At 19 And Dropping Out

I remember I used to live in this place with a flimsy gate that led to my front door. Each apartment was side by side sharing the walls, the greenery and the path.

I had a Florida room I shared with my brother Michael that was made up of a queen sized bed facing the closet which had an ancient 32 inch TV sitting on a wood entertainment system that was falling apart.

Everything we had, was at some point been given to us, or we had procured on our own, including a computer my father managed to get years back from an old friend who was getting rid of it. A real piece of shit by any standards but I was blown away, and considered myself the luckiest man alive. AOL, online chatting, web surfing, and of course the all important pornography… it didn’t take long for the computer to get a virus.  

At 19, I was unapologetic about my habitual meanderings, and still used the same old computer that was on its last breaths. I wasn’t worried about it. I wasn’t worried about anything. I was running on empty, and only lived in my books. School had become a miserable affair for me. In the mornings I nearly had to be kicked awake. At the bus stop I slept, on the bus I slept, walking to class I slept. Can I just sleep? Not in the night. Not tonight. Can’t the day be over? I wanted to sleep and wake up years later. I wanted to be old. I wanted to sleep the day away. At night, I read and talked and talked and talked and read some more.  I was learning strange things, fantastic things. I was fascinated by the night.  

At 19, I was fearless and reckless to drugs and ideas. I loved to chew on philosophy, especially stoned. How long has my family been here? At least four years with two different managers. I tried to do what was expected and always went on the hunt for tail, but at bottom, I just didn’t care anymore. I embraced my sense of entitlement that everyone told me to get rid of as I went with my mother to help her clean apartments. She too had embraced the life of the cleaning maid, when once she was a Hollywood starlet. I hated those trips so much. I felt shame because I knew she needed me and I knew she had less than five years before turning to ashes, but I couldn’t help complaining. I hated to see her get weaker and weaker. She folded some sheets, then went to sit down, taking deep breaths, then slowly got up and did something else before again sitting and again breathing hard.  

I confess that I was so angry. The apartment was beautiful and had signed movie posters and one had the Beatles signed by all four of them. Why was it so bittersweet? How much she got out of her life killing dredge? 50 bucks a week for two days? 100, maybe 200 during the holidays? What kind of bullshit was that? The apartment was owned by a nice older couple, and mom told me the father was the guy who discovered Hitler had Parkinson’s disease and they had a relative in the White House. She also told me they were doctors. How could they not see how sick she was? Couldn’t they spare some more? How did they not see how bad she needed it? I knew that it was unfair of me, but all the years? All the years I came to see my mom die a little more and not even a little more? Mom liked them, and said nice things about them which angered me. They didn’t owe us anything, I knew that. They had a right, I knew that too. And why should we be on their minds, busy people they were? It was just as well.  We weren’t on anyone’s mind for quite some time. 

There was something else: writing. I finally got it down, at least something down. Little stories and vignettes poured out of me like a fountain.  Every story was a possibility, a branch, something that could become a book or stay a two page story. I wanted to piece it all together somehow. In the sidelines, age 20 was around the corner, and I didn’t think I could survive being a senior. Graduating would have been the important thing, the responsible thing, but I had enough. I had enough of the effort and the pretensions and the style of wear and the torture of thinking about what to say next. What’s she thinking? What does she wanna hear? What would friends think? What would people think of me? Put up your hair Daniel, style it just right. Forget about your books. It was the same song and dance. I hated high school, but the years before were way better than being an old senior. The older kids were much cooler, and now I was the last one left. I can’t say that I missed them too badly, but it was better than being a senior. If I missed them, it was because I had had so much more fun before. The older kids kept it wacky and interesting. I just didn’t feel that as a senior. Kids were cold and distant to each other at different grades. People I knew changed too. Even more lines were drawn. My classes held no interest either, not even my guitar class. I skip all the time, just to go and get some sleep. I had loved school once. What happened? Was it the drugs? No, it was the figures. The college life was not meant for me. Night classes, little courses, that’s all people said, but they didn’t know. Of course being an immigrant didn’t help.  

The marines gave me a call, and I spoke with a lovely woman Sergeant. Apparently I was an important choice, based on my curriculum over the last five years. The very idea of becoming a dog of the military was outrageous to me. I was way too cowardly. But holding the phone and talking to my parents made me realize how sick I was of my immigration status. We came so close but the law changed, and until it changed again, we were stuck with expired visas. That was five years ago. My parents asked me if I would do the military to fix my visa, and I was astounded to realize that I was. I told the lady that I was flattered but that I wasn’t really made for guns and physical activity and she told me they had all kinds of programs that I could do and not to worry about that. Six months of light boot camp and I was in. I thought about the hell of boot camp and if I could survive it. That would be quite an experience for me, learning that kind of stuff. It wasn’t my cup of tea but I thought about it hard, and made up my mind. I will discipline myself. I will wake up every goddamned morning and do all that running and exercise, and endure it. Maybe they ate well in the army too. I couldn’t believe it myself, but I decided to do it and she was very excited. That’s when I told her about the expired Visa and asked if they had any naturalization programs to help that. The phone went silent and she said one moment, and after a moment she came back and apologized, saying they couldn’t it, but that they’ll get back to me. I let go of the phone when I heard the click, dropping it on my bed, knowing that they never will get back to me. I couldn’t fucking believe it. All this time, the Army was the last straw. I had one of those clichéd crystallizing moments. The last straw was an illusion. It was never there. I fucking believed and it was never real. I wanted to yell fuck as loud as I could, but didn’t. I just inhaled a deep breath and took the march of shame to my parent’s room. I’ll never forget their hopeful faces when I opened the door… 

Man, that shit is such a buzz kill isn’t it? Hanging with my friends was like pretending it was all alright. I would get high, talk about stupid shit, watch a movie, play a game, it was all the same. I confess that I didn’t honestly know what I wanted. Talking about my problems put people off and the rare times it didn’t, I was thrown one massive pity party, which I hated just as much. People got frustrated with me a lot, and didn’t know what I was asking for. I was just trying to communicate, to express what I bottled up throughout my life, to understand it, to touch it and taste it and balance it. Normally this would just end up being about the person who heard it, and not my own problems. I was the psychologist machine, without pain or emotions or weakness. Maybe somehow I was seen that way by the frustrated masses. Friends consistently asked for my advice, only to regret it later. No matter what choice they needed to make, their inquiries lead to personal problems of character. They simply just wanted to sing the blues or forget the blues. I realized that the only way to know the right choice so to speak was to understand the problems of character we all have. Unfortunately, along with that discovery was the one about ego and pride and hurt feelings.  

My teenage years were devoted to picking the brains of my generation. I went at it with everything I had. I wanted to talk about my life and my problems too, but no one cared. No one wanted to pick my brain. They were too afraid to really get to know me. Even my brother and sister don’t understand me at 19. If people picked my brain it was only to trick me, fool me, take me for granted. I angered so many who thought they were good at it. I admit I was a hard teenager to fool and I have my family to thank for that. I learned so much about life and survival and I learned to have radar for cons. A con in part ruined my family, so I made sure very young to never be taken for a fool like that again. 

I also learned to pick my battles, which my siblings rarely did. I tried to teach them about emotions and the passions and getting to know our weaknesses but they just used it to trick others and themselves. I still hadn’t given up on them, but I knew something was coming soon, something that we couldn’t prepare for no matter how hard we tried. Maybe in the future I’ll finally get the message and leave them alone… 

Michael and Claudia were bonding for the last few years. Sometimes we all had drinks with our neighbors. There was a guy with long thin black hair from Costa Rica named Ricardo who loved to get shit drunk and sing current songs, with his arm across my brother’s shoulders. His looks belied his age but I think he was in his early 30’s. I used to have great times drinking with them. They used to sing stunning renditions that made you choke on your beer laughing. He had an accent, which became more comical with every drink and what I liked most about him was his good forceful cheer. 

Another one who would join us sometimes was Don Gomez, an overweight tall gay man in his 40’s from Haiti who was known in the neighborhood to do Santeria, and all kinds of things. He was gentle and kind and extremely flamboyant, which made people like him. He had a nice but strange ‘wife’ and ‘baby’ that she carried around with her. She was normally reclusive but eventually started to come out more often. Rumors were that she wasn’t married to him and that their relationship was bogus to cover his taste for boys. The word on the street was that he pays teenagers to suck him off, but never forces them and that the boys came on their own. It surprised me how many kids I used to know in elementary and middle school that went there; fierce kids, tough kids, kids in gangs with brass knuckles and color coded doo rags. Some were the toughest and manliest out there, yet they went to suck dick for money. I wasn’t surprised. What can surprise you in the modern world anymore? 

Regardless of his taboo habit, Don Gomez was a nice enough man whose flamboyance always caused a riot of laughter. Sometimes he and his ‘wife’ had cookouts right outside their apartment and we would be there with foldout chairs and plastic plates with charred ribs and potatoes, and a big bottle of Popov vodka, a feast for the poor! His wife was tiny and worn with short dark hair and matching beady eyes.  

Gomez took a great deal of liking to me for some reason which made things a tad unsettling and awkward from time to time. Michael and Claudia thought those moments of his ‘compliments’ were hilarious.  The setting was complete with a crappy radio that played whatever anyone was in the mood for. Sometimes a salsa song Claudia liked came on and she would get up to dance. I remember us cheering her and Gomez on as she showed us how well he danced to all our amusement and surprise. Our street was full of surprises like that. 

Sometimes we were also joined by an older Cuban guy who looked 20 years younger named Antonio, who did Santeria with his mother no less, who also lived with him. She was a very friendly old lady, who liked my mother and it was comical to see her with her son. It was like watching a sitcom. He was still her little boy I guess. Antonio on the other hand was serious, deadpan, and his humor was unsettling and not funny in my opinion. To be honest, I hated the guy’s guts, and I got the feeling it was mutual. He was brusque and forceful with his gestures and often seemed pissed about something. Michael and Claudia took to him and I didn’t see why. The guy was a jerk and constantly had to prove his male age authority. On good days he wasn’t so bad, but I still never found him so amusing. He told us outrageous stories about growing up in Cuba and meeting Batista, Fidel and Che Guevarra. They were just crazy enough to be true.  

When I came home from school like clockwork, he sat on his porch and would order me to come over. I waved and pretended not to hear him, as I opened the gate to go home. He never stopped trying though, and he never brought it up. But like clockwork, I would get home, he would yell, and I would wave pretending not to hear. Maybe he was trying to take me under his wing. Well, he had to get in line with the rest of the good old boys. I don’t know what his obsession was with me or the rest of the male species for that matter. His voice was annoyingly cockish, and he almost sounded like a wise guy, like a Mafioso without a Hispanic accent. Often he addressed imaginary people probably to drive his point or something, and I hated it when he talked about people in the third person. ‘This kid don’t know nothing…’ I sensed something bad in him, maybe not evil, but destructive. I avoided him as much as possible. 

In the last few months, we were beginning to be joined by an Argentine kid, not much older than Michael from Mendoza. He was another one of those males like Antonio, trying to be the big cock of the walk. Michael loved this guy, and looked up to him and it made me sick. I hated seeing my brother fawn over a scumbag like him. His name was Gonzalo and he had stories to tell, stories about Mendoza, stories about the hard life and the crime and what you had to do. Normally I loved these kinds of stories, but it was clear he just used them to look badass and didn’t give a flying fuck about struggling people or anything like that. Just two things: he was manlier than you, and you should follow him. The irony was that his girlfriend Amanda had his balls in a mason jar. She was a stunning beauty I never got to know, but apparently, amid the fights and the loud arguments and the constant makeup sex, she was in charge and he was unable to resist. I thought maybe that was why he was the way he was. He was clearly overcompensating, but I dared not tell my brother. Why did he look up to that loser and not me? What did he see in that guy? His attitude was humiliating and condescending, and he always had snazzy comebacks and biting remarks. When he was on a roll it was hard to stop him. Hanging with that guy meant that you were the constant butt of the joke, that you were the punch-line, that you were something to be laughed at and mocked. He also had a serious air about him and knew he was an attractive guy, almost too well. His brand of condescension he delivered with a dry attitude, always dry, dry like burnt toast. I wanted to punch that guy in the face at the things he said but apparently it was all fun and games to my brother and sister and everyone else but not to me. I can tell that the son of a bitch meant every word he said. His aim wasn’t roasting in good humor, but a way to be on top. I rarely saw anyone make fun of him. When they did, he doubled his efforts in defense. Everyone saw a tough guy from the streets that had seen it all. I saw nothing more than a bitter son owned by his wife and his murky past. I saw an insecure boy pretending to be a man. So why did everyone like him? Is it because he was easy on the eyes? I wouldn’t be surprised. He clearly grew up in hard times. Why couldn’t I relate to him then? Why couldn’t I relate to anyone…? 

The story goes on. I missed childhood ignorance. I missed a lot of things. I drank to dull the emotions, but it rarely worked. The future… a year from now… what will be? The same hell…? Or a whole other kind of hell? I drank to keep my mind from going. I read to figure out how to hold on. In between the lines of the literature and the science fiction and the philosophy and the theology and all the other genres, lied a code just for me to decipher. Somehow, if I could read everything I could get my hands on that stirred in me a passion, then I could find a way to break the curse. What curse was there when I read, and imagined? What cursed was there when I held a book in my hands? I was beginning to discover a power inside of me, a power I had previously underestimated. I had been labeled ‘a smart kid’ many times in the past, but these secret messages and archaic teachings were something else altogether. Senior year was over. School had closed its doors, and so had the military. So why did I feel so strong? Why did I feel the way I do? Why did it offend people so much? Fuck it… let it all die in flames. Let it feed their thirst let it do its worst, because I won’t change for them, or for anyone. I was beginning to finally let go of the social web. In the haze and glitz, I knew the future was uncertain, unpredictable, and friends would not hold. That much I got from the passages in the night, sitting on my doorstop. I wasn’t out to impress the world or to find a girl, I was just trying to break the curse, and hopefully get a nice lay or two. Where was the harm? Where was history class? The teacher was nice and all, and he was a good teacher, I could tell, but when the bell rang and it was time to go, I froze and stood by the exit sign, thinking of my next cigarette and blunt. Carlos pulled at my sleeve telling me fuck it, not knowing I decided that months before. I didn’t regret anything. The days I showed up, the teacher eventually expressed disapproval. 

“You’re a smart kid. You should show up more often.” He said, handing out homework as we all left. 

“Thanks Mr. James. I’m sorry about that. I will.” 

I confess I didn’t regret that either. What was I supposed to do? What fucking future was there for me? The world of school had become a joke, a mockery. I was lonelier than ever. So why put up with it for nothing? Fuck all of that, and fuck looking for some damn sympathy.  I didn’t expect people to understand. No one really did. Hell, I’m not so sure I did. The only thing I knew was that I couldn’t work, but I could go to school, and college. Where to get the money and how when my family couldn’t work legally was another issue that wasn’t the federal government’s concern. Why would it be right? There were bills to pay and panic attacks to have over the rent. There were nice apartments to clean and everywhere to remind of you of what you didn’t have. Claudia had a job at Burger King on the other side of town and she and my mom keep things barely running as my dad did seasonal jobs. Same old, same old…  

One day I decided to skip Mr. James’s class for good, and eventually high school and senior year. Skip the whole establishment and never go back. I started to get more sleep and the sleep was heavenly. The school year came to an end, everyone graduated but me, and I slept through it in bed, with a smile of gratitude. While they threw their caps, I threw in the towel. Strangely, my parents didn’t protest as much as I expected. My mom demanded to know why the school called to tell me I had been dropped for my absences. I told her that was impossible that you needed 55 to be expelled, and she said that they changed that last week and now it was 40 and that my cap was at a neat 45. I told her how much bullshit I thought that was, and she agreed, but tried to make a deal with the lady. She scheduled a meeting between us, which I also ended up skipping. That’s when I explained to her why I did it. She just wept softly at the dinner table and begged me to forgive her over and over. 

Graduation day passed. Mom’s dream was to see me throw the damn cap in the air, but she didn’t know the price. She thought that maybe if her son was smart and was in gifted all his life and got good grades then maybe… but the best scholarships were just nickels and dimes and where was the time? Look for more jobs you won’t get, more girls who won’t lay, more pressures and oddball adventures. More slang and Tang and tropical nights, more alcohol, more vision, more writing, more reading. School might be pointless to me, but learning never was. Why do I chase the intellectual dragon? Why do I read the messages and the codes and look for the right road when there was no road, no school? The woman on the phone expelled me at the moment I went over the new limit of absences. Was it the curse or the story of my life? I knew it was both, and I wasn’t the least bit surprised. How fucking convenient ah? Better not ask any questions Daniel. I pretended anger and disbelief that day. I pretended but I secretly was relieved. At least the curse took away something that had become a burden. At least I knew what to expect.  

I ran across Mr. James the day school got out for the summer. I watched him come out of the building and felt the sudden urge to explain myself to him. So I put the cigarette out and went over to unburden myself. 

“Mr. James! Glad to catch you on the last day of school.” I greeted him, running up with a cheery disposition and nonchalance, as if nothing happened. “It’s pretty late and most of the kids left. I’m chilling with some back there.” I pointed behind me at the chain-linked fence at the entrance to the school.      

“Daniel.” He said, giving me a searching look. He was fair skinned and had thin blonde hair with an earnest and stern face. “I’m sorry I didn’t get to see you more. I must have missed you the last half of the year.” 

“Yeah about that… you see… that’s why I came over.” I told him, fidgeting with my greased up hair. 

“You know that it took me weeks to realize when you weren’t coming back? You know I really thought you were going to? I even left your name on the roster as long as I could.” 

“Mr. James…” I started, taking a breath. 

“I really hoped that you’d come back to us Daniel.” He said sincerely, looking away at the parking lot.  

“Look teach, I just wanted to apologize.” I began. “You don’t understand why I did what I did. School was everything to me. School meant the world to me. School was a reason why I’m still breathing to this day. Now I’m not gonna give you a sob story here, but do you know what it’s like to lose something you love? Do you know how it feels every day? But you keep going. It’s all you can do in this world, right? And that was school for me. I realized I couldn’t balance the world at home and the world of studies anymore. I had to make a break. I had to do it on my own, which I realize now is the best way, because it’s the only way. I don’t expect anything anymore. I don’t expect hand outs. I don’t expect generosity. I don’t expect a miracle or an act of God even. I expect nothing. School closed its doors to me a long time ago teach, along with the system. Maybe one day, when I’m free of the weight of my family, I might accomplish something with my life. I might write a novel, maybe two or three, and get published. Third time’s a charm right? And that day will be the day I don’t have to stand around helpless, and cower in the corner of a sinking ship. That day I can rise up and help my family. I placed everything I had, all my hopes into my studies; to one day make it to college and get degrees. And what happened? By sophomore year, I started to realize something, sitting in those tiny rooms with guidance counselors who don’t get you at all. How will I afford it? How will I make time if a job under the table comes along? The hours, the bus rides, the commutes, the personal life, the family life, the friend life, the artist life, the pothead life, the book life… how will I make it? The only extreme alternative was the military, and a call a few months ago told me I wasn’t good enough. How am I supposed to feel? What am I supposed to do? School was gone, and I’m still mourning her loss, Mr. James. I just wanted to let you know all of this, not because I feel guilty or because I need something, or because I want you to understand. I don’t care one way or another. I said it because I want you to know that it had nothing to do with your teaching. I was angry at first because the school kept messing up my schedule and I got to your class pretty late in the year. I don’t know what happened, but all kinds of weird mistakes were happening with my records. Some classes kept marking me present even though I stopped coming. So maybe I would have thought about it more had they done it right, but all my classes were cold, indifferent, and unmemorable my senior year. And junior year was only slightly better. Maybe all the screw ups and changes that happened were for a reason. I read between the lines Mr. James. It told me school was not meant to be. I’m sorry if I gave you doubts as a teacher. I know you were trying to reach me. It’s not your fault. I felt like a stranger in a strange land in your classroom even though I knew all the kids there. I saw how excited they were with you and how engaged they were to learn. It’s clear that you love what you do. You’re a good teacher Mr. James, and I know you didn’t need me to tell you that, but again, I’m sorry.” 

Mr. James looked at me stunned. 

“Daniel… I… I appreciate you telling me that. It’s such a shame because you’re a smart kid, I always thought so. School wasn’t meant for you Daniel, and maybe that’s not such a bad thing. You walk a different path than the rest of us. Maybe you were meant for something else, something even better for you than school. People go through life choosing what they are dealt, but you made a conscious choice. You want to be a writer.” Mr. James smiled. “You fit the profile that’s for sure. It seems like writing chose you on this one. Writing is your path, and that’s not an easy path to follow. I can also see that you want to write the hard hitting novels, the serious stuff, and that path is even harder. I sincerely hope Daniel, that you are a good student of your art. Don’t give up on it. Writing will never give up on you, so don’t skip on it, will ya?” 

“Alright teach.” I laughed and we shook hands. His grip was firm and honest. “Read you loud and clear.” 

I watched him go to his car and thought of what he said. Writing will never give up on you. Was he right? Was he right about what I felt? Will writing break the curse? Will it help me survive what’s to come? 

Advertisements

Excerpt From New Novel III: Homeless America

LA was another terrible bump in my life that put to the test my greatest convictions.

I would get to know the marginalized and rejected, the addicts and the hustlers, the pimps and the prostitutes, the mentally ill and the most marginalized and forgotten people of all: The homeless of America.

Who are they really? What is their story? How did they end up the way they did? Like a journalist on a mission from Seymour Hersh, I sought to find answers to these unasked questions, to make the most of my deteriorating situation.

My story? A lawsuit I took my life away. A lawsuit I had no choice but to be involved in. The poor classes have no rudder in life and aren’t given any real tips when dealing with lawsuits and entertainment lawyers and crooked judges. Class warfare.

I made every mistake in the book that I was never given because when I looked outside my tenement growing up, I didn’t see a picket fence or afront yard with purposeful plants made from loving responsible hands.

I didn’t inherit the book of life and so I never stood a chance dealing with demons in Armani suits. I honestly thought I did. I thought I was  smart enough. I was wrong.

Without the experience you are dead on arrival.

So the floor fell away beneath me and I  ended up crushed and alone in sunny Southern California.

LA was another terrible bump in my life that put to the test my greatest convictions. LA was cold and distant. I completely lost my mind. I can still hear the hammering of the pickaxe to wall, the pickaxe in my blistered hands, when I realize I am utterly and absolutely alone, hacking away in the distant mines of Mercury. You can’t hear a whisper of life anywhere around you and you keep tunneling because that’s what keeps you alive.

I also realize I’ve never truly been alone before. The fear of loneliness was something I always teased and scoffed at with disdain. Now it had me by the throat and I couldn’t fight it off. I always claimed to be stronger, but loneliness won that day. And it wouldn’t be the last win.

In high school I laughed at those whom rather be with someone bad than alone. Now I understood the fear, but it wasn’t emotional abandonment (that would come later), it was about being alive. I couldn’t look after myself. No Ichy Thump. I am listed as ‘dependent’ on the forms. No true identity of my own.  An expired visa, an expired life. Who am I? Does Jackie Chan know? Who am I? Does anyone know?

I’m someone with nowhere to go. I’m someone who is headed nowhere. Where am I? In the Mines of Mercury, forgotten and alone, where the only sound is the pickaxe slamming against the wall. I don’t ever want to feel like I did that day, but I would again.

I didn’t know what was going on, but I suspected it was brutal bad. My girl Jessica wasn’t texting as much. Sometimes days would pass and I was crushed with panicked worry. Something had happened her. Something terrible.

I remember not sleeping for a week for the very first time. In Vegas I had only gone four days. I was raw and exposed. My mind begged me to shut down, but i couldn’t on the streets, nowhere safe to sleep. Cops and robbers on high alert. Not sure who to be afraid of more. In Hollywood you can only be a teenager to find a shelter to sleep. Everywhere else was too far to go, no money to get there, dire times. I walked so much. I walked til my right foot ripped open and bled without me knowing it.

In Vegas, I had my shoes on for a week without taking them off. New woes. I finally found out why my shoes suddenly smelled like the Red Death. I had been bleeding after continuously ripping away at my foot. I tried to take them off and air them out at a casino but the attendant gave me the eye and followed me in the bathroom. What is wrong with casino employees? They remind me of self important windbags from back in Florida. I tried to be fast but his wingtips were outside the stall.

“Excuse me, is everything alright? There are people waiting.”

“I’m fine thank you.” I cry out in the bathroom stall.  “Just a minute.”

“You have two minutes. Then I’m going to have to call security.”

I was barely able to dry my feet. I frantically put the shoes on and exited the stall when I noticed he left to answer someone’s question. I sneaked by him and walked at a brisk pace. Mission Impossible theme was playing. Everyone seemed to eye me suspiciously.

By the front of the casino I broke into a run and saw that the enterprising casino employee had followed me with a couple of faceless security. I ran as fast as I could and changed my shirt as soon as I was out of sight. APB in progress. Looking for a Hispanic male, age 32, in dire need with no options left. But I dodged them, thank God.

That night I sat on a bench pelted mercilessly by freezing desert winds. Not the last time that would happen. I sang the songs I wrote one after another to keep my mind off of it, as cruisers passed by, feeling too sorry for me to haul me to jail. I shook with cold and my voice sounded like a speedfreak singing, but I got through that terrible night.

LA was definitely better than that, even though it had its own horror shows. Like this one:

What happens when you stop sleeping? A depression bigger than a hurricane slams your psyche, a desolation so intense that you break down in front of strangers. The bleeding foot needs tending, but I still don’t know what it is yet. A week in Los Angeles. I talk to Jessica but not much. I’m afraid all the time. I spend the night at bus stops until the coffee shops open early. I still hadn’t figured out my survival routine in LA yet.

A public library, the stench of feet and that sour smell of spoiled milk. It’s the homeless, the dejected, the transients, all trying to pass the time in relative comfort, with the cops staring them down. Don’t go to sleep! I’m in a Freddie Krueger waking nightmare. Why can’t they let me sleep?

Something special happens to your self-worth when you start to smell, and when the people avoid you because of it: what a terrific sorrow! When even the fucking bums are wondering… what’s that smell? Can you feel any lower? Only in your coffin, six feet deep…

So you start to cry when you find out you’re the worst smelling of the homeless Brady Bunch. Library employees are scoping out where it’s coming from. I see people in the periphery pointing at me holding their noses. The staff are spraying an air freshener and pump up the AC. It gets chilly. I cry harder. What did I do? What did I do? Monsters roam free every day, but here I am in the smell of my failure and spilled blood pooling in my socks. I tried to do the right thing my entire life when others laughed at the idea and never did. So, why am I here? Why is this happening? The sorrow perforated my heart and my mind was collapsing. I’m not sure what happened after that. I suddenly looked around and the whole library was there, many faces in concern and fear. I thought the cops were gonna take me away to a sanatorium, but they look… sad. LA is a miserably sad city and we’re all under the bridge in some way.

That LA public library felt my grief that day. I wept like they were laying my parents into the dirt. Some kind stranger told the cops to back off but I can’t remember the face. Was it a man? A woman? A kid? The mysterious stranger is trying to convince the cops to let me sleep or at least let me go. I look around. Pitying eyes. Even the bums are uncomfortable. So I stumble out, and the cops make no attempt to stop me. They felt too sorry for the poor kid in way over his head, abandoned in the mines of Mercury with a smoking ship that’s beyond fixing.

The brain plays tricks on you when you don’t sleep. Dreams and real life collide and confusion is the only currency. You fall asleep wide awake and the two realities turn you into a zombie that can’t quite wake up.

What just happened? Oh my God, I caused perhaps the biggest scene in my life but it’s so hard to recall. Flashes of memory is enough to know it happened. I walk blinded by the LA sun in Hollywood, still wondering.

Then, I sleep as I walk and in my dreams I follow a long procession of people, other zombies like me. Whether we’re headed to salvation or the slaughterhouse is a complete mystery but it’s the only way to go. The scene is reminiscent of totalitarianism: sharp edges, dark colors, dark neon, and we are all wearing the same thing, walking with the same stare devoid of emotions.

“Stop following us!”

“Huh?”

I suddenly come to and a teenage couple is looking at me. The girl is afraid and the boy is madder than hell. It took them quite some time to build the courage to tell the weird kid to stop following them.

“I didn’t, I wasn’t – I mean – I’m sorry…”

They storm off and I look around. How long have I been following them without realizing it? Poor kids. I felt terrible.

Santa Monica Boulevard. How did I get here? I was always fascinated by the splintered mind as a teenager. Now I had the inside scoop and it was more terrifying than I ever imagined.

So was LA really better? I like to think so. Still I was cursed at, spit on, tripped on one occasion (unsuccessfully), threatened and nearly killed. But I was never afraid of people’s violence. Is dying really so bad when your life is like mine? I was afraid of my own self, of my own broken mind and hemorrhaging heart. I was afraid of what had happened to Jessica. She deserved a better life but karma doesn’t work in this world the way it’s supposed to. Can anger explode a star? Mine could. Are natural disasters just cosmic beings invoking disaster because they’re so despondent at how the universe works? Then death is only right! Then the end of the Universe is only right! To hell with this dimension!

By the time Jessica finally came, I had hell down to a routine. I hung out at the library all day til close, then went to the soup kitchen in Hollywood to have my only meal, then walked for 2 miles to the Mall on Hollywood Boulevard to take my second daily dump.

Two years later, I’m back in LA and I notice how much more homeless there are, and the entry level employees have had enough. I’m including the supervisors too. The dead-end dive jive. It seemed like everybody was poor and getting poorer and more pissed off by the minute. I noticed familiar faces, ones that made a pain for me and Jessica years back. Still in the same job? No creativity, only in relationships. Gotta keep that fire burning, ya know? Oh well. If it gets you horny and it’s consensual then go with God, just let me be.

Anyway, this waitress made hell for me the second time. I developed the habit of going to Dennys to avoid the unusually cold weather that had me paralyzed in chill. There was this one nice security guard from Ghana, who spoke English with a very thick accent who let me hang out. Nice man, warm and compassionate. He took a shine to me and told me to try to stay awake so the Dennys managers leave me alone, no easy task.

I sat in the Dennys waiting area – perhaps in the same diner Quentin Tarantino pitched the script of True Romance – and pretended to wait for Jessica, who I knew after a few times that she wasn’t coming.

One time that damn waitress told me I had to leave or she’ll call the cops. It was 2 in the morning. No one was there. But she hated me the minute she laid eyes on me. Some lesbians hated the very sight. I think it was unwanted attraction. I am very androgynous and can easily pass for a provocative woman if I dressed the part.

After having a loud fight with her girlfriend in the back who also worked there, (I found this out later) she came out and said:

“I’m sorry you have to go.”

The weather outside was 39 degrees and I didn’t have a jacket, but off I went. Once again I focused on music so I wouldn’t freeze. Every muscle in my body was tense from the unrelenting cold. I just jammed on my ipod to whole albums, doing a shivering dance at the bus stop to kill away time and hopefully live to see the sunrise and warmth again.

In the terrible beginning, I walked all the way from the Greyhound station near downtown to Hollywood, getting lost many times. My feet were about to rot away. I’m not sure what I was thinking. Oh yeah, now I remember: I’m going to need that $2.50. So in a way, I knew it was going to be rough, but I just waltzed in there.

The bad things were awful, like worrying about what happened to Jessica. Car accident? Fire? With her I had hope for a future. Without… what would happen to me? I would be completely stranded in the mines of Mercury. And then… I would have to turn that pickaxe on myself.

But the good things… potential. This one distinct time – I’ll never forget – I walked with my tight jeans, and wallet chain proudly, even though I was homeless for days, backpack and all, and I saw the rich goons on the sidewalk with their arm candy, getting out of their Maseratis. I kept my stride, locking eyes with any girl I could, something I never did before. Two gorgeous bombshells in tight shimmery dresses stood near one of the clubs and one of them looked in my direction. I watched her nudge her friend to check out the emo rocker kid from another lifetime, now replaced by hipsters.

I walked by and smiled as they smiled back.

How is it that those women look at me that way, but I could never get a lay from a common hoodrat? I wondered that walking by. They were completely mesmerized and never stopped looking to the point others began to look. I was so proud and so annoyed. What can I do in that situation? Sure, I can rock the sheets but I’m Thomas O’Malley, the alley cat, no home in sight. It wasn’t something I could hide with no cash in my pocket. I couldn’t take another disappointed look of someone when they realized I had nowhere to go. So I just kept walking, back to the Starbucks that closes at midnight on Hollywood and Vine with my old cup I pretended to buy so the entry level staff wouldn’t give me dirty looks.

The everyday life of the homeless of America. I’m chronicling how it really is here, how many forgotten poor are roaming the streets. They are not all drug addicts. They are not all hustlers. Most are people screwed over by the maw of unregulated capitalism, by the movers of the world that care more for profit than keeping bees from going extinct. The EPA is O-U-T. And mother nature is fighting back with raging fires, more earthquakes, tornadoes, tsunamis, you name it. This is the way the world ends. Not with a bang, but with a stock market report.

I read somewhere that during the 1890’s, an enterprising journalist took pictures of people living in New York in absolute squalor; horrific images; people piled on top of each other on cardboard boxes, children eating trash, babies frozen blue with cold. He pulled together the biggest richest families of New York at the time, put them all in a room, and surprised them by showing them the world they had neglected for Operas and snuff boxes.

Some wept at the images. Others got angry. Some even – I suspect the Morgan family – sat in stony silence and sighed because they knew this was going to cost them.

That was when the super rich of New York took a giant bite of the shit sandwich; the sandwich the rest of us eat three times a day our entire lives.

And it made America better.

Views From a 21st Century High School Loser

The boy walks to the girl. The girl is in the bar, near the bottles and sea of plastic cups. The music plays from the jukebox now called an Ipod. It’s selling like hotcakes, you know? Have you heard what it does? Fat chance the boy will see one any time soon.  

The party upstairs is one giant room, almost as big as a two bedroom. The dance floor is covered mostly in girls and a few lucky chumps. It’s bright inside and groups stand alongside, drinking and looking at the dance floor expectantly. Its days like this that howls at the moon over the land of sex and cocaine. Most came out in style, in typical style, wearing the wears, digging the skirts, adjusting the tight tops and loose ends and pouting those lips for another drink, another smoke, another fuck, another snort, another tumble in the concrete jungle. How cool are they? How hot are they? 

And the boy? He clumps around in shoes too big for him, in faded baggy clothes that didn’t have the ghetto swagger. A rubber band is wrapped around his head to keep his hair up, and the hair was getting long because the gel just started to dampen his hair, so the rubber band was always in place, like a rat in a cage. In his pockets were his empty wallet (why did he have a wallet?) and emergency bus fare in case he got stranded. Snap, snap, snap… can I get yo’ coat suh? 

One step, two step, stumble and fall. The boy does his own dance, his own jig, his own loser jitterbug. Snap, snap, snap… the boy boogies inside with his secondhand soul and pretends to be one of them but the people don’t buy it. No one buys it. And does he buy it? What can he buy with his own wit and his own mind? What is he worth and what good is he to anyone? He never says what you want to hear. He always puts you in the center of your problems. He calls you selfish, can you believe it? He calls you a lot of things and thinks about what you do and why you do it. When no one’s looking, he imagines your most terrible fears, lies, deceits. He reads them like a book when you are around. And you want to think he’s wrong, and you want to scream it at him and do… but why then, oh why, is he so convincing? Why does it stay with you when he leaves? Why is it harder to forget? Seriously who wants a guy like that around? What a stick in the mud! What a buzz kill! What a fucking loser! He’s just sorry that he’s not a better man, a richer man, someone like us! What can we do about it? Why does he blame us? You know what? Take that analytical I’m-better-than-you attitude and fuck off for once in your life! Go analyze your own damned self and see if you can take it!    

Do you see why no one buys it? 

Stumble and fall, stumble and fall one, two… around the crater, around the mouth of the volcano. The 30’s stand out in jazzy style but the boy knows it won’t be cool for a while. He walks in doing his thing, waltzing in to his tune, snapping his fingers like he owns the place. He’s one sad Nancy and getting bitter like strong coffee by the minute. The crowd doesn’t get it, doesn’t see it. The crowd scoffs, some laugh, other’s roll their eyes. Everyone is dressed properly and looks over his clothes, shaking their heads. His tie is askew, his shirt has missing buttons, his hat is flat, and his suspenders are hanging limp at his sides. Grease stains and sweat stains are all over his shirt. What a drunken, smoked out degenerate! How does he not bother to straighten himself out? How did he not bother with the pretensions? He doesn’t even bother acting like he has a life! Did they know that in the future nothing could be cooler? That people will admire him? Did the 30’s loser even know that? Probably not… and neither did the boy.  

What was so cool about this? The boy wondered. He honestly didn’t get it. No one admired him. Some liked him, some respected him even, but no one admired him. No one wanted to believe his words. It usually turned girls off, and his helpless need to say what he needed to say got in between him and his sex life, if you can call it that. Did a 30’s loser get laid a lot? Probably… but the boy couldn’t dare make such a claim. No way in hell. 

But he waltzes in anyway swinging his legs in and out, like he doesn’t give a shit. Snap, snap, snap… make way for the court jester resigned to his dated role people! Wow how cool he is! I mean, no one think so wherever he goes, but in retrospect! Always in retrospect! Hindsight wisdom from a nation with their heads up their assholes! And does the 30’s thug think that? Because the 21st century loser does, and most losers don’t know it… but the boy is a different story. Past glam and all that! Look up to the past and look down to the future!  

The future is the present always on the brink. I guess after a while, like a scoundrel with life in prison, we have begun to get used to the idea, even like it. While we run our mouths about peace and family and freedom and unity, what we really want is the End of the World, and not just the religious. Everyone wants a piece of it. The Apocalypse has become a standard of the 21st century, and pretty much copyrighted by Hollywood. What a day that will be! But here this 21st century loser comes along and challenges the faded pictures, and the ancient agents of cool. He challenges the God’s themselves, the ones he loves and admires and aspires to. What kind of person is this you ask? He says it’s because he loves them.  

Take the boy’s favorite writer in High School Henry Miller for instance. The man just couldn’t keep it in his pants and the boy thinks old Henry was real lonely in his old age. His relationships certainly didn’t last, probably out of his analytical nature, or maybe indifference or lust.

The boy read about his women and couldn’t believe that he could possibly have anything in common with them other than wild sex. The boy couldn’t help thinking that Miller got lost in the admiration of sex that he forgot what he was looking for. The closest girls were June and Anais Nin. June was a woman so ahead of her time that it literally drove her insane. Anais had potential but it was the same, only more controlled, more shallow.

Did I say control? Most important of all! The food sucks but the portions are too small. We want more shit, more to complain about, to feel like a victim over and over crimson and clover. My life sucks more than yours bit. Is that it? No, it goes on.

June and Anais were frauds in the Freudian sense. The boy saw Anais Nin’s frustration in interviews with Miller. He just took the mike. He just took the spotlight. And what about her green eyes that could bewitch any man, even Otto Rank? Neurotic people creating neurotic psychology fascinated by the psyche… where was Rank’s reason? Her jade eyes… her milky skin… her supple body… the boy stops the record.    

“Yeah, she’s hot and kind of alternative, but what about her mind? What’s in there? I know you can’t technically fuck it, but does that matter above all? Are you saying Anais Nin is the best we can aspire to with women? What about Mary Shelley? What about the woman suffragettes? I don’t buy it. There are way better women, but they are crushed by the high heel of society into becoming ‘normal’ women in bad relationships to heighten their fake girlfriend relationships. The price is unhappiness, instability, poor life choices… and all for pseudo-friendship? Mary Shelley was right, and the legendary boys were idiots to fall for the great Anais.

The mirror of Miller was a woman named June, and he didn’t mind when she lost her mind, because he had already lost her before. He felt the pain, the betrayal, the hate, the sorrow, became a dog and begged, begged, begged…  June was sure something… but she was like bad acid, mala hierba, a walking disaster waiting to happen. Any idiot could’ve seen that, even in those hard times, but Miller didn’t, because he was enchanted, bewitched, wooed, cooed, and screwed royally in both the good way and the bad. He was too busy tweaking her nipples and shuddering on her clitoris. She’s got a screwed up brain, can’t you see that man? She’s pretending to be so many people that she’s losing herself to a padded cell and ill tempered nurses with heavy sedatives. Who was the real June? Not the one of history, but the real person? Did she know herself when she found Miller?  Or was it already too late to save her? Late from the start? Damn it Miller it was right underneath your nose the whole time! But he doesn’t read between his own lines because he can’t let her body and her rubber soul go.

June was a doomed enterprise, maybe since birth, a doomed enterprise with a hot body that almost toppled a literary giant. What were you thinking man? You weren’t thinking… you were fucking, and pretending you had more than that. But I still love you and your writing and your books. No one is perfect, I guess, but at least you opened yourself up to the world. You gave more than you took, more than your stupid mistakes. Had I been around, I would have slapped some sense into you. Henry Valentine Miller, a literal fucking force of nature. I hated you being all alone you big old coot. You needed another head, not another pair of legs. But I still love you and owe my writing ambitions to you… but was finding a better woman that hard?”  

But that’s just a 21st century loser for you! One World War, another to go, so why not fuck the night away? Bombs are dropping, air raid sirens are blaring, the innocent civilians are screaming, the jet fighters look at the tiny buildings and drop fire from the skies…

Let’s all go to the world below, the one below the belt, and dry hump our way to oblivion. What else is there? The bombs and the unemployment lines and the people with nowhere to go… where do we go from here? We go south of the border, and north of the Mason/Dixon Line. We ignore it and we pretend that fucking is the only thing left.

The boy couldn’t blame Miller or Rank or the people of those times. In the future it’s out of boredom, out of the need to feel something in our technological world of gadgets. No one feels a thing because it ain’t got that swing. Dowap, dowap, one, two, one, two. All that jazz don’t make it to the Top Billboard Charts, but the sex does. Now is the same situation only the bombs are in our minds in our frantic struggle to be interesting and appealing.

We strayed for a while then the World Trade Center fell and America was never the same again. Show me your papers! Heighten security! Protect this country from the evil menace, from the ones responsible for such a crime. Lay that crime on the world outside, on your fellow neighbor, on your grandparents and grandchildren! Will America ever trust again, lay down its guard, or question those in charge? Will it stop suspecting everyone? ‘A House divided cannot stand…’ what does it mean? It means the Nation is broken almost beyond repair. The urge to turn against each other is too great to resist. It calls to us from the graves in the South, from phantom battles of the Civil War. Can you hear the Battle of Shiloh? The boy could, but he wasn’t swayed to join the dead men killing themselves all over again for freedom. 

Snap, snap, snap, the boy walks in, infected with the loser gene, the Gen-X Gene. The world outside glorifies the illusion not the reality. The reality is a clumsy boy in clumsy wares with clumsy stares up and down contradictory stairs.

In the land of money and sweet, sweet honey, bullshit walks the line, in Technicolor primetime. HD, LCD, 1080p, surround sound, VR, it’s all there. You just have to look, to give one glance to never be the same again.  

Individual World: A Poem

What makes you what you are 

Is not how they see you 

Is not how they treat you 

What makes you what you are 

Is not how they place you 

In places of confinement, of wrong pegs 

In unappreciated and spit-on places 

Where is that magic land of milk and honey? 

Where is it? 

And how do you obtain it? 

The United States is about to fall 

Cities of the Red Night 

Have to take over 

The smoldering ashes of bureaucracy 

Insolvent banks 

Need more solutions 

Are you refusing to hear the question? 

What a fine mess of things! 

The people are the future

Because the leaders gave up the punchcard 

America already went through the French Revolution 

Will this be another? 

The future looks scary and grim 

No hope for the dye that’s cast 

Cliché outcomes 

What hope is there when the forecast of the future is uncertain? 

What’s the point? 

To be what you are? 

When there’s nothing left? 

How important can it really be? 

Cliché questions, devoid of original thought 

Answers, with no clue to fix 

The Place of Dead Roads is getting ancient old 

Methuselah calls 

Says, ‘What’s wrong with pussy? And dick?’

What’s wrong? 

A stitch in time eventually breaks the same rhyme 

Do something different this time! 

Sick of the fall of Rome! 

Sick of the fall of Troy! 

Sick of the fall of Greece! Of Athens! Of Sparta!  

Sick of the fall of civilization stretched out to thousands and thousands of years! 

Do something different this time!’ 

The stock exchange is tired, needs a change 

A fulcrum without a proper dictum 

The desert yearns for rain 

Repression storage 

The air conditioned nightmare 

Where everything is conditioned  

Through patriotic air filters, no shelter from the hill 

Where little talking pages become bills 

And people, walking people, incessant talking 

Of weather, of what’s in fashion 

On their way to become bills on capitol hill 

Is that what you are? 

Is that the alternative? 

A face stands out of the crowd and laughs at the future’s plight 

A poet that gets to the point 

The people know where the wind blows 

But the poet laughs and has a spring in the step 

Pep in the pants 

But what of the dry sands of the Wasteland? 

What of the grim outlook? 

But that’s not the inlook! 

That’s not what makes you what you are! 

That’s not the poet! 

The world is shared with the I 

The I of your I 

But finding it, finding it, how to find it? 

How to find your own rhyme, your own voice? 

It’s a choice! It’s a choice! 

And the decision is left 

To decide to pursue 

A new path, a new way, a way around 

How they see you 

How they treat you 

How they place you 

A way around  

The future 

Because 

None of that 

Makes you 

What you really are 

What the future really is 

That’s up to you 

To decide 

Excerpt From New Novel II: Raised in Miami Beach

So where was I?

Oh yeah, in the drama. In still frame pictures that mocked me on the counter over the television. They were windows to another kind of life than this one. I looked at them a lot when I was growing up. Anger was welling up, screaming for release, growing, growing, with each passing day. Why so much anger? So much hate, so much frustration… it went against everything I wanted to be: calm, serene, understanding, compassionate, in control of my emotions. Why was it there? Hovering over me in still frame pictures of another life? Why did it taunt me so?

Dostoevsky understands what I went through, what I’m still going through, what I survived by the skin of my fucking teeth. I denied my anger existed, and the three witches came to stir the cauldron over an open flame. It was a mistake I had to make as a writer and a person. The curse didn’t relent, but at times slowed down, that was all.

By 16, I had given up hope for a future. My family… and a house of failed ambitions and the smell of cat shit. Why can’t I just be content with the lot I was given? Why did something inside scream ‘not enough! Not enough!’?

I confess that in the eyes of people, I am a bad son, a bad seed, a division sign in the fated equation. The world treated me like an ungrateful little scoundrel, and I believed them because I was a fool to boot. I guess somehow I knew I needed people, depended on people to survive. I wasn’t ready to cut myself off from the web, to travel 3,000 miles away to a new city, a new start, humble beginnings and a future I never believed I could have. The human heart has latent knowledge of our paths across the windblown sands. Deep down, I knew I was destined for great things by the coincidences and books I read. I hated that knowledge. I looked around my house and saw proof in nothing. How could I believe? Why did I believe without believing? Why was it so hard to look the other way, to become what others want, to leave myself behind for them? I was born an arrogant philosopher, an inadvertent judge, a small man playing in the big leagues. My place… is it what they say? Then how I’ve sinned! Who the fuck do I think I am? Who do I think I am? I am a low level employee telling the CEO to move his fat ass over so I can do his job better. I am the one constantly asking God questions about the business. I am the one who tells you what you don’t want to hear for your own good. I am as disrespectful as Oliver Twist was. Give me some more, and pass the damn pot while you’re at it will you? I’m starving over here! I am the cherry picker who debates with scientists and politicians. Ungrateful scum through and through and through….

It feels good to confess that I don’t care anymore. Let people see me only through their eyes, and not as I really am. Let them fester and fret to the tune of my b-side record, of the loser who plays his guitar, knowing it won’t get him laid and love it forevermore. Why do people care so much about my displacement? Let me retrace my steps along a kaleidoscope of memories.

Henry Miller put it best how I felt as a teenager: “I wanted to be cleansed of all iniquity. I wanted to be soaked through and through, then stabbed, then thrown into the gutter, then flattened out by a heavy truck, then ground down into the muck and mire, obliterated, annihilated for good and all.” Sounds a tad dramatic but that’s how I felt, although I imagine it’s normal for a teenager now. Back then however, holding on was a constant battle little by little, bit by bit, day by day… Ironically, I was callous to the sufferings of other teenagers. Oh the asshole broke your heart? Give me a break. Oh, you’re not getting laid? Join the fucking club, pal. Oh your parents suck? Well at least you’re not a second class citizen around here. At least you got a future. I know… annoying, right?

Maybe everyone projected their ungratefulness onto me, and that’s what I became. Who knows? Aren’t we all guilty of that? I know I have been ungrateful and hateful, but only my mother’s face comes to mind when I write that. The rest of the world can go to hell in a handbasket. What can I say? I can’t pretend guilt when it isn’t there, so I don’t bother. I confess it doesn’t torment me like it used to, like people thought it should. Away with the interpretation of others! Away with their feelings! I love the world too much; I care too much to bother with that. And the hate you ask? It’s still there, only I attempt to hold the reigns now. As a teenager it kept me going. One day I swear to God I will become a success and repay all my debts, and throw back their money at their cheap fucking faces not to prove anything to them, but to be done with them; to finish the burden and stab it dead. I will be generous and give and expect no return, and I won’t let it ruin me. Maybe I could give some kid like me, or someone worse off than I was, the hope I never had. Hope for the future!

It’s not your fault you’re born into this child, here’s something from a stranger, something for nothing. You deserve it because it’s not your fault. Let it make your life blossom and let it make you bust your ass for happiness, even if the shot is dim, even if you can’t see it, even if when you look around, there is nothing but cat piss and cat shit and failed ambitions, and piles of dirty dishes, and fat cockroaches that live with you. Even if there is nothing to make you believe in sight… fight! Day by day, bit by bit, step by step, trip by trip! Fight the odds, fight the defeat, fight the fate; fight the universe if you have to! And to hell with the rest! My anger made me never completely give up, even as a miserable ugly failure that I was in my mind. I stopped listening to the world, and the curse, and the family and went to the tune of my own making. I became a detective and went on the hunt to find the real me.

I can finally confess that I am grateful now. That if I could do it all again, I wouldn’t change how people treated me. It’s made me who I am, and quite frankly, I love who I am. I am one egotistical motherfucker and I don’t shy away from that, especially as a writer. I had a girl taunt me once, say that it was all about me, me, me. And who else’s life would it be about bitch? Yours? I don’t think so. Fortunately at the time, I was more polite about it. Why is it that when you want to become a writer, everyone tries to discourage you, or try to shit an egg of wisdom on your head about it when they don’t have nearly as much experience as you do? What gives people the right to question your passions and try to make you distrust them? Everyone has something to prove, but the proof is never in the pudding, folks! Don’t come around and try to take me under your wing. I appreciate the offer, but I didn’t ask for it. Call me a dick, but I’m being honest with you. When I ask for your opinion, then you can bring that big fat feathery wing over and show me a thing or two. But if you can’t stand the thought of learning something from someone like me, then you better stop trying to teach. Surrender those wings already and try to save yourself for a change. Try to show yourself a thing or two.

Come to think about it, it’s a miracle nothing happened to me in Miami with that mouth of mine. I should’ve been shot, stabbed, kidnapped, raped, beaten to a bloody pulp, jumped, but that never happened to me. I never got my ass kicked, I never got into fights, I never got arrested. That’s quite an achievement for a Miami street rat. Usually I was on the brink of murder and pain, but what got through was humiliation and poverty. I must have cheated death more than once, perhaps even by accident. The curse never destroyed my family completely, only my mother. Maybe she was responsible for keeping me safe, for making sure we had a net over the abyss. Somehow, she fought the curse all on her own. I tried to help her, but I didn’t know how. It was like watching a drowning innocent, helpless to change the course of nature. The more I tried the more futile it was.  I was Darwin, watching the poor little innocent turtles get hacked to pieces by birds of prey. Was this really the course of nature? Can it be this cruel and heartless? You bet.

It’s not nature’s job to worry about sorting the guilty from the innocent. A bird flies through the air, and swoops with one gentle motion to the ground. A lion tears down the gazelle piece by piece in gentle peace and ecumenical hunger. Storms and tornadoes spin together and ravage a town, a city, a state, a trail of islands in the tropical sun. In those moments when hurricanes hit, I loved nature’s process. School was out, and the storm clouds cooled the land. The wind would shift suddenly and strongly, without any warning, and change direction. I walked through the winds, being pushed to and fro almost to the point of flight. I loved running with the violent currents, soaked to the bone in painful torrents of rain. Looking back, there were quite a few hurricanes in the 90’s. I remember at first being terrified of them really young. On the Television at 9332 Munne Motel (always open) I sat and watched these giant white balls of clouds in great terror. My mother had to console and reassure me quite a bit, which I’m sure she loved to do. For some reason as a young child, the idea of the world coming to an end, the fall of civilization, unnatural disasters, (you name it) had a more permanent feel to it. The way I saw it?

Any minute now, any minute now, any minute now, any minute now. When? When you least suspect it; When you let your guard down; any minute now; anytime, any when, anyhow… when? Any minute, any then, any now. I could feel Armageddon’s hot stale breath on my neck. If it wasn’t real, if nothing was there, then why did I feel it? Why did I sense it? I was oppressed by the power of my imaginative spirit. I was carried away, with no control. I hung my head by a thread and lived on the razors edge. There was nothing religious or secular about it. All I knew was a sinking feeling and visions of chaos. But the white spinning balls of cloud and destruction came and went, and the world stayed more or less, the same. Nothing changed; nothing whatsoever. Any minute now, nothing will happen.

The older I got, the more I grew to appreciate these bouts of nature, and the fears of catastrophe dissipated. My life was a catastrophe in limbo, a photograph of misfortune, a hex in motion. Sometimes they compounded, sometimes they relented. My family’s miserable defeats happened in fluctuations, in ripples of rocks tossed into a still pond, in kau cim, in Tarot Cards, in Ouija boards, in the entrails of sacrificed animals before a battle, in Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle. The whole enterprise was uncertain if you ask me… uncertain from the very start. Get ready for the next 15 years Daniel. Get ready to roll a rock up a never-ending hill like Sisyphus. And that’s what we prepared for, without knowing it. Our life definitely had a Greek tragedy feel to it, or at least a Spanish Soap Opera feel. Up the hill we went, and down the hill the rock came, and just when we were about to push it over the hill, just as we started to believe, down the hill the rock came, again and again. Why were we being punished? And by who or whom or Who with a capital W? Believe it or not, sometimes we talked about it as a family. It was spooky to say the least but fascinating. For a moment we were on the same boat, not screaming and trying to kick each other off. My father assumed the role of reckless positivity, and my brother and sister challenged it with what our lives had become. My mother tried to listen to them, hopelessly in the middle, trying to find a solution amid the fighting and yelling. I usually stayed in the sidelines, observing, interjecting only when accused or included somehow. Later as a teenager I got hair on my cojones and spoke out more, gave my opinion, which most of the time only made things worse. But let’s go back to the hurricanes.

The fear eventually became excitement, then anticipation. Why can a category 5 hurricane like Andrew hit Miami Beach? Better yet, bring a tsunami while you’re at it. Bring it all and blow it away, the palm trees, the PAST DUE bills, the gavels from cold judges, the uncompromising landlords, the tears from my mother, from my heart, from the fury in my soul. Wash it all away dammit. To Kingdom Come and back again. Let the destruction fluctuate like the curse of my family!

The rain cooled my tropical spirit, and eased my worries as I watched it tap on the windows in bucketfuls of white noise. To fall asleep to it, to wake to it, to hear the shifts in wind, and the raindrops follow… the end was calm. Annihilation was serene and peaceful like death. The lapping waves of raindrops and water, water, water everywhere. We were stranded in the sea of nowhere, in the heat of a million suns without light. When the hurricanes came, I was at peace with myself and my miserable life. When I think about it now, I can’t help but to smile. Regardless of the power outages, the ripped up trees, the terrible floods, the incompetence of FPL, the debris and junk scattered about, the bugs that came after, regardless of that, I still loved Poseidon’s visit and thanked him for his bounty. This was my life, after all. I was born in it… born somehow stepping on the toes of vengeful gods. Maybe in the womb I made some kind of spiritual faux pas. Maybe I bitch slapped St. Joseph at the pearly gates, and he sent me back, disgusted at my ungratefulness. I wouldn’t be surprised. Who would turn down Heaven? I would. Because that would mean we are guilty. Because that would mean we have to apologize. Because that would mean we deserved what happened to us. ‘Fuck God and fuck heaven if that’s the price!’ I told myself.

Never! Fuck that venue!

I know we made a lot of mistakes. I know my parents especially did, quite a few. But it wasn’t fair that we kids had to pay for it. How was it our fault in the eyes of God? God was wrong then. He wasn’t supposed to allow the innocent to be punished, no matter the situation. Let the guilty hang, but the innocent by association? Who the fuck is in charge here? I have a coffin with my mother’s name on it. Can I stuff it in your Human Resource box? Can I write a letter to God or Congress with her suffering? Can I make it into a PDF file, or a HTML, or just E-Mail her corpse? Maybe I can post it on my wall on FB, see if that changes anything. Bottom line, I am a low level employee and I have a complaint about my mother and what she went through. She didn’t deserve what she got… and neither did my family. God, cost benefit analysis, science, religion, mathematics, the laws of nature… wrong, wrong, all wrong about our verdict and our sentence. We were framed by an irrational streak in the universe. We got the wrong sentence.  

I stood in the rain and the gusts and gale force winds and I laughed at nature, with nature, against nature. Thank you so much nature! I knew what to do! Thank you Hurricane Gordon, Erin, Bertha, Lili, Earl, Georges, Floyd, Irene! Thank you Tropical Storm Harvey, Mitch, Hermine, Josephine, Jerry, Allyson, Gordon, Beryl, Alberto! It’s because of you, that I’m not afraid anymore of the Apocalypse!  

If life is unfair, if corruption is irresistible then I’ll rebel against it by embracing honor and ethics! I’ll rebel by ‘doing the right thing.’ I’ll rebel by reading, learning, questioning, doubting, researching, realizing. I’ll rebel by taking the high road, by living up to my own code of morals and principles and voice which would eventually become my writing, my art. And whatever the price, I don’t care! Good things will happen! Things will finally change because of my resolutions! The universe will pay it back.

God, what a fool I was.

So I’ve Been Told: A Sex Poem

When it comes to sex, I am a pervert

My conventions are a little unconventional

My aims are too lusty and too radical

At least, that’s what I’ve been told

By parent/teacher conferences

By suburban and urban posers

Trying to do the same thing

Only in a different way

(and wrong, you don’t do it halfway, couples. Mean what you say)

See the thing is, I revere sex

I can’t get enough because I never had enough

But to be completely honest with you

I was dirty from the start

At least, that’s what I’ve been told

Now I agree with that

But I get it

Can’t get too capitalistic about banging the planet

Bombing the planet, well that’s a different story

And any news correspondent can tell you that

But banging the planet?

Nah, too many diseases

Makes me wish it was the 60’s all over again

What I would do for that summer of love!

What I would do for that blissful ignorance!

To touch anything! To touch anything!

Now am I saying that? Not quite

But that’s what I’ve been told

By Public School Morning Announcements

By elementary school principals

By concerned teachers

And yet, the youth saw the consequences

And we knew better than anyone

Summer of love? For the kids of the 90’s?

You think that shit happened?

I mean look at our attempt at Woodstock!

That should tell you a thing or two

About what we were told

About what we grew up seeing on the news

We didn’t have that moment to really appreciate sex

Because the consequences were already shoved in our faces

We didn’t stand a chance

We used to watch old sitcoms and think

Did they seriously live like that?

Where’s the junky?

Where’s the bum?

Where’s the beef?

Ancient world

Long since dead

Day one of the government shutdown

Maybe they don’t want to live in this new world

Of adults, of old age

They want their old world back, and there’s no going back

I’m not whining here you skeptical fuck so listen up!

Don’t give me that ‘Where’s the solutions?’ crap!

I ain’t trying to depress you

I’m just up here saying what I feel

About 800,000 government employees

And not one grown up among them to knock some sense

On both sides of the fence

(if there’s really a fence

is it an absence of sex?

on both sides of the fence?)

And have them work together instead of bickering like they say kids do

And me?

I’ve seen better teamwork and compromises with kids

Shit I remember!

Flag football and basketball and kickball and all those other games

And school projects and school plays

A lot of laughing, a lot of snickering

But they had the teamwork thing down!

Maybe the problem is we expect the adults to know what’s best

And the trick is

We have to work together to find out what that is

Because look at the ones in power

Even the small ones

Anybody know what the fuck they’re doing?

I say let the kids run the show

Give them a shot to fuck things up

Why not?

They’re already changing the world

Old and youth have to do the ol’ switch-a-roo

That’s my kind of world

The old motto was ‘Don’t Trust Anyone over 30’

But what if I’m a fan of the older ladies?

What if I got a list in mind to please from behind the stage?

I like my first impression to be a deep impression

The deeper the better

I know I have this terrible, terrible yearning

It’s a problem because the more I fuck the more I want

At least that’s what I’ve been told

By mothers who don’t leave daughters alone

By parents who don’t ever want to think of their kids in terms of sex

By the neighborhood watch

Who liked feeling like crap because you felt something warm under your blanket?

Who liked feeling like you did something terrible, because you did something so natural?

Does rape exist? Of course it does!

But is all sex rape?

Is all groping wrong?

It’s not fun and transcendent, unless both feel it, unless both want it

Am I a rapist because I have a giant animal inside of me?

Because I look forward to those moments?

Because I like to get a pussy wet? A cock hard?

Because I like to give it so much?

Because I like to see the faces of the people I please?

And give them some release if only for one day?

Did anyone really get ‘The World According to Garp’, or what?

That’s what I’ve been told by PTA meetings

By the public media

I am a menace and I need to be stopped

But tell that to my pen!

Tell that to my heart!

Tell that to my passionate lust!

I’m not preaching the gospel of raves or ecstasy either

I don’t need none of that

To fuck like a sensual man

Because that’s what I really am

I got standards and class about tapping dat ass

Excuse the urban lingo please

I think there’s some old ladies in the back playing bingo

Shh keep it quiet!

Don’t tell them that!

Kids don’t fuck! They uh… play hopscotch until they’re thirty

Is that what the old ladies are calling it these days? No shit!

And who am I?

The worst pervert of all

The one with too much sex in the blood

It’s funny because I used to know a lot of people who tried on my style

Didn’t look right on them because they weren’t artists

I mean REAL artists

Or sexually progressive parents

Must have sucked growing up in that house, but I can relate

I think all of our sexual problems stem from our conceptions of sex

Of what were told it is

Sex isn’t taboo to me!

Last week I got my wife of five years a lap dance!

That was a fun night!

We all went back to our place and…

But that’s another story

What I am saying is this:

Sex is missing something

Something crucial

Something society has forcibly removed

In place of twerking, jerking, and all the other illusions of real sensuality

That are force-fed to unsuspecting kids and parents

That’s not what sex is, people!

That’s not what I’m talking about!

Don’t be bamboozled now!

Those are just scare tactics, to degrade sex, to put a bad spin on it

Don’t let them make you ashamed of what you feel kids!

Sex can be something beautiful if your parents let it

If you let it

Sex is missing sensuality

Sex is missing style!

Why so much drama?

Why so much jealousy and hate?

Why so much shame?

Is a relationship just two genitals wrapped in matrimony?

I don’t buy that

I banged my wife on the first night

Five years and change since together

Stronger than ever

But I don’t mind sharing

And neither does she

But we have standards too

Not just any john or jane are invited to play

You better leave your twerking ass at the door

Because what I’m talking about is a lot more personal

And makes you feel a lot more vulnerable

And ain’t as easy

It’s a deeper connection, a deeper penetration than that

So many can’t handle it, so many fake it

And I hate the pretenders; can spot them a mile away

You can call me a swinger but that ain’t it

I put more thought in my choices

And I don’t abuse the proceeds too much

I’m here to break some morals and give it purpose

A talking taboo with a walking erection

(I named him Elwood like the Blues Brothers)

Listen to the black censor bar in front of you!

I’m the bad influence who says not to beat yourself up

I’m the bad influence who doesn’t want you to feel ashamed!

In fact I encourage you to feed the wild animal!

But don’t just throw it any scraps you have lying around on your block

Respect the beast! Acknowledge it’s there!

Tell your parents to clear it and explore your body!

Make it an art form again!

Or better yet get a friend to help you

As kids we know the price of sex, more than most

We can be responsible about our lust!

It doesn’t have to be rape!

We can push the boundaries and not make the same mistakes as our parents

Have you seen Gen X lately?

So many are aging better now

Some look better than when they were teens

Its okay Gen X the absent parents are gone, you can come out now

Rediscover your youth that you never had, that you never were allowed!

I’m not saying to screw anything that moves!

I’m saying be the start of the new generations of ageless adults!

Of a new psycho-sensual revolution!

Better than all the others!

It’s not just about sex, or just about getting laid like the 60’s or the 70’s or the 80’s

It’s more than that, more cerebral than that

It’s about changing the standards of sex

It’s about bringing back Athens

Growing up, I didn’t get enough tail so I had to see a shrink

Best shrink in the world

There were bouncers at the door, and the floors were always sticky

Got me through some hard times if you know what I mean

I survived youth through my few contacts with sex

I want all that to change

I am not going to let happen to the kids what happened to Generation X!!!

Be more artistic about your approach to sex

Don’t let the adults tell you what that is

Figure it out for yourself

Define it for yourself

Learn how to handle it first

I know it’s one of the hardest things to do in life

But go out boy! Go out girl!

Feed the beast! Tame your animal! Let it speak for once!

Whatever it takes!

Don’t let sex be a pop twerking media fuck-fest

Change its definitions!

Change that perspective!

Let sex and sensuality be something beautiful again, something not so serious

Something natural and evolved

Something not EVER equated with rape and violence!

It’s not the same thing! It’s not the same thing! It’s not what I mean!

So drop the devil’s advocate bit and really listen to me!

In the future I see us all having sex and maintaining relationships at the same time

Full steam ahead! Or else-

What was all this modern life for?

To continue the violent monotony of history?

A modern life… to create a sexual upheaval in society…

Now wouldn’t that make more sense?

Wouldn’t that be some kind of return on our investment?

It’s not like our 401K are worth a crap (whatever that is)

The planet is shot for shit

Oil is done

The suburbs are pretty much owned by banks

So can’t we get something back?

Is that too much to ask of a distopian future, of a robbed youth?

You see folks?

I’m a genuine Grade-A pervert of the lowest kind

At least, that’s what I’ve been told

By the old and empty

For being forever young-

-at heart

From Riches to Rags: Excerpt From New Novel

There was a secret behind locked doors. It was about money and fame and failure. The ADULTS did a good job hiding it from me most of my young life. Nevertheless, I peered through the cracks at a broke-down palace. My family: the worker bees, nursing it in futility and despair. Cracks are in the walls; it reeked of cat shit and ruined ambitions; everything was imperfect, askew, wrong, out of shape, disproportionate, unbalanced, not where it’s supposed to be. The ADULTS tried to contain this, and keep it from me as much as possible, but I saw through the cracks and the clutter, and the heat and the grime. I saw something alive that should’ve been long dead. What perversion is this? I screamed. The Navarros, the failed Navarros, the worthless and helpless Navarros.

I confess that I grew a chip on my shoulder as my mom drove delivering newspapers. I would lay on the backseat, with my older brother Michael in front, and watch the sky of Miami, Hollywood breeze by. I remember my mom had the radio on, and a new song just recorded called ‘Mi Tierra’ came out by Gloria Estefan. It’s funny now that I read about it. It was recorded a year after Andrew devastated South Florida, and not far from where we were at the time. In a way it was a herald of our eventual and more permanent stay in Miami Beach proper. But then, I had no idea. Our life was chaos. Even at eight years old, I had a hard time keeping track of things. Did we stay with some families? Did we stay in a broken house in Homestead when the hurricane hit? How long have we lived in our car? Didn’t we drive on a long empty road? Was it Florida or Chile? I was plagued by haunting questions as the song played for the tenth time in the night. Palm trees floated by. Mom took a right, then left, then straight… then stop.

The picture would stop on gray storms, blinding blue skies, buildings, power lines, flashing lights, birds, airplanes, loud talking, loud music, loud cars with loud horns, loud styles, attitudes, spending habits, bills, tips, drinks, joints, white lines and rolled up dollar bills, horniness and heat. Drugs and guns and cops and people flow and network and are all connected together. Miami pulses with corruption that sets everyone on edge along with the heat and FPL. Everyone is paid or laid to rest or can’t afford the game. People clump together under a roof with their faces in front of the AC. Jesus and welfare and Sunday church and divorce settlements, and suspects in shootouts. Get rich quick is the name of the game. If you can’t make it on your own, regulate homie. Don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty. In Miami anything goes… past the car window. The song finished, and I wondered what Tierra I thought was santa…?

I rarely slept in the night. I was fascinated by the newspaper life. With my brother sprawled on his side, always sleeping like an angel, I felt the cars hum beneath me, a hum of life that pushed us forever onward in the streets of North Miami. Atlanta Drive, Sheridan Street, Hollywood Ave, Bird Road… my mom drives in the night, filled with worry and newspapers. She is a newspaper boy. It has come to this. She stops, leaves the engine running, opens the door newspaper in hand, and goes to each house. She feels her health already debilitating. Why is it so painful to throw this paper? She has to walk most of the way to throw it properly. The ritual continues, over and over, in reverse and in drive. The tape rewinds and she hops into the car, again to streets, again the radio plays the same music, the same haunting songs, the ones you can’t help to associate anguish and sorrow, even if they are happy, again the sky would move before my eyes, and so did the city. What a city! What madness and cacophony! What miracles and blunders! What a salivating treat you want so bad! Miami is like a seasoned whore on the point of becoming a violent con. She takes but you never see. You are too enchanted with her slender figure, her full fake lips, and tits, and sweat. You are rooted to the spot like a shipwrecked sailor beholding a perfect Siren. She is whatever you want her to be. She hides in disguises and becomes what you want. It could be anything, for it’s not man or woman. It is the sexiest thing on earth, the object for which even a cultured gentleman of the 21st Century would beg for. You want a touch, just one, and you try your hardest to succeed. Some aren’t able, but it’s worse for those that do. You’re left wanting more than that. It wasn’t enough, because it never is. And all the meanwhile, she takes, takes, takes; behind your back; a small piece at a time, always every time. A conviction here, a promise there, a selfless act, a resolution… but it’s always worse when you succeed. What a feeling when you touch Miami, when you fuck Miami, when you snort her up in a ballroom party, smoke her down in Overtown from a crack pipe in bushes outside tenement buildings, roll her up with Phillies in a stairway, feel her up in a club and dance with her the night away before the real fun begins! What oh what a fucking feeling! God, that feels so fucking good! And in the clear light of an endless summer, it hits you. You lost something, you don’t know what. It could be money, a phone, a shirt, a gun, a wallet, a pipe, a pill, an eight ball, anything but what you lost is much more than that. Miami took your soul in the middle of the night. You were played fool. You were cheated.

I don’t know about anyone else, but that was to be my relationship with Miami. I confess I didn’t get laid nearly as enough as you might think, growing up in such a place. Maybe it was my crooked stare, crooked teeth, sad doughy eyes, soup bowl haircut, button nose, scrawny build, small height, and young face which stuck with me until my late teenage years. I always felt like the little kid who interrupted their parents having sex, only it was with kids my age. At eight kids in my school were already getting bulky, hairy and big. At thirteen, some looked like they had kids of their own. I knew that there was no way to compete for the attention of girls. I lusted after them very young, but understood my place as a child. At the time I don’t think I could’ve handled that kind of humiliation if I went too far and acted on my sexual impulses. That’s right. I took notice of Miami long before the other boys while they played flag football and kickball… and I couldn’t stop thinking about her while my mother continued her newspaper trek.

I seem to recall a girlfriend I used to have when I lived in the red house on Atlanta Drive. She always sat with me during recess, and we would kiss each other on the cheeks much to the shock of the rest of the kids in our group of 1st Graders. They considered us mature, and grown up, and brave, and maybe a little crazy too. We were the talk of the playground, and the talk of our class. I don’t remember her name anymore, but I do remember her. She had milky white skin filled with freckles like specs of nutmeg in eggnog. Her hair was the lightest blonde and her eyes big, blue, and cat-like. We used to hold hands and sit on the swings or near the slide and look at each other. I was in seventh nirvana. I was so happy with her. Child relationships are a marvelous thing. We rarely spoke, because we didn’t have to. We were a team, and most importantly: grown up. I was immune to cooties unlike the other boys who teased me mercilessly about my ‘girlfriend’. We loved each other the way adults have to learn to all over again in the later stages of life.

I barely recall what happened to our ‘relationship.’ One day, we had to go back home to the motherland Chile, just like that. And just like that, we found ourselves having to say goodbye. I didn’t understand why we were leaving. Now I know what happened. The contract was up. The television station didn’t renew it, not even for another year. My parents fought constantly in the little red house on Atlanta Drive in its remaining days. I guess the defeat was nigh for them. Dad gambled some more, and tried his luck looking for other places, other opportunities. But the doors began to close, one by one, station to station. No one hired him, no one wanted him. Armand Navarro had become a marked man. And so, we left to what we thought was greener pastures in the homeland.

I never saw the little girl again. All I remember is her weeping at the news and clutching at my shirt. I walked away underneath the arched pathways that lead to the school entrance, tears streaming down my face, still hearing her wails in the background. My mom was by my side, reassuring me. I cried in silence. It was my first experience with death. I knew I would never see her smiling face again. I knew that I would never see that little red house. I knew that the normal and stable life was over… for a long time at least.

The memory completely fades after that. All that is left is a faint impression of airports. I love airports and it’s probably due to that trip. Such a strange comfort that comes over me when I’m at an airport, it’s so exciting to see planes take off and arrive, hearing the tumulus sounds, the buzzing and droning of bags and suitcases with little wheels, and different languages and intercom announcements… to me as a child, I imagine it was my Alexandria. An amalgamation of different wears, styles, speech patterns, accents, nationalities, stories…what a place!

I imagine I didn’t have a bad time at our temporary sojourn in Chile, but for whatever reason I couldn’t remember much about it. I’ve repressed it. Perhaps my mother wept in front of us or exploded in frustration. I don’t blame her for any of it. Doors continued to close. More television stations, more radio stations, more channels, more, more, more…. Chile itself began to close. Mom would hang up and scream in anger at the odds, before trying another number, another failure. Why is this happening?

‘Why the fuck not?’ Answered the voice on the other end, almost innocently.

“Where are our friends our families, our contacts?” Maria demanded. “What’s happening?”

“They can’t help you Maria.” The voice told her. “I’m sorry. They have more pressing matters to deal with. I mean come on! You know people have their own lives right? They can’t support you when you make bad investments. I mean, think about it. Isn’t it your fault? You were irresponsible. Some will try to carry you… back in sunny North Miami, but they’ll regret it. Oh yes they will. You were not meant to be a mother, or stay with Armand. All the signs were there. You should have listened Maria. Now the Navarros are cursed, and so are you. The curse is in your head. It’s too late. You will never see Chile again. And you will never see your children succeed. You know why? Because life is pain…”

The doors continued to close like a sinister domino effect. My mom always heard the same recording in her brain after that. Nothing deterred her from that view, which eventually became reality for her. She was changed forever. Maria felt abandoned more than ever in her life, abandoned by God. I will never know how she managed to juggle us and the dogs the entire time. Somehow, I’m not quite sure how, we managed to hang our heads and leave in defeat.

That was the end of a saga, and the beginning of our long and painful crawl back to below poverty. My parents agreed that the United States will be the best bet, Miami in particular with its strong Caribbean presence. My father assured that it will be a matter of time before he found something. They still had their American Visas, and so did the rest of us. We will work, and save our money. We just need someone to help us, and give us our start, pathetic as it may be. That was the best solution. Or so we thought.