Inevitable Crossings

South Jersey, a small little beach town cannot hide what you’re not trying to see. It’s been 10 months and I avoided running into the past that I have worked so hard to forget. Still, it is like a shadow that inevitably reveals itself, reminding you of what once was. It is crazy for me to see how much others have not been able to move on with their lives even years later when memories are now fuzzy with dust.

When I moved away the second time it was due to two heartbreaks, the passing of my closest cousin and the infidelity of my best friend. For years I delt with both losses. One still wears on my heart like an itchy wool sweater because he is no longer able to enjoy and share in the journey of this world. The other I learned to forgive as well as forget. I knew that once coming back to my hometown, the later would resurface but I would be damned if I would make it easy for a chance encounter. I almost made it an entire year.

Like mentioned before, this area is small, where everyone knows everyone and if they don’t know you, there will still be various mutual acquaintances to keep you tethered. That’s how we ended up crashing into each other again. I remember it being innocent and refreshing. I felt as though full closure was finally had, and to know that we could each move on with our lives without the weight of a tragic and heartbreaking past weighing us down was a great feeling. In my mind there was no longer a full need to dodge, for both parties were in accordance, a synchronized dance. Yet, it was two days later that I heard through the grapevine that things were not well; drama was to ensue.

Honestly, what the actual fuck did I think was going to happen? Not everyone is going to be like me. Not everyone can forgive or forget, even if it was them that were the snake in Eden’s garden. I decided to ignore the gossip, although juicy. I also couldn’t help feel the slight ego boost that infiltrated my soul. A moment in which it all came full circle, knowing that ultimately they did not succeed in their malicious plan to thwart something so natural. Never the less, it was none of my business and I wanted no part of being caught up in the spectacle. She, however, could not help it.

Weeks later I run into him again, even though at this point there was no mistaking, it wasn’t coincidental. I knew he was finding ways to bring himself around and on this specific night I decided to let him know that this, what he was doing was not only brazen, but dissapointing. I now understood that there had not been much change that had taken place in the time of my absence. Even though I wanted to believe that with age there had been much growing amongst all involved, that had simply not been the case.

“We need to talk,” he begged as I turned away from him. “Just give me a minute.” Without wanting to be rude or cold, I allowed him the minute, but he only got about 10 seconds in before I stopped him. He began by asking me why it was that I had contacted his wife in order to tell her that we had seen each other. I laughed. I was shocked at the lie she had configured and even more so at the fact that he believed her. The serpent had slithered her way into trying to gain information and he fell for her trickery. I give her props, but then immediately took it back. I don’t like to be used as a manipulation tactic.

“I have absolutley no need to contact your wife. I haven’t spoken to her in over 5 years. I also have no time for childish games. Please, both of you need to forget about me just as I have moved on from all of you. You’re no more than a grain of sand in my sandbox.” And with that I relocated to another area of the bar.

He ended up following right behind but his boys, my angels, decided to send him packing, but not before he could rob himself a hug and a drunken smooch on my cheek. A smooch that cost him a hard and boney elbow to his chest. “Get off of me! Don’t you EVER do that again!” With that, he was wisked away into an uber.

Apologies and messages of shock radiated from his friends. I wasn’t too surprised at his actions so I told his friends there truly was no need of an apology from them. This was exactly the kind of thing I was used to years ago, when all of this was my life. Now however, I would not tolerate the disrespect be it towards me or his serpent. I left this life long ago and there was no way in hell I wanted any part of it back. A friendship, at most, would have been the only thing I was open for when it came to these circus clowns but now seeing as though conflict is all they still swam in, I was not at all interested.

As sure as I am that I will see them around for the world is too small, I am equally as sure that I won’t even take a glance in their direction. All I will say is that it’s sad to see people in your life staying trapped in a time that truly has no present purpose other than to keep you chained to unease and unhappiness. When you notice that their days are filled with empty monotony and lack of passion. They mesure their success with titles and tangibles and never seem to notice that they never evolved into their full potential simply because they got caught up with trying to manipulate life. Life isn’t a game. It is a beautiful journey of inner growth and spiritual learning. Many may not understand this, but I do. So I will continue on my path without taking much of a glance back, because what’s important to me is making a consious effort in maintaing my inner peace, while showing others that it is ok to evolve in to a more happier and peaceful version of what once was.

Like Chocolate Covered Orange Peels

My first job ever was on the boardwalk of Atlantic City. Located directly across from the Tropicana casino was a huge pier designed to look like a ship and it was called the Ocean One Mall. Within this boat mall were dozens of shops, a huge food court, and the entire first level of this three story tier was a dedicated arcade center for the kids. I worked for a Greek family who owned two businesses located within this mall. One was a smoothie shop and the other was a candy store called Kandyland. The candy shop was what would be my home every weekend throughout the school year and for the entire summer. The store was huge. It was three levels of sugary goodness. Any kind of candy you could possibly crave you would be able to find there. Candy cigarettes, candy buttons, gummies, ring pops, over-sized lollipops too big for kids to ever finish, fudge. You named it, we had it. There were even candies I had never before heard of. Things like chocolate covered orange peels, raspberry jelly rings, marzipan. I was mind blown. Not only did they sell sweets, but they also had a walk up window conveniently accessible to those walking by on the boardwalk which sold your typical boardwalk treats. There were soft pretzels, popcorn, soft serve ice cream, hot dogs, and beverages. Could there have been a better job for a 13 year old? No fucking way.

During the months of May through September the boardwalk was consistently packed from sun up till sun down. Peak season is what it was for the Jersey shore. From an areal view it looked as though an army of ants were crawling all over the place. A dark black mass of people who had chosen to come to the Jersey for a nice vacation. I had started working for Niko and Marinela in May, right at the beginning of season, and this first job definitely provided me with many other firsts. This was the first time I had ever had bosses. This was where I earned my first paycheck, and my first reprimand (I almost got fired within my first week!). This is where I had also met my first ever boyfriend.

His name was Luis Velasquez , a 14 year old Colombian native who had just recently moved to the city with his family for a better life. I’m not sure how moving to Atlantic City would constitute for a better life. I guess that at the time, any place would have been better than dealing with the craziness of living in Colombia.

Luis was dark, tall, and SO handsome. He had a head of hair that the ladies would die for. His eyes were as dark and as deep as the bottom of the ocean. He was an entire head taller than me and ridiculously lean. His lips were the prettiest, yet manliest color of pink ¬†you could imagine and looked as soft as flower petals. He was the first boy I ever wanted to swap sloppy kisses with. Luis was hired to work next door at the smoothie shop. The only times I would ever get to see him was if I decided to have a smoothie on my break (which was just about everyday) or when he was bringing the cash over from the shop after closing up. As any teenage girl with a crush would do, whenever Luis came around I was there readily available. For what? I don’t know but at least I was there ūüôā It wasn’t too long before we became friendly and then moved up to dating. Though as quickly as things developed, that’s how quick they was over. My first break up. The relationship hadn’t lasted long so the “heartbreak” wasn’t as bad as most first breakups would be. I had quickly discovered that he was a liar, gang banger wanna be, douche bag. The kind of guy moms and dads warn their daughters about. He had even gotten fired from the smoothie shop for pocketing a few dollars. ¬†He was caught on camera red handed, and immediately fired without a chance to explain. The was the last I saw or heard of Mr. Velasquez.

I had come to really love my job at Kandyland. My bosses and I had gotten close. I considered them like my parents away from home. I had come to learn so much in my time spent working there with them, not just business related but about life in general. So you can imagine my surprise when I left for a week to visit family in Boston for the holidays and came back to find the store completely shut down and gutted. This had been my first experience with betrayal committed in the first degree by adults. They had allowed me to leave on a family vacation without telling me that I would return unemployed.

I will never forget the day. It was a cold Saturday morning in December. It was in between Christmas and New Year’s and I had just returned from visiting my aunt and uncle up north. I had woken up that morning and did my usual routine to get ready for work. I left my grandparents apartment and walked the 15 blocks to work. I always walked instead of taking the jitney because minus the bums, the walk was always beautiful and peaceful, especially that early in the morning. I arrived at the shop cold but excited to be getting back to work. The excitement hadn’t lasted long. Once I set foot through the front doors I was frozen in place. Displays and candies were all gone. Drywall dust covered everything and there were cans of paint placed throughout the lobby. ¬†There were people walking around, none of whom I hadn’t recognized.

“Can I help you hun?” An old, bald headed man with thick, black rimmed glasses had asked. I hated that he had called me “hun”.

“Yeah. I work here. What’s going on?” I asked back, pulling the gloves off my now sweaty hands. We stare at each other for a few beats. I wonder who looked more confused, him or me? Just then, Niko walks out of what used to be the employee area and stops dead in his tracks.

“Nata!” It was their nickname for me. “What are you doing here?” He asked in his heavy accent. He was equally as confused as the old man and I were.

“What do you mean? I always open on Saturdays! What’s going on?” I questioned a second. At this point worry was starting to really set in. Niko looks at me and I can’t tell if it’s frustration, embarrassment, or pity that flickers across his face. Maybe it was all three.

“Mari didn’t tell you? Kandyland is closed for a bit. We’re relocating a couple blocks down from here.” He was starting to fidget. Funny, one always knew when Niko was stressed out when you’d see him pull at the tiny, frosted curls that topped his head, which was exactly what he was doing now. Between Marinela and him, his wife had all the balls in the relationship. Both hers and his.

“No, no one said anything to me about this. So….” I looked around. There seemed to be so much to do. “Should I help you guys? Or did you want me to come back in a couple of days?” I mean just because they were relocating didn’t mean that I was out of a job, right?

“Sorry honey, no. We won’t be reopening until the spring and there isn’t much that you could help us with around here. You’d be a liability.” He seriously couldn’t have looked anymore uncomfortable. I was in shock and once that shock passed just a few short seconds later, I got pissed. I mean, who¬†does¬†this?

“So you’re telling me that a week ago, when I was clocking out, you couldn’t tell me that I’d be coming back unemployed? That totally just slipped everybody’s mind to tell me that there would be no Kandyland when I returned?” I began freaking out. I could no longer stay calm, cool, and collected. Not when I had felt so betrayed. “I dedicated my weekends to you guys. My entire summer was spent working here and not one person could tell me that this place was closing down? I’m sure everyone else got the memo! Is it because I’m just a “kid” that I couldn’t get the same respect?” My eyes began to water but not because I was sad. Oh no. It was because I was angry. Niko looked defeated and understood that there was no winning this argument. I had been right even if I was just a “kid”. We stared at each other for what seemed like a second too long.

“We’ll help you find another job.” I had completely forgotten about the strange an that had initially greeted me when I walked in. He was still standing in the same spot when he broke the awkward silence. “I have a brother who runs a pizza place in one of the casinos. Niko can give me your number and I can call you once I speak with him.” He spoke with sincerity so without saying a word, I dove into my purse, fishing out a piece of paper and a pen. I quickly jotted down my number as well as my name, then handed it over to him.

“Niko seems to be forgetful so here’s my information. I appreciate you helping me out and I’ll be looking forward to your phone call.” I then turned to Niko and thanked him. “It was nice working with you. Have a Happy New Year.” I said dryly and with that I walked out.

It was a long walk home. I was irritated and angry that they had done this to me. I had worked just as hard, if not harder, than most of the people that came and went from that place. This entire scene would have never happened if I had been older. It had been the first time that I realized that it didn’t really matter how great of an employee you were, or how loyal, if you’re a “kid”, adults didn’t have to respect you.

I ended up getting the phone call that very night. The strange man had kept his promise and within just a few short days, I had a new job. I had been surprised by the kindness and generosity of this stranger. I later learned when having a conversation with this man that he had been very moved by my situation and said that no person, child or not, should be treated that way.

“We all deserve to be treated fairly. We all deserve a proper explanation, even children.”

Even though my employment at Kandyland ended so abruptly, leaving a slightly sour taste in my mouth, I can’t deny some of the sweet memories I made while there. I guess one could say that this was a bitter sweet chapter of my life. Slightly similar to the taste of chocolate covered orange peels.

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Photo Credit: Natal Galvan

4am Train Love

Nothing normal ever happens during 4 am train rides, especially when you’re pissed drunk.

I had been visiting old friends of mine in Jersey and during this visit we decided to head to Philly for a night of fun. We didn’t wait to get to the city to start the festivities. No. We pre-gamed ¬†at the house, then of course we took some adult beverages hidden within water bottles with us for the train ride.

The night was going to a wild one. There were about 8 of us all together and just by the train ride to the city alone I knew there was to be debauchery in abundance.

We got to Las Vegas Lounge, a dingy, dark and smelly hole in the wall (just my kind of place) and immediately assigned ourselves roles for the night. A few of us crowded the jukebox. They were to be the Djs for the night, there was no way anybody but us were going to be regulating the music for the night. The guys went over and quickly put tables and chairs together, making sure we had plenty of room for all of us to hang together. My home girl and I went straight to the bar. It was time to open a proper tab, Irish car bombs for everyone!

The rest of the night was a hectic haze of bad singing, inappropriate dancing and socially inappropriate jokes. We were raunchy and wild and as we closed the bar down that night we made memories that by the morning we’d forget. We tumbled out of that bar drunkenly disoriented, not caring that most of the world around us had been asleep now for hours. We made our way back to the train station. We may have even gotten a little lost at one point, I don’t know.

There weren’t many of us that were waiting for the train that night. Not including our group there were maybe another 10-15 people? Most looked drunk, the rest had seemed to be either getting out of or going into work. I’m not sure how long we had waited but it hadn’t seemed long.

The train soon arrived and while we all tripped over one another to pile in I caught sight of a cutie already sitting… all.. by.. himself. Well HELLO there!! I thought to myself. ¬†I pushed my way through my friends and made my way to where he was sitting. Once I got close I slowed down as to not give away my hurry.

“Hey, anyone sitting here?” I grin. It may have been a creepy drunk grin. That’s what it felt like so I was surprised when he said, “No, it’s all yours.” BINGO! That’s RIGHT! It is. I sat down next to him and immediately it began,

“OOOOOOOoooooOOOOO Nati…. MeeeeeOOOWWW!” My pals all chimed in in uproar.

“Don’t listen to them. They’re drunk.” I slurred and then smiled.

“…and you’re not?” He asked, jokingly.

“I was. But now I see things crystal clear.” I hiccuped, “We were meant to meet tonight. The universe brought us here on this train to meet..” What the eff was I saying? I was laughing. I was drunk and this was stupid drunk talk. He knew it too because he was laughing. Was it with me or at me? I didn’t know.

We eventually got to our stop, which also so happened to be his. He walked with us until we got to the car where I then scribbled down my number without him even having to ask. “I normally don’t do this but here!! Call me!!” and I folded up the paper and stuffed it in his pocket. We gave each other a hug, an “it was nice meeting you” kiss on the cheek, and off we were.

038-2 Photo Credit: Angie M, Muse: Natal Galvan, Ry Bread, Santi C.

He messaged me that very night asking if we got home OK. From that point on we kept the conversation going until one of us passed out and then restarted it the very next day. It went like this for months. We spoke on the phone almost every night and spent the entire day texting each other. At the time that we met, I was living here in FL and had only been visiting. Still that didn’t deter us from building a good friendship. Then one day he calls me and says how he would love to take a vacation down to where I was for just a couple days. I loved the idea. I never had friends come and visit me really so I was all for it. Plus, I had found him super cute from what I could remember and decipher from the picture texts he sent me here and there. Who knows what this could lead to right?A romance story out of a movie! I was so excited. That was until, he called me to tell me he had booked his trip…and it was for five days.

Was I freaking out? Of course I was! Like seriously? FIVE DAYS? What were we supposed to do for five days? The trip was to be taken in 2 months so I had 60 days to mentally prepare. When the time came, it was only then that I realized, 60 days had still not been enough.

He arrived on Monday and left Friday. These were the longest five days of my life, and most likely of his as well. Monday hadn’t been too bad. The excitement of seeing one another for the second time since¬†we met was still there. He arrived late in the day so after our initial greet at the airport we headed to a bar to have some food and drinks. The plan was to head to Orlando the next day and have a day of fun at the amusement parks. So we spent some time at the bar and once we saw it was getting late we headed back to my place to rest up for the following day.

I’d like to give a shout out to my amazing sister. For if she hadn’t accepted the invitation to be the third wheel on our trip to Orlando (actually through out the entire 5 days), this day of fun at the amusement park would have been instead the most awkward day at the park. She helped fill in moments of awkward silence. She made me laugh when all I wanted to do was rip my eyeballs out and stuff them down my own throat for allowing this to happen.

He was not only not much of a talker, but also didn’t have much opinion on, well, ANYTHING. He was plainer than vanilla ice cream for even vanilla ice cream had it’s own bit of flare. I would say he was like a piece of grilled chicken with absolutely no seasoning on it, as if just boiled in water. Every answer to any of my questions was either “I don’t know” or “up to you.” Whether it was “what ride do you feel like riding next?” or “what do you want to eat?” or….. fucking ANYTHING, those were his only two answers. It was only day two and I was ready to shoot myself. When would he be leaving on Friday? Early?? Please lord, I hope it’s early…. This was my inner dialogue the entire day at the park.

Wednesday we got up and headed to the grocery store. I planned a beach day but after much debate on whether or not he wanted to deal with the sand or not, we decided to make it a pool day instead. We were going to need food and cocktails (for me mainly cocktails). After what seemed like forever at the store (it takes longer to make grocery store decisions alone for three people than it is for one), we arrived back home with sandwiches, chips and other snacks, and of course beer. It only took about two hours and half a case of beer for things to slowly lighten up a bit. But even then it was like pulling teeth to get this guy to loosen up and have a good time. He spent the majority of his time complaining about life even though he was in FL and supposedly on vacation. He was tired. He hated the sun. He couldn’t get good signal so that he could listen to his sports podcast. So I did what I do best and that is that I just kept drinking. Fuck it right?

I keep drinking, I begin to tune out his presence. It’s not like he was saying much so it wasn’t his conversation I was tuning out, it was him in general. I fell asleep for a bit and when I came to, my gaze had fallen onto his foot. There on his big toe he had a band aid wrapped around the nail. “What happened to your toe?” I had assumed that maybe it had happened while I was asleep. I hadn’t noticed it before.

“Nothing. I stubbed my toe a few months ago and I’m still suffering from it. That’s why I have been so iffy about getting in the water.” It made sense. We had been there for hours and he hadn’t taken a dip yet. His normal pale Irish skin was blotchy and red. He was sweating like a whore in church.

He eventually did get in the water. I did a cannon ball on him. We wrestled for a second. That was the extent of the excitement for that day. I don’t know if it was the beer that got him feeling ballsy but he ended up kissing me right before we got out the water. It was like I expected. Bland. Yes, he had taken the step to kiss me but that was all he did. Have you ever tried to kiss a person who doesn’t know how to kiss back?? It’s awkward. You feel like saying,”Don’t just sit there. Do something.” I pull away and he goes, “I’ve been waiting for that.” with a smile. I don’t know why but that turned me off more than the kiss.

We got back to the house and to be honest the rest of the evening is a little foggy. I know we ended up going to bed, together. As in, in my bed we both slept in. I remember him trying to make out with me, but uh uh. I was not having it. I had had enough bad kissing for the day, so I stayed as far left on my bed as I possibly could until the sun came up, alleviating me from this awkward situation.

Thursday. One more day. It was my mantra for the day. Could he tell how I felt? If he did, he hadn’t let on. Anything that I had to do on this day I tried to do as slow as possible in order for it to take up as much time as possible. I wanted tomorrow to get here and quick. I made us some breakfast. I did laundry. I cleaned my apartment that looked like a tornado had just hit. All the while this guy just sat on my couch just watching t.v not once even asking to see if he could help with anything. Not that I would have let him, but still the gesture would have been nice. I mean most of the mess around my apartment was mess HE made, but whatever. I spent the day running between my sisters room and down to the living room, her room being like a “time-out” from his nothingness. “I just don’t know what to do. This is terribly awkward. I just hate this. I can’t wait for him to leave..” I would tell her.

The three of us headed out to dinner that night. He had spent the last four days hating any of the food we had cooked or ordered. He was a super picky eater. He hated veggies and fruits. He couldn’t handle any sort of seasoning (go figure) because either he didn’t like the taste or it upset his stomach. I of course hadn’t known any of this and therefore had spent the entire week making bad choices due to this lack of knowledge. It hadn’t been until the night before when he was drunk by the pool that he let me in on his eating habits. I found his lack of communication extremely frustrating but had agreed that the next night we would go somewhere to eat more his style. We all decided on going to a little Irish bar not far from my house.

We had quite a bit to drink before ordering our food. The time between ordering and waiting for the food to arrive, my sister and I spent goofing around. He would laugh but not really participate much in the conversation. Our food came and we dined.

As we paid the bill he began to speak of how much fun he had while visiting. He described how awesome it was to have met me that night on the train and that he could really see this working out. That’s when things got a bit more awkward. It was obvious that I didn’t feel the same and once he realized the feeling wasn’t mutual he shut down completely. He barely spoke two words to me for the rest of the night (which I was already used to) and as soon as we arrived back to the apartment he began packing up his things and set up for his getting ready in the morning. There was a slight inner relief I felt once I saw him packing up his things. It was almost a reminder that this “situation” wasn’t permanent.

He slept on the couch that night and the next day we both were up early both ready for this to be over. To be honest, I don’t know what time his flight was that day. I hadn’t really asked. All I know is that once we were both ready, I drove him to the airport. I didn’t do my usual “parking in the garage and walking the person to security” deal that I normally do when people visit. I just drove up the curb and dropped him off with a hug good-bye and a “I’ll text ya later.”

The most horrible part of his entire stay at my place didn’t even happen while he was visiting. Or shall I be clear and say that it did happen while he visited but I was unaware of it until days after his departure.

I had smelled a funny odor coming from my bed sheets and although I had just washed them right before my guest’s arrival, ¬†I decided to wash them again. When I pulled off the sheets to my bed the smell was horrid. Had something died in there? I began peeling apart all the sheets and blankets, the smell becoming more and more pungent. ¬†That’s when I saw it. The band aid.

I swear I almost threw up. He had lost his dirty band aid in my sheets, leaving his exposed big toe out and obviously marinated my bed sheets with the funk. With my sister as my witness, I had to wash the bedding twice and even then the smell still lingered, leaving me with no other option than to toss them.

He and I never spoke again. I did try to reach out once. Honestly, I had just wanted him to return a few books I let him borrow. It was no surprise though when he didn’t respond. Sometimes, when something or someone triggers me to think of this memory, I laugh. I’m not sorry that it happened. I do wonder what he’s up to and if life is going good for him. I mean I don’t hate the guy one bit. I would have liked to have been friends but life doesn’t always work out that way. Sometimes you just meet people for a small period of time. As if they’re tiny extras in your book of life but that hold enough punch to actually teach you something. This situation was a good lesson to be learned. Actually, I learned quite a few. Like, you don’t need five days to figure out whether or not two people click. I say three is good.¬†The one, though, that I preach the most? ¬†Nothing good ever happens after 4 am.

002-2  Photo Credit: Natal Galvan, Muse: Rich. R

Hank and the Pineapples

First off, a Message to Mom:

Mom…. I’m not sure if you read my blogs or not. I think you do and just don’t tell me.

That’s totally fine because I love that you do…

Just a fair warning, This one may disappoint you. Just remember this, I turned out totally fine.

Ok.. Well maybe not totally, but this had very little to do with it ūüėČ

I Love You Woman!

Ok, Now with that said, let’s get back to business.¬†

The first time I smoked pot is as vivid in my mind as if it were happening right here, right now. One of those childhood memories you never forget but don’t often tell. I was with my friend Harold, who I had met at a school mate’s Barmitzvha in June right before school let out for the summer.

This was the summer before I was to start high school and at this point in my life I wasn’t really into doing much but reading, writing, and what I like to call “nerding” out. Harold was a cool kid for his time. Halfway through high school already, he had his own pick-up truck but since he lived close to my neck of the woods he would always ride his bike to my neighborhood, which for some reason I thought was super cool. We’d hang out with the kids from my hood and either play ball (football) or just shoot the shit until it was time to go home for dinner.

During this phase of my life, my grandparents were living with us to help my mother out with my sister and I. Momma bear was a single parent and so life wouldn’t be so overwhelming for her, my grandparents helped with the responsibilities of taking care of us as best they could. The rule when it came to hanging out with friends, no one was allowed inside the house unless Momma bear was home. We could go outside but had to stay where you could be seen unless you had permission to do otherwise.It was one random day during this summer break that Harold, who everybody but me called Hank, came over a bit earlier than normal. Hank never came by the house early. Like most boys his age, he usually slept in until at least noon. On this day, I remember thinking how odd it was that he had been over to my place so soon. I don’t remember the exact time but I do remember thinking there were still a few hours before mom got home.

My mom and my grandparents liked Hank. He was a nice kid who always showed them respect anytime he was around. Sometimes I think it was because although his parents were together there was not much love in that home and so secretly he liked to pretend our home was his home away from home.

We sat on my porch for a bit talking. I asked him why he was out and about so early. As he pulled out a pack of cigarettes from his pocket I noticed he was shaking a little. He went on to tell me about how his father and mother had gotten into a really bad fight. One he had to step into to protect his mother and instead got the brunt of his father’s aggression, so he decided to leave the house for the day. He opened the pack of cigarettes as he spoke and inside was a ¬†lighter, a few cigarettes, and another little baggie but I couldn’t tell what was inside of it. He took out a cigarette and sparked it. It was only then that I noticed the bruising around his throat.

We spent some time talking. He did most of the talking and I most of the listening. Sometimes you just know when it’s best to be silent and so I was.

We had been sitting there in silence when my grandmother poked her head out and asked if I could do her a favor. She was going to be making some fresh cheese (that’s right!!! CHEESE.. mmm) and needed a few gallons of milk from the store.

“Since you’re with the Incredible Hulk, you both can go and he can help you carry them.” she giggled in Spanish. I found her comment funny too. Hank was thinner than any guy I had ever seen. If he stood sideways he literally who disappear. She handed me a few dollars and off we went, on foot, to buy us some milk.

As we walked, Hank pulled out another cigarette. He never smoked so many in a row so I chalked it up to him being stressed from the earlier altercation. This time when he opened the pack, the little baggie that was stored inside had fallen to his feet. He quickly picked it up and stuffed it back in the pack.

“What is that? I noticed it earlier.” I was inquisitive, I’ll admit to that. Most of you by this point would have already known what it was are at least had an idea. I was what you would call a late bloomer with a lot of stuff growing up. I literally had no clue.

“Nothing. It’s just a bag of pot I got earlier before I came here. I was gonna smoke it before I headed home tonight.” He said very matter-of-factly.

“As in¬†weed??” I was stunned. Up until that point I had heard of weed but never had I really¬†seen¬†it before. Not in person anyways. “Let me seeeee!” I demanded. ¬†He took the pack back out of his pocket, opened it up, and pulled out the baggie. Initially I laughed. I had never seen such a small zip lock bag before. I was astonished once I saw all the little Batman’s printed all over the bag. I fiddled with the zip lock, my fingers seeming to be too chubby to open it. Chubby or inexperienced, one of the two. He took the baggie from my hands, “You’re going to bust it open.” he laughed at me and then proceeded to open it up. The smell punched me hard in the face. I didn’t like it, but I did. It was a weird smell and yet I couldn’t stop taking in its scent.

By this point we had just come on the grocery store. It wasn’t far from where I lived and there was a trail in the back of the neighborhood that lead directly there without having to be anywhere close to the road. The trail led right up to the back of the store. Suddenly the idea struck me.

“I wanna smoke it!!!” I jumped, like literally jumped with enthusiasm. In my mind, why not?? It’s not like it was dangerous, or not that I had heard, and trust me, I had already been told many stories from friends who had already tried it (Yep imagine that… BEFORE entering high school kids were already smoking). The summer was in mid-swing. No classes therefore no homework. Mom wouldn’t be home for hours. It was now or never.

“What??!! No WAY!!! Are you kidding me?? We’re supossed to go and get milk and you want to get back high??! Are you crazy??….” He stared at me in bewilderment maybe waiting for an answer that I didn’t give him. “Yea you must be nuts. That or you are already high from the scent.” He must have forgotten that I was still holding the bag. I smirked.

“If you don’t let me smoke some with you…” He cut me off ¬†by snatching the bag back from me. Damn it. He laughs.

“Listen, you wanna smoke some? Fine. But just one hit. That’s it. Then we go in, grab the milk, and head back. Ok?” Maybe it was the fact that he wanted to smoke too that he gave in so easily. Maybe it was because I have never looked so disappointed to have been told no. Either way it didn’t matter. I was getting to try the stuff all the cool kids talked about.

We found the perfect spot to smoke. Behind the grocery store, there was a set of stairs that sat right next to the loading ramp. Unless you were a store employee throwing out cardboard boxes out or there was a truck delivery to the store, no one would be out there to see us.

Hank and I sat ourselves at the very tippy top of the steps that lead to some random door. An emergency exit I’m sure. He pulled out a folded up piece of paper that he had in his back pocket. He opened the baggie that was still in his hands, and dumped the contents of it out on the paper. It was slightly breezy so I made sure to sit in a way to block the breeze from hitting him. He began breaking up the little nuggets and once he was finished, he took a cigarette from the pack, dumped out the tobacco and replaced it with the magical herb. Not all of it fit in the cigarette so he made sure to put the left overs back in the mini zip lock, then tucked that away into the cigarette pack. All of this took absolutely no time. I was so stunned at how little time it took for him to do all of that. It had been one of the coolest things I’d seen.

He sparked the spiked cigarette and inhaled an enormous hit, letting some of the smoke float out of his mouth and then taking it in through his nostrils before it slithered away. That had been the second coolest thing I had seen. I remember thinking he looked like a music video, but I kept that to myself.

He passed it to me. It was now my turn.

I had NEVER ever inhaled smoke before. Not purposely anyways. Sometimes when my family had holiday get togethers, the amount of cigarette smoke that lingered in the air was too much to not inhale. I remember I would always complain about my eyes getting too itchy and watery, but the grown ups were too busy partying that it didn’t matter. Eventually my eyes grew accustomed to it.

As he handed me the cigarette he makes sure to give me a run down on how to inhale.

“Go really slow. Your lungs aren’t used to this yet. And you’re going to cough, hard. It’s normal.” he almost looked worried.

I stared at the stick for a second. Then as the ash built into a long stick of its own, I took a slow drag.

Nothing. I exhaled and a little bit of smoke came out. There was no coughing and there was definitely no buzzing effect. He had said one hit, but who ever does one of anything honestly?? I took another drag. This time deeper and for longer. I felt a burning sensation deep within my chest and as soon as I felt it a HUGE cough escaped me, like flames bursting within a furnace. I thought I was going to suffocate. My eyes watered and my nose started to run. It took me a while to catch my breath and it was only then that I realized Hank was rubbing my back in an attempt to comfort me.

“I told you to only take one!” He said semi-authoritative, semi-jokingly.

“I *cough cough* know but…” I couldn’t even talk. It still felt like my eyes were rolling in the back of my head for some reason. Was this normal? Was that supposed to happen? What if I was that one case of overdosing on Mary Jane?? How tragic. I could see it now:

“Teen dies during summer break when trying Marijuana for the first time!” Fuck watching Reefer Madness. I was living it!

I would be that kid. The example. The one to ruin it for everybody.

“Dude, seriously are you even listening to me?” I came back. Hank had been saying something while I was busy freaking out over my death that hadn’t happened yet. “We need to ¬†put this out and get to buying that milk. Your grandmother is probably wondering what is taking so long.” He was right. She probably was. But how was I supposed to go in the store and buy milk high like this? Was I even high?? I was sure I was. I hadn’t spoken a single word for what had seemed like forever and that was NOT normal. He took in one more big hit before putting it out. He tucked it back into the pack of cigarettes, which now I knew held contraband, and as soon as he placed it in his pocket and we stood up, a delivery truck appeared. He pulled i=onto the ramp towards the unloading area and looked up at us as we headed down the stairs. I was sure he was going to yell at us for being up there, it was just a matter of time. We descended the stairs quickly and as we walked past the truck I noticed huge pineapples on the side of it. Really it was one huge ad of produce. Fruits and veggies were all over this truck but the pineapples were what took a hold of my brain.

The truck driver continued to look at us but had said nothing. His eyes said it all, “You stupid kids shouldn’t be up there..” We just kept walking. I couldn’t take my gaze off of the pineapples. They were so big. They looked like they would have been nice and juicy too. I wanted to cut the tops off, take out the core, and crawl right in. I hadn’t noticed but I had started walking towards the truck. Towards the pineapples.

“Can I help you?” It wasn’t so much a question as it was a statement. A statement as to how weird I was acting, and of course, I couldn’t just respond with something normal. No. That would have been too smooth for my first experience of being high. I responded,

“Your pineapples look juicy.” in the weirdest voice I had ever heard my self speak in. In the background I heard Hank utter something but I couldn’t determine what. I steered away from the truck and away from its driver. I smiled to myself as I replayed in my mind what had just happened. At that moment I looked up and over to Hank and instantly we burst into laughter.

From that point until we reached the house, everything seems like a comical blur. I remember laughing at everything. At the store clerks and their customers, at the way I fumbled with my money when trying to pay for 6 gallons of milk. I mean seriously, who buys that much milk, especially two young kids such as ourselves?? I suspected, that everybody else suspected, that we were up to no good. That was fine with me. It just made everything else seem that much funnier. If only they knew granny was just making some cheese..

We eventually got back to the house with the milk delivered safe and sound.

No one ever suspected a thing. Hank left to deal with his hectic family life. My grandmother got to making her cheese without even a question as to what had taken so long. Maybe we actually hadn’t taken long. Or maybe my grandmother was now on old people time and had lost track. Who knows. My mother came home later on that day. By then I had taken a nap and was feeling only a little cloudy. To my disbelief my mother had stopped at the grocery store before coming home and within her bags of goodies? I am not lying to you, there were two pineapples in one of the bags. Scouts honor.

It would be YEARS before I touched the stuff again. This one time was enough for me. After some time Hank and I lost touch. It was maybe a year out of high school that I ran into him at a friend’s party. He looked awful, as in life had not been very good to him. It broke my heart. He was barely coherent and after just a few minuets of slurred chatter (mainly from his end) he disappeared. I found out later that night that he ended up driving home that night which angered me because anyone that was a true friend wouldn’t have let him drive under those conditions. Apparently he had gotten himself heavy into drugs which really explained his physical deterioration. I never heard of him since.

I think back to this memory and write about it with a big smile on my face. It was something I had gotten away with as a kid. Something that was innocently fun yet if found out about, would have gotten me into so much trouble. My first time smoking pot was a funny experience and I’m glad it happened with Hank. To this very day whenever I eat, see, or even smell pineapples, I think of this time. To me, that day, deep down inside it helped Hank to forget about home for a little bit, while also taking the chance to help me to break me out of my shell and experiencing something totally new in a non-malicious manner. It does make wonder though, how do some kids let themselves get so deep in to drugs of the heavy sort, while others can dab a little in the fun without falling in to the deep end.

This post is dedicated to you Hank ūüôā Hope all is good in the hood ūüėČ

dscf0395-2  Photo Credit: Natal Galvan

 

 

An Unlocked Memory

I was watching the Skeleton Key alone in my room the other day.The memory that flooded back went a little something like this:

………The fuzzy, anorexic looking, eight-legged critter stood out against the rusty blue metallic mailbox. It seems as though it had been awaiting my arrival. Almost as if it knew that I would be dilly-dallying down that dirt road at that exact moment on that mid-morning day in July. The way I felt that very second, and as soon as the thought of a spider waiting “for my arrival” crept into my mind, I should have taken those as clear warning signs that the day wasn’t going to be an average one.

Standing off to the side of the random driveway, I stared at the spider, hoping to be making it uneasy with my gaze, when a tall woman with silky black skin walked out onto the porch. She planted herself firmly right above the first step, with both arms crossed across her chest.

“What chu’ want girl?” She yelled across the yard in a deep southern accent. I took notice in her colorful hair wrap, which matched her dress down to the very pattern stitched throughout the entire garment. “Just like a tribal woman,” I remember thinking to myself. To me, this woman had seemed very out of place. Being only 10 at the time, I had never seen a woman who looked like this. This was Jersey and I only saw ladies like her on the T.V so can you blame me when the only word that stumbled out of my mouth was “spider”? In the haze of my confusion, all I did was point to the spider while I slowly analyzed the situation. I mean was there a situation?¬†Obviously not satisfied with my explanation on what I was doing on her property, she swiftly descended, the stairs crackling under her weight.

Taking off and leaving nothing more than a sandstorm behind me was what I wanted to do. My body, on the other hand, decided to stay put as if mesmerized with the movement of her dress flowing around her, making every step seem magical. It was as if she were merely hovering above the ground, floating towards me. As she quickly ate up the distance between us, my heartbeat picked up a little more speed and my finger tips frantically fiddled with the hem of my shorts, giving away at my uneasiness. She halted as she reached her mailbox. Her gaze was so fierce it sent a taste of bile into my mouth. Fearing that if I didn’t do or say any thing she might gobble me up with her piercing black eyes, I quickly pointed to the bait that had held me there and got me into this hairy situation. To ¬†my amazement, the little bastard was trying to crawl away, as if saying “My job here is done.” Out of frustration I just wanted to launch it across the yard and almost as if reading my mind, the woman flicked it, sending the the little bug flying into oblivion. ¬†Shock was clearly expressed on my face because although I wanted to flick that little shit myself, I wouldn’t have done it. She did. That kinda scared me.

“Where do ya live girl?” Her voice was gentle, almost as if she were purposely trying to sound that way. The look in her eyes was stone solid. Again left with nothing else, I pointed toward my apartment building. Suddenly I realized how far away from home, from safety, I was. Panic spread through my veins sending a shutter throughout my bloodstream, waves rocking me in what seemed like every direction. “I made homemade peach cobbla’ Would you like to try some?” She asked unexpectedly. The smell of homemade cobbler made its way to my nose as if on cue. Lucky for me I didn’t like peach cobbler, or peach anything for that matter. Finding the voice of reason and as well as my own, I blurted out, “No thank you. I don’t take things from people I don’t know.” Feeling victorious because I had done the right thing, I suddenly stood just a little taller, my chest out, and chin up. Then she said, “Well don’t cha know ya ain’t spose to talk to strangers either girl?”

With that, my white Nikes hit the dirty, pothole-infested road with such speed and agility not even a cheetah could have caught me. There was no way I was going to get caught up in the web of that woman. What if she knew voodoo?? What if that spider hadn’t been just a regular spider. What if it was a kid, just like me, that she tricked into having cobbler and then BAM!!! What if he had been trying to warn me? No wonder she flicked away!!

Reaching my destination before you could even blink twice, I ran up the steps, and into my home. I quickly kicked off my play clothes and hopped in the shower, letting the hot water wash away any traces of spell that could have been placed on me.

Weeks later, way after I put this whole traumatizing situation behind me, my mom and I were at our local grocery store. As we bypass the paper goods section and waltz into the cereal aisle, a familiar black shadow was standing at the far end right in front of the Cookie Crisp, my favorite cereal.

“Hello Sonia!!” My mother yells out in her accented English. “Come! Meet my daughter!” My mom rushes us over, pushing hard against my resistance. “This is my daughter! Nati, I work with her at Resorts!” I simply stood there shocked. Not only did I not care to even grab my favorite breakfast cereal anymore and so by default my mom would get Raisin Bran, but now I also had this scary lady’s eyes laughing at me, while her face stood still like as if this were the first time meeting me.

“Ma, I’ll be in the car.” And with that I turned and left feeling defeated, wishing to never see that woman again………

 

I never did see the “scary” lady again. Just yesterday I had asked my mother about her and she said I was crazy and hadn’t a clue of what I was talking about. The memory of this experience had been locked away until, ironically watching this movie. Funny the things our brain stores away and it only makes me wonder, what else have I up in this attic full of memories? What triggers will later expose other stories waiting to be relived?¬†

dscf0584-2  Photo Credit: Natal Galvan, Location: Yoga Fest California

Headed South

I cannot say that the day I made the decision to move to Florida I remember in full detail. Actually, that part of my journey here I don’t remember at all. I can’t pin point that exact moment when the decision was made, but I know it happened because here I am. The parts I do remember are as vivid as if it were happening right now. For instance I remember the difficulty I had in making a decision. Choosing between everything I had ever known in life and something so foreign and unknown to me was not at all easy to do. There is something about familiarity that can hold a person hostage. Even if you may not like the current situation, the fact is, that it’s something you know in a world full of unknowns and that reason alone can keep you there. Fear can stop a person dead in their tracks, keeping them from living life. Keeping them from uncovering new opportunities and new ways to grow. I eventually decided to go against that fear. Intuition had no part in it and those “gut feelings” that people always talk about were more feelings of being ill. All I know is that one day, about a year after the idea was first sowed in to my brain, my Maxima was crammed to capacity with boxes and trash bags, full of ¬†what used to be my simple life. ¬†Hitting the road at 3 am I left my protective bubble of New Jersey behind and off I was to the great, yet totally scary, sunshine state.

The feeling was like no other I’ve ever experienced before. It was late February and although it was ice cold, I had my driver side window rolled all the way down. Thinking to myself that I was finally free, all I wanted to feel was the freedom and with that window down and the breeze brushing against my face, I felt what it was like. In that moment all ill feelings I had before, all melted away. Similar to a bird soaring in the sky, I was at peace. I was free and I felt it.

My decision to leave home wasn’t because of any tragedy. I wasn’t running away from a crazy home life nor was I in the search of fame or fortune. It wasn’t because I was trying to get away from Mom and her “rules”. I had had a pretty good life, good friends, good everything really. Once I confronted a few issues from my early teenage years, I was good, or at least in a better place. My reason was simple. I needed change.

I remember waking up one wintry morning, and after sitting snuggled in my bed for a few hours reading, I put the book down and thought to myself, “there is so much to see out there..” Seeing only what I had seen up until that moment in my life, I wanted, no, needed, to see more. I wanted to experience more than the dead end casino life, the old and ghostly boardwalk of Atlantic City, and its over priced salt water taffy. I had to set out and see what this unpredictable world had in store for this vibrant and nomadic Jersey girl. I got out, settled in a small town on the gulf side of the state, and that was all she wrote..

Well, for that stage of my life anyways, hehe.

Yes, there were a couple frustrating hiccups along the road (those I’ll save for a later post) but I know that the choice of coming here was a good one. The flow of life was just too smooth for it to not have been. Life since then has totally been worth it.

I’ve had countless friends ask me how I did it? How did I just pick up and decide to leave one day and not ever really look back? I would have to say that my choice to finally take the step towards moving was small part rational thinking and majority on impulse. You have to just one day stop thinking and just¬†do it.

Could things go wrong? Of course they can!! But hey, guess what?? Things can also go wrong in that familiar yet boring and unsatisfying situation you’re in. Would you rather run a risk of finding yourself in a maybe painful situation by pursuing the things you love, or by enduring the things you hardly even like?

Since moving here I have taken other risks in this journey of my life. Some worked out. Some didn’t. The good part of all this is, this one chance I took to move 1,300 miles away from home gave me enough confidence and strength to allow me to always go after the things I love without doubting myself. I realized that it’s through ¬†experiencing that we will find the true rewards in life.

I’m almost thirty and I’m getting to that point where soon the youth will take my advice with a grain of salt. Still, I will never tire of telling people no matter their age or mine, move away from home for a bit. Get away from the comforts of what you have always known. Dive into the depths of those uncharted waters that have always appealed to you for they have for a reason. Pursue your dreams and make them reality. Look around and you’ll see that you are never too young, nor too old to make things happen for yourself.¬†You can do it. You really can. If things don’t go as planned, it’s not a failure or a loss. It’s a lesson and from that you’ll learn to accept the things you maybe cannot change and tweak the things you can. Living. Learning. Improvement. Evolution.

 10012488_475753932608580_1627322358_n-2 Photo Credit: Natal Galvan Location: Sanibel Island, FL

The Land I Loved

The day I left was the saddest day of my life as an adult. The funny part is? I didn’t have anything to really hold me there. In other words, it’s not like I was leaving anything behind per say, only the dreams of my future.

It didn’t hit me as we were placing all of our belongings out onto the curb. My things that I had worked so hard for just out there exposed and left behind. It didn’t hit me as we pulled away and watched as the neighborhood I had called my home for the last year fade away from view. Everything that had become familiar to me that year was slowly fading and with each second that ticked by it was all becoming just a part of my past.

The silence during the first half hour of our car ride was needed because the lump in my throat wouldn’t have allowed for otherwise. It was once my turn signal indicated our arrival onto the interstate, and that moment of me looking into the rear view mirror, that a warm sadness washed over me. California had won. A true and real feeling of failure is what ran through my veins. It wouldn’t be for weeks that I would get to feeling like “me”again and then even still, it was a hurt “me”, a healing “me”.

My eyes welled up, the tears hot and intrusive. I could no longer hide my hurt once they overflowed and ran from the hiding spot behind my sunglasses and down my cheeks. I didn’t even bother to wipe the tears. What for? The pain was real and there was no sense in hiding it. Instead I chose to live through the emotion, actually feel what it was I was going through. I had fallen in love and for me this death was worth the mourning.

I’m sure many reading this will think I’m being dramatic. Only those who have taken risks and failed will understand where I’m coming from and really, those are the people I’m talking to. Only you are the ones who can relate. If you’ve never been through something similar, if you’ve never failed before and were left with nothing more than a a hole in your heart, read this and realize, your day is coming. That is for sure. It’s best you read up so you’re not blindsided as I was.

As a kid I had always dreamed of living in the rural parts of California. I had seen so many pictures and documentaries, the lay of the land in northern California was like a dream. The first computer I ever got that could actually surf the internet, I spent time looking up and researching places around the U.S that had always interested me. Cali was definitely my number one. I didn’t want to head there to be rich and famous. Fuck that. I wouldn’t wish that on my worst enemy. I wanted to live in California because it was something that had called to me as a child. Those beautiful mountains. The sky which seemed to always look so candy colored. The way the leaves turned to those amazing autumn tones in the fall with bright yellows, oranges, and reds. It was no surprise to anyone who knew me that the second I had cash saved up, off I was. I drove out to the West Coast without a moment’s hesitation. The people in my life dishonestly supporting me didn’t deter me. It was my dream, not theirs, that I was hunting for.

I had been purposely positive throughout the three days it took to drive there. I thought about how quick I would find a job. I thought about how awesome it would be to live in the new apartment, in my new neighborhood, with my new neighbors. I imagined all the cool places I’d finally get to see. Santa Monica Pier, Venice Beach, Hollywood Blvd, the Sunset Strip. If there were any doubts at any point in time, I crushed them with thoughts of positivity. There would be no Negative Nancies in my head bringing me down. No sir. I was (still am) a firm believer in the Law of Attraction so for me, negative thoughts weren’t even an option. It wasn’t until a year later that I looked back and realized, maybe the negative thoughts that would slip into my mind here and there was just life trying to prepare me for what would later be a shocking reality. But like Karma I find Hindsight to be a bitch.

My theory on Los Angeles’ smog problem is that it isn’t pollution, per say, that is floating above everyone’s head. It is my belief that the layer of smog that always lingers are the souls of the innocent who venture out to L.A and never return to be the same again. I mean hell, they don’t call it the City of Angels for no reason. I imagine it being like a trap box for the innocent. The interior of this box looks so appealing. It’s dressed up in opportunities and gold. Shiny things hang in its interior, attracting you like a fly to a light bulb. You get there one way, with a pure and maybe even naive way of being. Before long, the doors to this box snap shut and you are trapped inside, doing things out there to survive that you never thought you’d ¬†have to do.

Yea, as a child I dreamed of going to Northern Cali but the opportunity arose for me in L.A. I figured that I could get myself started in the city. It would be my first foot through the door and then once I saved up a bit I would migrate up north.

I never even made it to saving up.

The California life is expensive. The cost of living was ridiculously high and real jobs were scarce. Just by looking around, the amount of homeless people or those collecting cans and plastic could be proof of what I’m telling you. My story during this time could have gone many different ways. It could have gone better. It could have gone way worse. It’s kinda funny because now thinking about it, they way I lived in L.A was so carefree, it was almost as though I was tempting danger to come dance with me. The streets of Los Angeles, the devil’s playground, and I was out and about living as if I were still out on the Island of Sanibel. I spoke to strangers. I would go out and try to explore my surroundings and many times, during this exploration, I would get lost and wind up on a block a didn’t belong. The drinking was out of control and there were more than a handful of times that in a moment of sheer blackout, would take my car and attempt to drive home. I always made it of course, but that is only because I have the best guardian angel out there protecting me.

There were so many mistakes I made when arriving to Cali. There were also many obstacles that also got in the way, obstacles that prolonged the feeling of settling down. I don’t think that in the year that I lived there did I feel at all settled. ¬†Jobs weren’t working out. Food was scarce. Bills were piling up. The roller coaster of emotions and the stress were taking a toll on me. Secretly I would cry myself to sleep on almost every night. It would have been one thing if it would have just been myself that I needed to worry about. The fact that my sister decided to come along on my little adventure was what hurt me the most. Not because she came along with me but because she was suffering. This was my dream that I was trying to live out and now that it was going horribly bad she was suffering. To look at her face filled with so much anxiety and sadness really broke my heart to pieces and so the day I was confronted with the opportunity to return home, her face was the one I saw. In my mind, I saw her looking at me with the eyes full of hope of going back home, and that’s what made me break.

The decision was literally made from one day to the next and to be honest it wasn’t too hard of a decision to make. We were already 3 months behind on our rent. We had no food except for a bag of rice and a couple cans of tuna. By this time anytime we grocery shopped it was mainly baby food and soup cups that we ended up getting and that was to be split between my sister and I, along with my dog and her cat. Crazy right?

It had just been a few days before our planned departure that I had received an e-mail from our landlord stating that if we didn’t have the three months of rent we owed him within 48 hours, he would be there with police escort to evict us. Instead of leaving as planned, our trip back home was to be expedited. We gave our neighbor’s some of our things. Actually, we were trying to sell our stuff to them but after realizing that they were in no greater shape than we were, we freely gave things away. We then packed the car with whatever we could bring, but my small two door sports car couldn’t hold much, so we just left mostly everything behind. Like I mentioned earlier, the amount of people that are homeless or who rummage the garbage for food or things to help them get by is astronomical in L.A. So instead of leaving much of our stuff inside the apartment when we left, we decided to set what we could carry out on the curb for people to take. I mean for us it was like, “Well we can’t take it with us, so let’s leave it for those who will truly need it.” It was 6 am in the morning when we finished, the sun was just beginning to wake up. Our plan was to get out of there before our landlord showed up with his police escort. To be behind on a month’s rent is bad enough, but to owe three months is ridiculous. The fact that he hadn’t thrown us out sooner was a shock to me and a testament to how kind he was, for he was a really nice landlord, and there was no way my sister and I could face him.

As we got into my car, I noticed that there was already a family going through what was just a few seconds ago our belongings. It was truly a bittersweet moment that to even think about it now tugs at my heart.

I lost a lot on this adventure of mine to California. Not just my physical belongings but I also left behind a sliver of my dignity, piece of my heart, as well as a chuck of my soul. Yet, with my losing or leaving behind a few things I had also gained much more than that. I took with me my experiences of meeting new people, good and bad. I have taken and stored away beautiful memories and also some scary ones. Everything that I have obtained through my journey to and from California has served a wonderful purpose and have also gifted me with amazing stories for me to share. Who knows if I’ll ever go back and attempt at living there again but at least now I know somewhat of what I should be expecting.

There was a post I previously made about how I’ve only truly been in love twice. I’ll go ahead and correct myself by saying that it was three times. California. She is beautiful. She is enticing. She was a ruthless love.

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Art Work Credit: Jet Victory Follow on IG and FB

A Magical World Among Words and Pages

Birthdays? They were never a big deal at my house. Not because we weren’t special but because Mom really couldn’t afford it.

Problems? We didn’t share over dinner and talk things out. Instead we bottled feelings up. Emotions nicely pickled, to be opened up later when it was ripe and explosive.

Shit. We didn’t even really eat dinner as a family. Sure, we ate at the same time but it was my sister and I at the dinner table. Mom would sit in the living room watching her Latin soaps or eat standing up as she would hold down fort in the kitchen, making sure we didn’t over eat.

We never did anything cool after school. Mom was always too tired to ever really want to go out, so I looked forward to the weekends when I would go to work. That would be my social time.

My dad was never around. Even once my parents divorced and he had to pick us up every weekend he wasn’t around. For this daddy’s girl it was heartbreaking to have to go spend time with your father to only later realize he didn’t want to spend time with you. He spent every waking moment in his bedroom, watching Tv or listening to music and it was a rule that us kids were never allowed to knock on the bedroom door, unless it was a real emergency. If he wasn’t locked away in his room, he was downstairs on his computer. It wasn’t until I got a little older that I realized he was talking to women online, while his wife was in the kitchen cooking dinner or out back doing laundry. Needless to say, the few memories I have of him are bathed in feelings of heartache so I tend to never drive down memory lane.

In school I had only a small group of friends which over time I came to slowly realize I didn’t fit in with. They were rich, sophisticated, white girls with the privileges I could only dream of. They went on cool holiday vacations like skiing up north or Disney trips down south. They had the designer labels. The pretty hair. The expensive make-up. They cheered for the school’s teams. They had the good looking guys falling at their feet.

Me? I was a frizzy haired Latina. My clothes were always from the clearance rack. I didn’t know how to really wear make-up but it didn’t matter because Mom wouldn’t buy me any anyways. I dreamed of joining the cheer leading team but to join any after school activity was an impossibility. With Mom always working, car rides to and from the games and school, it was a no go. Plus, who would take care of my sister??

It wasn’t long before the differences between my “friends” and I were too much for them to bare. I was, one day randomly, excommunicated from the group. Hours turned to days. Days into weeks. Weeks into months. I was alone in school. I was alone at home. My friends didn’t want to deal with me anymore and my poor mother working two and three jobs just to be able to raise my sister and I wasn’t able to deal with me. At this point in my life I saw the world as everyone else’s except mine. For some reason it was as though I didn’t deserve the world and I couldn’t figure out why.

It was a shitty time in my life, those pre-teen years of mine. During that school year in which I had been excommunicated from the group, that was also the time in which I was sexually molested by a distant family member. You know what they say, “when it rains it pours..” and for me that year was like a goddamn tsunami. I didn’t speak to anyone about what was going with me but I didn’t have to speak verbally for my demeanor spoke volumes. Unfortunately, the fact that I had shut down emotionally was chalked up to what was me entering my teenage years and this attitude I carried was to be expected. Why hadn’t I spoken up?? I was scared. It’s true what they say, many abusers threaten their victims into staying quiet. They threaten them and their family, most times shifting the blame from themselves onto the victim, stating that if they talk to anyone they will be hated for ruining the family. That was exactly what happened to me.

It was the very next day of when the molestation happened that I received and early morning phone call. It was Saturday morning and my mom was at work. I was at home babysitting my sister when the phone rang.

“Hello?”

“Hey Nata, is that you??” I recognized his voice immediately and it froze me into place. Where was he? Was he outside?? Was he watching me?? He was military so I imagined him having these crazy super powers like being able to get into my house to violate me without anyone knowing.

“Nata, you there?” I couldn’t speak so I just nodded my head.

“Listen, about yesterday, you have to be quiet. I know I already told you that but I just need to make sure you understand. You know I have a wife and my daughter. If they were to find out what you did you would get in a lot of trouble with them. Your family, like your mom and your abuelita, will stop talking to you because you let a man touch you. You hear me?? You cannot say anything or else everyone will get mad at you. You understand what I’m saying?” He spoke quickly and quietly.

“You get what I’m saying to you??” he repeated.

“Yes. I won’t tell.” I told him and with that I quickly hung up.

It’s weird because looking back I feel like I knew that what he did and what he was doing now by calling was wrong. I knew I should have told someone and that most likely my family wouldn’t get mad but the fear of the slim possibility that they might hate me and too excommunicate me, was huge. So I stayed quiet. I held that secret in for an entire year. It was the longest year of my life.

Anything that had to do with growing up and evolving I did on my own, independently. After a few weeks had gone by and still no word as to when my “friends” would be talking to me again, I dove head first into the world of words. I read and wrote from the moment I was settled on the school bus all the way through the day and way into the evening. The books that I read or the endless amount of journaling I did is what saved my life, multiple times. I’d get lost in these fictional worlds, headed out on these amazing adventures with these characters I wished were real. I wasn’t worried about paying attention in class or about having to get my homework completed. Did any of that really matter in the grand scheme of things?? Not in my world. What mattered to me was getting through my days with the least amount of pain as possible and school work got in the way of that. Some days were of course better than others, but in my mind, without the books, without the journals, my pain could have been a lot worse.¬†Looking back on everything, it is no wonder that today it’s hard for me to personally connect with anyone.¬†From a young age I grew up with the knowledge that people will always let you down, no matter who they are. To be honest, it was one great lesson to learn and better to learn it sooner than to get blindsided by disappointment later.

Today, although I love people and do consider myself quite the people person, I also know that I suffer a lot from the anxieties of having to deal with social and personal relationships. I call myself an extroverted introvert, meaning, it’s no problem for me to strike up conversations with strangers. I’m ok with going into a room full of people I do not know and having to mingle, yet at the same token I hate having to do so. I’ll go as far as to say that I absolutely dread it. It wasn’t until I had to start seeing a therapist as a part of my probationary conditions that it was pointed out to me my level of anxiety when it came to people and relationships. I suffer from social anxiety with strangers but also with the closest people in my life. I can make plans with family or friends and from the moment the plans are made I am in panic mode. I can’t make up my mind on whether or not to go through with the plans or break them. Most times, any plans I make with others I break. I begin to run through all of these different scenarios, all of which are negative, and before you know it I am talking my way out having to participate. I’m getting much better at dealing with this, through the help of books like the Secret, The Four Agreements, and other teachings that I have within the last few years discovered. Yet, I still find security at home, alone, with my pets. That is really the only time I ever feel comfortable. When I’m surrounded by others, buried deep within my mind is the fear of, which of all these people will hurt me next? How long will they be around for? How long will they be able to tolerate me for? My defenses are always up and to be honest it is quite exhausting. Yet as time passes I am grateful because throughout all the pain. heartaches, and let downs, I have become very strong.

I am slowly working on me. I finally have the time and the fortitude to simply let everything else go and just focus on myself and the things I need to get through. During the roughest moments of my life I have had only reading and writing to really help me get through. I sometimes hear of cases where kids are being bullied full-time, meaning at school as well as in the safety of their own homes, driving them to commit suicide. I see myself in so many of them that I cry with the pain of knowing how they felt. I often wish that they had had an outlet. I often wish that they had found a magical world within the pages of a book to save them. Something so simple and so obtainable as that and yet these kids couldn’t find their way towards survival. I guess maybe that’s why I write about everything and anything. Who knows who will end up coming across these words, who will scroll down these pages and find that comfort they needed. The comfort of knowing that one truly isn’t alone. That there are many others going through similar experiences and that only by sharing with one another will we be able to find solace not only within others, but more so within ourselves.

Maybe within these words someone will figure out that we are our own biggest project and it’s a project one must never quit on.

11380976_468219776660004_1021574899_n Photo Credit: Arturo G. Muse: Natal Galvan

 

 

Feeling Lost? You May Be Living for Others…

My parents divorced when I was only four years old. My sister wasn’t even one yet. It was almost instant that I was thrown into the role as “Mommy’s Little Helper” and although I was more than happy to help, it still wasn’t a role I chose.

Growing up wasn’t easy. Between trying to keep my grades afloat and helping out around the house, while also ultimately helping mom raise my sister, I’ve never really had a true and unique identity. Sure, I knew my name and what my favorite color was but anything deeper than that I could attribute it to someone else. They way I talked, the way I thought about certain things, it wasn’t 100% me but a compilation of everyone else. ¬†It seemed that at that very point in my life I was always trying to please everybody else. The weekdays were dedicated to trying to impress my teachers and friends. After school was the time to really show my mom what a big girl I was and would win her over by helping with the day to day chores as well as serving as an entertainer/baby sitter for my sister. I spent every waking moment with that little rascal once school was out for the day and every summer break was dedicated to being with her from sun up till sun down. For 20 years her and I shared a room. We woke up together, we’d play together, we’d fight and cry, and tear each other’s hair our a few times a month. It’s no wonder how she ended up being my best friend after all these years.

The weekends were rough because that was a completely different world than what I was used to. I had to spend the weekends at my father’s house. Not only were they a different culture to absorb, but the stress that came along with having to deal with him and his new family (5 step brothers and his “younger than my mother by many years” wife) were a burden. It wasn’t long before I began to hate going to go visit him and eventually I would stop going all together. Still, during the time I did have to visit, it was a time in which I had to put who I was on hold just to please them, just to avoid ridicule. It wasn’t until I graduated high school and moved out of state, away from everything I knew, that I began to uncover who I truly was but even still, that too took time. I had been conditioned to be a people-pleaser and that made it hard to live life as I wanted.

I moved to Florida in ’08 and within the year I was signed up to school. I enrolled as a Forensic Psychology student. I had a plan. I was to work 5 days and go to school 3 days, taking 3 classes at a time. I wanted to plow through school while working, graduate, and then enter my career. That was almost 9 years ago and still I haven’t graduated.

One of my truest reasons as to why I haven’t graduated yet is due to finances. The other 95% I wouldn’t discover until just recent . It wasn’t until after my retreat from California, and about two years after I left Jersey for the second time, that I realized what my underlying issue was.¬†I truly was at a loss for I really didn’t know who I was, and in turn, had no clue as to what I wanted for my life.

I look back to most of the decisions I’ve made in my life as a young adult and although most times I felt as though I was choosing to do what was best for me, I realized that instead I was making decisions based on what would make my family happy. The choice to move to Florida and make it on my own was truly my choice but that came after tons of time with my uncle convincing me to do so (Thanks Unc!). The major I picked to study in school was something I picked due to what I happened to really like to read at the time, but what really nailed it in for me was how happy my mother got when I told her what I wanted to study. “Hay Nati, that’s so good!! You can find a job with the government and get great benefits!! You would never have to worry about anything!” She’d tell me with joy in her voice. How could I study anything else when mama bear was so happy??

School wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be and I don’t mean academically. Honestly, FGCU isn’t a very tough school to complete. My problem was the level of dedication I had for it. It was hard for me to place so much energy into something that wasn’t giving me immediate payouts. Don’t get me wrong, I loved going to classes. Learning is paramount for me but it was everything else that came along with it. I lived off campus and so when I wasn’t in class or at the library studying, I was working or at home completing my homework. My life didn’t have much substance other than that. I wasn’t making friends due to the fact I wasn’t ever really on campus unless it was to attend class and I for sure didn’t have time to go out and meet people. Basically, all I ever did was work and go to school. I wasn’t traveling nor meeting people. It was a very “blah” time in my life and soon I began to question my purpose for doing all that I was doing.

I took an Ethics class during my last full semester at FGCU before deciding to move cross country. Mr.Mathews’ class was amazing and it truly changed my life for the better. In this class I was introduced to the Law of Attraction, The Secret, and many other life changing ideals like meditation and chakra cleansing. I learned about vibrations within the Universe and how to break away from the conditioning society has placed on us. This class was the end of who I was before and the beginning of who I was becoming. This class was what triggered my self discovery and since then there hasn’t been a day that goes by that I am not grateful for this time in my life.

It’s been about five years since I took that class and since then, finally at almost the age of 30, I have been making many of my own decisions. Some have worked out in my favor while others happened to be nothing more than a learning lesson. Sure, life hasn’t been perfect but I can’t even pretend that it ever will be. Yes, there have been moments in which I may have gone off the deep end a little. You know what they say about idle hands right? Yet still, I am grateful for every rough second I spent, or crazy situation I’ve been in. It has been an aid in my self discovery process and better yet, they have been choices I made because I wanted to make them. How awesome is that!?? Its taken some time but I’m beginning to slowly figure shit out. I’m starting to see what it is I like and where I see my future headed. I don’t take society or even family (anymore) into account when I dream up my future. I’ve done enough of that and look at where it got me. Following others and what they want for me has done nothing but confuse me and slow down my growing process when it comes to life and what I want to get out of it while I’m here.

I’m sharing this because I understand what many people go through when it seems like they’re lost and have no clue as to what to do with their lives. I understand because I too lived my life for quite some time for everyone else BUT for myself. It leaves you in a state of disorientation. Many people are going through this exact situation and don’t even realize why it is that they feel the way they do. If just by reading this I can help one confused person feel better as to why they feel the way they do then this time spent writing this was not time wasted.

Now that you’ve read this and feel that maybe you could fall in this criteria of living life for others, it’s time that you begin to start living life for yourself.No matter the age or the stage of life your in, you can begin to take control of it. Start setting healthy boundaries with others and begin to replenish and take care of yourself. Also, go into your self discovery knowing that there will be choices you make that may turn out not the way you planned. Realize that that is OK and that that is the beauty and purpose of life. No one life is perfect so to have that level of thinking would be harmful to your Self. The world is imperfect and it is in those very same imperfections that you’ll find happiness, bliss, adventure, and life in its purest form. Living this dream we call life in its purest form will aid you in your self discovery and you will live a good and happy life.

In the end of it all, what more could we want than to live out life the way we were meant to live it if not happily and with full hearts??

Only Two

I’ve only truly been in love twice. Although I’ve dated A LOT, no one quite captured my heart and forever changed my soul, no matter how small a change, like my only two loves.

Both, needless to say, ended pretty tragically.

The first one, my high school sweetheart. A romeo, a lady’s man. That would always be our demise. I spent the better half of my teenage years and half of my twenties on and off again with him. The man had broken my heart in every way possible and still I would go back for more. It wasn’t until the ultimate betrayal on his part that I decided no relationship between the two could ever be. The true sadness rested in the fact that being as though we had known each other for so many years we had truly become great friends. In the end I had lost not only my boyfriend but also my best friend.

The second love of mine came at a time where life for me had hit an all time low. This was when I lived in California. I met him at the local library where I would go to take out a shit load of books for me to read and movies for my sister and I to watch. He was a couple years younger than me but he could have fooled anyone as to him being older. He was well educated and mature. Well mannered and treated his mother like a queen. Not only her but he treated me like a queen. He was an amazing person to be around. His friends would tell you so. He was the one who made me realize how important a close circle of friends are. The value of true friendship. Like I said before, we met at a time in my life where I was broken. He made me feel amazing no matter how broken I had become, but no amount of love given could have saved our relationship. I was moving back to New Jersey and our love was so much that they only way we saw it was to have to let each other go. A love truly parted by life but never fully extinguished.

Both loves were vastly different. One lasted almost an entire lifetime while the other was more like a lifetime happened in just a few months. One was so tainted and damaged that no amount of time could ever heal and make it beautiful again, while the other had a freshness and energy, a bright light that shined from it that time could never dim. Both loves felt different. One felt more strangulating and slightly exuded obsession, making anxiety the most common emotion felt. The other love was so liberating. We were so bound by our love, so enthralled with one another, yet it was a breath of fresh air. It was easy.

My loves were different yet in other ways similar. I learned so much from each relationship. I learned things that would serve me well for the next one. Like I mentioned before I have dated a lot and one thing I do know, each and every new person that makes it into  my life has been of value to me. Whether today we are in each other’s lives or not, I have learned something to help me out later on down the road and if for only that reason alone, I cherish the time spent together, no matter how good or bad it was.

I look forward to meeting my next love. I feel like it’s definitely going to be IT. I’ve been through all the preparation. I have weeded out the confusion that plagues the minds of people when they become seriously committed to someone early on in life. I have not only had my fun but I have learned many valuable lessons while doing so. I understand life and the real meaning behind it. I can appreciate and love, while also being more aware and mindful, more vulnerable and open, because that’s how you connect with people, by being vulnerable.

Looking back on everything that I have gone through with past relationships I am grateful because although I won’t be going into it with the heart of innocence I’ll be able to see and feel love for what it truly is, with out the games, just its purity.

I sometimes think about my two loves and wonder how it is that they’re doing. You must be thinking that I am probably wishing one luck while I wish for the other misery and unhappiness but that is not me. I wouldn’t ever wish difficulty on another. The way I look at it, him who had broken my spirit to love I wish the treasures of the world for is he not just as broken as I was, or maybe yet even more so? Only hurt people hurt people and I know enough about him to understand his hurt even if he did bury it years ago.

In a world in which the ultimate goal is to find true love and happiness, I can look back on my life and say that Yes I have truly loved. If it weren’t to happen again, which would be a tragedy in my book, at least I have had the opportunity to feel what it was to love someone other than myself, than my family, than even my pets. I have loved a stranger before and it speaks volumes as to the capacity my heart can hold. I wish to discover love again, this time it hanging around longer. This time it being both reciprocated and permanent. Yet I cannot help but wonder, how permanent could love ever be if there is no such thing as forever??