Penny Dreadfuls

Crossroads of a database animal

A Little Bit About Me
bandolero
zanazibar





" Si el conocimiento no se religa con

la experiencia se vuelve inconexo,

pierde potencia: la capacidad

de enunciar con poder."

- Abdiel Echevarría Cabán

I don’t usually write about my past in terms other than the vaguest I can get away with.  There are a couple of reasons for that, which I won’t get into details now.  I’d rather talk about why I’ve decided to break the trend.  The truth of the matter is that I write to exorcise my demons and I rarely expect anyone other than myself to get something out of these scribbles.   I struggle to remind myself and to remind others every single day that I am a sentient being, not a list of identities you can checkmark across an Excel sheet.  I am not an abstract.  Our experiences, our histories, the lingering affects that haunt us, all these things are forever written, in one fashion or another, into our bodies, our behaviors and our opinions.  It is easy to forget ( especially when friction occurs) that no one exists in a vacuum, and that I do not  exist aanthing other than  boogeyman for others.  I, for one, refuse to pay that currency in order to have a place to speak.  I refuse.  I am the Lucács and the Anzaldúa I read in my literary theory class when I was 16.  I am also the sting of leather in my shoulders when my father would punish me for things that I can honestly not remember: I am what I am.  I am made of thoughts, ideas, opinions, yes; but I am also made of nerve endings, histories, diseases, scars. For the life of me, I cannot differentiate these two realms into discreet spaces for the benefit of others.  I feel power rush through me when I write because I’m writing with every experience that has left a strong impression on me, with every love handle I have to offer to my lovers, with every language I have ever spoken: I enunciate from the position of power only I can give myself.

My childhood memories are in complete disarray: I have some memories here and there, random bits of the quotidian and the extraordinary that I recall, but I can’t say I have a cohesive, linear understanding of my history or of myself as a person until high school and, to a more expansive degree, college.  I do remember I spent a lot of my earlier years in my grandmother’s house, because it was much closer to the elementary school my sister and I were in than my mother’s. My grandma would babysit us while mom finished her two teaching jobs at 9 or so in her house on the barrio Baldoriotty.  I recall some things here and there: the sound of the Latin Jazz playing at the restaurant down the street was overwhelming as a kid. I think about it and now I find it so hauntingly beautiful, the lone trombone in its solo of solitude, suffusing the air with loneliness.  I remember that we had to turn off all lights by 7 PM or the hive of Africanized bees right outside the house would fly in a frenzied stupor looking for the last light they could find in all this darkness.  I also remember that the neighbor to the left, Don Titi, was a lecher, and we had to be careful to not expose anything as my sister and I got sprinkled with the hose outside, under a banana tree.  We’d wear big white T-shirts and soap our bodies under them.  This is how we showered when we stayed there.  The neighbor in the front, Doña Margó, was pretty quiet and kept to herself.  I only entered her house once or twice and the only impression I got from it was from the dozens of candles melting into litanies for our saints.  The one on the right, Doña Genoveva, was a devout Catholic living with a mentally challenged adult son.  I don’t know what illness he had, but we’d just call him El Loco and stay out of his way.  Sometimes you could hear his screams and her cries.  It wasn’t until much later in my life that I realized those were the pleading cries of someone begging to not be brutalized.

My grandma would take care of us as best she knew, telling us bedtime stories of her life in the farm, walking us to school, feeding us water bread and black coffee for breakfast.  She had a habit for hoarding that incremented the amount of dusty, marvelous junk her house was littered with.  I think that’s where I learned to love chaos. At those early years, probably 4-6, she would also fondle me and perform what I later learned was oral sex on me.  Like most children, I didn’t understand what was going on, only that it was something else grandma did. She is illiterate and has lived a brutal life…I’m convinced she has some degree of mental retardation that was never diagnosed or treated because next to nothing from anyone in my family has been diagnosed till a it’s been a step before death.  I’ve forgiven her, for I’m sure she didn’t know what she was doing.

My father, Teodoro died in 1994, and I can’t say I care much for that.  I don’t remember anything about him other than one occasion where he beat me with his belt.  What had more impact is that as soon as he hit the dust, my mother started dating a former student of hers, Harold.  It wasn’t long before he was living with us in the house my mother owned.   He was a cocaine addict, in and out of police stations for domestic abuse next to every week.  When I was younger, the fights deeply affected me, and I tried desperately to keep the family together; my infantile solution was to suggest we compensate every beating with a family activity, like taking us to the park or buying us ice cream.  I never got either adult to take my suggestions seriously, but they did get me to deeply abhor the idea of ever trying to sustain a ‘normal’ nuclear family as an adult. For 8 years, from 4 to 12, this was the house I’d go to; this, to me, was normalcy. Normal was also the plague of roaches we had: at any given point we had thousands that would come out in a display of the force of urban nature, reclaiming every nook and cranny of the kitchen, the living room and the bathrooms that they could get a hold of.  I don’t know when they got there, but I do know they were there when I left.

School was both a blessing and a curse: I was too socially awkward to have any contact other than the bullying I was subjected to, but at least it wasn’t home.  At one point when I was 9, I got some psychometric examinations done: 153 IQ and the maturity level of a 15 year old.  Neither of those numbers did anything for me other than get me a grade skipped. Middle school had little impact on me: I was still going to a school next to the projects, still bullied, still kept to myself and my Pokemon cards.  I had started collecting them on the sixth grade, but only collecting them.  I had no one to play the game with me, but I was content looking at the beautiful art.  I was especially fond of Ken Sugimori’s art.  I remember my mom once complained that I spoke of these cards as if they were living beings.   At that point, my life would have been much better if they had been real.  I became aware of my sexual and romantic attraction to these nonhuman creatures.  A schoolmate, Sarah,  once teased me, asking me in the middle of the cafeteria if I had sex with the pokemon in my cards.  I think the reason it bothered me so much is because I knew I had no way to live out that desire.

High school had me shipped off to a boarding school.  While my mom didn’t kick me out per se, it’s not like she gave me a choice.  She was going to move heaven and hell for me to be among the creole elite, the top 100 high schoolers in the island.  There I sorta had to learn to socialize, although I was still awkward and quite the introvert.  The most important thing I got out of my time there was meeting Danilea, a dark-skinned beauty with a mind as gorgeous as her body.  I was instantly smitten by her, longing her touch and her approval.  I wrote more bad poetry than any one angsty teen has the right to inflict upon the world, and it was also the first time I let the fear of being happy overtake me to the point I tried to put some distance; that awkward space of the abjected object of desire. Though it brought much internal strife, meeting her gave me the methodology to redirect my grief, my anger and my pain to more productive endeavors; she gave me a lexicon for loving. My senior year if high school was a drunken haze of 3 am movie theater outings and skipping classes to walk a half hour to the local museum and admire the delightful thighs of the sculpture of Sappho.

I am in no way exaggerating when I say that I learned to be a human being in college.  I caught up with a lot of the developmental milestones that I had been lagging in previously. I learned to talk to other people. I learned to eat in front of other people and to socialize at the table. I traveled to the Dominican Republic, the USA, Italy and South Korea. I learned precious things in every trip. I met my best friend, Abdiel, who has had my back through the time and the distance in a way no one else ever has. I would take a ride with him every other weekend to go to Isabela and spend long evening hours talking about Latin American politics and writing with my fellows, my teachers. I got stabbed in a botched robbery when I was 17. That time, I was petrified by fear and trauma and refused to leave my room for a full week. Little by little, I learned that life goes on and I can move forward.

I moved to the US when I was 19. I felt like I had no choice, given how poor the living conditions in Puerto Rico were during the Fortuno years. Indiana was kinda bland from the get-go, but it was new and exciting. I saw snow for the first time that winter. I spent many sleepless nights with many people who grew near and dear to my heart. I met one of the most influential people in my life, Susan Stryker. If I have felt like I ever had a mentor, it definitely is her. I spent two years in Indiana, and they were pretty calm and smooth, given my past.

I have spent two or so years in Arizona. All in all, I think things have been petty great for me. I have been letting go of things, places and people that don't help me to become a happier, better person. I quit grad school. I broke up with a partner. I moved to a new apartment that is the first place I have lived in which is mine, and no words can express how deeply gratifying that is. I work for the state of Arizona serving some of the most vulnerable populations we have. I am still thinking, still writing, partly at the behest of Susan; the least I can do to thank her for all that she has done for me is to keep writing. I am now a parent and it is one of the most gratifying experiences of my life.

This has been my path. I have done great things and terrible mistakes but I wouldn't change a thing. I have dreamed more than it is wise, expected more than what was realistic and gave more of myself than what was safe. For these things, I am grateful.


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