Celestine

Celestine

I witnessed the stabbing death of a woman in front of me. It was a moment in my life I will be pressed to forget. Her dark hair stained in the deep scarlet waters gushing out of her neck. Her eyes focused on a point beyond our consciousness. A man standing over her dripping in the lifeline of her existence, almost like a prized Matador admiring his victory over a beast. From the dark underlying of a car, I quietly wept for this stranger and her untimely demise petrified that he might suddenly turn around and notice the owl eyes – frightened to death – documenting the actions of the devil within him. She slowly moved her head in my direction as a cold sweat ran down my face. Can she see me? Does she know I’m here? You’re not alone I whispered almost praying that she could hear me. As desperate terror swept thru my veins, my eyes were fixed on her face – beautiful, innocent, undeserving of this ending. Big brown almond eyes, deep in sorrow, big full pink lips, tainted with red, a lipstick she never intended to wear. Skin as white as milk losing more its luster with each passing second. I laid there wondering who she was, why this happened, how little I could actually help her. But the most terrifying thing of all? I liked it. Her death just made me feel alive. More alive than I’ve ever been…

Diary Entry- I’m Awake

I’ve never felt normal. Even in my most comfortable state, I’ve always felt like I was never entirely part of what others were doing around me. For almost 30 years, I’ve fought against my own feelings of inadequacy and strived to fit in. Fit into the schedule that life dictates for us – go to school, graduate, get a good job, meet someone, get married, have children and build a family. Be a wife, be a mother, be like everyone else. That’s the prescription for life, right? Build yourself then give yourself to other people. The one thing that I keep asking myself even as I write this is – when did I stop dreaming? When did I start wanting what everyone wants? That perfect life, that perfect family, the perfect job, the expensive house, the expensive car. Is that really what I want? Is that what my life is supposed to amount to? Some people strive in a life of normalcy. To them, this is what life is supposed to be and what life ought to be. They strive in the ordinary nuances of life. They excel in doing what is expected of them. They, unlike me, have it figured out as I sit in a corner jealous of their success.

The thing with me is that I’ve never felt entirely satisfied. I’ve loved people and still felt empty. I’ve been loved and still felt a void. I’m good at my job. I make 6 figures when some of my friends are struggling to get by and yet I feel a profound boredom; a boredom that money or vacations can’t seem to fulfill. Some might call me selfish, ungrateful or even idiotic for feeling this way because I’m entirely blessed and find myself in a position that a lot of ppl are fighting to get to. But what is life if you don’t take risks? An endless loop of monotony. I don’t want to live like that. I don’t want to look back and regret a single day of my existence. I’m tired of having my yesterday look like my today and looking exactly like my tomorrow. Some people are OK with this, some are great at this and most are better than me at this. Me? I can’t. I can’t continue to feel like a sheep in an endless, never-changing pasture. They say that the only person who holds you back from your destiny is you. You are the creator of your future. One day, long ago, I stopped dreaming. One day, long ago, I stopped believing. And ever since then I’ve been a walking zombie going thru the motions of the every day. I no longer wish to do that. I, for the first time in almost 30 years, have begun dreaming again. If your dreams don’t scare you, they’re not big enough. I finally feel like I’ve awaken from my slumber. I’m finally beginning to really feel alive.

In a few months, I will be packing my bags and heading off into the unknown. Am I scared? Absolutely! But I told myself that I would never let fear cripple my vision. Do I know what I’m getting myself into? Hell no. Do I know I will succeed at whatever I end up doing? Abso-fucking-lutely. I never leave room for failure in my life. I fall down 7 times, I get up 8 times. I’m about to go grab life by the balls and it feels good as hell. 

Sarah Taylor

For weeks I was debating with myself about it. Two sides at constant war, screaming for acknowledgement and me stuck squarely in the middle. One kept telling me that I had to let go, it wasn’t good for me. It only did me harm. The other telling me that for the first time in years, I was actually feeling something. I was human after all. I cared. I had feelings; someone had finally broken thru the armor. This was no easy task- you could break into FortKnox before you could crack me. I’m an ice queen after all. I’m not gonna lie – it felt good. It made me smile, it made me cry. It turned me into a fool and it turned me into a Queen. That’s all it really comes down to – I finally felt something. Even if I lost focus, direction and reason, after years of pretending, I finally really felt something real.

 

I walked into work that morning feeling uneasy, a strange dread. Not sure why. It was this empty, nauseating feeling in the pit of my stomach. Felt like I hadn’t eaten in days. I couldn’t shake it. For days it’s been happening. Barely any sleep, sadness, fear, an overwhelming feeling of lost. The universe was talking to me but I couldn’t understand what it was trying to say. Snap outta it!! What the hell is wrong with you? Wake up!! I kept screaming at myself as I slowly made my way to my desk. My breakfast sits there, staring back at me, asking to be enjoyed. It just went cold. Barely touched. Great. You paid $8 for this omelet and coffee and you wont even eat it. 8 fucking dollars. Eat it!! But I couldn’t. I just sat there pretending like I gave a shit about work when in reality my entire being was somewhere else. C’mon, focus!! Stop thinking, focus!! I forced my eyes to look at my computer screen. Trying to find something to get my mind to stop talking to itself. HA!! Like that’s really how it works. If it were only that easy. At that very moment, I wished I had one of those Staples That was Easy button so I could press it and my mind would just stop. The wheels would stop spinning. If someone were to ever create a device to make you stop thinking, that mofo would be a trillionare. Guaranteed. Trying to force your head to shut up is like seeing a $100 on the floor and not bending down to pick it up. Impossible. Your ass is gonna bend over and snatch that bitch up before someone else tries to do the same. You know you’ll do it, don’t play yourself. You’re gonna pick up Ben as soon as you can. It’s more than an impulse, it’s almost instinctual. That’s what it’s like trying to force your brain to shut up – forcing yourself to walk pass that Benjamin and not pick it up. Nope, not gonna happen. I sat there being consumed by my thoughts – lost in a sea of dread. No compass, no guide, no land, no horizon. Just endless, unstoppable waves of unwanted thoughts.

 

Sarah, Sarah, Sarah!! The British accent snaps me back to Earth. What? Your phone keeps lighting up. You should pick it up. Ohh, thanks Steph. Still in a haze, I look down and see the missed calls. 3 calls. Back to back to back. Boston #. What the fuck? Voicemail. Huh. I wonder who this is. I snap myself out of my daze and listen to the strange voice on the other end – Ms. Taylor, we need you to call us back immediately. This is not a collection agency or a telemarketer, it’s important. This is really important. Please give us a call as soon as you get this.

 

My eyes immediately watered. My heart pounding out my chest. Sweat drops all over my body. The room suddenly becoming a sauna. I could barely catch my breath. My hands trembling. I tried to swallow but there was nothing there. A knot in my throat immediately materializes. A surge of electricity from my head to my toes. Immediately, she said, immediately. Barely able to hold myself together. I need air. I’m suffocating. I need to get out of here before my co-workers start noticing that there’s something wrong with me. I slowly get up, fist clenched, sweat down my back. Heart pounding. Head beginning to spin. What could this be? What’s so important that this woman is calling me at work nonstop? What is she talking about? What the hell just happened to my body? Why did I almost pass out? The dread was now covering every single inch of my body and I don’t understand why. I managed to make it to the bathroom, I don’t know how but I did. Legs trembling. Entire body sweating. Heart about to jump out my mouth.

 

I lock myself in the stall and call back. Ring, ring, ring. Hi, this is Sarah Taylor. Voice shaking. I could barely get my name out. I swallowed – dryness. Yes, Ms. Taylor, we’ve been calling you all morning. Your test results are back. You have Chlamydia, Ms. Taylor. You have to go to your Doctor. We’ve already informed her and she’s expecting your call. You should call her as soon as you can.

 

In my 27 years, I’ve never thought about my own mortality or not being able to have kids or not being healthy. But at that moment, as the tears began to waterfall down my cheeks and the pain began destroying my insides apart, all I could think about was that daughter or son that I would never be able to have. So I cried. For the first time in years, I just cried. Not because I was sick but because I felt my future being robbed from me and it was my fault. I sat there shaking, crying, alone, embarrassed. I’ve never been sick before, this has never happened to me. I didn’t know what to do. Who do I tell? I cant tell my parents. I cant tell my friends. What would they think of me? This isn’t me. This doesn’t happen to me. I don’t sleep around. I’m suffocating. I’m shaking, my fists turning tomato red. I’m so angry. I’m so hurt. I feel so lost.

 

TEXT MESSAGES –

 

Me: We need to talk

Him: what is it?

Me: You gave me Chlamydia.

Him: What?!! You better check who you’ve been sleeping with. Go talk to them

Me: You!!!!! I’m only sleeping with YOU!!!

Him: ______________

Me: In the past year and a half, I’ve only been with you. No one else.

Him: ______________

 

The thing about betrayal is that what hurts the most isn’t what the person has done per se but that they never thought about how much pain they would make you go thru. That careless disregard for you from the person you love is what tears your heart in half. How can someone you loved, you cared for, you’ve helped, been their light in the darkness, their rock during the storm, their friend, their partner, their escape from the world, do something like this? Then to turn around and essentially call you a whore. That’s the part that was killing me. How little he truly knows me. Was our connection imagined? Were these feelings fake? Did he ever even care? Such little faith in me, in us.

 

I knew I would be fine in time with the proper care. My body would rebound, I would heal. But would I really be OK? Would I heal entirely? How can I trust anyone after this? How can I even think of loving anyone after this? You don’t do this to someone you care about. Naïve on my part, I know, to think everyone thinks this way. I sat there no longer crying, no longer shaking. I was just angry. Angry at myself. Angry at my carelessness. Angry at my feelings. And scared. I got up, wiped my face, took a deep breath and told myself to get it together. I, after all, was still at work and had to pretend like absolutely nothing was wrong with me. These people don’t need to see me this way. I wish I could tell you how the rest of my day went but I can’t remember. I was a zombie for the rest of the week.

 

You have to make peace with the apology that you’ll never get. But to tell you that I’m completely healed would be a lie. What still makes me sad is that I genuinely lost a friend, lost someone who had a piece of me that I’ll probably never fully get back. Lost someone I loved. No, I’m not nor will I ever be with this person again but when you really love someone, they’ll always have a small piece of your soul. My only hope is that he too is a better person because of it. The worst part of love is loving someone who never deserved your love. But the best part of loving the wrong person is learning what real love is.

Just because someone didn’t appreciate your value, doesn’t mean you’re worth any less. In the end, it just shows that they really couldn’t afford you.

Rant #1 – Expectations

Ex·pec·ta·tion

 noun \ˌek-ˌspek-ˈtā-shən, ik-\

: a belief that something will happen or is likely to happen

: a feeling or belief about how successful, good, etc., someone or something will be

 

Merriam-Webster

 

We’ve all heard it before – No expectations, no disappointments. I think most of us would like to think that we practice this motto on a consistent basis; that it is an integral part of our emotional survival. If I don’t expect anything from a person, there is no chance of being disappointed, of being hurt. For a really long time, I found myself living by these words. They dominated (and still do to an extend) the way I look at people in my life. The less I expect from them, the better off I’ll be. Or at least I’ll like to think that.  Hmmm, expectations. They can rip our hearts out and fk our brains up. It’s like if we think that believing something good can come out of a relationship, that thought will only lead us to more pain; a self-inflicted pain.

I’m tired of living in a world where I’m afraid of really loving someone, of expecting that person to do right by me, to be good to me, to meet my expectations of he and I.  If I don’t expect goodness, loyalty, respect and support from you then what am I really getting out of this? I think a lot of us, women in particular, have this distorted feeling that we don’t deserve to be loved or really deserve the love we can have;  grandiose fucking love, real fucking love, life-changing love, you and I love. Because we’re afraid of setting the proper expectations. The idea of expecting these things will only hinder our relationships – or so we’re forced to think. How many times have you felt something so deeply in your chest and decided against expressing those feelings out of this fear? Fear of rejection, fear of pressuring that person? Just plain old fear. You rather bury those feelings than face them head on – this is a mixture of fear of rejection and “outlandish” expectations. When I was younger, I would always think that if I just never expected anything from another person, I would never be hurt by them. Boy, that sure as hell didn’t work out. I got hurt regardless. It happened. It still happens.  Expectations are feelings and if there’s one thing that I do know is that feelings cannot be controlled. I’ve tried and I’ve failed miserably. So after getting my heart broken once and stomped on a few other times, why shouldn’t I expect great things from that person I’m going to cautiously open my life and heart to again? Am I weighted down so significantly by my past failures that I don’t even give this person a real chance by unconsciously expecting it to bad? Am I going to lose out on something potentially wonderful because I’m too afraid of expecting the right things from him? I ask myself these questions every single day. My heart and my head are constantly battling each other over these feelings/expectations.

This is what I’ve realized as I’ve gotten older – if you don’t have certain expectations, you are only setting yourself up for failure. I’m not saying you have or should expect the same things from everyone. Hell No. Some people deserve nothing from you. But I do believe that we should start having faith in one another and have hope that things will work for the best. Don’t be blind or naïve but understand that it’s ok to want something to work out. To want someone by your side who not only meets your expectations but exceeds them. To want to be happy. To want to be loved. You deserve it. Don’t let your past failures make you think that you don’t. You do. You deserve happiness.  That’s what 29 years have taught me – I deserve to be happy. I deserve to be treated with love and respect. I expect these things from you. Not expecting these things, will only lead me to further heart-break. I’m not going to be afraid to tell him what I need from him and what I expect of him because I will try the hardest to do the same for him. Don’t be afraid of grandiose fucking love. Expect happiness, expect love, expect loyalty, expect commitment. But always be aware that some people are not ready to feel the same and will never meet those expectations you have for yourself and your relationships. People do not change for others. They never do. If change occurs, it’s for themselves. You might have been part of the catalyst but they want to make a change for them. Know what you want out of something and stop wasting your time trying to make it happen with someone who isn’t willing to put in the work like you are. Have expectations. It’s OK to want to be happy. Just know that not everyone will meet them. At that point, you have a choice to make… 

Before You Start Your Job Search

Before we start , let me give you some background information on my qualifications –

I’ve been an IT Recruiter for 6 years. What does this mean? Simple – I screen candidates, review resumes, interview potential employees before a client interview, get to the bottom of what people are looking for in their next job, negotiate salaries/rates, benefits, start dates, etc. I’m my candidates’ coach, cheerleader, biggest critic, biggest source of information and best overall resource in all things job related. My job is to make sure you get the job, to prepare you as best I can to help you get your foot in the door. You get paid, I get paid. It’s in my best interest to make sure you the land the job. In my 6 years as a Recruiter, I’ve placed hundreds of candidates on short term and long term contracts and permanent jobs. My Linkedin will give you a snapshot of my success – I come highly recommended.

Is all this easy? Absolutely not. No matter how prepared you are, there are times that you will not get the job. It’s the honest truth. I’m here to help enlighten you a bit. To help you understand both sides of the equation.

Looking for a job is a job itself. You want a new job? You better get ready to put in the hours, effort and the preparation required to land the new position. You have to be fully committed or else you’re wasting everyone’s time. Time is the one thing you never get back so don’t waste yours, mine or the Hiring Company’s. It will make you look incredibly unprofessional.

If you’re currently unhappy at work, the single most important thing that you must do is sit down and figure out what is causing your unhappiness. Do you want more money (who doesn’t)? Are you working too many hours? Is there no room for growth (this one is very common)? You hate your boss/co-workers (It happens). You want tuition reimbursement? Everyone’s reason is unique to their circumstances so no two answers are ever truly identical. However, this is the single most important aspect of your search. Let me say that again – the most important aspect. When a Recruiter/Hiring Company asks you why you’re looking to make a move, your answer will let us know the following – 1. Are you only looking for money, 2. Are you serious about your search/making a move, 3. Are you going to be a good cultural fit, 4. Are you unrealistic/delusional, so on and so forth. Before you even think of posting your resume online, you must make sure you have a full understanding of why you’re looking to make a change. This will make or break you.

Did you know that when a company hires a new employee, it costs them on average between 10-15k a year to bring you and keep you onboard? 10-15k dollars. Let that sink in. If you were a Manager and had to invest 15k on a person, would you hire just anyone? No, you wouldn’t. You would hire someone with the highest ROI (Return on Investment). It’s the logical thing to do. Heck, it’s the right business decision. If I’m investing 10-15k of my company money on you, you better turn a profit for me. You better add value to my organization. Health benefits cost money. Training cost money. Corporate/federal/state/city taxes cost money. You, my friend, cost money. Put yourself in the Hiring Manager’s shoes, again, would you hire just anyone if you had to invest so much money in the person? Um, no way. Don’t kid yourself, you wouldn’t. You must prove to the Manager that you will be worth the faith and money that will go into you, your training and your potential.

So let’s tie all these things together now that you know how much it will cost ME to hire YOU –

Would you, as a Manager, hire someone who is only looking for more money? NO. Answer is simple – if you are only looking to make a move solely for money, what makes me think that you wouldn’t jump ship in 6 months if someone offered you a position that pays more while you’re working for me? I’m investing all this money on you only to have you jump ship in 6 months. If that’s the indication I get during your interview, I’m not going to hire you. Simple as that. Money is incredibly important, let’s not kid ourselves here, but as a Manager, I don’t want to hear that you’re only looking for money because that will make me really uneasy. Instead, say that you want continued professional growth as a job seeker. You want to be properly compensated but what’s most important to you is career evolution – more responsibilities, the opportunity to one day run a team, become a leader within the organization. Even if these are not your aspirations, saying these things will make you seem less greedy and make the hiring company think that you’re in it for the long haul. I would invest my money on someone like that.

I hate my current Manager. You bad mouth your current boss, you’re going to bad mouth me. I will not hire you. End of story. Would you invest your capital on someone who will trash you in the future? Hell no. DON’T DO IT. Never, EVER bad mouth your current employer during an interview. I cannot stress this enough.  It makes you look unprofessional, petty and makes you a liability. You know what I do when I speak to someone who sounds bitter? I end my conversation with them and wish them a good day. NEXT!

Are you unrealistic? If you make 50k now and are asking for 80k, you’re being unrealistic and do not understand/know your market. A typical raise is 10-20% of your current salary. Few people get 30%+ increases and those people tend to bring something to the table that is very unique and/or specialized. You want more money, aim for a 10-20% increase. More than that, you’re pricing yourself out. I’m not kidding. I’ve had many offers rescinded because the candidate decided to get greedy last minute. Don’t do it to yourself. Again, you look unprofessional and uneducated. Know full well how much of an increase you want. The more, the better – obviously. But don’t be stupid – don’t ask for something outrageous unless you bring something to the table that is niche/unique because I can and will find 100-200 other people that will take the job at the salary offered. Know your worth. Do not let anyone lowball you but be educated and realistic in your salary expectations. Know your #s before you post your resume – i.e – I will not take a job that pays less than X. Know your bottom-line. Once your resume is submitted to a client, there’s not a lot of room to negotiate. If I can get you more money, I will because I get paid on what you make so I want to get you more but do not get greedy. Do not burn bridges. Do your research!!!

Folks, these are all things that Managers constantly think of/deal with. You are already competing with thousands of applicants for the same position. Do not lose out on the job because you 1. said something stupid or 2. Didn’t do your research.

More tips to come. Stay tuned. 

 

The Bug

Ana, if there’s any hesitation, any at all, then u know it’s not good news. You just know, u know. There should be no hesitation, he says. Easy for him to say. He’s not the one shaking in her shoes. A slow cold sweat down the side of my temple. I swear if my hands don’t stop shaking, I’m gonna have to sit on them. You know what’s the worst part of being nervous? The helplessness. You can’t do a lot to control it. You talk to yourself, you scream at yourself, you pray for yourself. Wishing desperately for calmness to come, long for bodily control. You know when you’re in bed in the late Fall and you suddenly feel that first winter chill? You jump out of bed to grab your heavy blanket and the warmness that comes with it – safe, encompassing, delicious. That’s what I was silently praying for – calmness, control, warmness. Instead, I was sitting there shaking – hands, feet, chest. So cold. So uncontrollable. You’re gonna be fine, Ana. Look at you. You’re gonna be fine. I look over to him and wish I could believe him. Wish that I could be as certain as he was. I smile. Telling him with my forced lips that I appreciated him, the pep talk, his belief in me. I lose myself in that moment for a second. Buzz, Buzz, Buzz, Buzz. I snap out my trance – where r u? The text reads. Almost dere, I respond.

You can drop me off right there. Yeah, this is fine. Thank you. I say. Remember Ana, no… yea yea I got it. Thanks. Heart starts pounding. You know that second before you start dropping on a rollercoaster – that very first drop. All your organs jump to your throat, your eyes widen, your jaw clenches, you hold your breath. Yeap, that’s exactly how I felt. Breathe. On 3. 1… 2… 3… I get out the car and start walking. My heart pounds harder with every beat, my breath shorter with every inhale. I has to use every ounce of concentration to makes sure my legs didn’t buckle under me. Left, Right, Left, Right. Keep your legs under you, Ana. You’re almost there… Hey, hey.

I sit Indian style in front of him. Me on the table, he on a chair in front of me. What did you want to talk about? He asks with a tone of confusion in his voice. Everything ok? I nod and look at him first for the first time. He’s under the weather – fighting a cold. In his sweats, hair with the pillow marks imprinted on his waves, glasses on, eyes a little glossy. I feel bad getting him out of bed, a bed I’m intimately familiar with. But if I don’t do it now, I’ll never do it. I, clear my throat, I… I have to tell you something. Heart pounding, hands folded in front of me to stop them from shaking. What is it? Pound, pound, pound. My heart wont stop. You would think I was running a sprint. I, I, I really care about you, I whisper. And I want to be more that what we are. Oh, he looks down. Suddenly sitting up in the chair. There it was – the hesitation.

Punch – buggy!!! Ahhhhh, what the fuck!! That hurt!! Why you gotta punch me so hard?? Grimacing, fuck that hurt! That’s how you feel when someone gets you good when you’re playing that stupid game. Arm throbbing. A pain that shoots out your arm like a firework. Your arm, your elbow, your fingers all feeling a surge of painful electricity. Fuck that hurts. You rub the spot of the punch trying to massage the pain away. A firework of hurt. That’s how my chest felt at that very moment. Like someone was playing Punch Buggy and punched me right in the middle of my chest. The sudden, unexpected pain. The pain started in the center and within microseconds was shooting out in every direction – heart, stomach, back. Everywhere. A firework had just exploded in my body. He didn’t have to say it, I already knew. My body was already reacting. It took every fiber in my self for me to keep it together. To hold that Indian style in place.

I’m not ready. It’s not what I want. He said the words. Put his head down. I look up. Fighting my tear ducts, they were on the verge of mutiny. And I saw it. A bug. A bug on the wall, doing nothing but staring at us. I dig in my pocket and take out my phone. Snap, snap, snap. What are you doing, Ana? I’m taking a bio class and we’re studying bugs. My professor will wanna see this, I respond. That’s what I wanted him to believe but in reality, I concentrated on that bug so I didn’t cry. I needed my eyes to focus. I needed my tears to not betray me. Not in front of him. I look back at him. The knot in my throat grows tighter – strangling me from within. The bug stunt did the trick. I was able to gain some strength in those 15 seconds. I understand. You don’t have to explain. I jump off the table. My eyes begin to water. There they come. Fuck!! I kissed him on the lips and walked away. Out the building, out the squad, out into the night. Beautiful Spring night. A little moisture in the air. Fresh air. Trees blooming. A night full of life. The moonlight lit my path and I walked and walked and walked. I can’t say many thoughts ran thru my head. Not one, actually. I just walked and walked. Hoping that with every step the throbbing in my chest would be easier to bear and the knot in my throat would loosen. Left, Right, Left, Right. Into the night.

I wish I could tell you that our story ended there. But it doesn’t always end there, does it.

If I’m grateful for one thing that night it was that bug. It saved my dignity. 

No Place Like Home

I’m going to pick you up from Church before the service is over but don’t mention anything. I want to show you something. It’ll be our thing. Hand on my shoulder, looking right into me with his fatherly eyes. Smile so safe it’ll put a priest to shame. I nod my head in blind obedience. Run back to the room and finish getting ready for Church. So excited. Feeling so special. Our own thing. Wow. Just ours. You see, when you grow up without a father, you grow up with a hole in your chest that you carry with you all your life. The emptiness. The longing. Always seeing happy father/daughters and wishing you could switch your life with that little girl. The feeling never leaves you, no matter how deep you bury it. It never does. So to hear this from him meant everything. He’s like a father or the one I wish I had – tall, handsome, with a presence. You can’t fuck with him. No way, no how. He’s a man. He’s a protector.

I anxiously look at my watch every 5 minutes. 10:20, 10:25, 10:30. Why is it that time always slows down when you start paying attention? One of life’s greatest mysteries, I guess. I was 16, full of life and still incredibly naïve. C’mon time!! Ahhhh! Legs shaking. Heart pounding. Couldn’t sit still. Dear Father, full of grace. Praying. Waiting. Praying. Waiting. 10:40. Oh My God! 5 minutes to go! I start to sweat. That excited, I’m about to jump out of my skin sweat. Put your hands on your armpit and they’re literally wet sweat. Ahhh! I didn’t care. I was too excited to care, to think. Legs shaking. Hell, body shaking. 1045, yes!! It’s here. I can go now. I meticulously make my way to the back of the room, slip out door, head to the exit. I stopped only for a slight second to look at the congregation – so much happiness. So much faith. Real, unadulterated goodness. I smile. I’m gone.

I see the car creeping up the block as I descend the church steps. What could it be? Oh my God. I dunno. I can’t think, I’m so excited. Palms so sweaty I could put Kleenex out of business. The wave. My heart jumped and I run to the car. You know when you’re a kid and it’s the night before Xmas – the joy, the anticipation, the I bet I have the best gifts this year cause Mami played me last year and gave my brother the best gifts. She owes me. It’s my year! Yea, that feeling; that was me. Heart pounding, smile that could light up Broadway. Where we going? I asked. You’ll see, he says. But his tone was different, he sounded so strange, so detached. OK. I look out the window and notice that we’re going back to the house. Hmmmm, maybe whatever he’s giving me is back at the apartment. Good! I can catch the Olympics. His hand to my knee, a squeeze. I look over to him. That look. I know that look. That’s not a fatherly look. It’s the look I get from the corner dudes that call out to me as I uncomfortably try to cover every inch of my body. 16 and growing into myself. Boobs that weren’t there last summer, an ass that to this day gets me more attention than any other part of my body. Changes that I was still managing to like, to understand. We’re going back home, he says. A grin. Piercing green eyes drilling a hole in my chest. Another squeeze. Oh ok, I said.

I knew. That’s when I knew. That’s when it hit me. I leaned down to pretend I was cleaning my shoes. I wanted that hand off me. I wanted my dreams back. Hand off. Cleaning my shoes. I sit back up, hand back on my knee. Sweat down my back, heart pounding. Head screaming – you know what this is. Do something!! Ana, don’t just sit here. Do something!! Back to cleaning my shoes. Think Ana, think. You’re in Jersey. Your Mom is in DR. Think!!! Hand off. Sit back up. Hand on. Squeeze. I swear you could hear my heart beating across the Hudson. I want Mom. I want my Father. Anger. An anger I never felt before. A voice in my head – you’re going to get yourself out of this. Now think!! Deep breath. Hands-shaking, Now, I’m really angry. Car speeding. All green. Hands-shaking. Eyes wide open. Focus on 100. Hand squeezing my knee. Clear summer day. Beautiful skies, warm sun. Cold car. Heart on fire.

Red. I jump out the car. Actually, I run out the car down a one-way street. He couldn’t believe it. I hear the yells behind me. I run. Yes! he can’t come down this street. No tears. Just anger and sweat. I need to get out of sight. I see a driveway, big white SUV. I run behind it. Squat down. I hide. Ok Ana, now what?! You need to get home. I dig my hand in my pocket – $22 dollars. Hey girl!! What are you doing? Get off my driveway!! I’m calling the cops!!” The voice came from the front of the car. I don’t blame her. She didn’t know me. Shit. Go Ana, go!! But what if he sees you? What if he’s driving down the block right now?! Just run Ana, run! I ran.

It seemed like an eternity but I found a bodega. Run in, out of breath, sweating, angry, shaking. I need a cab!!! Girl, what’s wrong with you?? What’s wrong? Chubby Puerto Rican clerk asks me. I need a cab!! I yell back. Deep breath. I need a cab. Can you please call me a cab? Where you going? Washington Heights. Longest 15 minutes of my life. The cab is here little girl.

190th and Broadway. Go, please go. You wouldn’t believe me, shit, I wouldn’t believe myself if I didn’t lived thru it, but this fucking cab breaks down on the highway. I shit you not. 10 minutes from the GW Bridge and a cloud of smoke. Engine screaming. Just my luck. Poor Indian guy gives me back $5. I got into the cab as soon as I could and threw all my money at the poor guy. Just take me home I said. But God is good, always. The car found the strength to get me to the bus stop right before the GW. I get out. Still angry, mind racing, feeling completely vulnerable out in the open. I’m sorry, he says. I’m really sorry. It’s ok. I can make it from here. I hid behind a large man at the stop. Poor bloat, didn’t even notice me. I just hid and waited. The bus. Yes, it’s here.

All passengers off, please. I look up from my seat and make my way out. A little calmer, a sense of relief. No tears. Just Anger. I’m home.

I made it home.

Protect your daughters even from those who claim to love them. 

Get inside my head, you might like it.

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