The sweetness of September

September creeps up on a person.

You’re enjoying a gin and tonic after work  and it’s still warm out, the glass is sweating.

Then suddenly you need a sweater when you walk a block for ice cream because you have none in the freezer and tonight is not a night that can end without dessert.

Suddenly you’re carrying a bag full of books again, comfortably heavy on your shoulders.

You missed the particular weight of books.  Nothing else feels quite the same.

Happiness creeps up on a person too.

You woke up this morning and felt it.

You felt whole.

You  woke up and saw the pictures on your wall.

They smiled down at you like they always do but this time you smiled back.

You woke up and saw the world  map above your desk with its crayon colored countries and  you thought, “I’ll go to them all someday.”

You walked down the street with a friend to the neighborhood café.

You savored every sip of that ordinary iced tea and thought what a nice color it was, that rich mahogany color that inexplicably always makes you think of your grandfather.

Today all the small moments of everyday euphoria added up and filled you up and over the brim like foam from the tall Guinnesses your best friend always orders at the bar.

September creeps up on a person and so does joy.

September happens in between summer and fall, the comma in the calendar year.

Joy happens in between things you thought you ought to notice.

You’re trying to enjoy every moment of both.

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Life Ring

My smile is a gift, not an obligation.

My heart is a sovereign nation,

And if I choose to let it break,

I may.

 

Please do not demand the sparkle in my eye,

The blush in my cheeks,

My windchime laugh.

 

My happiness is not owed to you.

 

I cannot float simply so those around me do not sink,

I am not a life ring.

 

I ask of you,

Let my stormy waves rock your  boat.

Stand in my icy rain and feel it hit your face like a thousand little daggers,

And dance in it.

Hold your hands up to my sky and say,

“Let it come”.

 

“You aren’t smiling today,” my friend says to me, waiting for his sandwich.

I think of the man in the bar near my house who said to me, “You’re too pretty not to smile,” and then tucked my hair behind my ear as if I had asked him to, as if we knew one another.

As if my body was public space.

“You’re right,” I say.

He looks at me with something between confusion and wonder, and just then,

I feel us both  stare into my gathering clouds,

Unafraid.file-2 (2)

April Showers, May Farewells

 

 

May is a goodbye month in the circles I run in.

I found myself dreading it as the skies turned blue and flowers popped up in my yard, because separation was as sure a part of the spring as the daffodils.

It’s funny, isn’t it, that when you watch graduation caps tossed in the air,  no one ever seems to see them hit the ground again.

Like their owners they are uprooted.  They are free.

The goodbyes came fast on each other’s heels  this year, like kids playing tag on a summer night, bumping and crashing and overlapping.

Every goodbye is a sunset.

The anticipation and the suspense far outweighs the actual event, the sun slipping   behind the waves, the beloved stepping into a car and driving away.

It is over in an instant and then you are left a little hollow, your voice echoing in the long hallways of a body alone.

I am learning to leave space for the emptiness that follows the fullness.

I am learning to be grateful for music even when it is silent.

As a  knock-kneed four year old  I would cling to my mom’s jeans at preschool, afraid of facing the day without her.

A part of me would still like to hold on that tight to the people I love.

But I am realizing

Goodbyes tear us open, and maybe in the process they show us parts of ourselves usually kept hidden.

They show us just how strong are the ties that bind us, stretching out from my exposed heart across wide oceans and long highways.

When my love is unraveled like a spool of thread, I see just how long it is.

I am not afraid of goodbyes any longer.

There is space in the chambers of one heart to hold the whole world.

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Wearing Red

 

I am wearing red tomorrow for the sluts, the troublemakers, the loudmouths, the shit stirrers.

I love them.

I am wearing red tomorrow for the women whose lives femicide took away.

I grieve for them.

I am wearing red tomorrow for the women like my great grandmother, who raise their children alone, who work hard and are never thanked.

I am amazed by them.

I am wearing red tomorrow for women who weren’t believed, women who were ignored or pushed aside or told they weren’t enough.

I am wearing red tomorrow for women who have to apologize just for speaking their minds.

I am wearing red tomorrow for women who don’t apologize, and are punished for it.

I am wearing red for mothers who are told feeding their children is obscene.

I am wearing red for women who died without access to safe abortions.

For the women who are interrupted by men who think they know better.

For all the women who have ever had to  listen to someone say , “real women….”  as if there are fake ones.

For women who are told they wear too much makeup or not enough, who are told they are too fat or too skinny, too prudish or showing too much skin  or too masculine or too feminine.

For the women who are told they don’t deserve the space they take up.

For women who are different than me, whose hardships are different than mine.

I am wearing red for all women who are suffering, whether their suffering is the same as mine or not.
For the women who are striking and the ones who cannot.
I am wearing red because it is a color that won’t be forgotten,

the same color as all the blood shed in this struggle.

I am wearing red because people think red is dangerous, and I want them to know that taking our rights away is dangerous too.

I am wearing red for my mother, my cousins, my friends, my professors, my coworkers, my classmates.

I am wearing red for myself.

You should too.Red

 

Enough

For 21 years I have been looking at the ocean and so far it has not disappointed me.

On the last day of 2016, I am trying to remember its lessons

That nothing is permanent, and heartbreak washes away just like the tides

That there is strength in wildness.

This year like every year was strange and different and lovely and terribly, terribly sad.

This year I lost hope, got my heart broken, forgot how lucky  I am.

This year I found new horizons, rebuilt, remembered what a privilege it is to be alive.

This year I ate tapas in the Mediterannean sunset, drank Cuban espresso and sweet California wine.

This year I ate mac and cheese late at night and cookies straight from the box and just a banana for breakfast.

I learned hard lessons and easy ones,

sobbed until I felt like I had cracked open and sorrow was oozing straight from my chest.

And of course I lived.

I loved.

I was loved.

I discovered more about the world and more importantly,

more about my world,

the vast universe encased in a body.

And just like the ocean, I tossed, turned, traveled.

Sometimes, maybe even often, I felt lost.

But over and over again, I came back to shore.

This wasn’t the best year of my life,

Or the worst.

Really, is there such a thing as a bad year?

365 bad days?

No.

365 days with sweetness and bitterness in equal measure, like dark chocolate.

365 days of forgotten keys, spilled tea, missed phone calls, great movies, long walks,  dances under the moonlight, nestled bodies, dashed hopes, day dreams.

365 days of small miracles and small tragedies.

That is enough.

Rising Tide

“Whiny liberal elitists who want participation trophies,”

It wasn’t like this in your day, was it?

When my “PC culture” didn’t exist.

I wouldn’t know. I wasn’t there.

But my world I do understand.

Here is what I know of my generation in America, the  “whiners”.

We remember September 11 as the first time all the grownups cried.  It was not the last.

We remember  our first black president’s inauguration speech.

I watched it in the school gym. I knew change was coming.

We know Black Lives Matter. We want you to too.

We march to #TakeBacktheNight because many of us are survivors, and we know it had nothing to do with what we were wearing.

We ask you to hear our stories. You ask for evidence.

We wait for the day we will run the courts ourselves.

Grabbing things that don’t belong to us isn’t how we do things,  pussies or otherwise.

We’ll all register as Muslims if that’s what it takes,

and yes, we’ll spread the word on Twitter.

You are #Notourpresident

And long after you are a footnote on history we will be here ,transforming the  world.

Your followers laugh at the words “safe space” because they think we are weak.

We prefer to call them brave spaces, actually.

Because we are courageous, and we know vulnerability is beautiful and difficult.

We celebrate the difficulty. You dismiss it.

Here is what I know of my generation in America, the so-called whiners:

we will not back down.

We will love radically and completely and we will rush through your damn wall like a flood.

 

Translating Home in Valencia, Spain

We stumble out of the café into a Spanish night which catches us like an embrace. I am wearing a thin linen shirt, but I am not cold. I have forgotten what cold feels like.

“Did you like the show?” asks my friend Marie at my shoulder.

I start for a moment, and realize that I have been thinking in Spanish. I almost let, “Si, muchisimo” tumble from my lips and catch myself — Marie doesn’t speak Spanish. I force my mind to switch back to my native tongue, but my reply of “Yes, of course” feels strange against my teeth.

Upon my arrival to my study abroad program in Valencia, Spain I felt nervous switching to my second language, and my words sounded halting and abrupt, distinctly and horribly American. But as my feet slowly begin to learn this city’s slippery marbled streets my tongue starts to learn what a Valenciano sounds like, and imitation begins to sneak into my words.

I was raised on Central American Spanish, having grown up in Northern California. The people I knew who spoke Spanish to me — friends, neighbors, the babysitters who cared for us while my parents worked — all knew Central American dialects. I knew somewhere far away across the ocean that people spoke a different way, but they weren’t part of my daily life. And when I arrived here, the lilt in their c’s — the soft gracias — sounded like homesickness. I was disoriented and in fact, a little frightened. Where was the “con permiso” I was used to? Why did Spaniards say “Perdon”? Why “zumo” and not “jugo”? My ears ached with new ways of speaking, and I strained to understand a new people and culture.

But slowly, that began to change. I find myself saying “Vale” constantly, a Spanish mannerism that I now find charming. Vale means “fine” or “good” and Spaniards use it as a catchall in conversations. As I adapt myself and my tongue to Valencia , I have realized how much the Spanish lifestyle suits me — delicious tapas and sunny siestas. Spain seeping into my skin, the warmth of this country and its people thawing me from the inside out.

I feel less like an outsider here every day. When I first arrived, I felt as though there were a sign on my head which read, “American”. We believe our ancestors were Spanish who emigrated to Italy and then to the United States, but Spain always felt very different and very far away, less familiar than Italy, where I have family and memories of childhood visits. But I have realized that just as my tongue is learning new ways to bend and twist, my heart is learning a new home. I am realizing that everything seems strangely right to me here, as if I have found a piece of myself I had no idea existed, lying dormant, waiting for the waves of the Mediterranean sea to wake it up. I feel strangely and deeply connected with this place. I see myself in Spanish women’s dark hair and quick smiles. I find myself speaking less English every day, but I do not miss it — or the Spanish I grew up with. I am finding my voice in Valencia.