Baggage

I’m 23.

I’m the only one of my friends that still lives at home. It’s seriously a less than ideal situation. Nevertheless, I’m trying to make the best of it all.

Let it be known that I’m not good at much, with the exception of “making it work”. It’s not been easy, that’s for damn sure, but hell, everyone else can say that about their own lives as well. There’s always something to complain about.

I’m neither nothing new, nor nothing basic.

Sometimes I think back on the episode of Girls called “All Adventurous Women Do” in which Hannah and Shoshanna dish out their baggage. Caution, spoiler alert follows! Hannah shows up to Shoshanna’s apartment unannounced – typical Hannah. Apparently it was a great day for a spontaneous chick hang out. Shosh is at home, lounging in her love seat, watching a show called “Baggage” and it’s about – you guessed it… baggage! To make conversation, Shosh asks Hannah about her baggage. Three pieces of it from least importance to greatest importance. I’ll stop there because I’m not getting paid for that fantastic scene synopsis by Lady Dunham herself.

However, that scene resonated with me. It made me think of my baggage. My littlest baggage, my mediumest (don’t care that that isn’t an actual word) baggage, and my biggest baggage. It’s interesting to put baggage out there to be discovered, inspected, dissected. I’ve thought long and hard about my three pieces of air robbed luggage. It’s been menial shit like growing up fatherless in the slums of Inglewood. Or something more taxing like the perpetual feeling of inadequacy among everyone and everything or having to part ways with my pride and joy, my kitty, Olivia. My baggage is a tossed salad of the aforementioned ingredients topped with Rohypnol.

 

Inside my smallest piece of luggage I’ve stored the experience of not meeting my father until I was eleven years old. When I found out he was in prison, I went out of my way to meet him because I knew I wouldn’t run into his other family there. Finally the chance to get him alone. My mom put my in what she considered “Sunday’s Best”, though we were never churchgoers ourselves. Her judgement seemed fair. It was holiday season, so she did me up in on of those frilly red velvety dresses with the excessive tulle and the white satin ribbon at the waist. There were also a pair of sparkly, sorta sheer, black stockings that led down to really adorable shiny buckled white shoes. I was a damn cute kid when my mom tried at it. The waiting in the dingy, smelly waiting room waded on eternal – or at least it felt that way because I was fucking excited to meet the man himself. My mom, brother (Jose), and I were granted two marvelous hours in the phone row. It was him on one end, me on the other, divided by a hefty slab of virtually indestructible polyglass. We were sandwiched between two other convicts and two other broken families living out the same truth as ours. It was strangely, eerily communal. The phone was fuzzy. Not literally, this isn’t The Muppets! Rather, it sounded that way. I could hardly understand the words coming from my father’s mouth because he only had one vocal chord at the time. But I knew he must’ve been saying something important because I saw his mouth moving, his eyes watering, and his hand trying to reach for mine through the glass. He promised that once he was out, he’s come home and never leave me again. The trip was all I could’ve hoped for. It was as if all my dreams were coming true! It’s all I ever wanted. As he’d promised, he did come back. As he hadn’t promised, he did leave again.

 

Inside my intermediate piece of luggage has been stored a confession. One that most, if not everyone, would frown upon, but it makes sense to me… I don’t love my mother. This isn’t some sort of rebellious retort. I’m no maverick, I’m just human. A broken one at that. One that has been broken beyond repair. It’s because of her that I don’t trust anyone. Because of her that I can’t build or even maintain strong, meaningful bonds with anyone. Because of her that I can’t find the drive for any interests, aspirations, or dreams. It’s because of her that I don’t know what it’s really like to be loved, to be validated, to matter or be wanted. It’s because of her that my mere existences feels like a fucking burden to everyone and everything. That no matter how much any given person insists otherwise, I can’t possibly agree. I don’t know what it’ll take to change all this… She’s the person who calls me “Gorda” as a term of endearment (get on Google Translate if you need help with that, you bozo). It’s considered the norm for Latinx parents to hit their kids. But in my house, it was the norm for mom to be angry and tired all the time. These conditions led to energy projected in the form of beatings weaponizing any object in sight. The following is a non-exhaustive list of those items: the cord of an electric pencil sharpener, a rolling pin, the crescent of an iron, roller blades, coffee mugs. My older brother, Jose, was fortunate enough to have developed what I consider “mule skin” – the kind of skin that is resilient against pain and doesn’t bruise. I wasn’t so lucky. My mother, knowing this, was smart enough to bang me up in areas of my body that could be easily covered up. That said, I developed Stockholm Syndrome… I rationalized her actions and the vicious, incredibly painful cycle she’d put me me in because she worked 16-18 hours a day, because she was missing daddy, because she wanted way more out of life. I became her punching bag. That way my job description. At age 4, my eldest brother, Julio, left home to make it on his own. At 11, Jose left home to make it on his own. Things only worsened when mom and I were left alone. No one was there to step in anymore. It was scary. She grew angrier, sleepier, heavier. I don’t love my mother because she deprived me of a proper upbringing. My normal was nothing like everyone else’s normal and I didn’t learn that until I took an upper division sociology course in college on Family Violence. For example, I’d never celebrated Christmas until age 21 and that was with someone else’s family. I don’t love her for all the unsuccessful attempts she made to buy my love. Why the hell else was she always working?! Growing up, she always tried to spoil me to make up for all her shit. But she doesn’t know me and has never cared to learn me. All I’ve ever wanted is support. As a singer, an artist, a scholar, a traveller, a daughter, a woman. We are blood relatives. Nothing more.

 

In my largest piece of baggage lies the undertaking of rape. Two men. Not occasions. Two different men, two very different places, two polar opposite facets of my life. Age 7 and ongoing and too many times to count. I wasn’t a little girl anymore. Age 22, for which I wasn’t present. Remember I’d mentioned before that my mom was away at work A LOT? Well, I needed to be taken care of somehow. Jose wasn’t allowed to take care of me after getting caught up in some drug dealing and gang violence stuff in the neighborhood. So mom befriended the next-door-neighbors. A sweet, unsuspecting couple that took care of their grandchild of about the same age as me. Clementina, the wife, made me my favorite tomato based noodle soup (sopa de fideo) whenever I asked. Victor, the husband, would pick me and their grandchild up from school everyday. It started out slow. Took some time to grow. Into the unstoppable, impregnable monster it became. If I spilled something on my clothes, he’d aggressively insist on changing me. If I had a belly ache that corresponded to some hardcore toilet time, he’d aggressively insist on wiping me (even though I was totally capable of handling my own shit). If I hurt myself, he aggressively insisted on treating the booboo and use that as an opportune time for an unnecessary massage. It was all in the name of “doing what’s best for me”, “taking care of me”, “this is what mami would do but she isn’t here so I have to do it.” Every summer, he’d set up an inflatable above ground pool. It was nice to get to cool off from the scorching Southern California heat. He’d let me, Diego, Brenda, and Jenny (those are all the grandkids) frolic in there to our heart’s content. When it was time to get out, he’d bring me, Brenda, and Jenny into his tool shed to dry us off and change us into some fresh clothes. Diego didn’t have to come because, “as the man in the house, he could do things on his own.” Apparently we little girls needed help achieving the kind of task a monkey could do. We followed along because we knew not to upset him. Mom started leaving me under the neighbor’s care when I was about 6 years old. It took Victor about a year to grow his plant then fuck it. Clementina liked to go grocery shopping alone. She liked to do so while Diego was out at soccer practice. For scattered days out of the week, Victor had a one to two hour access window in which he had control of everythingThe shutters would be shut, the TV would be turned off, a sheet would be laid out onto the black velvet couch or on the hard tile floor, a folding knife would be put in his arms reach. It didn’t start out that way, but it quickly escalated into the routine. “This is going to hurt, but don’t worry, I’m doing what’s best for you. If you had a daddy of your own, you’d understand.” The man reeked of thousand year old cigarettes. Far too heavy to push off and far too frightening to defeat. Just before he made his way in, he’d put his knife straight across my neck and make me swear to never say a word, swear that I’d never show my parts to anyone else, swear that he was my daddy. In exchange, he swore to kill me if I broke my promise. Sometimes the knife would stay in stealth mode to ensure I did what he told me to. Then, he’d release when he released. He’d force me to bleach out the blood stains left behind but didn’t understand that I was too incompetent for the task. One day, Diego asked if someone got hurt because he notices a spot of dried blood on the couch. I really got it the next time Clementina went grocery shopping. At that age, I didn’t know any better. He was right, I didn’t have a father, so how was I supposed to know what was appropriate or not? When I’d finally figured out how disgusting he was being to me, I was too scared to tell anyone. He’d made it clear, if I spoke, I’d die. And things stayed that way until I started 6th grade at age 11. It wasn’t until he died from an untreated case of prostate cancer in 2010 that I finally told mom because she thought it was weird that I didn’t seem at all affected by this – perceived – “death in the family”. When I fessed up about it, she didn’t believe me. To this day, she doesn’t still. She simply pegged me as an insensitive narcissist, which really didn’t come as a surprise. Then… 2015 came around. This involved an all new kind of process to achieve the desired conquest: me. While living, working, and well, partying in South Korea, I was roofied at a grimy dive bar. The night started out with my friends, who also happened to be my co-workers, but are now just co-workers because friends don’t let their friends get raped if they could help it. And they most certainly could have fucking helped it. We were all hanging out, getting smashed because we’d dealt with a particularly rough week at work. Somewhere along the way, we must’ve been separated and I was on my own. Just another dumb foreigner to prey on. I don’t know where it all started, but I know how it ended: me, waking up at some odd hour of the middle of the day in a giant pile of garbage, shoes lost, glasses gone, clothes torn up, my entire body in severe pain, especially my neck and vagina. I had nothing. I was nothing. When I found a sign to read, it said Gyongbokgung Palace, which was nowhere near Hongdae where I’d been just hours before. Fortunately, I managed to find a taxi driver who took pity on me and drove me all the way home for free. Since I don’t know any of the details of what happened, I’ll end this here. This was the primary reason for moving back to California. If I wasn’t safe in on of the “safest” countries in the world, then I must have some bad fucking omen or something. It was all very bizarre and embarrassing. No one was willing to help me and was felt more alone than ever.

Original

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