It happened at a very young age but I didn’t realize it till I was older. As a matter of fact it had been forgotten till I guess it was time to remember. By that time I was more than ready to come to terms with it. It was around the same time that I started to understand that it ran in my family. That if it wasn’t me it would’ve been one of my siblings. I had always seen the dead. Well at least in moments when it mattered. I can only imagine how many times I had spoken to the dead as a regular conversation not knowing that they were. Then there are plenty of moments that I know. I knew, well felt that this person was not complete, for lack of a better term. My energy would be on high alert. I’d get these butterflies in my stomach, this strong feeling of anxiety that was unexplainable. It would go away when the individual left.
The earliest recollection was from what my mother has told me. I was a little kid no more than 5. I ran out of the living room into the kitchen telling my mother that there was a man sitting in the living room on the sofa. That he came to say goodbye to me because he never met me. He told me his name and said goodbye. Mommy thought I was nuts until I said his name. She looked at me in disbelief because there was no way I knew who he was. She had left him and those memories when she left Puerto Rico promising never to return. She went to the living room and no one was there. I pointed to the chair that I saw him in. I do remember Mommy scolding me for making things up and before she could finish the phone rang. It was a call from Puerto Rico. They told her that the man I had just finished mentioning had just passed away. He was her uncle. One of the very few men in her life that loved and took care of my mother. After that my experiences didn’t happen till I’d say a year later.
Mommy took me to a Botanica. At the time they called it a Centro. The reading they gave Mommy in reference to me would be her secret till I came into my own in my late 20’s. It was then that the prophecy they told her would come to pass.
You cannot tell me that I need to lie down and just exist. That is no longer a choice. I am not nor have I ever been that person. Growing up I was persistent and never took no for an answer. Even in my darkest times in my life I knew this couldn’t be all. I always found my way. I always found a means in which to succeed. I always went into survival mode when the world said no. The world pretty much didn’t hold me or nurture me and tell me I’ll be OK. It never made itself a safe space. I had to create that. At times I had to do it with anger and fists but I made it happen. If anything the world told me why I can’t. That there was no place for me. It made sure that I saw a thousand reasons as to why I could never. For me all I needed was one reason out of 999 to create fire within me to prove the world wrong.
I am here. Present and alive, fully aware that though it is not a guarantee it is better to try and live then to just stay and accept anything that comes my way. I want my piece of the pie regardless of the size of the slice. I am no stranger to the hard work. I am not scared of the battle nor the war. No stranger to struggle. I know what it is to make a little something out of nothing. I’ve greeted many sunrises without and went to sleep with. So you see I wont settle nor sit nor lie down to your concept of what you think of me. My capabilities, my DNA, my wiring, my existence and legacy depends on that I come to the table with something. I can’t be the invited guest that just wants to eat at the table without bringing a thing. I am not that friend/relative that overstays their welcome. No! I come ready! I come willing. I come wanting. I come to learn. Remain flexible to possibilities that destiny will put after lessons learned. I will make my space and leave behind fear. I’m moving forward.
It’s been a minute since I sat and wrote. Between directing and rehearsing for my one man show I haven’t had the time. Exhaustion (a good tired though) claims me right after a shower and laying up min the bed. I don’t last long. No it’s not age.
I had just finished performing at the Ancestry show. We had to pick an elder and write about them. It was a set of questions and from there we came up with either a poem or monologue. I came up with both. This performance hit home. It brought a lot of things into full circle (no pun intended). Seeing the other elders and how active they were and how they reminisced about their homeland was beautiful.
The person I wrote about was my mother. The lady that held shit down when rubbing nickels to make it through was an everyday task. I spoke of how through all the hardship she went through on a personal level she still showed up to grow up. How she assumed responsibility for her part and never faltered. As I was saying the monologue it all came back to me. How the breaking apart of her spirit through the deaths of her daughters to the rising from the flames like a phoenix to raise her grandchild. How through the rapes and molestations and being illiterate she still found a way to provide for her family.
It made me realize that my upbringing had a lot to do with her past. That she came from a generation that you took all the abuse and just kept it moving not taking time to heal. You just put a huge band-aid on all that pain and tragedy, shoved through it, stifled it so it wouldn’t crush you. It reminded me that she never came from the school of let’s talk and hash shit out. She came from shut the fuck up’s and get over it. She came from never express for it will be your demise, your weakness. She was brought up from those that hated her because she was a burden not a joy. She came from having to watch herself from sexual attacks from the same kin that was supposed to protect her. She came from a time that regardless of the odds she couldn’t accept failure.
She came to a world that spoke the strange language of English and was not kind to what they thought Puerto Ricans at the time were savages and worth nothing. She left behind her lineage, her ancestors, a beautiful island that was supposed to bathe her in sun and left her scorched and resentful and bitter. Left her with a sense of dishonesty and the lesson that family is not always on your side and friends were a dollar in your pocket.
It was all of these things that ran through my mind that I realized the forgiveness I have to give her. It was this epiphany that made me realize she really did the best with what she had. I had to admit that she never received nor never knew how to give these things that too many is taken advantage of. I also understood that she loved the best way and the only way she knew. Shit I can even be honest and say that with her upbringing and all the betrayal and treachery she went through she was able to give us all that wasn’t given to her on some level.
I forgive her. It allowed me to shed so many things that not only made me feel an immense release of guilt and pain that I thought was my fault but rectified hope in how my relationship with mom is.
I went to Chicago for a week. The purpose was to take the play Growing Up Gonzales out there. It was part of the 1st Chicago Theater Festival. It is also the 1st time I travelled to perform. It’s the 1st time I performed for a crowd that have never heard of me. It’s also the 1st time I perform for a room of High School students. You will always hear me tell you that I ALWAYS get nervous before hitting the stage. ALWAYS!!!!!! I don’t care who I am performing for I always get nervous but when I was told that I was performing for these students it added to the mix. I got super anxious and super nervous. I was automatically brought to my years in High School. How lost I was. How loud and brash I was. How extremely impressionable I was. It was at this age knowing now as an adult that I needed the most light. That it was at this age that I needed the spark of hope to light me up and see that I wasn’t the only one that hurt that way, that I wasn’t the only one born this way, that I wasn’t the only one that searched this way and most importantly that I wasn’t the only one that needed that way.
It was in these memories that I knew that part of this visit to Chi-town was not about me. I knew that when I got to that stage I had to hit it hard. Even though I did hold myself back a bit I knew that this story, OUR story had to be said LOUD and CLEAR. That for the very first time a student was going to see someone of color tell their story, their parents story, their grandparents story. That there was going to be a kid who saw me and said I can. That they had a voice, that they could speak, that they are worth seeing and listening to.
Needless to say after the show I was super emotional. These kids understood. They received what I had just performed, leaving myself raw for them. I was beside myself. I had to hold back from crying. It wasn’t till I got to the hotel that I had quite a sobbing session.
It brought me back to Mr. Butensky, the teacher who wouldn’t let me give up on myself and pushed me to audition for a school that was for the arts. It brought me back to me the kid that never was understood at that age, that my knack for singing and dancing and acting was looked at as being hyper and uncontrollable, not having a safe space to express myself, where I was told that the arts is not really something I should pursue. All that came to me like a ton a bricks that was dropped from the 25th floor. I shook, I trembled and just let it go. Part of this little kid who knew he was different had healed a little more with them. This young kid who had no safe space cried because that part of his story was no longer having to repeat itself. There is a safe space for him now.
It was gratifying afterwards. I found the center of it all and given a recharge and another reason to continue.
I am a 70’s baby, an 80’s teen which means I grew up on total different circumstances. I say this with no intentions of minimizing anyone. Things were absolutely different back then. My mother ruled with an Iron Chankleta and had no area with reprimanding anywhere and in anyway. There was rules and regulations and if not followed there was hell to pay. Mommy was ruthless handing out punishment. Between being punished or beaten mom 99% of the time picked the beating. I was never the kid that ran away from it either. I knew it would be worse if I did. She was very strict in you as a child knowing your lane and enforced it by any means necessary.
Some of those rules was no phone calls after 8. Especially on a school night.
If she told you to be home at a certain time your best bet was to arrive 5 minutes before to avoid trouble.
Whatever was cooked was eaten if you don’t like it you can go hungry. She’s not a chef and she isn’t taking orders.
Don’t shit where you eat and if you did and didn’t tell her and someone else did it’s a double beating. One for you not telling and the 2nd for having to be embarrassed that the neighbor told her.
Then there was the one that affected me the most- when adults are present kids shut the fuck up! As a matter of fact Mommy didn’t believe in kids having opinions let alone voice them. That was never up for discussion. If you didn’t follow that rule there was hell to pay and a serious ass whooping to follow. Her reasoning was simple, if you don’t pay rent or contribute to putting food on the table your words didn’t matter-at all. So I learned very quickly that when I was around adults I was to be very very quiet. I was to find something to play with till a point where the adults forgot I was in the room. You as a child are to be seen, not heard. It was there in those moments and there were many that I stifled my voice. Fear was put in me about what I had to say. I was to be invisible. I didn’t matter on any level and my feelings and what I was going through didn’t have merit! That grew with me well into my whole teen life. No matter what happened or what I went through I believed I had to eat it. I had to stuff it deep inside because no one cared let alone wanted to listen to what I had to say. This didn’t mean I was shy it meant that anything I shared was superficial. The deep stuff was not to even to be whispered. With that way of thinking I felt trapped but it led me to the paper. I remember having diaries and journals as early as 12. It was in those pages that I expressed it all. There was no fear there. In those lines I was able to see it for all it’s worth, it also helped that Mommy didn’t read a word of English. The pages was and still is one of my biggest safe spaces. I wouldn’t find my voice, the one that has something to say, the voice that cannot defend itself. The voice that understands it’s many levels.
I had a great interaction with someone in fb about addiction. Her response conjured up when I was an active addict. The time in my life when I was a heroin and crack addict. I started to remember how I was on them streets. How I had run the streets for weeks on end and find myself in places I would never even think of in my right mind. Then it brought me to the reasons. Why I had medicated myself because the anxiety of living life aa a dark skin gay man and Latino was going to be a challenge. How no matter how I was living life it was going to be a hard pill to swallow. Future was saturated in fear and I was not willing to feel any of it. I was not ready to face life on its own terms. So I ran. I ran to the weed and the coke and the pills and the crack and the heroin. It was much better not to feel in a sense of feeling numb. It was a constant rough merry-go-round.
Through all of this my mother NEVER gave up on me. She knew! There were days that she would look at me and even though she didn’t say anything her eyes had pain. I can tell from the way she looked at me that a part of her was dying. That here she was facing the the possibility that yet another one of her children will die. So many times I didn’t have the guts to look her right in the eyes. Through it all she never stopped praying for me, feeding me a home cooked meal after being gone for days at a time, she never threw me out in the streets. Mommy stood and just watched.
I remember it was 15 minutes to my 26th birthday. I was gone for a week. One of the worst binges ever. I was so high I had actually forgotten it was going to be my birthday. When I realized it I told GOD that if he had a better plan he had 15 minutes to bring me help, show me a sign. 10 minutes later my brother showed up out of no where. I left and have not looked back ever since.
Now what I didn’t know was the back story. That night Mommy was restless and yelled at everyone in the house. She threw everyone out the house because her oldest son was out there and unless he was home no one was going to have one. She prayed to GOD cursing him out and got up to cook because she felt a pull and knew I’d be home. Needless to say I was greeted with a huge plate of white rice, red beans and fried chicken. She hugged me and went back to her sewing machine. It would be almost 15 years after that she would tell me how she never gave up hope. How she would pray and remember words that were told to her about all these things. How this would be pivotal to the finding of myself. That this moment in time was either my death or my rebirth. Mommy never wavered. It was not an option.
In this road called life I would never think of all the things the human spirit can endure and grow out of. The year (2016) has been a year for me of going back. Not backwards but going back to basics. Sometimes one needs to remember what started it all in order to carry with you for the rest of your journey.
The breaking down of self until it felt like I wasn’t going to survive was very necessary. This core of me is serious. Being a recovering addict it doesn’t become easy. Things tend to dig deeper because I claim to live without fear. It was fear all along that always had me in the grips. When I realized it is when it became so serious for me. It traced back to being a kid. The many beatings I received were due to her anger and fear. The molestations I survived were due to their own fear and self-hatred. The teasing I endured was because they were scared of embracing me. This fear coated me till a point it walked with me like a twin.
It stopped me from believing in myself, it stopped me from moving forward in so many things that I found pleasure in. This fear became such a part of me that I carried with it the same things they felt.
In my addiction I was scared of myself, success, my lifestyle, meeting people because I swore up and down that this is a fact and not something that I can perceive differently.
The whole process of finding this fear and identifying it brought anger. Within me I was fuming because fear disguised itself as every other feeling like doubt, procrastination, will and dreaming. It was when I took the risk and ran with the nurturing others gave me that I was able to see it in my head and understand that it was fear that had me in its grips. That fear was the core fear of all my failures in life.
When I confronted fear is when I was able to breathe and look at myself and say I love you, that I looked at my aspirations and went for it no matter the odds, was able to look at everyone for who they were and understand that I have a space. It was looking at fear that I was able to look at friendships and understand that its ok not to be liked by everyone. That trials and tribulations are part of it all with everything in life. It was only when I embraced the fear that I knew I wouldn’t break and couldn’t break unless I allowed it.
So for this year 2017 I embrace it. I don’t allow my fear of acceptance, hurt and wanting allow me not to move forward or miss what is meant for me.