There was a story that I would always tell to people I met and started to become friends with. I never considered myself a liar, but this story was both fictitious and real all in one.
Plain and simply, this is the truth:
I was home alone and kept hearing really loud bangs followed by screaming. I was confused by it all, ignored it even, until it became inevitable to ignore. I went downstairs to check it out, moved closer and closer to the noise that was coming from my neighbors’ in law apartment. It turns out the loud bangs and screaming were signs of a husband hitting his wife. I asked “¿está bien? and the man, angrily replied with a yes. I asked again, but this time I said, “Señora, ¿está bien?” because I didn’t actually care about him. The banging and screaming paused only because I was there, asking. I could tell she was crying even when she said, “sí, estoy bien”.
Here’s what I made up about it: So I banged on the door, got him out, I dragged him, and started punching him. I was angry! I just left him there and he eventually left.
Here’s how it actually ended: I remember yelling and asking him to leave or I would call the police. I went back upstairs, cried, didn’t call the police, heard him slam the door on his way out. Weeks later, they moved out.
I did want to punch him. I did want to drag him out.
I wanted to hurt him and avenge all the times he may have hurt his wife. I wanted to hurt my dad for all of the punches, kicks, and slaps against the wall and the bed frame that he inflicted on my mom; I wanted to hurt him for all of the screams and tears he ripped out of my mom.
I wanted to call the police on the man but, in that moment, I was too frightened, stuck in my own memories and flashbacks. I felt powerless just standing there, like I did growing up and seeing my dad beat my mom.
Every time my dad hit my mom, my brother and I hid behind a chair through which we could still see mom’s face swelling up from all of the punches, the red and the purple on her lips, fresh blood, bruises, old blood.
This time, however, I was fortunate to have had a door as the barrier between them and me; I didn’t actually see the blood (if there was any), the swelling, or the tears.
It makes sense that I would change the ending to the story–in another life, perhaps the life I lived in that one bedroom on Balmy Alley, I wanted it to be true. I wanted to pick up the phone and call the police on my dad. Have them take him away. I didn’t just want to leave for the night, the few hours left in it. After all, we only left across the street, to my abue’s house where my mom was asked “¿qué le hiciste?”; I wanted him to vanish.
I wanted to hurt my dad worse than he did my mom.
Worse than he did me. And my brother.
When I think back to when this happened, how I felt then, how I feel now, it’s all one big blur. A whirlwind of emotions, memories, flashbacks, shame, and even guilt takes over me.
Teaching from home has me feeling so fucking useless. There, I said it.
I am playing house: cooking and cleaning. Texting and emailing. Working out. Writing.
I guess, in all honesty, I have never been able to, as an adult. It is interesting how my privilege is allowing me to breathe from home, work from home, and still feel useless, powerless.
I wish there was more I could do to support my students. To be there for them. I wish I did more than just show up to Zoom meetings and more than posting on Google Classroom.
I wish I could do more than just text them and their families; I wish I could see them.
I cannot help but feel so useless. I cannot help but feel like I am not doing enough for my students, to reach them. I am concerned for their learning, their brains becoming inactive and addicted to the bright lights of big screens and small screens (ironic, I know), but I am even more worried about their well-being.
I imagine them feeling stuck. OR wanting to feel UNSTUCK and defying all norms, finally feeling like time has been suspended, lifted, and they can all take a break. I imagine them struggling to get up every day while their teachers focus on “less is more”, the cognitive load is still there for them, from their fucking home (whatever that may look like).
Now, let me toot my own horn, I am a teacher who cares; I value relationships with students and their families over everything–I call home and text home all the time, but not being able to see my students at school (in person) and now ONLY being able to call/text has me feeling useless, and limited, like I am not doing enough.
I just want to hear from them. I want to know they are ok. Sometimes I call or text families and spend so much time asking how everyone is doing that I forget I should have asked about assignments. I am 100% OK with that.
Today marks one month since I last saw my students in person.
(Day 9: Pairs) Pick two people who don’t seem to have much in common — people you know, celebrities, historical figures, fictional characters, up to you! — and write a story
Sometimes I find myself incredibly focused on tasks, mundane and superlative, then realize I am making gestures with my face and mouth that I have seen you make before. When I realize what my face is doing, I imagine your face making the same gestures, the same reaction to things. I become angry at myself; I try to alter my face and what I do with the muscles in my face. It is unbelievable to me that the muscles in my face, though miles apart from you, decades of anger toward you, still move like yours.
When I imagine your face, it is in that moment when I feel our undeniable connection, perhaps because you are my father, and when I repudiate my own face and its gestures, that is when I remember we are nothing alike.
You and I will always share a lot, blood, last name, and loved ones, but we will always differ in that you hurt me and I have simply been trying to run from you to a liberated version of myself. And though I have not found her yet, the farther away from you the closer to her I feel.
Reality has been kind of weird lately. Every day is a giant block of time. For the amount of times I have asked my husband what day it is and what date it is and gotten a response, that man deserves an award! Of course, the more I ask the less enthusiastic he gets and the less time in between the questions, the more he wonders whether I am joking.
See, I am no joking at all. Every day is the same. I am home and I am trying to teach from home. By “teach”, I mean that I send over 20 emails a day, respond to another 10 emails, hop on zoom meetings and doodle through all of them, “stop video” to fix my hair and scratch my nose, post on Google Classroom, text hundreds of texts checking in with families and students. And so I ask myself, is this shit really real?
Yes, yes it is.
I close my eyes to escape you, what you did to me, but even in the dark, I see you there, too.
I close my eyes to escape the memories of your touch but it only intensifies the confusing good feelings, the tingle. It hurts. It feels good. I hate you. But I love you. This should not happen. I am seven and you are well over thirty. You are my father.
Sometimes I go days and weeks without thinking about what a despicable person you are and how much you do not deserve to be loved by anyone. And sometimes I think about all the trauma you must have faced yourself and how you probably did not have a positive outlet to talk about and release your trauma, because, well, even predators, people who abuse their children, deserve some consideration, deserve healing although I do not know if you do.
Dealing with and working through trauma and the way in which we do, today, is about privilege. When were you going to talk to a therapist? You bounced from state to state in Mexico in the 70’s, alone. When all, you, too, saw was your elders drink until their bodies gave out, or until someone got hurt and then went and hurt another one. You crossed the border at a young age. You have been working all of your life. How could you? When could you? But, still, it doesn’t give you permission onto and into another person’s body, your daughter’s. You do not get to abuse your own child. Me. Or maybe it does?