I was driving back from work that day, and I got off the main road to a side street. That was my first mistake, according to my captors. Coming out of an alley, in seconds, two vehicles ambushed me. “Don’t look at us mierda!”, they yelled. Immediately, I put my head down between my legs and obeyed. Meanwhile, they were going through my purse while yelling at me asking for any jewelry and cash. They asked me to confirm my identity and that’s when I suspected that this wasn’t a holdup. They put a shirt over my head and moved me to another car. We arrived to a house, walked through a hall, into a room, and they sat me down on the cold unfinished concrete floor. No bed, just a thin blanket and a pillow. They blindfolded me and ordered me to sit still. Then, they finally uttered the dreaded words:
“Luisa Castillo*, this is a kidnapping.” Continue Reading…
Rosario remained silent. Day after day, her comapañeras sat beside and across from her in la factoria. Their hands kept busy as they sewed, stitched, and cut bright colored fabrics. Beautiful and expensive clothes for tall, thin, long legged women, who dressed for important jobs and fancy parties. Bored by the monotony, the women looked up from their sewing machines, and took turns speaking. Burdened by their circumstances, the women chose to complain. First their husbands, either womanizers or violent drunks, and after, they unraveled their children. Delinquents that ran wild and hated school. As the day unfurled, so did their patience with another. Chided one another over whom worked faster or slower. Head bowed down, Rosario continued her silence. Continue Reading…
The day of the Christmas party Brenda spent all day cooking while her daughters Barbie and Blanca cleaned.
“Metan todo lo que puedan en el closet,” she yelled from the kitchen.
Her husband Beto called her una loca for wanting to have a party in a one bedroom apartment days after Christmas.
“We barely fit in this shithole. Where you gonna put everyone else?”
“It doesn’t matter. Lo que importa es que estemos juntos,” she said and waved him away. “If you’re not gonna help, then go.” And so he left.
Brenda put el pino in the corner of the living room closest to the window. Barbie and Blanca slept there and until the Christmas tree was gone they’d have to share a couch. But they didn’t mind. They liked the lights. Continue Reading…
Every teacher imagines giving a kick-ass speech on the last day of class.
It’s all laid out in their minds’ eye.
They stand in front of the room giving a passionate speech about overcoming adversity.
A personal anecdote thrown in.
The students sit rapt.
One even sheds a tear.
Finally with that last rhetorical flourish, there is a brief pause and then the entire class bursts into rapturous applause.
But that only happens on TV.
In real life a high school social studies semester ends like this:
“Wait. There’s a minute left in the period? It was great having you guys. I have one thing I want to say. Remember – stop putting your books away for a second – remember to….”
The bell rings. The kids fly out the door. Continue Reading…
Fresh asphalt and gravel pop and spit from the wide, swaying weight of the van.
Pop-rock fizz — teeming joy, like shaken strawberry soda in a thick, glass vessel,
waiting to shower the sky, tickling the way a ladybug tickles your hand as she dances.
Scrambling to hold tightly to the majestic, crisp, powdery paved entrance,
heaviness loses momentum and sits in awe at the grandeur.
And the gate opens. Continue Reading…
My mouth tastes like shit. The crust tears apart as I open my eyelids for what feels like the first time ever. I look to my right. Beep—beep—beep from the monitor reminding me I am still vital. I go to scratch the itchy patch on my left thigh, the patch that no longer grows hair, when I feel a sharp tug at the top of my hand. An I.V. I have always liked hospitals. They’re wonderfully lit and, more often than not, your nurse is cool. Or your doctor is hot. As if he was my muse, posing for me while I paint him with the blood beginning to re-form at the top of my head, he stands at the foot of my bed. Fucking 6’2, Dr. McDreamy. Continue Reading…
Ms. Ramos: “Every day I get up and walk in the same direction towards York Ave. I stop at the same traffic light and wait as it changes from green to yellow…yellow to red. That morning, it was different. The sky had no traces of sunlight. The air was cold. I could see the cloud of my warm breath as I waited for the light. The chill of that morning went straight to my bones.”
Officer Jimenez: “What else do you remember about that morning?”
Ms. Ramos: “I remember it was about 5:25 am and the sky was darker than usual; there were no traces of light, that’s when the black Lincoln pulled up to the corner. I remember its tinted windows. I didn’t think anything of it then. I just turned to walk away. That’s when it happened. I heard the door open. All I remember then was his leather gloves as they covered my mouth, forcefully. I remember him grabbing my waist and shoving me into that trunk. I searched for my cellphone, I remember. I couldn’t find it. I must have dropped it when he snatched me so suddenly. I yelled. I kicked. My mind was racing, I felt like I couldn’t breathe. Continue Reading…
“Póntelo” said my abuela in her sweet yet intimidating tone as she reached for my neck with her soft hands that smelled of cilantro. She had gotten up at 7 in the morning to make fresh shrimp ceviche for my arrival. “Póntelo todos los días” she insisted. The minute it touched my skin I felt automatic guilt and moral obligation, the kind that’s imbedded in you when you’re born into an ultra-religious-grandma sings in the church choir- Hispanic family. I loved my abuela but I wasn’t too into the Rosario thing. Or the santos. Or the Virgen. I could feel the rosario strangling my mind with sin and repentance as she carefully placed it around my neck and the brown wooden beads hugged my chest. I wouldn’t wear this when I’d go back to New York. I loved my abuela but I moved away for a reason, to not disappoint her or mami with my actions or sins aka having sex and not being married yet. At my age, my grandma was already on her third child, had perfected every Ecuadorean dish out there and would wake up with perfect brown curls and red lips every morning. Continue Reading…
Tia Esperanza is gone. Bold, loud, and present Tia Esperanza is gone and I’m sitting at her wake fidgeting with her siete suertes bracelet on my wrist.
I can feel her gone. She’s not talking about change and equality anymore. She’s quiet today and forever will be.
I remember one time, years ago, Mami and I were walking with her to get quimbolitos, usually a treat for special occasions but any day with Tia Essie was a special occasion. There was a fair that day and we had to walk through all the people and the booths of organic this and that. Tia and Mami were talking and laughing as they walked and Tia, laughing with her eyes closed, bumped into a large red-faced man in a sleeveless tank top.
“Oops! Perdon, perdon,” she giggled, her bracelet jingling as she waved an apology.
“Watch where you’re going, spic!” Continue Reading…