Coming home

I assumed that when I got back it would feel like everything was set into motion again, like my life had been on pause and now I could finally press the play button and everything would jerk right back to where it was before, a rubber band 

It wasn’t quite like that. Para nada.  

 

From the moment the plane landed and I could feel the flat polished linoleum under the soles of my worn-through shoes, a cold sweat set in. My shoulders were barely even stooped under the weight of the backpack, but I wanted to curl into myself when I thought about seeing my family again, my girlfriend, about looking them in the face after everything that had happened, after everything I’d done.

After a few weeks when they had tired of hearing about the awe inspiring stories and how life changing everything had been, it all changed. They made fun of me, how I pronounced words in Spanish with the right accent instead of letting the vowels go flat. They thought it was put on, that the new way I moved my hips was just to prove to everyone that I had lived somewhere else. It was something else, though: I had a sickness, undiagnosed but something dangerously close to confidence. The bloody road maps of my capillaries had been erased and redrawn, and I didn’t know if it was good or bad, but así era and my neck was longer and my lips were fuller and I was pretty goddamn sure I could do anything I wanted. Lo que quisiera 

Instead of feeling the momentum that had carried me forward before, the kind that had me trying every new food and jumping into the car whenever anyone even thought the words “road trip,” I felt the unidirectional borders of this sprawling country pressing in on me from all sides, so tight that I felt I could only breathe to cry out.  

I had forgotten how to speak English. My words, once knitted together in the most complex and accurate of designs, tangled. I couldn’t remember how to say “olive” in my mother tongue, and I had to ask my girlfriend if she could pick up the salty things that some people put in martinis when she passed by the grocery store after work.  

The real problem was that I was in love, and not with my girlfriend. Not with anyone whose path I had tripped across along the way, either.  

The real problem was that I was in love with myself. 

But not the self that felt the airport tile under her feet and the insidious tightening of her chest as she got closer and closer to baggage claim. No, the self that jumped naked off cliffs into stagnant ponds, screaming. The self that argued with cab drivers alone in the middle of the night, who cares if they have a knife in the glove compartment or not because she is made of pure light.  

 

Now a year has gone by and here I am still living, and my girlfriend wakes up beside me in the mornings and she asks me how did I sleep. As I drift down to reality and begin to feel her hand on my hip or my shoulder or wherever it is, I exhale the fever dreams from the night before, the ones that don’t need an elevated temperature to wake me from a dead sleep.  

I am on the train on the way to work and I open an email telling me there is this discount on flights to this place I’ve never been but have always wanted to go. 

And the email opens the door.

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Made of words

Once upon a time,

there was a girl made of words-

in their intimacy

he expected her to be soft, an old book

with the pages turned a thousand times

but his hands came away with paper cuts

and splinters of things

half said.

The letters stuck out of his fingertips,

stained glass glimpses of the forgotten chapel of her heart.

I’m sorry

she said

the words bubbling over like a pot left too long on the back burner

or a glass very far from half full.

He hid his hands behind his back, wounds oozing poetry at a pace

he was a bit uncomfortable with sharing.

Pale blue dot

Pale Blue Dot

Perhaps I am a little bit behind on my lamentations of what is going on in our world, but I’ll just tell myself that it’s better later than never.

In the past month: Paris suffered 7 integrated terrorist attacks. Beirut and Baghdad were bombed as well, although that is a lesser known fact in the popular media. I’ve only seen the three-striped red white and blue flag indicating solidarity. France, in the wake of the Friday’s bombings, bombed Syria that Sunday. Francois Hollande declared without ambiguity that his country is at war. Yesterday, hundreds of tourists were held as hostages by an extremist group in Mali, in southern Africa.

These are just a few salient examples of the tragedy that is Planet Earth. If I wanted to be completely equal-opportunity I could talk about the earthquakes in Japan and Mexico, I could talk about little boys washing up on the beach like driftwood, I could talk about centuries of racial inequality in what is supposed to be the ‘best country’ in the world, I could talk about young women being sold for their bodies, I could talk about millions without food or clean water.

I think that, oddly enough, the answer to these problems comes not from civil engineers or well-intentioned young protesters or presidents or prime ministers, but a well known astronomer from the United States.

Carl Sagan says, “The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every “superstar,” every “supreme leader,” every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there – on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.”

“The earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena.”

We are very, very small. However, our relative size does not mean that we are a waste of space. We get one planet, and one life. Maybe if we all decide to live our lives with a little bit more conscientiousness and awareness that everything with a beating heart is at least a little bit like us, we could make our home a better place.