Monthly Archives: May 2016

Si Tu Me Olvidas

I am returning to a culture kitty-corner to my own, taking it back one syllable at a time.

DSCI0107

Do not mistake me – I am bleached bone white, my own heritage a mess of marinara sauce and good beer, of speaking with gestures and words in equal parts. I have no true claim to Spanish or the brilliant mix of northern Mexican and central Spain culture with which I was dip-dyed as a child. I only have luck and gratitude in spades.

I started studying Spanish at age 5, my teacher a patient but gently feared Mexican woman. She barely stood taller than her charges as we toddled through simple vocabulary. After every test, I would flip the paper over and write out every Spanish word I remembered – just so mi profesora understood that I was learning. I was trying! Some days, if I finished particularly fast, I would draw accompanying pictures. I drew out my whole family on a test about professions, labeling every member, and mi profesora wrote a note to me – ‘Krista, this is very nice but you know you don’t have to do it, right?’

When I was in sixth grade, I had my first dream in Spanish. It was only a moment, just three sentences about the weather or the sky between two old ladies, but I raced to school the next morning with fire in my blood. I told mi profesora and she smiled, clapping me on the arm. To dream in another language is a mark of learning so personal, so deeply rooted in the person, that it leaks through their subconscious. Soon thereafter, we began learning new idioms and I drew an idiom machine. Mi profesora laughed so hard at the dumb little figures, their eyes wide, as they walked into the machine and came out with ties and calculators.

I turned 13 in a junior level Spanish class. The older kids sang to me in Spanish, their voices cracking and hesitant as they moved through the lyrics slowly. I had memories of my fifth grade class singing it the same way, and I smiled. The year before I graduated, I had run out of Spanish classes to take. I had read Spanish novels and written Spanish poems and the school could offer me nothing more.

The winter of my freshman year, a Spanish-speaker stole my tongue. My almost-mother tongue, the language with which I traded jokes in my youth, the language of my favorite poet whose work I read aloud with zest, everything. He stole everything. I left the language that I had so loved, whose heart still beat in my chest, and I crawled away. I couldn’t live with that sound on my tongue, not without picturing his face.

Until now.

My love is returning to me through careful practice – gentle dips into the vocabulary I first learned to speak through milk teeth. There are splashes of the grammatical structures through which I first understood linguistics and I am so lucky to say that the language never left me. Not completely, not willingly. It lingered below my jaw until I could open my mouth again.

And now, I speak.

“…todo me lleva a ti,
como si todo lo que existe:
aromas, luz, metales,
fueran pequeños barcos que navegan
hacia las islas tuyas que me aguardan.”

-de Pablo Neruda

Leave a comment

Filed under Story Time, Uncategorized

Goodbye, Restaurant.

 

Leaving is an art, not unlike free-falling from an airplane. Sometimes you decide to jump, other times the airlock breaks open.

Either way, it’s dizzying.

The air’s too thin. The clouds soak through your tee-shirt as you tear through them, fingers splayed open like claws, your palms a paradox as they shift from hot to frigid and back again.

I am an expert, almost.

I don’t even watch the ground anymore, the vast expanse yawning as every blade of grass comes to life beneath me. Instead I count the birds, or I shut my eyes, or I retrace my steps out of the plane. It always starts the same: left. right. left. and then nothing, nothing but wind. It doesn’t whistle at that altitude – it shrieks.

Leaving situations is easy. It’s the people who are hard.

Wednesday marks the very last day at my restaurant. In an average week, I spend two fewer hours in that little building than I do in my own bed. In a pay period, I walk a bare minimum of 18 miles just to sling soup. My customers smile when they see me (some of them, anyway. enough of them.) and I ask them about their families, their cats, their plans. We joke about the orders that never change (tomatoes, really? those blood blister fruits) and they ask me to dance, or to drink, or to give them a copy of my first book. The owners laugh at all of my jokes, even the puns. Especially the puns. And my staff..

My beautiful staff. I’ll never forget the Saturday mornings we spent huddled around the fresh bread, dipping the salty scraps in rich soup. You took me to my first bar (and my second and my third). You stole cigarettes from men in the streets and laughed when I told you to put your pants back on. You told me horrible jokes, some which are still seared inside my brain.  You bought me my first jello shot. You cheered for me in every relationship. You walked me home in the dark, the stars shining unnoticed overhead. You drove me home and trusted me with your cars. You listened to my stories. You helped me escape an abusive situation – you even let me cry on your shoulders when I forgot how to be a person afterward.

You’ve told me how proud you are of me.

And for all my practice, for all the experience I’ve had leaving, somehow it comes up short now.

Leave a comment

Filed under Story Time, Uncategorized

The Mormons and a Profoundly Good Day

Kurt Vonnegut gave graduates the following advice during commencement speeches:

I urge you to please notice when you are happy, and exclaim or murmur or think at some point, ‘If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.”

As several of my friends have graduated this weekend, it only felt appropriate to pass that advice along. When a moment is so whole that you are taken by surprise, notice. Catalog every piece of it – the sounds, the smells, the very air that is holding it all together.

In this digital age, I like to share some of these moments on social media – not to brag, but instead to provide balance. I tell sad stories, but that’s not the entirety of my life. There are also wonderfully whole days and people and laughter.

Yesterday was one of those days.

20160514_233358

It was my first time at the drive-in. I set my anxiety aside as the Mormons welcomed me with open arms (and, as we layered eight grown adults in the car, closed legs). After ten minutes, we were all wrapped up in each other. A woman I had just met squeezed my hands in the tense moments, we laid across our friends, and we ate sour gummy worms until our tongues tingled. A former bishop invited us to his home after the credits rolled and soon we surrounded his fire pit. The stones glittered under the fire’s glow. We skewered marshmallows and set them aflame, tiny sweet torches burning against the cold black sky. I counted the stars above us before it started to drizzle.

I am so thankful for my friends and the amazing places we end up together. Thank you, thank you, thank you. Congratulations to the graduates – may you notice every beautiful moment.

Leave a comment

Filed under Story Time, Uncategorized

In Pursuit of Blue

We are all searching for blue.

You don’t know it, but you are. It’s primitive almost, a quiet yearning for blue, and you’ve spent your life looking for it. Some of us are closer than others. But it’s our collective drive, a primal need for something we do not have. We crave it. We need it. And thus, we seek it.

Welcome to the crossroads of linguistic theory and human studies.

Snapchat-1243086381343573023

Two years ago, I listened to an episode of Radio Lab that forever changed my life. Radio Lab describes itself as ‘a show about curiosity…where sound illuminates ideas, and the boundaries blur between science, philosophy, and human experience.’ Ah, be still my heart.

This particular episode, ‘Why Isn’t The Sky Blue,’ was part of their series on color. To paraphrase, there is evidence from ancient writing to suggest that, as a species, we develop words for colors in a specific order: generally, it goes black, white, red, green, yellow, and the last color that we learn to identify is, without fail, blue. Blue! Every time! We can’t see a color until we have a name for it… and we can’t have a name for a color until we can make it. Homer describes the sea as ‘wine-colored’ because the man couldn’t physically see blue – and he couldn’t see blue because there was no word for blue. A blue-less world! Imagine how strange that would be, so soft and skewed, tilted just so to accommodate for this profound lacking.

Something in my brain shifted when I learned this.

Take the theory, expand it outward, and it becomes my color theory.

Nothing exists if we do not have a name for it, but that doesn’t mean we don’t feel the void where it should be. As you are right now, you are searching for something: your blue, to be specific. Maybe you think you know its name. Maybe you haven’t the slightest idea. But you and I are both searching for our blues – in vastly different places, using completely different methods, but still we seek!

It is so unabashedly human of us, isn’t it? To search without grasping exactly what it is we’re looking for. We’re shoving our hands in the earth, over and over, in the hope that we will pull something precious from the dirt. Please do me a favor: don’t stop looking. It will take you an entire lifetime to find what you seek (and then to name it! and keep it!), but it will forever alter your sense of being. And for what it’s worth, I fully believe in your ability to find blue.

So, stay hopeful. Keep digging. Allow the colors to find you as you are – let them mold you into who you need to be.

3 Comments

Filed under Story Time, Uncategorized

Bravery – or, Why I Called the Police this Morning

When I was in high school, I gave a presentation in my AP Lit class about suicide. I only remember the ending: “I would prefer if you didn’t tell your friends I wanted to die. But if you do, know that they will not believe it.”

And the class cheered, but they were torn about it. Some people just looked down at their desks, memorizing the lines in the wood to avoid wondering if anyone could guess that they were suicidal, too. Someone came up to me after the bell rang, when the water in my eyes had subsided, and thanked me for being brave.

I tried to explain that I wasn’t, but they refused to hear me.

We walked to lunch separately. My head buzzed as if the word ‘brave’ had split into bees within me, bumping and stinging my insides. I didn’t feel brave – I felt selfish. Telling stories is the only way I stay afloat and, yes, some people connect to them but ultimately I was just saving myself, right?

When I think of someone brave, I do not picture myself. I walk into conflict and discomfort with my shoulders sloped, head down but eyes up. Bravery doesn’t move in a broken body like mine, or at least that’s the narrative I’ve written for myself. Bravery is strong and bravery is able and anyone who’s seen me after a nine hour shift knows that my body can sustain neither of those attributes for long.

But maybe bravery looks different on different bodies, morphs to fit our skin even when we’re convinced we cannot wear it.

I don’t know if what I’m doing is brave. All I can say is that I’m exhausted by the alternative, the silence, the quiet in which predators do their best work. So this morning, just minutes ago, I called the police on an old acquaintance-turned-monster. Is this bravery? The refusal to allow his actions to go unnoticed? The limping into an arena that is primed for his benefit, his success, his freedom?

I don’t know.

I’m just so tired.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized