[transmutation]

you’re nine years old. At this time, you’re starting to lose esperanza.

Ya no esperas los cambios que mami promete. you are the last of the three offsprings to lose hope. daddy is no longer your best friend. he still tries to talk to you the way you used to, but you have no new experiences together and talking about past ones has gotten old, and sad. Reminiscing is now a sad word. he asks about your day and how things are changing, but you’re not interested in lying about having exciting things going on anymore.

 

every month, you and your sister receive an award and are invited to a pizza party for having perfect attendance. Your teachers are impressed, but the principal always finds you hiding in the bathroom, crying, when you should be celebrating your accomplishment! You are not allowed to tell them that the only reason you never miss school, even when you’re sick, is that there is nowhere else for you to be. none of your awards mean anything to you; gifts are not love, all you crave is a hug.

 

you told your mom your teacher said she wished she had a daughter like you. your mother was proud, but as soon as you hung up the phone, your grandmother reminded you that your teacher only knows who you are in school; she doesn't know how messy and annoying you are at home. praises soon start making you uncomfortable because you don't deserve them.

 

though you learn something new in school every day, things at “home” stay the same: your grandfather is still a walking chimney, and your grandmother worries about everything, which makes her anxious--something she tries to bottle up, but always manifests itself as aggression. This will never change. Though every day is different at school, by the time your parents call, things feel the same again.  

 

you can’t be honest anymore.

The last time you were honest, you made your mother cry, and your grandmother got upset--after all, you have food, clothes, a home, a bed, blankets, and even a television in your shared room: what the fuck do you have to cry for?

You’re in the housing projects at 183rd and Webster Avenue, near Fordham, and you wear Nike sneakers in the winter. You broke another pair of cheap snow boots, and your grandmother refuses to waste money and time buying another pair. The snow makes your feet hurt and numb at the same time, but you don't say anything.

 

you’re in an apartment so full of people that you can’t shower without having someone enter the bathroom to use the toilet, yet you constantly feel alone and isolated.

 

yesterday, you were yelled at again.

A few days ago, she said she was tired of hearing you cry, so you started crying in the bathroom, as quietly as you can. Your lungs are on fire and your heart is about to burst, but you hold your breath and your whimpers.

You didn’t stop crying soon enough, and someone complained about waiting too long to use the bathroom because you were in there. Your grandmother got upset again and used a knife to unlock the door from the outside. She doesn't understand why you're sad, and that makes her aggressive. She's a smart lady, a true survivor, and you’re the first thing she doesn’t understand in a very long time. You’re a challenge she doesn’t want to deal with because she's tired. She has been facing challenges alone all her life and you're the first one she has total control over.

 

soon, you will stop crying altogether.

soon, you will stop asking people to take you to the park.

soon, you will stop being affectionate.

soon, you will learn how to stay out of people’s way.

soon, you will stop being energetic.

soon, you will stop waiting.

 

Now you are twenty years old. the once-seemingly small events that taught you nobody loved you are becoming undone; youre receiving what you craved as a child without asking for it. you didnt even know you wanted these.

 

A couple of weeks ago, one of your mentors, said it’s okay to cry in front of her. She encourages you to release the pressure that set your lungs on fire in those lonely bathrooms. This is the first time you feel loved, appreciated, and listened to in years. You’re finally empowered enough to be honest again.

 

You’ve realized you can reclaim your right to exist.  

Miranda July’s words hang over your head,  a constant reminder that the earth, air, water, gravity, and the entire universe is for you to enjoy the same way others do.

You are anxious because things have been going well for longer than you're used to, but your mentors are proud of you. Every time you submit an application, you get a positive response. You are hearing yes often; a new experience.

 

You never thought you would experience tears of joy, but your girlfriend reminds you of the day your aunt finally had time to take you to the park after months only leaving the apartment to go to school or church. She has shown you that people can be challenged without invalidating the things they have accomplished in the past. She runs in the rain with you and doesn’t get upset when you have to spend the rest of the day in wet, itchy clothes. She’s intelligent, resilient, beautiful, and full of grace. She doesn’t get upset when you lose your train of thought. She doesn't mind that your idea of fun is sitting on a bench, making bad jokes, and eating dessert before your meal. She doesn't care that sometimes, you don't want to be the one talking to the cashier. She inspires you to write cheesy poems instead of the angry ones you're known for. if someone had told you youd experience this kind of raw, pure love three years ago, you wouldve laughed in their face.

 

You’re having trouble maintaining your friendships, but that’s okay. You give what you can and they do the same; each interaction helps you move forward.

 

You’ve made peace with the fact that most things are ephemeral.

 

You’re getting better at staying in the moment without worrying about the future.

Challenges don’t paralyze or intimidate you anymore; they excite you.

Changes still scare you, but you don’t avoid them.

You've figured out how to interact with people in the present instead of only remembering how they treated you in the past.

Every day youre thrown into the same battle, yet you still manage to get up and fight the belief that you deserve all the work and no rewards but...

 

Your future is bright.

Your future is bright.

Your future is bright.

Your future is bright.

Your future is bright.

Your future is bright.

 

This poem is about: 
Me
My family

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