Fueled

February 9, 2017

The second time I expressed my anger outwardly I was about 15-years-old. I was so angry that day that I broke three tennis trophies; one of them flew out the window seven-stories down.

The anger I felt that day was very different than anything I had experienced before. You see I was in Love. But I wasn’t just any teenager-in-Love. I was in Love with my first girlfriend. Her skin was like canela dulce. Sus ojos negros and long dark hair were a strong reminder that our Taino ancestors are still very much among us. I felt their anger also.

Earlier in the day after school, Sunshine and I met up at a diner we both liked on the corner of 116th and 2nd Ave. There was this little place where we’d meet and sit at a booth. Our feet would intertwine under the table. We could talk for hours. We tried to be as discreet as possible. This was 1994. And while Ricki Lake was talking about the gays, we were Latina. And female. And Pentecostal.

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Credit: ehrlif via iStock/Salon

 

There we were, 15 and 17-years-old trying to grasp what we were feeling and everything it implied for us. We were too young to fully comprehend what was happening but what we did know was that our relationship was both incredibly beautiful and intensely frightening.

We played footsies under the table. I had proposed marriage to her a few weeks prior. I literally ran to her house, from Spanish Harlem to the Bronx, my feet in cadence and moving like Thundercats Cheetara over that Willis Avenue Bridge and down 3rd Avenue, just to get down on my knee and ask her to spend her life with me. She said, “You so crazy,” in that soft voice of hers that made my body feel all sorts of feels.

Suddenly and without any warning her brother and my mother walk in. The look on both their faces was of complete disappointment. They both looked like they could kill us. My stomach sank. I felt like someone had punched me so hard, I’d lost my breath.

Sunshine’s brother looked at her and said, “Let’s go.”

My mother said, “Ni una palabra.”

We left. I have no idea who paid the bill or anything related to the restaurant.

The entire walk home (about 3 blocks) felt like an eternity. We walked in silence. My anger was boiling. I felt the heat in my body and at the center of my throat. I could feel my mother’s rage. In the building we went, seven flights of piss-scented elevator combined with my mother’s fury ablaze, it could’ve gone up in flames.

When we walked into the apartment my mother went off on me. Everything from how I would burn in hell to “Yo prefiero una hija puta a que sea pata.” That shit was so hurtful that I looked at her in the eyes and said, “I wish you die” and I locked myself in my room. And my mother yelled from the other side of the door, “Cuando me muera, no te quiero en mi funeral.” It was so intense.

I stared at the trophy that read, State Tennis Championship Runner-Up 1990 and below it my name. I took that trophy and smashed it against the wall. Quickly, I grabbed the other one and smashed it on the ground. My mother was banging on the door, asking me to open it and I flung the last one out the window as she managed to break down the door and grabbed me by the face. I stared at her so intensely. And she did the same as she said something along the lines that made me understand that if I were going to live under her roof, I would have to live under her God’s commandments and being a lesbian was not one of them.

I didn’t like the way my body felt in that moment. I felt out of control. I didn’t like that I didn’t have enough things to break that weren’t valuable. I didn’t care for those trophies so I wasn’t emotionally connected to these items; I just needed to release that energy somewhere. But I couldn’t control the anger, the tears, and the injustice was suffocating.

I saw Sunshine at school the next day but she didn’t say much to me. And I could tell that fear was stronger than the Love she had for me and I wasn’t ready to just give up on this. I challenged the very church we grew up in (this is what I think drove my mother mad often). I challenged what she was feeling and asked her to consider that if Love was wrong then there could be nothing right in this world. But eventually, it all faded away and I moved to Connecticut during the end of my junior year of high school.

She visited for some time and then on February 14th, 1995 she came to visit me. She caught the Metro-North to the last stop and my cousin drove me to pick her up. We spent the day together. She brought me balloons and I gave her flowers. Towards the end of the visit, she said she had to tell me something and broke up with me. She said this couldn’t continue because “God and church” and who knows what else because I tuned her out. I dropped her off at the train station again, said goodbye and went back home.

At home my cousin asked what was wrong and I shattered. And then the first break-up cry that is reserved for your first romantic Love happened. The amount of mocos and tears was just overwhelming. It was a cry that came from my soul. Valentine’s Day was never the same. Anger looked different than it had in the past. I started getting involved in LGBT youth related activities. I engaged in community activism and wanted to fight to change this for the better. I wanted to fight so that I would never experience that anger the church and my mother made me feel. I wanted to fight so that people like Sunshine wouldn’t feel like they had to deny a part of themselves that was clearly a beautiful piece of the Divine Creator’s work.

Anger led me to activism. I turned to community. And it was then that I started my journey as an Organizer. I was going to be the change. And anger was my fuel.

#52essays2017

 

 

 

breathing anger

February 8, 2017

I’m trying to breathe in a world whose air is toxic.

I can’t even fucking write because every time I turn to the page I just want to burn it. How the hell do we tell our children that this world is anything but about to implode? How can I look at children in the eye and possibly utter a word of affirmation when this shit-show is on loop?

History repeats itself in the wombs of our daughters.

When I was a little girl, I had all the hope of a new life. I always sought ways to make people smile, or feel better, or anything that I thought would brighten their day. I thought that if I did my part, in time, things would get better. I grew up in NYC, in the 80s. During the height of both the AIDS epidemic and the crack vials that lit up the concrete ground my little feet walked on. But I was surrounded by Love and I was a firm believer that Love wins.

But Love doesn’t win folks. In fact, it loses more every day.  And don’t ask me to keep the faith because faith walked out of this world when that little girl was raped. Faith died at the hands of genocide and wars and corrupt governments and world hunger and poverty. Faith died when men decided to put money and power over people.

Recently I was asked how I felt about everything happening with this new evil circus in town. I expressed myself pretty clearly. I spoke about my fears and my concerns. And as I spoke my voice was shaking, I felt tears in my eyes and I swallowed them whole as the person responded to MY EXPERIENCE with shit like, “you need to breathe.” Privilege will come in dressed in white trying to tell you to breathe like yo’ ass ain’t got a set of lungs screaming at you that what you’re breathing is hurting them. I had to walk away otherwise I’d be calling my wife for bail.

Que cojones tiene la gente. I have a right to be disillusioned and scared and even fucking furious cuando me de la maldita gana. I have to a right to say that I don’t believe Love wins and that I’ve lost faith. You don’t have a right to tell me to relax around the issues that are directly and indirectly affecting me and mine. Your words are unsolicited and unwanted.

I get it USA. I get that you have NEVER witnessed the atrocious realities (many of them created by your policies) the rest of this world has lived through but fuck you. I don’t need to experience something directly to understand its impact on humanity. I don’t need an international organization commercial highlighting malnourished children to know that hunger pangs are real and these children exist. I don’t need a campaign to raise funds to get clean water when I bathe myself daily in these hatred infested water that continue to fill our bodies with lead. Somebody turn this shit off.

You want me to write from a place of hope? Give me something to be hopeful for that is tangible. Give me a hope I can breathe into. But until then, don’t tell me to relax and breathe like I’m on a fucking yoga mat, wearing lulu lemons and sippin’ Starbucks frappes.

This world is imploding. My children are watching… our anger is the only thing tangible in my skin.

#52essays2017