, to put on her boots before running downstairs hand in hand. I watched Gregory play with the white matter earlier and, like him, I want to roll some of it into a ball. I finally go outside and step on it; finally, the white matter. I grab a handful. It’s flaky and fluffy and…cold! Just like the wind. My eyes are googling it with intense curiosity.

“It’s snow,” says my new mom, a smile on her face. Snow. Of course. It’s been seven months since I came to this country, but I’ve only seen this in one of the movies Annabelle plays for me a bunch of times a day. I really like Manny and Sid, and Annabelle says it keeps me busy while she studies. And, here it is, the same white matter in front of me. My other sister Liz comes out running and grabs my hand.

“Yay, snow day! Come on, Emma, let’s make a snow angel!”

Snow angel? I don’t know what it is, but my mom seems excited. She steps aside and takes her camera out of her pocket. I think it’s going to be a fun day.

© Marcia Capellán

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Why I Write a Spanish Word a Day

For over a year, I have been using my Twitter and Facebook platforms to publish a daily Spanish word or phrase with its English equivalent.

I don’t know exactly what audience it reaches, but some friends and strangers have acknowledged my daily post and it seems that they like it. I’m obviously happy to hear that a few people look forward to my posts because that was the goal.

The reason that I came up with this semi Spanish vocabulary list is because, as a translator, I am in frequent touch with the language and a lot of times I come across words that I myself don’t know or that I had forgotten. I love languages in general, but I really love my native language, Spanish, and I never want to not be able to speak it properly. So, I thought it would be nice to make note of some of those words as a reminder. Also, they might be very useful to other people.

Living in a country which official language is not Spanish — even though Spanish is huge in the US due to its Hispanic population— it is easy to lose the fluency if not used regularly.

By posting a Spanish vocabulary of random words, I am not only helping others learn a word a day, but I am also helping myself keep up with my own vocabulary. It’s a win-win.

In addition to learning, I decided to do this daily post to draw traffic to my website and my services. I am an independent Spanish translator and writer, and I think it is a good way for people to find me. As anyone who owns a website probably knows, traffic matters, especially when you’re indie and a no-name. 🙁 (No worries, hard work always pays off!)

How do I choose the Spanish word or Spanish expression of the day?

Most of the time, it is completely random. It could be based on works I am doing at the time, conversations, readings, or based on the occasion.

I may schedule the words in advance to be published at one o’clock in the afternoon every day or I may post it on the spot, the same day, it depends… But I hope more people continue to find it useful!

¡Gracias por leer, amigos!

 

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Wooden Scars

Lately, I find myself in one of those moods when anything may turn into a lovely art-piece. I’ve learned to look at the positive of not-so-positive moments, turning them into poetry or, in my head, a symphony.

I’ve learned to appreciate the smallest things. The other day, as I was cleaning, a scratch on the console table made me stop and think about what I was seeing. It was a thought of appreciation. I ran my fingers through the small crater and followed its shape. Beautiful, I thought, as I wiped away the dust.

Maybe it isn’t really beautiful and I’m being overly sentimental and dramatic (because I just moved and it brought back memories), or maybe there really is something heart-warming about the old furniture that have spent so many birthdays with us.

Things, just like someones, also have a lifespan. Our scars — physical or emotional — remind us of the pain we’ve endured; scratches on furniture are also scars, wooden scars, and they remind us of paths we’ve traveled and steps we’ve given, sometimes literally. How I banged my toe on the claws-like feet of the same table, for example. Or how loose the screws on the coffee table are from moving it so many times from place to place. They’re memories worth keeping.

The old me would have wanted that table out, in the garbage, ready for a brand new piece because that’s what most people do. But today, I think I want it in. I think, from now on, it is not old until it’s old. Like, completely useless.

I never thought I’d look at a scratch on a piece of furniture as something precious, but time and life change us. These simple little things, which I never before cared for, for some reason now mean everything.

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Midnight and Pie

It’s been one of those days when the fork can’t seem to find its way away from the mouth. Self-control, you ask? None. Not today.

Pretty sure that’s how obesity happens, but it has got to be normal to indulge like this every once in a while.

My case today, when I finally thought I was done eating for the day — teeth brushed and flossed — I walked by a piece of pie. Gotta have it, I said, right before bed.

The sippy cup is my water, but I had it with some nice warm (wrong-purpose) tea called Gypsy Cold Care. Tea was served, day was made, happy day.

Moral of the story: allow yourself to enjoy the little pleasures of life every now and then!

Good night.

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Time Doesn’t Slow Down

I saw a clock turn time today;
it was quick and sharp.
From seven to eight
the colon blinked once.

A rarity it is
to catch the clock doing time
Because, even though it’s its job,
it is too fast for the eye.

Perhaps that’s my fascination,
we never see eye to eye;
me being the late-runner I am,
time doesn’t think that I try

To move at the pace it requires to
make it to dinner by nine.

So today looking at it for once,
actually, so many times,
I smirked, stared and wondered;
so this is how time goes by.

 

 

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Lego Art

An amazing construction of a tall robot at the FAO Schwarz toy store in New York City, built with nothing but Lego bricks.

It would take clumsy person like me years to build that. I can’t even build a shoe-rack! There were other action figures just as tall, and as perfectly built, as this robot. I was impressed I had to snap a picture. So, great job to the artists who put it together.

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The Neighboring Country

Geographically speaking, Haiti is my neighbor. The Dominican Republic is my hometown and where I lived until my early teen years. My family is from a small city called La Vega, which is located in North-Central DR, about 250 miles from the capital of Haiti, Port-au-Prince. While studying in the Dominican Republic, I learned basic information about Haiti’s culture and history. The relationship between the two countries has always been tense, and a lot of it has to do with ignorance.

Brief History

In 1492, Christopher Columbus arrived in the island of Santo Domingo (now capital of the DR). He later claimed the whole island (now divided in two; the DR and Haiti) under the name of Espaniola. It remained a colony of Spain for many years. As French colonists began to arrive and settled on the northern and western coasts of the island, a massive amount of Haitian natives were being enslaved and killed. In 1664, France formally took control over the western side of the island (now Haiti), and later brought other thousands of African slaves to the island to work the plantations. After years and years of slavery and torture suffered under the hands of the French, Haiti claimed its independence in 1804.

Years later, in 1822, Haiti’s leader, Jean Pierre Boyer, and his troops invaded the Spanish side of the island (now Dominican Republic). Haiti occupied the Dominican Republic for approximately 20 years. The invasion is said to have terminated all slavery; nevertheless, Dominicans always wanted the Haitians off their soil. Dominicans did not have a large population at the time of invasion and had no military forces to fight back. It took years for them to declare independence from Haiti, on February 27, 1844. To this date, the tension between the Dominican Republic and Haiti continues.

My experience with Haitians

Everything I ever learned about Haitians when I was a little girl suggested that I should hate them. My earliest memory with this experience was in history class. My teacher said that Haitians had invaded our country by force back in the 1800’s and that they were “now trying to invade us again in a more passive way” — by ways of immigration. She lectured the class about La Guerra de La Independencia (the Independence War), which was fought between the DR and Haiti in 1844. I was quite young, and not knowing much about the subject, I had no reason to doubt my teacher. I also didn’t know anything about the Haitians, despite the fact that thousands of them were already living in our “backyards.”

In the 1990s, more Haitians had relocated to my town, La Vega, and that’s when I started to learn a little bit more about them. Usually, they would be out in the streets selling peanuts, women’s underwear, ice cream bars, etc. So my only contact with the Haitian community was the times that I approached them to buy an ice cream bar. They seemed friendly and always smiled. I never saw these people going to school or having fun anywhere, not even the kids, and I now wonder if they even had a place to go back to after long hours of work.

They did nothing but work hard all the time yet they were constantly discriminated against in the Dominican Republic. Ignorance, like anywhere else in the world, was the major cause of discrimination against Haitians. I realized that they are good happy people, whose history took an unfortunate turn that led to a number of terrible events, such as corrupt politicians and poverty. Some of them cross the Dominican border every day for the same reason that my family came to America: jobs and a better way of living.

I have come to understand the history and the tension between the DR and Haiti, but I don’t support this passive war that the two countries keep fighting. I don’t support the mistreatment of Haitians in the DR either. I think things have improved a little, but I remember reading a very gruesome story back in the 90’s about how some Dominicans murdered a few Haitians and got away with it. Simply disgusting. Racism is still alive and well in the DR—no matter how many times its president tries to hide it. I just wish the Dominican people gave Haitians a chance.

They’re hard-working people. I always remember one hot summer day when some Haitians were doing construction work in front of my house. Just like a lot of immigrants in the US, Haitians in the DR did cheap labor, and I’m sure they were abused and paid much less than they should’ve been paid. That day, I watched them work like animals with no water or food in such a hot day. I felt really bad, but didn’t know how to help. So my brother came up to me and asked if there was any food left from lunch to give to the workers.

Even though I sympathized with them, I was very ignorant and hesitated at first. But thanks to my big-hearted brother we did prepare some food and water and gave it to the workers. They had this incredible smile in their faces and thanked us sincerely. Whenever I think about that moment, I feel good about myself. I challenged what I had been taught, my beliefs. I saw the human in them. It should be a natural act; a human instinct. But when you know no better, it is a big deal.

Just like the old young me, a lot of young Dominicans are not aware of the truth and don’t invest time in learning about the Haitian people and culture, so this cycle of hatred and ignorance never stops. I don’t think we should take history books so seriously—the past is in the past. These are different times, and times when the poor country of Haiti could use some help. Besides, it is a neighboring country — be a good neighbor, DR! It is time to open minds and hearts (figuratively).

 

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