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Posts Tagged ‘niche’

Winter break is here and everyone makes excited plans to go home and open gifts and drink cocoa and go sledding and sing jingle bells. Well ho ho ho, I never did that growing up so I am feeling strangely separate from everyone. We went to a big end of the term party. There’s some catchy theme to it, but essentially they are all just variations in which girls get to dress as provocatively as possible and the boys wear whatever will get the most laughs. Kat finally hooked up with Jake and I have a million bad pictures of me online with lazy eyes looking sloppy. Classic. Life goes on.  I think briefly about taking up one of several invites to go home with friends for the holidays, but cringe at the thought of being some family’s poor temporary adopted sibling. So, after a few days of lounging around, I muster some pity for my family and call them. Mamá answers the phone in Spanish and immediately starts an endless stream of chattering and yelling and cooing and scolding. Cuando vas a regresar a la casa, mi’ja? I wince, knowing that she wouldn’t accept just a Feliz Navidad phone call. I make loose plans to come home for just two days, okay? It’s only a two hour drive but I exaggerate the distance and my need to do work. I can hear her smiling through the phone.

I spend the next day at a coffee shop, trying to soak up my urban life as much as possible, reminding myself that I have escaped my past and am just going back to check in and refresh the fact that I am absolutely not a part of that life anymore. Driving down the main avenue in Flores is like seeing two worlds superimposed. Half the stores have words in English, the other half in Spanish. Actually, depending on the cross streets it’s mostly Spanish. Tiny carnecierias with huge animal body parts hanging in windows- their marbled muscles looking stiff and imposing. A man leans in the doorway of his tienda de verduras– noted by a hand painted sign with the letters getting smaller from left to right. Lopsided oranges, browning bananas, flat and de-spined cactus fruit all sit stagnantly in soft-sided boxes gathering tiny fruit flies. And several stores have so much lettering painted on them you can’t even see through the window. Screaming in neon orange and a blinding green: Cartas! Tarjetas! Envios de moneda a Mexico, Columbia, Nicaragua! I wouldn’t have been surprised if someone told me I had accidentally driven too far and crossed the border into Mexico already; except for the fact that I knew where I was. I was home. That word feels very distant from me. That word conjures up images of smiling families with blonde hair and fireplaces and turkeys, even though home was something very different for me growing up. It’s as if the word home and the image of home don’t connect for me: an unbalanced math equation, a lopsided teeter-totter.

As I pull up to my parent’s house, I am at first flooded with memory and emotion, happy to see mom, dad, brothers, a familiar place.  But it quickly fades to irritation at their habits, their disapproval of me and my lifetsyle, my disapproval of them. After a strained dinner, we sit and watch a bad tv show not saying much.  I curl up on the couch (my upstairs bedroom has been given to my brother!), feeling displaced, uncomfortable on the scratchy couch, embarrassed by my slight disgust with the blankets that have dog hair on them.  I don’t sleep well.  In the morning, I help mom cook breakfast. She asks me to help with laundry too (What is this, the 1950s?) but instead I go for a run. I think it will be good to get out of the house, and a little exercise always makes me feel better.  But this run is not like on campus.  Not all the roads are paved.  There are few of the tall, dazzling palms I love.  No well-kept creek.  As I run, I am met with barking dogs, stares from everyone, and a few low whistles from older men on patios.  I cut the run short and head back.   That afternoon we all go to the park.  Kids swim, music blares, people laugh and drink gallons of coca cola. Is it always summer here?  (Yes, is the answer)  The next day we go to church (Dios primero siempre, m’ija.) I sit through it, mind blanks and numb and, frankly, bored. I am about to run away and never come back.  On the walk home,  dad whispers something about how important it is to connect with siblings. I look over at Manuel and Juanito and can hardly imagine they are related to me. Manuel looks a little tired, maybe I will chat with him for a bit about what he is up to. Wasn’t he starting a new business? Maybe he’s working long hours to get it off the ground. But, as soon as we all get back to the house, irritated by another request of mama’s to participate in household chores, I forgo conversation with mi hermanos to head back on the road early. She thinks she notices a shared glance between her brother and father, but ignores this as she closes the car door and waves out the window. Goodbye, she thinks, isn’t always so sad.

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