I was born on Halloween, the cold end to the month of October, where identities are disguised to confuse the dead among the living.
I loved to shuffle through the brown leaves that littered my Sunnyside sidewalk. They crunch under the weight of a shoe that finds piles of them just to hear the sound. The nearly bare trees they come from, releasing their life into colors of sunsets, from green to golden, auburn to scarlet until finally brown, dangling in a breeze that will eventually flutter them to the ground.
Nature had a way of reminding me of yet another year of my life, the dying leaves, the shorter days, the colder air as I found thicker sweaters instead of taking out my winter coat, reserved for ´´fuck it´s cold´´ December.
Here in Cuenca, it is Colada Morada y guaguas de pan advertised in almost every food-serving storefront that herald my coming year. Colada Morada, a berry and pineapple-spiced punch served warm and reminiscent of a compote, thick and sweet, served with a bread baby. I thought guaguas were buses, but then I came here and they were transformed into children. A face of icing, a small head on an elongated baked body, they aren´t very good, but hey I need a new tradition here. I still miss pumpkin pies and pumpkin-spiced lattees though.
I learned this week that the Colada Morada represents death, the purple dye given up by the blackberries and strawberries swirling in the drink is to be served with the life of a newborn, in the form of the bread eaten slowly in between sips of the steaming and sweet colada. I start with the body, biting into the head just never appealed to me.
Born to a mother that was anything but, I often tried to rationalize her, make her seem more like me, or the me I want to be. Stuck somewhere between actions and words, I couldn´t fathom what it was like to hurt someone like that, someone you professed so often to love so much.
It was somewhere between bendiciones that embarrassed me on the school yard and rages that left welts on my soft, developing body and soul, that I learned to avert her when I wasn´t downright defying her. Quick-tongued as I´ve always been, words that are too often too fast and too cruel, those I inherited instead of culture, instead of family. Alone, I don´t think much about it, instinctually I defend, primarily myself from attacks real or imagined.
It took a while for me to realize that the attacks were what I was looking for. I know how to immediately assume a defensive stance and can turn to offense in the blink of an eye.
I´m really good at it.
I was in a relationship for far too long, with a man who knew how and when to best attack me. From hands to words and back again, it was his inability to see the hurt that got to me. That was my mom all over again, bathing a little me in the apartment´s tub and asking me where I got all those bruises from. When I reminded her, it was because ´´lo mereciste.´´ I learned early that hurting was my own fault and not important enough to the attacker to remember.
Crying in this man´s apartment´s shower when I saw the familiar purple blooms on my shoulders and arms, products of drinking too hard or fighting too long – not knowing when to stop either with the booze or the abuse. Lo merecí.
They were both always so careful not to touch the face. That would have been too much I think.
Here in Cuenca, leaving the past behind, I´ve had no choice but to confront. In a country of borrowed memories, most so painful to share, I have no idea what they are, there is nowhere else to go. I came here alone, not knowing what I was looking for, nor what I would find. I just couldn´t stay there anymore, I couldn´t take what I already knew, I couldn´t face another day of invented realities whose only purpose was to shadow the truth. I´ve had to invent a connection, because my mom had always denied me one, to her, my father, my family, my culture. She taught me to be alone.
I´ve got to heal myself, by myself, there is no other way. There is no magic potion, no mamá, hermana, tía, abuelita or even prima to save me from myself – to show me the road, to guide me to happiness – to salvation. I´ve had to find those people, and god/the gods/fate/faith/nature/the universe, whatever undeniable force there is, has planted them in front of me, unwavering. Versions of myself I can choose to be.
I´ve lost everything tangible, everything I bought or was gifted to me by my dad, all of it stolen by said ex-boyfriend. I thought that shit was important to me. But if that was the cost of my leaving, it was cheap. I needed to leave in order to find my strength which still falters a bit too much for my liking. I see the pendejadas I commit, even before they happen. But now I can name them. I see myself seeking closeness and intimacy with those I should run from and it brings me back to the point where I had no other choice.
Lo merezco…I am choice-ful now, if not yet whole. I rejoice in that. I have to start over and let go and start over again. Piece by piece I need to build even if what I build falls from its own weight, because if I don´t, who will? I have to reconstruct which inevitably means I have to construct.
But maybe that is my destiny as a Halloween guagua. I was meant to confuse the dead from the living. I need to peek under disguises, most notably my own. I miss the changing foliage and the crunch under my shoe. And I will inevitably miss the girl I defended so hard, but she needs to be a woman now.