Under 7 Club

I can’t quite tell when I had this memory. It’s lost in the nebula of my subconscious, but  as a young adult I remember running. I remember racing the other school children to try and compete for the fastest 100 m sprint. I of course, lost that race time and time again, a lot of it due to being overweight. When I asked what place I finished at, the teacher replied he wasn’t paying attention but he knew I didn’t win. They only wanted to talk to the winners, and why not, it was a race after all to congratulate the victors. I couldn’t run a mile under 7 minutes, let alone the standardized test of 12 min per mile. I think what really hurt was that there was some test to justify my lack of physical activity. What put in peoples mind that I am what this test says I am, overweight.

For the next few months, in the pouring rain, I would run, no hail, sleet, or snow could stop me. I wanted to prove something, I refused extra meals at dinner and ran a mile everyday. After school I would run the track behind the school, regardless if I had to be home, my excuse was always that I just walked slow. Eventually throughout the school I just became known as the kid with the white sweater. Always running, always envisioning that moment when I could show them I wasn’t who they thought I was.

It was a quite afternoon on a Saturday. We had decided to move to anther state with my family. I remember being so stubborn. I couldn’t leave without getting under a 7 min mile. I tied my laces, the breeze swaying back and forth. The trees were especially vibrant. I set my timer and I was off. At first it was a brisk sprint until I realized I wasn’t going to sustain it. I kept going, running faster and faster into the tunnel. Into my memories and waking up from time to time to adjust my speed. I was doing it, I could feel it but I couldn’t let up. After the first lap, I was feeling the pressure. That’s when the race really started. I was chasing myself, I felt as if I could catch him…but better yet, surpass him. As I saw the crossing line, I pushed with all my might, this was my last day here, my stomach was pounding, heart ready to explode and nothing could stop me. It was time. It was just in time, by 1 second I can under. I fell into the grass with a whirlwind of emotions. As I looked up to the blue sky I had felt every inch of that mile. I’m ready, I thought. I’m ready for whatever comes next.

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Guelaguetza

We drove for two weeks trying to get to god knows where. At times the streets were so narrow we could hardly get through without wondering if we were going to fall off the cliff. It was the worst thing I’ve ever seen, but maybe I wasn’t used to it, there were no guard rails, you fought for dear life to try and get into your lane. As you passed by, you could see the mountain side clearing off the horizon, in continuous repetition without an end in sight. The roads were unpaved…full of pot holes and rocks assimilated in random fashion. We were in it…the mountains, the back roads, the type of place you wanted to find out of your own free will….We we’re in Oaxaca. Our home land.

At first I didn’t know why…was it gods will? Why was I here? Was it tradition as my parents have done, and their parents, and our family has done for generations? I was young. All I knew was that in retrospect, I should have questioned why we left in the first place…

When we got there, there wasn’t much to talk about. A town center, a market, and buildings full of nostalgia. To my parents they were the happiest memories they have had, but to me it felt out of place, as if a memory lost in time. It was a simple town, one phone line connecting you to the outside word, and no internet. You created the excitement, a run, a jump a dash toward the next adventure in your mind. As a kid, I quickly realized I had to get creative. I didn’t know this trip meant so much to my parents, to them it was an initiation, a prideful moment to say their kids made their way through tradition. I was…in their eyes.. a proud member of our kind. I was just a kid of course, without remorse, or any empathy to their agenda.

Do you know the story of our people? We speak Mixteco, a language lost in time and tradition. It’s a beautiful language, filled with heritage and respect for our forefathers. It takes no roots from Spanish, and to some viewpoints comes before the Spanish language. As kids, we didn’t learn from our parents. They were too scared that we would be shamed from it. How can someone that comes into the United States not speak English? Now, their kids can’t even speak Spanish? Who are these people?! But we were conquered by the conquistadors. We were subject to the same kind of diseases the Europeans brought to this land, and we were enslaved by them along with everyone else. But through it all, the language survived. I can’t describe what it sounds like….but imagine you take a time machine, and hear your great ancestors, then in your mind…hear what they are saying to you…through each forgotten word that is repeated to you. You can hear them, hear their life stories, hear their spirit call out through you and say, “You are also, a part of our people”. In the end it was all a worthwhile experience, though I had little knowledge, I came back knowing what I was.

Casa Blanca

You spend half your life trying to grow up and the other half wishing you were younger. I wanted to grow, but didn’t know how. I  sat there on the bench watching the trees sway in the background and memories flash from time to time. Some good, some bad…I had just finished my finals, and was wondering what I would do after all this was over. At the time I remember being in a relationship that to me….felt like I could have avoided. I wanted something, anything, to help me feel like someone needed me.  She was great, but I felt I was always missing that part of me that could truly help her. I felt like I was in the way, and I spent all this time helping but not being helped. I was always there, but I felt like I couldn’t fall or we would both fall. Maybe I was just overthinking, but looking back I don’t think I was.

I took off to Madrid. It was a graduation gift, which I felt honored to get from my family. Years of hard work validated without just a student loan to loom over me for the next 10 years. It was a busy day at the LAX, and at the time I just knew my flight number. As i scanned through security check points, I felt the weight of not knowing where I was going or the details of the next day climb over me. I had made no real plans other than to meet a good friend out in the northern part of Spain who was teaching abroad. Was it Seville? Andalusia? It was…north of Spain, good enough I guess. I was nervous, but I had an innate nature to trust my instinct that it would all work out. When I landed, I did my best and found a bus to take me north, with the 40 mins of Wi-fi the airport gave me, I contacted him and made sure I had the city right. The people..spoke differently, it wasn’t quite the Spanish I was accustomed to, but it wasn’t wrong either. They say they spoke the “real” Spanish, but to me….perhaps it was never really a thought to acquaint myself with it. Twenty hours later, I finally arrived at sunrise, with my friend waiting for me. What city was I in?, I thought.  It didn’t matter, I was in Spain! The town was amazing, the people were friendly and for the first time, I felt comfortable in a country other than my own. During my studies, I did some research on the history of our family name. It comes from a Spaniard translation for “From the Sun” (In Latin). Or a hot summer breeze, but I liked the first explanation, it sounded more romantic.

We ate the food and danced the night away with the few friends he had made. The people of Spain are very friendly, especially in the night life. I could tell from the american influence, but the music was familiar to what I was hearing on the radio…about a year ago.  The clubs don’t start till about midnight and you can hardly tell from the energy you surprisingly have at 2 in the morning. I was having the time of my life.Drinking the local beer, dancing, and genuinely not having a care in the world. I could only think of how it would be looking back at these moments. How being an old man, how these memories could keep me afloat when it’s all said and done. In that moment I thought, “Couldn’t I be like this forever?” What a life! The streets were clean, and filled with so much history. He mentioned Morocco, and little did I know I would be heading there pretty soon. Honest to god I thought it was in Spain. I guess that C average during high school really paid off when it came to geography  because I agreed in a heart beat. A three hour train ride and we would be there, or so I thought. A cheap flight later, with the pilot landing like his life depended on it, we were in Morocco. A woman had awoken from her sleep screaming as if the plane had exploded just from the rough landing.

They spoke french. No Spanish. I wasn’t anywhere near home, but I was with my friend, for now. We took a cab during the morning hours when we landed.Going past it all, it reminded me of the streets of the barrios in Mexico. People awake at 3 am, scrapping for any type of job they can get. No women…..maybe they just knew better than to be up so late with men wandering the streets. Everyone we passed looked behind their shoulder, watching, waiting for an opportunity. We arrived. The city was bustling, even so early, you can hear the merchants talking in their language of the day to come. We were in the middle of town in a land so foreign to us. “Where is our hostel”, I asked my friend. “Hell if I know…but I know it’s in the middle of town”, and when he said that I realized I wasn’t home, I wasn’t comfortable, my fight or flight instincts were kicking in. For a brief moment I fantasized about what could happen, if we had to defend ourselves, how it would end.

It’s nothing like the movies fantasize about, it’s about substance and what you want to do with your experience. In the short time we were there, I saw snake charmers, spoke to a peace officer of politics, the Koran, and just the peace he wished me whether you believe in religion or not. We scaled mountains, went through forests of hikes and even explored through a waterfall. Yeah, a waterfall near the Sahara, at one point we were told to steer the boat! It was thrilling meeting people from all walks of life. When the time came we split off from a caravan heading into the Sahara desert. I met a couple from Puerto Rico and some people from Germany, all the while eating in the desert, dancing to the band playing, and seeing the stars at night for the first time in a while. I felt like my purpose in life was to get caught up in these moments, and it all felt right. If i constantly chased this feeling I’d live a life worth living. In some ways I was wondering what I was doing till then, I had a life back home…but for now I was just myself. Across the world, in the Sahara desert, I found out what I was missing. Conviction. So when I got on that plane, and took one last look, I really don’t think I ever came back.

México Lindo y Querido

They danced. They smiled. It was a dance of our people, with smiles and laughter that represented a time where there were no need for worries. You bought groceries and conversed with the other locals. Of course, this was a reenactment of said time. We we’re hosting our annual show. We danced of the different regions of Mexico. Each one was unique to the other because it represented a culture within a culture. Of a time when your grandfathers were youthful and people understood what it was like to be in harmony with your fellow neighbor.

Although we practiced day and night, we could only capture you glimpses of those moments. From the steps to the townspeople, these were meant as a romanticism type of picture. The room was filled with people from all walks of life, some old…some young, some from a different culture. As I stood there watching them practice, I couldn’t help but smile at all the beautiful dresses and movements that brought out the pride of their people. It was so much more than dancing, we understood that this was meant to represent our culture and share it with the world. Step after step, they were in sync with each other and it was mesmerizing.  The girls that twirled side to side, and the ruffles in their dresses unrivaled by the aura that they brought into their steps.  A jump, a spin, a hand raised and lowered, intertwining with the dresses that they wore. Suddenly, you hear a grito from the men, as they did their steps. We’re strong, we are confident, we are the fathers in our community. They said  this with every footstep. I could hear them, and they spoke to me. I’m proud of where I come from, there’s passion, there’s culture, and there is a dance we dance in our hearts.

Time

What do I have time for. A quick sentence or two is what I can hope for these days. A thought to maybe sometime somewhere down the road have a conversation with you. Unfortunately for me, all I have are these moments to think of you. That you’re somehow doing better than when I left. I’m doing fine, there’s too much to say and not enough time. I hope I live in the good parts of your memory, that somehow I made it through to the days where your mind seamlessly sways into peaceful times. Our moments were short, but I had fun. It’s all too complicated now so I leave you with this. Take care my friend, for what it’s worth, you were always a pleasant memory.

 

via Daily Prompt: Complication

All you need is blood

It was a Saturday morning. Nothing out of the ordinary, the weather was clear that day with blue skies, parted clouds and a slight burning from the morning sun, I could tell it was going to be a hot one.  I had planned breakfast with the family for later that day to reacquaint ourselves from so many weeks apart. I had forgotten till the night before that I was due for a blood donation.

As I walk to the front door I was greeted by a helpful worker who asked whether I was a walk in or made an appointment. She was a bit older, gentle eyes and a demeanor that spoke to me and said I have to work here, I want to. I’ve done this before, more times than I can count, but there was a fluttering in my heart developing when she mentioned I should do a double donation. I did so, despite my intuition. As we approached the chair the nurse had asked which side I’d prefer, my right arm was hurting  from my workout the day before so I opted for the latter. The room was clean, full of IV’s and comfortable chairs to lay in, with a kitchen to the side, I felt that the facility had an ambiance of  safety and professionalism. I wasn’t afraid.

Thank you for donating today! She said with a cheery smile. So you’re going for the double donation today correct? All right well first things first, I need to verify some information, what is your name? Your home address? and your birthday? Are you feeling healthy and well this morning? Yes, I replied. All right, let’s get started. My heart was still beating steadfast, but I felt fine from the decision I made.

As I saw the needle being inserted I averted my eyes and thought of a time where pain was a distant memory. It was a quick stinging sensation followed by the cool sensation of blood being drawn. There it was, red, in all it’s form, and feeling the precious resource draining from my body. The machine roaring in the background. I squeezed my hands from time to time, passing the moments with what I could think of  doing on my phone. I felt the cooling wind of the room, my lips were cold and my legs were  starting to chill as well. When did it get so cold? I wondered. It was a slow transition, but slowly…. and slowly, my lips felt like they were being drained from the blood, and I was turning cold. Wow….amazing..I can actually feel it! My heart skipped a beat, and an excitement filled my mind. As the minutes past by, this excitement overwhelmed my body. My hands started to shake profusely and found myself barely being able to use my phone. The room that was safe in my mind, started to shine and gleam with a translucence type of bright light. I called to the nurse, but aloud, I could barely make a whimper.  Nurse…nurr…nurse… can anyone help me? Nothing. They couldn’t hear me.With what seemed an eternity, she came over to check on me, I got a blanket and a heated pouch. It wasn’t helping. My heart was shaking now. It was beating a thousand times a minute. Ok…ok..ok ok ok , calm down…there’s nothing wrong. It’s just blood, it’ll come back. No it won’t….my mind answered. You’re going to have an episode, you’re going to die here, alone..with strangers who don’t care. No…no come on, how can I be taken out voluntarily? It’s impossible! Hahaha I can’t believe it, I laughed nervously. I’m invincible, I’m me. I’m… human, my mind thought. No, no, no I’m, not afraid…I’m ok, I’m ok…I’m ok I’m ok I’m ok…calm down, It’s ok…. god damnit! hahaha I can’t stop… I can’t stop this…but I can! No…no you can’t hahaha… it’s beyond you, it’s not listening, it’s not listening to you, it’s doing it’s own thing! Stop, stop stop stop, you can stop now. I took a deep breathe and my heart followed with it.

Ok! The donation is complete, she said. How are you feeling? I’m.. ok, I can’t stop shaking though haha. Did you eat  beforehand? Drink water? No, I responded. I didn’t really prepare for this, I thought I could just show up. You’re going to be fine, it happens…just try to calm down, we’re here for you, nothings going to happen. Trust me. I held my hand out, it was still shaking. I’m all right, I thought. I’m ok. I’m human. I really am, and I wondered what I was before I realized this. Maybe I was stuck in a naive dream which I didn’t want to wake from. Did they have to give me such a wake up call though? I was just trying to do the right thing here. Guess that’s how life goes, it can’t be helped. I let out a sigh in relief, that was….something. As I opened the door, the sun glared into my eyes….oh man…It’s going to be a hot one.

Solweather

 

I saw a strawberry field. My first memory was the blazing sun,  melting any ambition within us. It was brutal on a new born, just barely catching a glimpse of the world, to see a glare, hardening our eyes…but perhaps that’s what my fate was destined to be, growing where the sun shines most. Why were we working so hard to achieve a life worth living? Why couldn’t my parents have made it this way from the beginning. We’re living in a day made up for people like us. Always hungry, always poor, and always wondering what could have been.