Issuu on Google+

The Narratives of Love 106

Love: (noun) an undefined emotion, the driving force behind art, literature, history, and everyday life.

The deepest

expression of the unconscious mind that is immeasurable by scientific instruments. It can bring humankind together or tear them apart. Professor Pamela McCluney University of Miami English 106/Spring 2009 1


Student Contributions Brad Batstone Jessica Buffi Eduardo Castaneda Meiyin Cheng Christine D’Amore Ashley Drake Rachel Dupree Kaitlyn Ferrill Randi Franklin Sakine Gulec Arwa Joher Lara Kusnezov Rebecca Lattanzio Ashley Llera Isabel Medrano Marisol Montealegre Tuilly Morita Andrew Nasrinpay Nicholas Olivaros Ariel Penaranda Austin Rector Adriana Sanchez Sam Shunk Danielle Silverman Hana Squire Elisa Toman

Regina Bowles Manuel CarreĂąo Michael Chen Yverose Dalembert Nicole Diez Ashley Dunn Phillip Edwards Brittni Finch* Brett Gordon Maura Houghton Jordan Kroeger Ellena Kouumdijiev Stephanie Lazar Isabella Lyle-Durham Jeffrey Milinazio Emily Morgan Claire Motyka Deniz Ozler Ross Papitto Veronica Ramirez Harmonie Rosenberg Giselle Sardinas Antonio Sierra Moncion Emily Snape Erica Steinmiller

2


Sagette Van Emden Jazzmyne Williams*

Brittany Varner

*Omitted by technical error

3


University of Miami

Professor Pamela McCluney

Spring 2009

First Contact Moving is never easy. People try to get used to it, but it’s always hard to leave loved ones behind. Do it often enough and senses of loneliness and isolation set in. Eventually, one might even give up hope on creating relationships because there exists a good chance that they will simply have to pack up again. I used to feel this way. I moved more than ten times before I entered middle school, and that doesn’t exactly do wonders for your social skills. When I arrived at my final high school I had lived in nearly 20 different places. To say I was introverted would be an understatement. I was about to start my junior year of high school and had experienced few of the traditional teenage coming of age events. While most people were starting the year planning for home coming and prom dates I simply hoped to be able to make real friends. Now this isn’t to say I hadn’t gotten along with people. I had, but I kept people at a distance because I knew I was just going to move again at some point. Rather those people were “school friends”, people who knew who I was but didn’t socialize with me outside of academics. I wanted to connect with other people, to have real relationships with gives and takes and fights and laughs, a personal understanding. Finding friends is difficult, especially if most of them already have well established groups. I tried joining clubs and talking to the kids in my classes but it didn’t seem to be working. I couldn’t find anyone interested in getting to know me. The experience was depressing; I started reverting back to my old habit of distancing myself from people but this all changed towards the end of my first semester. In November, practices for spring sports started up. I had run cross country at some of my old schools but because of the timing of my move and my schedule I hadn’t been able to do run at this school. When I saw the sign up sheet for track I knew that it would be the way to meet people. The first practices began in December and I felt comfortable with my new teammates right away. I’ve always enjoyed running but this was the first time that I had run track before. Some of the schools I had gone to had teams but I was never able to participate because I had to work or was moving. The first day was just a meeting for everyone to get to know each other and to find out the schedule for the up coming season. I met the coach and more importantly the other athletes on the team. The team was small, counting me there were only six people on it. I could tell right away that they were nice guys and that I wanted to become friends with them. They seemed to accept me instantly 4


University of Miami

Professor Pamela McCluney

Spring 2009

and I started to hangout with them whenever I could. Ryan, the only senior on the team, would invite all of us over for dinner the day before meets. Cole, the coach’s son, threw parties after ever meet. This was what I had been looking for, I finally had found friends. The season went by and I became better friends with all of them. Charlie, a hurdler on the team, helped me get a job at the grocery store where he worked. He also helped organize fundraisers so we could get new uniforms and spikes. I realized how much all of these guys had come to mean to me over a short period of time and regretted not being able to create friendships in the towns I had lived in previously. Eventually of course, we all graduated and went our separate ways. My parents moved after I went off to college so I don’t get to see my friends that often even over the summer. That’s alright, because I realized that just having people to stay in touch with even if it’s only through email can make a great difference in life. By making these friends I was able to get so much more out of my life in high school. I had so many experiences I wouldn’t have had otherwise. Their friendships helped me become a far more outgoing person than I was before. Now I can make connections with others far more easily than I would have been able to otherwise and this is important because no one enjoys feeling isolated from the people around them.

Team Dye I’ve never done anything drastic. I’ve never gotten a tattoo. I’ve never gotten a piercing. I’ve never even gotten a detention. So why would I let four teenage girls dye my hair in an auditorium? In high school, there was always one thing that defined each show for the drama department. By the time each show was over, we discovered each one was marked like a tattoo on our minds; one event was instilled on us that overshadowed the entire production. Anything Goes was no longer the classic Cole Porter Musical, but the show my friend Alexis accidentally ran the show dog into a door. Rags was no longer the Swartz musical about immigrating to America, but the show someone tried to bring a baby doll on stage as a prank. So when we did Little Women, none of us ever imagined the loss of a friend and a sister would define our final show, and some of our lives. Little Women is a show about young women coming of age and finding their way to adulthood away from home and each other. Considering that most of us in the drama department grew up together 5


University of Miami

Professor Pamela McCluney

Spring 2009

and were now facing the last show before going off to college, it was perfect. Throughout high school, I had moved on from the shy passive girl I was to a confident young woman who found not only something she was passionate about but people she was passionate about; a small group of people that grew to be a family. Progressively I found my identity in high school and the people who did it with me made a mark on me that is so deep and so permanent that nothing can ever remove it. High school provided more than just the average adolescent growth period; it provided a complete transformation for me. Each year changed me layer by layer until the fourth year of high school changed me to the core. A week before we opened Little Women, there was a terrible accident. Our friend Cita died. She was the sister of our lead actress so not only were we devastated by the loss of a friend and a sister, but we had no idea how to open a show that was about a sister’s death. How could we all carry on with our lives let alone do a show that made us and the audiences relive a recent tragedy? We had to try. Ironically, the more we tried to do the show after she died, the more it became a tribute to her, and the more it became this universal therapy for everyone in the audience and everyone on stage. But before opening night the gloom backstage was absolutely terrible, I could feel the weight of the whole world just pounding in the dressing room. There was no music; no dancing, no practical jokes, nothing and I didn’t know what to do with myself. There was nothing in the room but death and sadness and I was desperate for anything to take us away from that for just a moment. Then out of nowhere, I announced I wanted to dye my hair red. I was playing an Irish character in the show and I thought it was genius. All of a sudden the room started to come alive, four of my best friends in the cast jumped in the car and went off to get the dye. The first thing we came across was simple hair spray with color in it. But something told me not to, I longed for something more permanent, something I could feel changing me. So I moved to the semi permanent Herbal Essences strawberry blonde. We went to my friend’s house and we dyed my hair in her bathroom. I had never done anything to change myself before and as it set I started to feel myself set in, so liberated and assured. An hour later, my hair wasn’t as altered as I felt. It was a bit lighter and had a shine to it, but it just looked like I was out in the sun. I needed something deeper, something redder, and something more permanent.

There it was the box of permanent L’Oreal copper red. This time we went to the dressing

room bathroom. All of a sudden it became this epic event. All my friends had plastic gloves on and we all put the dye in together, we even decided to call ourselves Team Dye. Suddenly we were all laughing, making jokes, and taking pictures. It felt like it always had again. I felt this amazing feeling of genuine fun when it was happening. All the crazy memories my friends and I made were never really centered on me. Sure, they were about me and my friends, but I was always the one to observe and try to repress the

6


University of Miami

Professor Pamela McCluney

Spring 2009

craziness, I was the stage manager, but this time all the fun was centered on me and I liked it. We made more good memories in the two hours it took to dye my hair then we did most of senior year. When it was done I was on top of the world. I rushed out of the dressing room and I showed everybody. I showed my director, I showed the crew and the costumers, the parents. I was so proud of it. It was like this visual reflection of the new me that the entire world could see it right away. The whole cast considered that night’s performance to be more about showing the world my fire engine red hair and we all desperately needed that. The next morning when I looked in the mirror I had a complete identity crisis. I couldn’t recognize myself, I felt different, I looked different and I was terrified. I grabbed a bottle of Color Oops and I went to town trying to get all the red out. After, I was left with this lighter version of my maple hair that had a tint of orange blonde. It was definitely a change but at least it wasn’t the crazy copper red I suddenly despised. I felt like I was on some kind of high just the night before. It was this extreme exhilaration that came out of four years of change and one week of shock. I went through the rest of the show, the rest of high school, and the rest of the summer with my new hair. It grew on me and I liked it. It never occurred to me to dye it back, it never even occurred to me to get a hair cut. It showed on the outside how much the last years of my life had changed me on the inside and I didn’t want to change. After graduation, my hair became like a security blanket from the past that I did not want to let go and move on from. Then the day before I left for college, I wanted to change it back. I had to try to move on from high school. I didn’t want to completely change it back; I couldn’t erase what I went through. I just wanted some brown low lights so my hair could be more of a clean slate for college. Still, the slate could be clean while still keeping some of that team dye in my hair that made me so much of who I am up until this point Every now and then when I am doing my hair or go out in the sun, I can still see random strawberry blonde highlights here and there and it reminds me of a very important time. The highlights are like a little reminder from the past that helps keep me grounded in the present.

The Black Cup

7


University of Miami

Professor Pamela McCluney

Spring 2009

It had become a habit of mine, a sign of closure. Every time a serious boyfriend and I broke up, for whatever reason, I would continue the tradition. In every relationship, I always wore something that represented our connection to one another. Whether it was a piece of jewelry or a simple elastic band, there was always something that connected us. As soon as I felt secure about the break up or felt that I was over the guy, I would remove that item and place it in the little black cup, only able to be seen when effort was applied. I had received this cup from my first real boyfriend. Seen as a decorative object on my shelf to the oblivious eye, to me it represented the end of a relationship. By removing the accessory, I was removing any reminder of that person from my memory Wrapped with three black and white pictures of me and my first boyfriend, the black cup itself was nothing special. Inside there were items that at one point each meant the world to me. Some things still carry emotional value, because they were taken off too soon. A gold bracelet with diamonds and emeralds around it, a sterling silver chain, a black elastic band encrypted with the words “desire”, and an army dog tag. I had worn them all separately and now they are all mixed together in the bottom of the black cup as if they are being sucked into a black hole. I’ll never be able to have those relationships again and are left with only the memories that the objects hold. I was fourteen and had just started high school. Everything was new to me and I had just started dating this guy. He was the love of my life, or so I believed. My fourteen year old heart was convinced that we would always be together. He was everything that I wanted. Five foot five, caramel skin, Asian jet black hair that reached almost to his shoulders, brown eyes so dark that I could see my reflection in them. He was perfect. He was a musician and an artist. Not to mention that his family loved to cook and I was introduced to a completely different culture. Over the Christmas break I left to go to Michigan to see family and we weren’t able to see each other for three weeks, an eternity to a freshman in high school. Excited to see each other we immediately exchanged Christmas gifts as soon as I came back.

I had gotten him a Jimi Hendrix shirt, Simpson’s

boxers, and an object for his guitar that he had wanted that I didn’t know the name of or its function. He loved his presents. He looked at me with his young eyes and pulled out a black leather box inscribed “Gordon’s”. He waited anxiously for me to open it. A beautifully crafted gold bracelet appeared before me as I opened the box. It repeated a pattern of gorgeous diamonds and emeralds (my birthstone) in an “s” shaped design. It was the most magnificent, not to mention expensive, piece of jewelry I had ever received. I was speechless and could do nothing but smile and mumble incoherently. I couldn’t believe that someone had cared enough about me to give me a gift like that. I wore the bracelet every day. Besides taking it off when I went in the pool in fear for losing

8


University of Miami

Professor Pamela McCluney

Spring 2009

it, I was never without it. He loved seeing it around my arm. It was almost like his form of branding me and showing everyone that I was his. Shortly after, we went to the mall together to do some shopping. While walking from store to store, we were stopped by a balding man with an accent trying to take our picture. We went along with the gentleman and let him continue to take several photos. After some haggling and debating over the price, my boyfriend’s testosterone got the best of him. He wanted to prove again that he could make me happy, and to him that meant buying me things that he thought I would like. I wasn’t going to refuse him when he handed me a black cup with the same pictures that we had just taken around it. His loving eyes just wanted to make me happy and I wasn’t going to do anything to disappoint him. I thought that he was adorable and the cup just enhanced my feelings. After almost two years of being together, he moved away and we began to grow apart. We were only able to see each other on weekends and even with talking everyday on the phone, long distance relationships don’t work out when you’re in high school. Once the days of moping around subsided, I decided it was time to get over him. I gathered all of his things and anything that reminded me of him and put it in a pile. Looking at my wrist, I realized the last thing I had to do. Slowing undoing the clasp of the bracelet, I slid it off of my wrist. I felt naked. I had worn it so long that my hand felt lighter than ever. Not able to pack it away like the rest of his things, I placed it gently in the black cup, handling it like a man handles his car. The cup still remained on my shelf where it had been for many months, but now it had been moved to a less prominent area of display. He wasn’t completely out of my life but at least he was out of my view. After surviving the deterioration of my first real relationship, I concentrated on other high school experiences. Soon, I felt that I was ready to consider having another boyfriend. During my junior year, I changed buses and was getting to know some new people. There was one guy that I specifically got close to. He was a complete car nerd and knew way too much about computers. He played the piano and was extremely good at playing the guitar. Standing six foot tall, he was Haitian and hated speaking Creole even though he was fluent. He also had dark skin and dark eyes but had short curly black hair that he never let touch his ears. Hating on society was one of his favorite hobbies. “People are stupid’ was his favorite saying and he couldn’t understand why people acted the way they did. Even with his audacity towards people in general, he was one of the sweetest guys I had ever met and all he wanted to do was make me happy.

9


University of Miami

Professor Pamela McCluney

Spring 2009

We would sit next to each other on the bus and talk about how ridiculous the other conversations were. After a while we exchanged numbers and started to talk to each other on the phone. He would help me fix my car whenever something went wrong and was there for me when I needed him. He literally lived right down the road from me but we still talked on the phone more than in person. After getting to know each other for a while, he planned a night that I would never forget. First, we played pool, one of my favorite things to do. Then, we went to a diner and got one of the biggest banana splits that I had ever seen. Ice cream is the way to my heart and he knew that. Finally, he surprised me by taking me to the lake in our neighborhood. His palms were sweating and he looked nervous. We talked for a while and then he told me that he had something special for me. Out of his pocket he revealed a sterling silver chain and put it around my neck. This chain meant a lot to him. It was one of the first chains that he had ever received and he wanted me to have it. Just like the gold bracelet, I wore the chain every day. Every time I saw him he would always look down at the chain and smile. As the school year went on, I began to get extremely busy. I didn’t have time to do half the things that I had done earlier in the year and that included giving him attention. We weren’t able to talk and we slowly drifted apart. After a while we officially broke up and went our separate ways. Later that day, I continued the tradition and removed the chain from my neck and placed it in the cup. Even though he lived half a block away from me, he was nowhere to be found but in the cup. As I entered my senior year of high school, I was for the most part tired of dating guys. I figured that I would wait for college to start looking for a serious boyfriend again. With the start of a new school year I also started a new job. I was working at a 50’s style diner restaurant, waitressing for the first time. Dressed in a white button-up shirt, black slacks, belt and shoes, and, to top it off, a red bow tie (the standard Steak n’ Shake uniform) stood one of the hardest guys I’d ever seen. He was in charge of making shakes and even though he looked like the kind of guy who wouldn’t care about his job, he ended up caring the most out of all the people that stood before me. About six foot one, he was Puerto Rican with the most intense brown eyes and long black curly hair that was constantly braided back in corn-rolls. He had a labret (a piercing between his lip and chin) and both his ears pierced with earrings that that spelled out his name in cursive gold letters. Embracing the “bad boy” persona, he kept his facial hair shaggy and would only smile on occasion. He was one of the only guys that didn’t try to get my number in the first week of me working there, so I felt more comfortable talking to him than anyone else. After making eye contact every time we walked by each other’s station and smiling at the end of every sentence, we began getting to know one

10


University of Miami

Professor Pamela McCluney

Spring 2009

another. We were both under eighteen so it was mandatory for us to take a thirty minute break every four hours. On one of my breaks, I went into the small room in the back where we were required to eat our food, to find him eating a chicken sandwich. After talking for our whole break, we joked around that we had just had our “first date.” We exchanged numbers. During our “date”, I found out that he only lived a mile away from my house. We got out of work at the same time that day so I gave him a ride home. We talked the entire way to his house and even after we arrived. I was captivated by him. While talking for over fifteen minutes in a parked car, he asked me out on a real date. I happily replied yes. The next night we met at the bowling alley to play a couple games of pool. I let him win. We both had a great time and I couldn’t stop smiling. We went back to the car and as we were talking he took one of my hair ties from around my arm and put it around his in a flirty way. In return, I took off a black elastic band inscribed with the word “desire” from his arm and put it around my wrist. Caught up in conversation, we both forgot to give back the objects to one another at the end of the night. For the next month, we saw each other every day for multiple hours each day. I had tried to give him back his band many times but he continued to tell me to keep wearing it. He explained to me that he had gone through a rough time in the last couple months and one of the things that got him through was the elastic band. This “emblem of light” meant a lot to him and now he wanted me to have it. I wore it proudly. People at work noticed the transition of the item’s location and started talking. We had tried our best to keep our relationship a secret and not to mix our personal life and our work life. We had been together for awhile and both really liked each other. I could see that the way people talked about us troubled him and was starting to wear him down. We started to fight and argue. After a couple days, he told me that he was going through family issues and that he couldn’t handle a relationship. I wasn’t as hurt as I thought I would be. Later that week, I took off the black elastic band and placed it in the cup to accompany the bracelet and chain. By this time, breakups barely fazed me. I continued along, happy in my single existence, until I answered the call of an unknown number to hear the voice of someone I hadn’t spoken to in six months. He needed my help. Dead set on joining the Army, he needed to pass the math portion of the test to get in. He knew that I was good at math since we had dated briefly the summer before. With light brown skin with short black hair and passionate brown eyes, he looked exactly like The Rock from WWE. Standing over six feet tall, he was built and could lift me only using one arm. Much like The Rock, he dreamt of being famous and becoming a professional wrestler. Even though his

11


University of Miami

Professor Pamela McCluney

Spring 2009

size was misleading, he was one of the most sensitive guys I had ever met. Needless to say, WWE didn’t work out so well for him. Wanting to continue our friendship, I agreed to meet up with him. We went to a park in the middle of both of our houses and caught up on old times as we reviewed the Pythagorean Theorem. He passed the test. A couple of months had passed. Half way through basic training he called me to thank me for helping him. He claiming that the Army changed his life and that I played a major role in getting him in Army and he wanted to see me when he graduated. We began to talk again, at first, a couple of times a week progressing to at least once a day. We started to act as if we were dating again and feelings developed. I couldn’t remember why we broke up and could only remember the good points of our relationship from before. He was coming back for Christmas and New Years and we couldn’t wait to see each other. I had to work on the day that he arrived but drove straight to his house still in uniform to see him. We didn’t leave each other’s sides for the next two weeks while he was home. On Christmas Eve, we exchanged presents. I gave him a nice chain bracelet that I found a couple weeks prior and thought was perfect for him. He loved it but was more preoccupied with the suspense of giving me my present. Out of his pocket he pulled a silk bag which he griped sternly with his hand. He handed it to me saying “I wouldn’t let anyone else in the world have this but you.” Eager to see what the bag bared, I pulled the strings and looked inside. I found a beautiful silver chain necklace connecting to an even more significant silver piece of jewelry, his army dog tag. Decorated with his name, blood type, social security number and religious preference, I felt like I was holding his life in my hands. “I know I’m not always going to be there for you physically” he said, “but I figured that if you wore this I could at least be close to your heart.” I melted on the inside and began to cry. I hated crying but I couldn’t help it. I cared so much for the man standing in front of me and I had helped get him into the place that was taking him away from me. The next days were amazing. I loved every moment. I wore his present around my neck with pride and showed if off at every opportunity that I could. Sooner than I had hoped, the day came when I had to say good-bye to him. He was on his way to Texas to be stationed at Fort Hood. We continued to talk almost every day on the phone for the majority of the remainder of my senior year in high school. He was scheduled to leave for Iraq in mid June and would have block leave (two weeks that soldiers in the Army have to go home before they are deployed) at the end of May. The closer it got to May the less we talked. Thinking that he was just busy, I thought nothing of it. He did have long days and I didn’t want to bother him.

12


University of Miami

Professor Pamela McCluney

Spring 2009

It was already one week into June and I hadn’t heard from him for almost three weeks. Finally being able to get in touch with him, I found out that he was in Connecticut to see his mom. I was completely upset that he was off base and hadn’t tried to contact me. His voice was soft when he talked to me and I could even hear him swallow. “I think we shouldn’t be together with me going to Iraq”, he said. We had talked about this multiple times before and I had always told him that no matter what, I would always be there for him and that I was strong enough to help him even though he was going to be so far away. He didn’t believe me. I knew why. The only thing that I ever heard about his sergeant is that he constantly told the soldiers that if they didn’t have a wife at home or a pregnant girlfriend, then they shouldn’t have a relationship with anyone in the states. I was neither and he took his sergeant’s word over mine. I continued to wear his dog tag for the next couple of months. I felt that if I took it off that maybe he would get hurt or something bad would happen and I couldn’t have that on my conscious. Almost three months had gone by when I finally built up the courage to take the necklace off. I watched as the name of the man that I still thought so much about, slowly entered into the black cup. It touched the bottom and I released the chain so the rest of the Christmas present went inside the cup. He was no longer next to my heart. The cup was my way for me to prove to myself that the relationship was over. The gold bracelet had set the scene for my tradition and the way that I dealt with break ups. For the time being, the dog tag has ended it. Content with my ritual, I occasionally look into the simple black cup and reminisce on the memories of past relationships. Months have passed since I placed any items in the cup. Slowly forgetting the people from whom the cup held the memories of, I received a call from a very strange number. On my screen it said unknown caller with the phone number 402-963. I answered the phone call thinking that it’s probably just a telemarketer. The number is international and from Iraq. On the other end of the phone a familiar voice replies, “It’s been a long time.”

Love is a feeling of desire or affection towards another person romantically or not. Other emotions are felt separate from each other, but love is a 13


University of Miami

Professor Pamela McCluney

Spring 2009

culmination of feelings from anger and sadness, to compassion and joy that can be felt at any given time.

Love Pickle Falyn and I met in seventh grade, and fell in love by 10 th grade. The first two years of our relationship were spent as “that couple.” We were very cute, and very inseparable. Things started to get unpleasant however, by the tail end of our senior year of high school. We continued to decline over the summer, probably because we were both working, usually opposite hours. Even though we both decided to attend the University of Miami in the fall, the pure chaos of the transition to college was like a heat-seeker to our engine. With the arrival of September, just 10 days shy of our third anniversary, we split up. Being a couple that never had fights or long bouts of not talking to one another like so many other couples, an official break-up was a huge deal. The fall of 2008 was probably the lowest and saddest I have ever been. My academics and college life in general were straining enough, but now I had to face a new challenge, something I had almost forgotten existed: the single life. As amazing as it may sound to some, this newfound “freedom” was not all it was hyped up to be. Falyn was my first crush, my first serious relationship, my first everything. Now I was supposed to find a replacement? Just like that? It was around this time that I realized I’m not exactly the average college girl’s type. Standing at five foot five, I’m closer to the average female’s height than males. I have the muscles that playing guitar has given me, but no others. Sometimes I wear bright red pants, other times, white, all of which could be considered a second layer of skin on me (and gay…not that there’s anything wrong with that). The looks I received from the opposite sex were more questionable than interested. I began to hate every girl I held the door for I knew was way out of my league. After a few months, touch deprivation began to set in. The same feeling shared by, say, prison inmates of 11 years for drug offenses. I thought, no, I knew it was going to be like this forever. It was a simple message on Facebook from a girl from my past that changed everything. 14


University of Miami

Professor Pamela McCluney

Spring 2009

Lane was a girl in my third grade class, who I all but forgot about until she transferred to my high school for sophomore year. We became good “school-friends,” meaning that although we never hung out outside of the classrooms, there was an obvious connection inside of them. There may have been a mutual attraction at the time, but both Lane and I had just entered relationships (I with Falyn), and as a result nothing more than light flirting occurred. Lane transferred back to her original high school for junior year, and I didn’t think much of it. I would see her a few times for the next two years, usually when I would go to the Dairy Queen where she worked, but I was never too distracted from Falyn since things were usually great between us. Let’s return to winter of 2008: I’m alone. Apparently, someone had been keeping tabs on my fluctuating facebook relationship status indicator. Lane began sending me relatively random messages every so often, and I can’t say I wasn’t intrigued. Finally, she asked me if I was coming home for Thanksgiving because she wanted to see me (she goes to a local community college). This was perhaps the greatest thing anyone had ever said to me at the time. The fact that a girl (a good looking one at that) was initiating something with me was just what the doctor ordered. I perked up right away. I was just so excited, and so alive. Our Thanksgiving weekend plans fell, but I returned to my hometown the following weekend with the sole intention of investigating this girl’s motives. Driving to a girl’s house I had never been to, to pick her up was one of the oddest things I have ever done. It was such an unnerving act. The funny thing is, I didn’t know if it was a date or not. I mean she said she wanted to see me, right? What does that make it? Regardless, we ate dinner at a small, local restaurant, and I was very funny, which I found to be surprising. I felt so comfortable with this girl: all of the things that made us good classmates worked just as well in a social dinner setting. I paid for the dinner because it couldn’t have hurt my chances. I don’t remember who suggested following up dinner with watching TV, but we ended up back at my house on the couch. However, it’s not what you think, because she sat at least a buttocks and a half away from me. It was just like that episode of “Doug” where Doug goes out with Patty and he can’t figure out if it’s a date or not. We continued to be polite and sarcastic and then it got late so I drove her home. I said I had a nice time, and I certainly did, but deep down I felt a little disappointed. I got my hopes up, I was let down, and immediately started feeling sorry for myself. Looking back, I don’t really know what I was expecting, especially for my first first-date in over three years. A few days later I decided to talk to her and ask her what exactly she was feeling. I wanted to know if she was looking for a friend, or more than that. She said “more than that,” and I did a little dance.

15


University of Miami

Professor Pamela McCluney

Spring 2009

I returned in about a week or two for winter break, and seeing Lane was one of the first things on my list. We agreed to watch a movie at my house. When it was over, we talked for what must have been an eternity. Then out of absolutely nowhere, she kissed me. Then I kissed her. Then all hell broke loose. It turns out we both had a few years worth of suppressed desire for one another. I didn’t know it was there, but it was there, and it surfaced rather quickly. I’m going to leave the details out for obvious reasons (sorry) but I will say things got pretty PG-13ish. I remember dropping her off later, and having a very strange feeling inside. It was a mixture of happiness and confusion; at how things can just happen so fast. It was very surreal, very new, and very exciting. All the while, something seemed off. I had just had a fantastic night with Lane, and yet in the back of my head I was wishing I had had a fantastic night with Falyn. I tried to push these feelings away, because I didn’t want my night to feel at all cheapened. Lane and I both agreed that what happened that night was the result of pure comfort and attraction. We also agreed that it was a little fast for where we were at the time. A few nights later, we got together again, and basically the same thing happened as the last time: not only between Lane and me, but also between my subconscious and my conscience. I was thinking about Falyn. I began to feel both guilty and sad over the next few days. I felt like I wasn’t being honest with Lane since my thoughts weren’t only being directed towards her. I realized then that my touch deprivation had caused me to jump to a place I wasn’t meant to be. I realized that there was only one girl for me. I wanted to talk to Falyn and tell her how I felt, but I couldn’t allow myself to do that if Lane was still in the picture, so I told Lane the truth. To my amazement, she was very supportive. She said we jumped into things too fast, and I wasn’t ready, and that she had been there before herself. I was now able to talk to Falyn, and so I told her what had been going on in my life and mind. To make a long series of talks short, we got back together. We’re still together, and every day is something new: sometimes good, sometimes bad. It will always be something that adds to our experience as an entity. If I learned anything, it’s to not be afraid to let my inhibitions go, and allow my emotions to get the best of me. Touch deprivation brought me to a place I may have previously not ventured, and in one of life’s little ironies, I ended up back where I started before all of this began. This isn’t to say I am completely 100% in my decision, its human nature to have doubts. I know Falyn has hers just as I have mine: Did I make the right choice? Is this the person I should be with? Where are we going? Am I happy? I can’t wait to find these answers.

16


University of Miami

Professor Pamela McCluney

Spring 2009

The Wake up Call “Riiiiiing, riiiiiiiing, riiiiiing” the phone repeatedly and annoyingly rang millions of times before I sluggishly and lazily stood up to answer that stupid thing. “Marisol, get up your fat ass before I have to call an ambulance to do that for you,” Alexandra unpleasantly hooted. “Do me a favor and mind your own business. Leave me alone----And for the record, my ass is not fat!” I aggressively uttered to my defense. I actually wasn’t positive if my ass was fat, I mean, I was confident it wasn’t before, but being that I had only ambled off my couch to get more lip-snacking chocolate and order more mouthwatering Chinese food, I was not so certain any longer. “Are you gonna make me drive over there to make you get up and clean that noxious place of yours?” Alexandra flowingly nagged. “Do as you’d like, but I am going nowhere until I watch “The Notebook” one million and twenty three more times” I proudly replied and then hung up. It’s been over twenty-seven days, five hours, twenty minutes, and five seconds since Guillermo, the love of my life; dumped me due to what he said was “lack of communication.” I hope it was all an act; I believe it was the dumbest excuse to get rid of me without just purely and simply informing me he was just not that into me. He was the hottest guy I knew and I was head over heals desperately and madly in love with him. He had the most gorgeous hawk-like, straight and thin nose I had ever seen. He had striking dark brown eyes I’d get lost in every time we met. His lips were so perfect that they would even make the “American dream” bombshell, Angelina Jolie, awfully jealous. His sparkly, lengthy, and wavy hair was filled with strikes of blond that reminded me of the sun. I was miserable ever since I received his pathetic phone call. I always reminded him that I was only a phone call away, but by that I never suggested he should use the phone to dump me. It was only a short while before I heard Alexandra furiously knock on my door. “I’m gonna break this damn thing if that’s what it’s gonna take for me to get in there,” she repeatedly yelled. I honestly did not give a damn if she broke the stupid thing, but since she was so clearly and extremely out of shape, I knew she would never have the strength to do so. After a while I got annoyed of her kicking and pushing the door, so I stood up and dragged my, what seemed heavier, body towards the door to open it. “Oh my gosh! This place is a mess! It smells like

17


University of Miami

Professor Pamela McCluney

Spring 2009

rotten food in here! And your hair! YUCK, it’s all greasy, girl. What the hell has that twit done to you? Stop crying and mourning that idiot” Alexandra shockingly requested. “I’m fine crying by myself and I thought I told you to leave me alone” I responded to all her whining. “You know what? If you don’t take a shower right this instant I am going to call that dim-witted ex-boyfriend of yours so he can see what a real mess you have become” Alexandra threatened. “Alright! Alright! I’ll take the damn shower.” To my surprise, the warm, shower actually helped me feel jolly and a lot more social. As soon as I got out of the bathroom I was left in awe to see how sparkly, dirt free and uncontaminated my apartment looked all over again. It hadn’t looked this beautiful since the day I had first moved in, and not even then! Alexandra and I began talking and we made several conclusions. I was ready to quit weeping and move on with my life. I knew I had to do this because sobbing all day would get me nowhere, but the question was how? After a while we came up with a dazzling idea. We decided I would date the hottest most trustworthy, most educated, convivial guy in Dominican Republic, this way; I would make my ex’s sorry ass regret he ever left me, but unfortunately, Mr. Perfect didn’t exist. Out of frustration I once again initiated my crying marathon. We kept on thinking of ideas but nothing came to our minds when suddenly it hit me. “I can write a newspaper ad with all my favorite things to do and have someone answer me!” I excitedly yelled. “That’s a brilliant idea, but, Marisol, do you actually think someone would answer to an ad? I mean, not to sound merciless or anything but, you’ll sound like a desperate, lifeless, unattractive girl” Alexandra replied with sorry eyes. “Ah! Whatever, I’ve got nothing better to do but cry, and besides, you lose every chance you don’t take, so I’ll just give it a shot” I vulnerably yet eagerly stated. That afternoon I scribbled all over my thin and solid notebook. The papers were filled with bold letters and tears of anguish. After jotting down the things I cherished the most, I sent a copy to the city’s finest newspaper company and asked them to post a copy in the personal columns. The ad read: If you like dancing with your shoes off, And the breeze of the sea, If you like seeing the sunset With a partner by your side, If you sing in the shower With a rhythm of your own, You’re the love of my life, The cadence of my note

18


University of Miami

Professor Pamela McCluney

Spring 2009

Reply, let’s plan our elope.

Two days after more endless weeping I nervously checked the personal column of the damn newspaper, looking, but not expecting for a response, my eyes nearly popped out when I read: I love dancing with my shoes off, I adore the breeze of the sea, I dissolve in the sunset And need a partner like you, I can’t wait ‘til winter, So I can ski all over you. Let’s meet at Acropolis, Tomorrow at sunset, I’ll be wearing a blue shirt With a Mango bag in my hand

The following sunset came as fast as a hunter to its prey. Once I got to Acropolis I saw a wellbuilt body I recognized wearing a blue shirt that said “retired superstar.” This man was not a stranger, but the man of my dreams. When he realized it was me who had written the ad he confusingly jabbered, “Oh my God! I did not know you liked dancing without your shoes on,” I quickly replied to his concern, “I never would have matched the description to you, I guess there really was lack of communication after all.” He swiftly and lovingly responded, “I guess I’ve just realized you have always been my sunrise.”

Self-Inflicted Therapy It is a humid winter night in Miami Beach as I lay in my bed, drawing away in my sketch pad. It’s winter break and as usual I have nothing to do. So far I had spent my days relaxing and drawing away the stress of school. The mood was calm and mellow until I heard my 17 year-old brother shouting in the 19


University of Miami

Professor Pamela McCluney

Spring 2009

next room, “Fuck you!” Not again I thought to myself. Just a few weeks earlier they were arguing about, nothing really. What is it this time? “Take your ass to your room!” my 46 year-old mother replied. As regular as Old Faithful herself, my mother and brother’s arguments have become more and more routine. Every few weeks or so they’d let off some steam in the form of shouting and throwing of small objects. My brother’s apparent lack of respect and control, and my mother’s lenient form of parenting and empty threats to turn off his phone service or kick him out troubled me. It troubled me because there was no reason for the arguing. With each passing argument my suppressed anger boiled hotter and hotter beneath my skin. But I never got involved, unless of course things turned physical. But tonight, I can no longer hold it all in. The following night… I don’t know what it is, but tonight I feel as if I need to relinquish something from within. Like a beast bound by the cage of my heart. The beast is tired of captivity. It wants to roam free. How do I release this beast? I have no other way of expressing my suppressed rage besides drawing. But sketching won’t help this time. The following night I sit in the dark on the edge of the tub, watching the flame of a cherry-scented candle dance ever so delicately. I grab the candle and pour the scorching candle wax into the palm of my left hand. I wince at the pain. Damn this feels good. But I want more. More relief. I dip into the steaming tub of bubbles. Still not enough. The hot candle wax was only temporary. It left behind no mark of redemption. I want something unlike any tattoo after a hurtful breakup. I guess I’ll have to go deeper. I go to my room and notice a shattered glass candle-holder sitting atop my dresser. Its pieces sharp and jagged-edged. I quickly run my finger over its edges. The crimson rage runs down my hand. It tastes sweet. Damn this feels good. I want more. So without hesitation, I grab the knife-shaped piece and carve an eye that never blinks into the back of my left hand. For about five minutes I let the blood run from my hand down my arm. The burden on my heart was lifted. The beast is free from its cage. Later that night I write a poem: An Eye for My Heart An eye for my heart upon my hand, That cries and cries for the hurting man. Blood is its tears that fall to the ground. But when it cried it made no sound. It never blinks, so it always sees My pain, my sorrow. What makes me free? It helped me heal. It helped me grow. It helped me learn. It lets me know, That I am strong and can’t be hurt. That I’ll never be buried beneath the dirt.

20


University of Miami

Professor Pamela McCluney

Spring 2009

Like my physical scars, my emotional scars have since healed. I don’t cover it up though. I think of my third eye as a badge of self-inflicted therapy. I brought pain upon myself before anyone else does. In the end, I realized I wanted to inflict pain, but not on others but to relieve myself of the emotional burden. I’ve never felt better. That night I saw my rage spill from my hand. So pain I feel no more. I believe someone who can bring physical pain upon themselves through self-infliction can withstand any emotional burden. Though what I did may be looked at as an unorthodox way of dealing with one’s emotions, I believe it was the best way. Since that night, the firefight between my mother and brother still rages. Only this time I don’t get hurt. I now laugh at the thought of what once made me upset. A few months later, a classmate noticed the eye, “How’d you do that? With like a hot wire or something?” he asked. “No. I did it with broken glass.” “Why did you do it?” I thought about it, “Because I felt like it had to be done.” “It looks intense man.” “Thanks.” I guess.

I Couldn't Let Go, Of Both of Them It was the beginning of my freshman year in college and despite the warnings I had gotten, I had become attached in a long distance relationship. I knew it was most likely going to fail but I didn’t know how to detach myself. It took me a few months of having a relationship that consisted of phone conversations to finally realize the distance was too much. College and long distance were not going to work. My first real relationship happened my senior year of high school. I rationally warned her from the beginning that once the year was over we’d have to break up for college. However when that time came in August I couldn’t do it. I thought maybe there was a possibility it would work out. I could just not let go. It only took one month into the first semester when I met a girl in my Biology class. I thought she was good looking and she appeared to be interested in me. After a couple of classes we began to study together and we were assigned to the same lab group, I figured there wasn’t any harm in that. I told myself that my, then, girlfriend would understand, especially because I was honest with her about the situation. I reassured her there was nothing going on. Then the day came when I slipped up. A group of us were studying together for a test. I got a call from my girlfriend and I left to briefly talk to her. I told her I would talk to her after my test. When I got

21


University of Miami

Professor Pamela McCluney

Spring 2009

back to the room the rest of the people had gone; it was just the good-looking girl and I. She caught me in a vulnerable situation. I was upset and frustrated. I missed my girlfriend but she was so far away, the physical connection was lost and I craved it. At that moment it didn’t seem like our relationship was going to go anywhere. Putting the studying aside, the girl and I talked for a bit and she was extremely comforting. Then, she moved in before I could stop her. Maybe I knew it was coming but I didn’t do anything to stop it. We were kissing and I started to take it a bit further when the image of my girlfriend popped into my mind however I pushed it out of my mind for the next couple of hours. Suddenly panic seeped in. How was I going to explain myself? I lay awake all night, sharing the tiny bed, mind racing, while the girl snored quietly next to me. Needless to say, my test didn’t go over very well the next morning. All I could think about was how I was going to explain this to my girlfriend and how I was going to explain to this girl that I had a girlfriend. It was one in the morning the night after before I had finally worked up the courage to call my girlfriend. She immediately sensed something was wrong. I explained briefly the situation. The girl kissed me. End of story. At least that’s the story I gave. Surprisingly, my girlfriend was very forgiving. It happens, she said, unaware of the fact that I had actually slept with her. I had managed to fix at least half of my problem, or so I thought. Next, I had to talk to the girl in my class. We met for a walk and I told her about my girlfriend. Well to a certain extent. I told her that I was on a break, which at the time was just not true.

She

appeared to understand, but the next day she skipped class. I texted her to see where she was and she asked me to meet her for lunch. I agreed. Before meeting her, I called my girlfriend to tell her about my lunch meeting and I told her not to worry. When we met, the girl from my class gave me an option. She told me that she was no longer going to fool around with a guy that is not a boyfriend and that I could either be with her, or be okay with her dating another guy. I wished her good luck with this new guy. Then I left. But it bothered me. It was the principle of wanting something only when you can’t have it anymore. I didn’t want to be with her, but part of me still wanted her attention. This in turn made me feel extremely competitive. About a week went by before I gave in; I agreed to be her boyfriend. I knew that things were going to get messy at this point. Who did I think I was to be able to juggle two girlfriends at the same time?

22


University of Miami

Professor Pamela McCluney

Spring 2009

Weeks passed by and this game of deception only seemed to amuse me more. My friends couldn't believe some of the things I was doing, some of whom were amused and always wanted to be filled in on what was going on, while others thought my sense of morals were lost. As time passed things were getting distorted, I had to develop some sort of system to keep things organized. I had to partition my memory in half; one side for my original girlfriend who was dubbed G1 and the other for this new girlfriend, G2. I was told that it couldn't be done, that I would mess up somewhere along the way and I would regret what I was doing. Well it turns out that my friends were right. It started out with mixing up text messages, which eventually ended up in mixing up phone calls. About a week later, I was having a family crisis that I wasn’t given the full details of and I was still guilt ridden. G1 had called me as she was walking back from a study session and suddenly something triggered. It wasn’t anything she said but I was overcome with anger. I hung up on her. She called back several times and I ignored the call. She was persistent however, and eventually I picked up. She was crying and confused, she didn’t know what she had done or said. I didn’t know how to explain that it wasn’t anything she did. I was feeling too many emotions all at once. Then I yelled something horrible that I really regretted once it had left my mouth, but it was too late by then. The wrong name slipped right off my tongue and from that point on I knew it was over. Then I hung up and proceeded to throw my phone and break it. The next two days were a bit hazy. I didn’t have a phone, but even if I did I felt too guilty to call her. How could I say something like that to someone I cared about? In order to clear my mind, I slept through those days. Then an email popped up in my inbox. It was G1, asking if I was okay physically. She knew that when I get angry I occasionally do things I don’t intend to and she was worried that I had hurt myself. I told her I was doing all right, and I asked her to meet me online to chat later that night. I received an email back stating she was glad I was okay, but wasn’t ready to talk to me yet. I had definitely messed up. She was supposed to visit me three weeks later, but I was sure she wasn’t going to. I spent the next week and a half borrowing people’s phones and talking to her online trying to convince her to still visit. My efforts paid off, I succeeded. I anxiously waited for those few days she would be here. When the day arrived I nervously picked her up, late, from the airport. Seeing her again after two months was a rush. Being with her again in person was extremely satisfying. It was then that I decided to sever my deceptive relationship with my new girlfriend. I decided that it was in both of our best interests to stop my immature shenanigans and just make a choice.

23


University of Miami

Professor Pamela McCluney

Spring 2009

The next four days went by very quickly. When it came time for her to leave, I started to feel just as I had the month before. I began to question myself and wonder how life would have been if I had continued down the path that I was on. Looking back on that confusing desire that once drove me, I wondered if it is still deep within me, waiting to reemerge and cause more problems.

Frog Prince He was arrogant and self-centered, he was manipulative and suave and he ended up being everything I never thought I wanted. How did a once vague memory from my first day of high school become the boyfriend I would come to love three years later? My common sense told me to be wary of Nelson, the athlete who made a habit out of collecting girls. Like trophies he left them to collect dust on a shelf, conquered and forgotten. I never gave him the time of day and eventually, he no longer went looking to be center of attention. Months had passed since I had heard of any girls fall victim to his charm, which is why his first message to me, that March afternoon, caught me off guard. The message was in typical Nelson fashion, “Why has it been so long since I’ve spoken to you Beautiful?” his confidence oozed through the barrier of the computer screen. There it was- the assertiveness that annoyed me as much as it intrigued me. Eventually, after the compliments and flirtatious banter, he asked me out. There it was my chance to stop him in his tracks and let him know I was not interested, now or ever. So why did it prove so difficult to turn him down? Was it my intrigue getting the best of me or could I simply not pass up going out on a Saturday night? So I agreed and said, “Pick me up at eight.” He arrived early and I made him wait outside while I finished getting ready. When I walked out he looked just like I remembered him, but something was different. His chest wasn’t as thrust out, his smirk wasn’t pasted on his face and a witty remark wasn’t playing on his lips. He had let his guard down in front of me and I was determined to get to know this side of him. After we said our hellos and he complimented my attire we drove in silence for a few moments. Our official first date was somewhat awkward, we were both out of practice in the dating department and our preconceived notions of one another hindered the beginning of our night. He thought of me as the studious, no nonsense kind of girl and although I had seen a glimpse of Nelson’s softer side I was not keen to let my guard down just yet. The drive was short-lived and thankfully so was the awkward silence between us.

24


University of Miami

Professor Pamela McCluney

Spring 2009

Once we arrived at the movies the conversation started off light and general. We spoke about his car, my ideas for college, his aspirations for the upcoming baseball season, and my ideas for the annual dance recital. Eventually our conversation deepened and we spoke about how his focus had changed from parties and pointless hook-ups to baseball, school and maybe going on dates that meant something to him. I took his declaration as a hint that this could turn into something I hadn’t expected. The movie left us with minimal opportunity for discourse and physical closeness replaced conversation. As we took our seats in the theater we continued our conversation but were quickly silenced by the complaints of our neighbors. In the beginning we sat apart, but with a scary movie it was difficult to keep myself from jumping into his open arms during the frightening scenes. I found myself (more often than not) beneath the protective embrace of Nelson’s arm and his fingers laced between mine. I was comfortable with this closeness, it wasn’t imposing or pressured, and it lasted the length of the entire movie. It was through that date that I saw Nelson for the first time. Although the movie was technically the end of our evening he wanted to know where I was headed to next. I told him I was getting hungry so he offered his company and joined me for dinner. He was apparently not ready to say goodnight. And truthfully, I was in the mood for his company and a batch of chicken nuggets, so we went to Wendy’s and had a late dinner. There we were able to talk and I was able to think about how wrong I had been about him. I was shocked by his complexity and appreciation for my intellect and I was amused when Nelson told me he had been gathering the courage to ask me out for 3 weeks before actually contacting me. The thought had never crossed my mind that Nelson would be hesitant to ask anyone out, let alone me, but as it turned out I was finding out a lot of things about him that I had never known. Before getting to know him I was focused solely on things I had heard and things I had seen on the surface. The Nelson that sat with me for hours talking over French fries was not the same Nelson I stayed away from for three years. I had the distinct feeling that I was unofficially dating my future boyfriend and someone I’d grow to love. When school resumed we went back to our busy schedules, but we always managed to make time for a call or a walk to class. He saw every dance show I was in and I tried to make it to every game he played, slowly we had the whole school buzzing about the couple that had sprung out of nowhere. Everyone was concerned and voiced their opinions to me openly but they hadn’t experienced the Nelson I got to know. They were judging him based on preconceived notions and unfair assumptions, just as I had once done. However Nelson taught me that you could never know the true value of something

25


University of Miami

Professor Pamela McCluney

Spring 2009

before you experience it for yourself. And so it happened that 2 months after our all night micro-reunion, that May, he made it official and asked me to be his girlfriend. Two years later Nelson and I are very much in love and still occasionally talk for hours over French fries. Sort of like the night of our first date. Over the years I’ve changed my perception of his character. At first his arrogance and love of the spotlight were flaws, ones that I vehemently tried to change. But through rose-colored glasses skewed by love, his quirks and flaws became qualities that amuse and intrigue me. His character never ceases to amaze me. After analyzing him so much it brought to my attention that everyone has flaws, including me. His imperfections are what make him unique and trying to change that would change who he was. I realized when you’re with someone, like the old adage say, “you take the good with the bad.”

My Heart Wouldn’t Let Go I had been at the University of Miami for just over a month and though college was a new experience for me, I still desired something different. I didn’t know exactly what I wanted but I was in the search of something new. I needed something to surprise me and take me down an unknown road of life. That surprise quickly came to me with my first real girlfriend. Life seemed to be perfect, perfect until it all ended. One day. I was suddenly left with nothing more than the pieces of a shattered heart, and as much as I wanted to pick the pieces up and put them back together and just move on, my heart just wouldn’t let me let go. It urged me to pursue her. It wouldn’t let me give up. I knew her from high school. We took creative writing together senior year but never really talked in class. One of my friends tried to convince me to pursue her but I never thought much about it. She was into alcohol and weed and I was in love with my best friend who I was slowly getting over. One night as I sat with my laptop in my dorm room, I was bored on Facebook and saw that she was online. I was getting sick and tired of the people around me and I needed a distraction to take my mind off things for a few minutes so I instant messaged her. We got to talking and I told her I was going to be home in a few weeks. She told me to give her a call when I was in town and she gave me her number. About a week later I decided to text her and ask her how things were going. She texted back: “I’m thinking about going out, you?”

26


University of Miami

Professor Pamela McCluney

Spring 2009

“My friends just went out but I’m too tired,” I replied. “I’m just going to relax tonight I think.” We exchanged texts for the rest of the night and she never went out. We sent flirtatious exchanges back and forth and in no time the both of us opened up. She spilled out a lot of information that night. She told me she was a different person since high school ended. In the past few weeks she had stopped smoking weed and going from party to party drinking. She then went on to tell me that right before I texted her she was about to walk out the door and start things up with her ex-boyfriend, but she was glad she stayed home instead, saying she had a better time talking to me. At first I was a little overwhelmed. She appeared to become more intimate as we continued to talk but I restrained myself. I didn’t want to just jump into something so fast. But we continued to talk for the next couple of weeks and she said she wanted to see me. I decided to give it a chance and she told me she would come visit me the upcoming weekend. The next weekend she came down to visit and we went up to my room. We sat on my bed and talked to a few minutes about the two of us and what we both wanted. “I know you’ve made it clear but you want a relationship?” I asked. “Yes,” she said with a smile. “What do you want?” “I’m not really sure,” I started to say. At the exact moment she moved towards me and kissed me. We kissed for what seemed like an eternity. At that moment it seemed like something hit me. It was as if she making sure for me that I wanted a relationship. We laid there for the next couple of hours talking about the two of us and how crazy we were about each other. That was the beginning. For the next month we saw each other every weekend. I’d go home one weekend; she’d visit the next weekend and so on. Everything seemed perfect. A little more than a month later I had a few days off before exams so I decided to go home and surprise her. That night when I went over to her house things seemed different. She acted very distant and barely talked. Even her kiss goodnight was without emotion. I drove home wondering what was wrong. Was it something I had done? Had her feelings suddenly changed? When I got home I called her to say goodnight. “Is everything okay?” I asked. “I don’t know,” she said. “Well let’s talked about it. You seemed really distant tonight,” I told her. 27


University of Miami

Professor Pamela McCluney

Spring 2009

“I’ve just been thinking about things, my life in general. I’ll talk to you tomorrow. I’m going to sleep,” she said and then hung up the phone. The next morning she left me a text message saying not to worry about anything, that everything was going to be fine. She just needed some time to herself. We continued to talk without seeing each other for the next week but things weren’t normal. She eventually told me that this relationship wasn’t working for her. She said she was too young to be tied down in a relationship and that she needed her freedom. “I don’t want to lose you all together but I just don’t want to be tied down”, she told me. “Do you think we can continue with one another without any rules or restrictions?” I told her we could because I didn’t want to lose her either. I told her I’d make things work for her as long as she’s comfortable. For the next couple of weeks things were back to normal. We were talking multiple times a day and seeing each other more often. I was happy again and hoping she would become comfortable again to the point where she could commit to a relationship. We even spent an entire night together. I thought everything would be perfect again but I would be proven wrong. A couple of nights later she told me she was smoking again. “I thought you said you had stopped,” I said. “I never said I’d never do it again. There’s no rules remember? I need to have my freedom,” she replied. I tried to put that in the back of my mind and not let it bother me but then I started to think of other things. With no rules, I worried that it was just a matter of time before she hooked up with another guy. Here I was making all these sacrifices for her to let her have her freedom with no commitment while I was left to worry if she would break my heart. She told me she wouldn’t but as much as I told myself to trust her, my heart told me I couldn’t. I had friends telling me that she was only going to hurt me. “You’re making things work for her so she should do the same for you. Just end it,” one of my friends told me. I knew they were right and part of me told me to end it but I couldn’t bring myself to do it. Though we continued to talk, we went over a week without seeing each other until one night she told me to come over. I thought about what my friends had said but I wanted to give it more time. She seemed like she still wanted to make things work so I went over to her house to see her. That night at her house was awkward. We could barely talk to each other. All the passion that was there two weeks ago had vanished. I could see it in her eyes. She was distant and I could tell she

28


University of Miami

Professor Pamela McCluney

Spring 2009

knew it wasn’t going to work out. As much as I didn’t want to believe it was over I could see it was. I left her house that night in deep despair. New Year’s Eve was just a few days later. I thought I’d send her a friendly “Happy New Year’s” text message and she texted me back wishing me the same. We ended up talking for the next hour about the past few days. She told me she missed me and I told her I missed her. She told me she was sorry for the past week and she did want to find a way to make things work. I told her I did too. “You’re the one person that makes me happy. I don’t want to lose you,” she said. She then said she’d call me when she got home that night. About an hour later when I got home she called me to tell me her friend had just gotten into a car accident. She was scared to death so I tried to calm her down and get her to relax and she slowly did. “I’m so thankful I have you. Thank you so much,” she said when she finally got home. “I’m just glad you’re safe,” I told her as we said goodnight to each other. A few days later I texted her as I did every morning. After a couple of hours she hadn’t texted back so I texted her again. When she finally texted back, she told me something I least expected. “I don’t want us to talk anymore,” she said. “I thought I owed it to you to at least tell you that. After this message, I won’t even read anything you send me. It doesn’t matter what I’ve said before, it matters what I’m saying now and I just don’t want us to talk anymore. Thank you for all you given me but I’ve moved on. I’m sure you will too.” I was in a state of disbelief. Just three nights before she had told me she was so thankful to have me and now she didn’t want to talk to me every again. My heart shattered like a glass window that had just been hit with a rock. I was completely broken down. I didn’t understand what could’ve changed her mind so fast. I didn’t even get an answer to why she was just all of a sudden cutting me off. I went to my friends for advice, who only told me that I was better off that she was gone and that I’d be healthier now that she was out of my life. But I couldn’t just move on. I felt I deserved an answer from her for why she was just stopping everything. For the next month I texted her a lot, telling her how much I cared about her and how happy we had been together. I told her I just wanted to talk to her for five minutes. I just wanted some answers. A reply never came and I seemed to feel worse each time a reply didn’t come. I didn’t understand how I could care about her so much that she couldn’t even give me a minute of her time. I kept wishing she knew how important she was to me. I wish she could understand. I kept wondering what I could’ve

29


University of Miami

Professor Pamela McCluney

Spring 2009

done differently. I took all the blame for how it ended. I desired closure so badly that it urged me to text her. Every time I thought maybe this time she’ll reply and give me some answers but those answers never came. I would’ve done anything to hear her voice again, to see her again. I kept hoping she’d talk to me and give me closure but she never did. After a few weeks, something hit me. I had an epiphany. I needed to stop. Sending her text after text was stalker-like and that wasn’t me. I finally realized there was no point in chasing someone who never wanted to put any effort into the relationship. It was worthless working at something that in the end wasn’t going to work out. I had been making her a priority in my life when she was only making me an option in her life. What my friends told me all along I finally accepted. I never should’ve let my heart get so attached to someone who was only going to break it. My heart still isn’t completely healed but I feel like I’ve finally let go. I’m finally done.

The Loft “I <3 your guitar xoxo Lara” “ABBY FROM STETSON WAS HERE” ”Aurash f*cked in this bed!” These and countless other signatures, mini-memoirs, and drawings are colorfully tattooed into my loft. As each new person enters my room, the graffiti on my bed is the first thing they notice. “Who wrote this?” and “What is that even supposed to be?” are simply the camouflaged questions they use to ask “Can I sign it?” The markings dictate the major events in my college life. Some notes are party stories, some are signatures from girls I’ve become close with, and some are just crude drawings of male

30


University of Miami

Professor Pamela McCluney

Spring 2009

genitalia done by the friends I’ve made in my time here. Whatever is written on my bed, the people I’ve met and their personal markings deepen the experience I’ve had in college. When I started college, having a girlfriend or anything like it was the last thing I wanted. Countless movies and stories from my friends’ older brothers told me college was a place where settling down with one girl was equivalent to shooting yourself in the foot. Initially I abided by their direction. I met many girls, and if any happened to enter my room, they would sign my loft with something cute and careless like their name with a heart next to it. Because it was the beginning of the year, girls from other floors and buildings would randomly enter our room to simply meet new people, sign my loft, and leave. The signatures began to pile up, and eventually my loft became polka-dotted with random girl’s names, hearts, and room numbers. Later in the first semester, at a club in Coconut Grove, I met a girl who would put the first signature on my loft that held any significance at all. When I met her in the club, she seemed to be like any normal University of Miami freshman: pretty, smart, and drink in hand. I got her number at the end of the night, and invited her to hang out with me at the pool the next day. When we met up outside, we found out the pool was closed, but it was a nice day so we walked around the lake and got to know each other better. I learned that she was extremely proper, and that she in fact does not drink. The drink she had at the club was soda water, because she thought it was “less awkward.” She was very religious, and was not completely happy here. We would take walks, hang out at the pool all day, and go to school sponsored activities like comedians on campus. However she would never come with me to the house parties or South Beach. One late night she entered my room to watch a movie. Like everybody, the first thing she noticed about my room was the loft; however, she did not meet it with laughter like most people. She asked with anger “What is this, all the girls you’ve been with here?” There were around 50 signatures on my loft at that point; I’d be shocked if any guy could pull that off in the first few months of school. I smiled and said no, and asked her if she wanted to sign the loft. She begrudgingly agreed. She wrote her first and last name in print, and under it signed a perfectly cursive signature. Surrounded by other people’s hearts, stars and doodles, her signature looks like it was photocopied from an insurance form. We eventually grew apart because I wanted someone I could go out with and enjoy the college lifestyle. From time to time I look at her signature and think about our time together. Its sterile style sets itself apart from all the others, and its lack of color actually draws more attention to itself than other brightly colored signatures.

31


University of Miami

Professor Pamela McCluney

Spring 2009

One other signature that stands up above the rest is adorned on the foot step plank that faces my desk. A drunkenly scribbled â&#x20AC;&#x153;you guys are fun! <3 Abbyâ&#x20AC;? is engraved into the wood, because she could not get the pen to work. I met her on the bus to Coconut Grove. My friend and I noticed her and her good-looking friends so we sat next to them. I saw her again that weekend at a party and had instant chemistry. We liked the same bands, movies and had instant chemistry. We liked the same bands, movies and had plenty of other things in common. The following month, most of my weekend nightlife was spent with her. We would go to the same parties, and always meet in the Grove on Thursdays. Most of our time together was spent after 11, and rarely sober. After about a month, our relationship began to drift apart. Because we were together, I was meeting fewer girls, and she was meeting less guys. Eventually, winter break happened, and our relationship was not strong enough to stand a month apart. The laughably messy way she signed my loft always reminds me of the fun fast times we spent together. These signatures are the tattoos I keep with me. Some may not have extreme significance; some peopleâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s signatures are illegible to the point where I do not even know whose they are. However, the mere fact that this live diary has anything written on it at all is important to me. I do not know what I am going to do with the wood once the year ends. The internal debate is whether or not to keep it or start over next year. If there is room I would love a loft that has weathered four years at the University of Miami, with four years of friends, girls, and experiences littered among it, but in a way, I would like a clean slate to work with next year, for all the new people I will meet, and grow close to.

For the Love of Food I remember the first time I stopped eating as if I had not eaten since that day. The first time he told me that I was too big. The first time the next one told me I was too big. I should have gotten a tattoo, should have gotten my hair dyed, should have gotten that crazy piercing, but I did not. To satisfy the odd need of the one I was in love with I took extreme measures. A tattoo is permanent, trust me I have two of them, but there are things a human being can do to themselves because of a loved one that are much

32


University of Miami

Professor Pamela McCluney

Spring 2009

worse. There are actions that will lay deep inside for ever, as they have become a part of me,, more permanent then any tattoo, because unlike a tattoo, this went deeper than skin I was sixteen years old, very na誰ve, and thought the main goal of my life was to please the one I thought I loved. We were still technically together when I started my habit of not wanting to eat. I honestly thought it would please him, and so day after day I survived on water, juice, and some bread from time to time. I lost weight quickly. It came off, as if it wanted to. Pound after pound, day after day, it just left. And I did not even notice, as I had become oblivious to most everything that surrounded me. Oblivious, except when it came to him. I over analyzed every situation, which in the end came to my benefit. After a year and two months, his unfaithfulness finally came in to the open. It did not shock me, as this had happened to me time and time again. Yet this time it proved to be different. It was more painful, more permanent, and the feeling of defeat was overwhelming. After giving my all to him I expected more than this. Being cheated on was nothing new to me, but never had I been in love with someone like I was with him, so when he proved to be just like the others it stung more than one could possibly imagine. I thought about getting a tattoo, I wanted the pain that was ripping my heart to shreds replaced with the pain of getting a tattoo. This urge was strong enough, and I followed through, getting a powerful quote tattooed on my right hip. But the pain was not enough. I needed something more, something that everybody would notice. Something that would make everybody talk, and wonder about this mysterious girl. So my habit of self induced starvation continued, and intensified to such a level that it became an obsession. Not the kind where every calorie was counted. Not the kind where running ten miles, four times a day was important. It was an obsession much scarier than that. Something took over my mind; I was no longer the captain of my soul. The battle between hunger and me became the master of my fate. Instead of getting ten more tattoos, to relieve that pain that I was still feeling, to gain attention, and to make myself feel worthy of a better man, I lost ten more pounds. It was so easy to not eat, and I even raked financial benefits. Because I did not eat, I did not need to waste money on food, and I finally had money to buy that size double zero jeans. And this constant pain of hunger diverted my attention from everything. Even though a tattoo might be permanent, the pain of getting one is only momentarily, and pain is what I was seeking. Losing weight was more powerful than any ink in this world. It did not affect only one part of my body, as a tattoo would. Instead, my arms got skinnier, my legs became sticks, and my stomach seemed to almost curve inside, as if it was trying to escape. And I was proud of all of

33


University of Miami

Professor Pamela McCluney

Spring 2009

this. I thought I was proving to myself that I have complete control over every aspect of my life. I thought that if I could conquer hunger, I could conquer any pain any other guy would ever put me through. It became an issue deeper than just losing weight. It became a battle to distract myself from the pain I was put through by guys over and over again. The weight I was putting off, to me symbolized all the mess I went through going away from my body. It was never about trying to look like a supermodel. The so much expected break down never occurred though. I never went to the hospital, I never had to go to a counselor, but one day I saw the look in my mother‘s eyes, and I realized something. Her eyes were not filled with sadness or sorrow. It was fear, a look that I had never before seen in my mother’s eyes while looking at me. It was this moment that I realized what I was doing was not helping me become a stronger person like I thought it was. The matter of fact was that I put thoughts in my head, instilled by a guy who was never worth my time, which I became obsessed with. If my own mother looked at me, with fear in her eyes because of my physical appearance, I could not look at myself the same way anymore either. This is the woman who would give her life for me, and never would I wish the look of fear from a mother’s eyes on to anyone. So I took action on my own. Unlike removing a tattoo, removing an eating disorder is ten times as hard. Laser surgery will leave some specs of the tattoo, a reminder that one carries around forever, yet it only takes a couple of visits. What I had to go through to finally get to an acceptable weight was a battle that I at first found impossible. Being obsessed with losing weight now seemed so easy. It became as automatic as breathing, and therefore it proved extremely difficult for me to unlearn. Fighting the battle to win my soul and fate back from the quarrel over hunger was a battle that has made me who I am today. My head was bloody from the internal battles that were going on for close to two years, yet after the major realization I had, I held my head high and proud. Even today this blood sometimes gets in to my eyes, as the feeling of repressing hunger still is close to an instinct. But now I have seven people in my life who are my handkerchiefs, people who never get tired of wiping the blood out my eyes when it does drip down.

34


University of Miami

Professor Pamela McCluney

Spring 2009

Shattered Dreams It is true that life is not fair. Mick Jagger from the Rolling Stones said, “You can’t always get what you want.” Sometimes we dream of something we want to achieve in our life; something that will make us stand out of the crowd and be remembered, something that we can look back ten to twenty years from now and say “Yes, I knew I could make it.” However sometimes we simply have to face reality. We have to face the fact that whatever our child hopes and dreams were, we can no longer reach them-they cannot be attained. We feel lonely and lose self-esteem. Perhaps we were never meant to be like memorable athletes such as Michael Jordan who soars to the basket from the free throw line or like Lance Armstrong who battled cancer and achieved an unbelievable feat of seven Tour de France victories. But everything in life happens for a reason. We eventually accept the fact that we’re not meant to be like these athletes; we are meant to be something else. I was five years old when I picked up my first tennis racquet and experienced the sport for the first time. It was something I slowly begun to enjoy and cherish, feeling the passion swiftly overtake my body and soul. My very first coach introduced me to tennis tournaments-something unbeknownst to me at the time-and surprisingly the first few tournaments I ever played I ended up winning. I remember all those little trophies I won (and collected might I add) and I remember being known among many juniors at the time for my devastating forehand (a rare skill at the age), unbelievable quickness around the court (nicknamed Mosquito by some), and the heart and unrelenting determination to win. My coach even motivated me with the idea that if I ever became #1 in any junior division that he would sponsor me with Adidas. But that was something that I knew for a fact I could never achieve. As I got older, I continued playing tennis tournaments which required a higher level of play and demanded not only physical strength but also mental strength. But I was able to keep up; I broke into the top ten in the Florida rankings, qualified to represent Florida in national tournaments and even represented the United States in international tournaments- one international tournament even took place at the tennis center on the University of Miami Coral Gables campus. It felt great to be representing the United States and competing against other talented players around the world. Those were my Happy Days- junior tennis players recognizing me and wanting to hit with me- all the attention and respect felt good. Radiating an aura of somewhat tennis superiority, I felt like I could really make it into college tennis and maybe even play professional. But then things started to take a turn for the worst. I entered high school with my head held up high; achieving the grades I desired and performing well on the tennis court. I felt eased and comforted by the fact that if I kept this up, I had a good chance of earning a scholarship and possibly getting recruited by several top tennis recruiting universities. However, upon entering my junior year in high school, things started to get very stressful. Counselors came to talk to me about colleges I had planned to apply to, 35


University of Miami

Professor Pamela McCluney

Spring 2009

standardized tests that I would have to take, and grades and transcripts to be submitted. As more and more things started to pile on my agenda, the stress began to pile on me. Everywhere I walked around campus, I managed to hear the counselors’ voices ringing in my ears-who knew the process of applying to colleges could be so stressful? I never thought the process of applying to college could be so stressful. With all of this on my mind, it became impossible to keep my focus on tennis. Unable to practice because of all my focus and attention with school, it resulted with consequences on the court. Feeling tired, lazy, and out of shape, I felt unprepared and low on energy. With such lack of preparedness when playing tournaments, a lack of interest in playing, I saw match after match go by with me coming out on the losing end. This went on for nearly a year. Doubts began to arise on my ability and whether or not I could achieve the lifetime longing of playing college tennis. I felt frustrated and depressed with my lack of victory. One of my closest friends, Ronny, who has been with me through the good times and the bad times, comes up to me and he says, “Nick, what’s wrong? I responded with a look of despair on my face, I started to think that a future in tennis was not in what was in store for me. Maybe I was meant to do something else with my life; a life of playing tennis and signing autographs was apparently not for me. I began to search around, to look for anything that would show me in what direction my life was meant to head down. I looked at all my high school report cards and realized in all my science classes, I excelled. I even remember my human anatomy and physiology teacher approaching me after class and asking me if I had ever considered pursuing a medical career. It was something that I found very interesting and also because my family comes from a medical background. She told me it was something I should definitely look into because I had a bright future in it. Keeping my teacher’s advice in mind, a memory resurfaced from my past that finally pointed me in the direction my life was meant to go. Being born two months premature and barely hanging on to life, I survived, all thanks to my pediatricians. I like to think that surviving this near death experience reflects my survival, fighting, and rebellious attitude that I demonstrate on both the tennis court and in the way I live. Such attributes helped me make up my mind that I am meant to become a pediatrician, someone meant to help others, and not a tennis player, seeking fame and glory; I want to give those children who are sickly or close to death a second chance in life like I had. Tennis was a hobby that definitely taught me a lot such as responsibility, commitment, and of course how to have fun. It had its good and dark moments. I have accepted the fact that a career in tennis is not meant for me and it is something that I freely and readily let go. Now I look forward in my studies to the possible field in pediatrics, and it has become something that I now long for in my life.

36


University of Miami

Professor Pamela McCluney

Spring 2009

My Angel Show me a person who doesn’t have a memory, buried deep inside of them, that they don’t regret, that doesn’t make their stomach twist and their hair stand up in reminiscence of it, and I’ll show you someone who hasn’t lived. Everyone has that thing that we bury inside of ourselves, that scene that replays in our heads, against our wills, in the middle of the night when we can’t sleep. Stephen King wrote that we can tie this memory up in a tight little package and throw it into the deepest part of the well, our minds, but, eventually, that taint will poison the entire well. Sometimes we are punished by others for it, sometimes we are still being punished for it. But other times, no one else knows and we writhe in the purgatory we throw ourselves into, trying to scour the memory, the feeling, the very existence of that event out of our souls. But it will always be there, because you can’t change what has already happened. There’s no state prison, no jury of our peers to pass judgment on us, so we stay in that burning place, afraid to admit our wrongs, so no one can bring us redemption. But I was a lucky one; there was someone there who forgave me for what I did, who could have seen me as tainted but, instead, called me beautiful. I met him about three weeks before my sixteenth birthday. The situation’s been warped in my head, torn up by my furious eraser marks, but whatever way you cut it, I got involved with someone I shouldn’t have; a 21-year old guy. This is a guy who not only already had a girlfriend, but a kid by another woman as well. At first, I was wary of him, wary of his grin, his enthusiasm, and his kind attention. But this was the one guy who would sit down and have a conversation with me while still acting like I was a female, a lady worth winning over. His name was Herman. It had been two years since my last relationship, and that one had left me pretty beat up. It was out of the blue and, despite all my pleading and all his reassurances, we didn’t stay friends. It’s still awkward talking to him, almost five years afterwards. And for the two years between him and this, I struggled with boys, my crushes rejecting me one after another. I didn’t like the loneliness, watching all of my friends, guys and girls, cycle through flings like coffee filters. I wanted to be a part of something, belong to someone. Herman’s details were different than mine, but what eventually brought us together was the common need to be loved, to be understood, to mean something to someone. So, after a two year drought of all intimate touch, thought, and care, a guy I knew almost nothing about putting his arm around me threw me for one hell of a loop. We’d started talking through a mutual band friend, Richie; a trumpet player who had known Herman while he still played in high school. Richie was still in the band when I came in as a freshman, the year after Herman graduated. Richie had been pretty adamant about getting us to talk. Even now, after 37


University of Miami

Professor Pamela McCluney

Spring 2009

refusing to talk to him for the past two-and-a-half years, I still believe his intentions weren’t bad. He saw us both struggling through tattered relationships and believed that misery loves company. So Richie got us talking before a big band competition that was being held at Herman’s university across the river. He had come back to the school like a lot of alumni to see Mr. Stanley, the director, and to listen to the band. We wound up sitting together on the bus ride there, engrossed in our conversation about music. On the way back, tired and weary from marching, I hadn’t realized until too late that he’d sat next to me again. It was dark on the bus and most of the kids were sleeping or simply talking quietly. I feigned sleepiness and he put his arm around my shoulders, trying to get me to lean into him. I quietly refused, pulling away from him as much as possible. “This isn’t right,” I said to myself. A week or two later, Richie called me on conference call with Herman on the other line, around 7:00 in the evening. Twelve hours later, I was still talking to Herman, Richie having left around 4 in the morning. I was wary still, but I’d found someone to connect to, a musician, another lonely soul, and a nice guy. He was home on summer break and living at his mom’s house, job-hunting. School was letting out for me and I went to meet him in downtown Hampton, riding my bike and meeting him at the bus stop. We walked to the library and that’s where we first kissed and my sense of direction shut off. It wasn’t an amazing kiss; even then I hadn’t thought so. But someone was kissing me, paying attention to me, treating me like a friend, like a lover. I’d become so numb in the years before, I’d even forgotten my desperation to be loved. So when I thought love had come, I turned away from all reason and acted on impulse. We met downtown many times, walking, on a bike. We fooled around, much farther than I’d ever gone before, and we talked, on our nightly, marathon phone calls, about going even farther in our relationship, becoming even more physical as I was blinded by my need. My dad had almost caught me going to a movie with him and was furious in his fear. That should have woken me up from my too-sweet dream, but it didn’t. My birthday was the 25th of June, exactly one week before I left to go to the Summer Residential Governor’s School for Math, Science, and Technology at Lynchburg College, basically a month-long nerd camp in western Virginia. While I was out with my dad, I got a call from one of my older crushes, begging me to play bass for their Sunday school band at his friend’s church. The next day I went to practice with them and met the only person I didn’t know of the group, their piano player. He didn’t make much of an impression on me then; he was just some kid from a rival high school who also went to the church. We made Crabber jokes, like we always did when we met someone from Hampton High School, and I left to pack for my trip. I called Herman and jokingly, promised that I wouldn’t fall for any “college” boys, a joke since there were only rising high school juniors and seniors at the camp. So, for the second time in just over a month, my world got tossed upside down when I looked up as we left the orientation meeting and saw no one else but the piano player from the band, Mike.

38


University of Miami

Professor Pamela McCluney

Spring 2009

We flirted with the intensity of blushing teenagers and it was obvious we were a perfect match for each other. I had more fun becoming friends and flirting with him than I’d ever thought I could. It was so easy to talk and just have fun with him. It was like we’d already been friends for ages, like I’d known him all my life. But I’d get gloomy when I remembered I had an obligation back home. Sure, he was already cheating on another girl with me and I wasn’t bound by anything, but I wanted to play the rules as closely as I could in the complicated situation I was in. So I told Mike the deal, but it was hard to push so forcefully against fate. Over the month of July, I found the sweetest, kindest, most caring soul in the world who was, in the face of the very complicated and distasteful situation I was in, loving me with all his heart. I told him everything, how Herman had a girlfriend, a son, and was more than four years my senior. How I’d gotten involved with him and how I felt terrible even when loving Mike felt so right. And he helped show me the other feelings I was ignoring, how I was still lonely with Herman, how I resented being second-best to a woman with half my intellect, skills, and passion for life, and how much I wanted to have a boyfriend who I could introduce to my parents, who I could kiss with my eyes closed, not constantly peering over my shoulder in fear. I rushed into things with Mike, I guess a part of me wanted him to wash away every touch I’d ever shared with Herman, and more, I wanted to feel him, how soft his lips were, how big and gentle his hands were. I started feeling off with Mike too, like something wasn’t right. I told him things weren’t how they should be, that we shouldn’t be doing what we were doing. He’d felt it too, typing me a long letter to read in class the next day without crying during the lecture. He didn’t want this to be wrong, didn’t want to hurt me, and didn’t want things to break apart. He wanted to be with me still. He said that, if I chose not to be with him, he’d rather stay friends than never be in my life again. Every word he wrote resonated with me. He was offering another chance, a clean slate, and forgiveness for everything I’d done with Herman, for everything I’d screwed up with him. The night before we left Lynchburg, I told Mike I’d call him in two days. Until then, I was going to see Herman and listen to my heart for the first time in two months. It was either going to tell me to stay with Herman and stay true to my word, regardless of the situation, or I was going to take Mike’s hand and never look back. I went to visit Herman at Richie’s house. Being near him made me cringe. His voice, before so much like honey was now like used oil; dark, greasy, and made me want to wash my hands. And there was a desperation there that wasn’t present before. He knew, just like my gut knew, that this would end. I called Mike when I got back home, much to his surprise, and told him my choice. I spent the next hour listening to my angel’s voice, reassuring him that I truly had thought about what I was doing and stood adamantly by my choice. It was obvious how much Mike cared about me. He reminded me that, though he wanted me with him, if friends were all we could be, he’d accept that. And, with that, he opened his arms to me, embracing me with clean, warm light.

39


University of Miami

Professor Pamela McCluney

Spring 2009

Since then, we haven’t spoken of what I’d done. We talked over what went wrong between the two of us at Governor’s School, but never of what happened before we’d met. I told him in July everything that had happened to be honest to him, but those two months of my life have been locked away inside of me since, only creeping out when I’m weak and alone, reminding me of how dirty I am. But, every time, his soft voice and bright, jade eyes wipe my tears away and my slate clean, reminding me of the redemption he gave me. I don’t think he knows, even when I whisper “my angel” into his ear as he tucks me in bed before leaving, what he has spared me from. I still suffer from my memories, because no words can take them away, but I’ve been forgiven by my own personal angel. My pain is merely a fraction of the hell it should be. So I have Mike, my loving boyfriend, my angel who landed right in front of me that sunny day in Lynchburg to pull me out of the maelstrom I was floundering in without realizing it. We’ve all been in rough places, dangerous places, places we’d rather cut out of ourselves with a knife, but, sometimes, there’s someone there who puts their fingers over our eyes and lets us live in spite of those places. So this retelling of a story I’ve vaulted up inside me, quarantined and feared, is my way of slowly opening up the jail cell door and walking out into the sun. I’m writing to redeem myself in my own eyes. Even so, we all need someone to forgive us, someone to help us through, and someone to make us feel whole again. Sometimes it isn’t enough to have someone forgive us, but it is when that someone helps us forgive ourselves that we can we pull ourselves out of the fire and stop killing ourselves with the memories.

There are different degrees of love, but they all share common traits whether it be for a religious figure, family, significant other, or friend its all about the passion you have for that person and how much you are willing to sacrifice to see them be happy.

Marks of Love The feeling was like no other, it was like being stuck in a bottomless pit with no one there to hear me, no matter how loud I yelled. As I sat in my pit awaiting my non approaching death, sorrow and

40


University of Miami

Professor Pamela McCluney

Spring 2009

depression carried over me and endless thoughts ran through my head. As my brain continued to tell me enough was enough the feelings of woe were soon replaced by anger and hate. Frustration with my situation turned into energy and with an uplifting burst once again I felt like I could take on the world. I climbed out of my not so bottomless pit and looked to the horizon; I was ready to move on, yet I never wanted to forget, I needed a way to remember. A breakup can be one of the most interesting, to say the least, moments of your life. Emotions take over and your rational in your decision making is thrown out the door and told not to come back for a while. The actions we take during this time period of lucid behavior mark us for the rest of our lives. These marks, our scars, remind us of what has been and what we have learned. My first break up, was a rough one, I was still “virginal” to the breakup scene and wanted some way to mark myself to overcome my once perceived desire to be loved. Turned out my relief was no further than a workout however, this was no ordinary workout this was a scaring workout. Run; run until you cannot run anymore. No iPod or sunglasses for me this time, these luxuries would only make the run easier and that was not what I was going for, no, not this time. This was a test of how far I could go; it was a continuous telling to myself that the only person that could stop me was in fact me. As the sweat began to run down my face and into my now stinging eyes and my lungs beckoned for me to slow down I realized that I took off way too fast, my emotions had gotten the best of me. I sadly realized this served as a metaphor for the perfect relationship I thought I once had. My emotions got the best of me and misled me to what I could and could not do. I had to continue to run however, so I had to steady the pace, slow down and rethink things. Just because the start didn’t go as planned doesn’t mean you give up, you keep on going that’s life. I continued running and was surprised to see a beautiful blonde in the distance as I gazed she continued to get closer and closer. I felt my life coming back, there were more girls! How had I forgotten? I smiled as she passed, hoping she would note my fast paced stride. The next 2 minutes I spent thinking about the blonde and for those two minutes the break up didn’t cross my mind. Slight liberation had come. I continued to run and as more and more time passed the little voice in my head began to win the debate of whether to stop or not. However, every time I slowed down the taste of defeat slipped into my dry cotton filled mouth and I was forced to pick up the pace. AHHH! I couldn’t get her out of my head. Although she was always in my thoughts just the thought of not being her boyfriend anymore stung. The emptiness felt like poison. This was not my first time running; I would run about once a week with my uncle to stay in shape and this in a way acted as pain therapy since I knew my limits and how far I could go. As I kept making turns taking me further away from my house I knew there was no way I was going to make it back home without stopping. I pushed on as my legs began to burn and the weight of my shoes slowly increased until it felt like they were made out of stone. I pushed on as my lungs asked me to stop,

41


University of Miami

Professor Pamela McCluney

Spring 2009

to not even speak in my head because even that felt like it was taking some of their oxygen. I was about to collapse and as I ran on the asphalt sidewalk I looked down and dove onto the much softer grass to the immediate left. What happened here? After wanting to put myself through so much excruciating pain with the run and then I wimp out when I had the chance to inflict more pain on myself? My grass stained knees where not powerful at all. If I would have fallen on the asphalt I would have had gashes, they would have been commanding for everyone to see. They would know that I was tough and I was willing to do things where I could get hurt and if I could take that pain then nobody could hurt me. But I didn’t, I dove for the grass. As I walked back home I tried to make sense of my life which at the time was in shambles. I didn’t know who I was or who I wanted to be, my thoughts were even contradicting each other. I finally came to reason, and convinced myself that this breakup was my proof of inability to be loved and I must be the only one with whom a girl would never want to stay with. I was fine with this, not happy, but accepting of what the reality was. As I walked through my house and into my bathroom I looked in my mirror and I took a long look at myself and decided right there at that moment that if nobody was going to love me I was going to live for myself. I looked down at my body and decided I was going to get into shape not for anyone else but me. I went straight to the gym. I’ll never forget that first day not knowing what to do and just copying what the others were doing. The shame felt tremendous my lifting was hurried and was a blatant reminder of my desperation. But I kept going back every day and soon the results began to show. I soon began to receive questions like: “You workout?”and “What are you taking to get so big?” Less and less I felt like myself. I would blow off events that I would have preferred to attend and instead would “hit up the gym”. I wanted people to believe that working out was what I wanted to do. I frantically wanted them to believe that my new body represented me: wise, strong, powerful, and masculine. Months passed and I got used to my workout clothes and workout routines. The clothes were just these parts of me, faded now, not so bright and eye catching and I would just go through the motion of the routine. Then the day came that I would meet the girl that would end my loneliness. She was a good girl with high values and a great personality. We were first friends so the transition to being more than friends was a lot easier then usual. She liberated me from the chains of my first breakup she said “I don’t care how you look as long as you’re beautiful inside”. I stopped going to the gym and soon my muscles began to go down in size. I am no longer as physically strong as I used to be but stronger mentally. My girlfriend still makes jokes that I still am the strongest man she knows and that my veins look like I lift every day. Does it matter that I still have marks from my workout days that I can’t get rid of? Maybe these marks are there so that I never forget those days of captivity. Maybe I am supposed to

42


University of Miami

Professor Pamela McCluney

Spring 2009

learn to accept my past. In any event I have moved on. I am still currently with the same girlfriend and am in a very healthy and fulfilling relationship with her. I have come a long way since my first break up yet my marks will always stay with me. As I was walking to class one day I heard an old gym buddy yell out: “Hey Manny”, he said. “Whad up pops”, I replied. He checked me out as he walked closer. After a moment I realized this is what all gym rats do to each other. “What the hell happened to your body?” He asked, pointing at my gut. “I got a girl dude”, I told him. “That don’t mean nothing, you whipped dog?” he stated, unsatisfied with my answer. “Nah, nah I just found a different way to workout” I told him, reminding myself he probably would think I’m a wuss if I explained. He nodded. “Aight homes take it easy, see ya around” Aight

The Eyes That Follow Me It’s amazing how everything Americans see and experience is filtered by the little black box, better known as the television set. Watching the news and other media, they see what they perceive as the truth. They see the subservient woman who covers herself from head to toe in black, with only her eyes exposed. They’re thinking, “Poor her. She must be so oppressed.” Then they see me wearing similar clothes and the same thought runs through their head. I can tell, I see it their eyes. The truth is, they don’t know the truth – and they definitely don’t know me. I’m a freshman in college and if you can’t tell by my long skirt and my figure-hiding garb, I’m Muslim. I’m not a criminal, but the way some people look at me, I might as well have been on “American’s Most Wanted”. I stand out with my unique attire, even amongst other Muslims. My rida or

43


University of Miami

Professor Pamela McCluney

Spring 2009

garb is different from other head coverings or hijabs; it’s more expressive, more colorful, and definitely more me. People initially assume that I am a nice, quiet, and gentle girl. They come to this conclusion because they subconsciously see my clothes as a life of obedience. They obviously don’t look hard enough. If they focused on the bold colors and the intricate patterns of my rida, they never would describe me as quiet or gentle. People who know me well describe me as loud, opinionated, and brutally honest. However, most people can’t get past the media image my clothes project. This is especially true in Champaign, Illinois, a small city smack dab in the middle of nowhere. I lived in Champaign all throughout high school. Out of those four years, I spent two of them being stared at and judged because of my attire. Champaign was pretty diverse for a city in central Illinois; however, it wasn’t diverse enough for me to blend in. So no one was surprised that I wanted to attend college in a large city. I applied to schools in every major city in American, eventually choosing to go to school in Miami. No, not Miami, Ohio, but Miami, Florida (The majority of the people in the Midwest automatically think of Ohio when they hear “Miami”). I love Miami because of its warm weather, liveliness, and its diversity. People from different countries and cultures mingle and create their own identity in this beautiful city. Here, in Miami, people glance my way as I walk by, but then quickly ignore my presence. People are too busy and immersed in their own lives to gawk at passersby. However, some people still have preconceived notions about me because of my rida. These notions aren’t really based on my race, culture, or religion. They’re just general misconceptions that amuse me. Many people ask me, “Where are you from?” They don’t expect my response to be, “Champaign, Illinois.” I can read the surprise on their faces. Once someone actually voiced his surprise, exclaiming, “I was expecting somewhere more exotic!” Three years ago, I would have welcomed such a small misconception. When I first decided to wear a rida everywhere, I was more concerned about racial and religious prejudice. I wanted to wear it for my faith and for myself, but I was worried at how others would perceive me. Would they think I was an extremist? Would people start treating me differently? Would my friends treat me differently? My friends, thankfully, acted the same around me. They knew my personality and no outer layer of clothing was going to change their opinion of me. One of my friends loved my ridas so much that she would try my clothes on while I was changing for P.E class. I was relieved. In high school, nothing is more disheartening than rejection from someone you thought was your friend. Especially if it was because of something shallow like your appearance. College was different. No one knew me at the University of Miami so they were reacting to me based on my appearance. People honestly did not know how to act around me. Most college students are very open and willing to converse with strangers; however, in my case, it was the opposite. Students were 44


University of Miami

Professor Pamela McCluney

Spring 2009

unable to talk to me initially. I became unapproachable because of my attire. After a few days, I longed for someone start up a conversation with me while I was eating, or waiting for the elevator. I envied how easy it was for other students to connect to one another. I felt slightly lonely. It wasn’t so much the absence of someone to talk to that upset me, but the absence of familiarity. I wasn’t looking for love, or even friendship. I just wanted someone to give me a chance to get to know them. When I started wearing a rida my junior year of high school, everyone at my high school slowly became accustomed to seeing me. Outside of school; however, I was treated like an animal at the zoo. Most people weren’t very subtle when they stared or glared at me. I thought it was all in my head, yet my friends noticed that some people treated me differently. Once, I was working on a group project with a few of my friends. We needed to buy spray paint amongst a few other things from Wal-Mart. I was asked to show I.D. and was told that I had to be eighteen to buy spray paint. The lady at the checkout line wouldn’t even let one of my friends who was eighteen purchase it. I didn’t think much of it until, Paul, my group member went afterwards to try to purchase spray paint. He had the same person check out his purchases and he wasn’t even asked to show his I.D. Of course, being a small Asian boy with glasses, he didn’t fit the image of a delinquent. I apparently did. Another time, I went to Lens Crafter to get my glasses fixed. As I walked in, I could see three kids running around, chasing one another. The second their mother saw me, her eyes widened and she grabbed her children and pulled them closer to her. I was offended! What could I have possibly done to her kids? If I really did have a bomb, moving them three feet away from me wasn’t really going to help. I remembered these instances when I noticed how wary people were of me. I felt like an inmate suffering from “touch deprivation”. Instead of physical intimacy, I was without any verbal or emotional intimacy. I didn’t lack this intimacy all throughout my first semester as a freshman in college, just the first few weeks. Then I slowly began to make friends, once people looked past my appearance and set aside their pre-conceived notions. It wasn’t until this semester that I began to notice a pattern. People are initially wary of conversing with me because they think they don’t have anything in common with me. My friend Alex told me that initially he thought I was a nice, quiet girl. However, through class discussions and my opinionated answers, he realized that I was anything but quiet. I saw a similar pattern with many of my peers in the majority of my classes. I am one of those students who are very involved in the classroom. I ask questions, actively answer questions and provide comments in my all of my classes. Because of this, the majority of the people in my classes know me, even if I don’t know them. Many of my friends now are people who have approached me after class and started up a conversation. I guess they feel more comfortable approaching me after knowing more about me.

Although I still feel like I am

unapproachable, I have learned to be patient. I just need to give my peers time to get used to me and know

45


University of Miami

Professor Pamela McCluney

Spring 2009

me before I can expect anyone to be familiar with me. And maybe instead of waiting for them to approach me, I should approach them first.

Love in Weights Relationships can be a blessing in disguise. They have the ability to push you up a mountain and then in a blink of an eye they can pull you into the deepest crater. Different people cope with their relationship failures in different ways, using sharp needles to get tattoos, or by eating a bowl of ice cream till their sorrows are deep beneath double chocolate fudge. When my relationships go sour I have my own approach of dealing with the aguish. I change my physical appearance, not by adding clothes or images but by adding muscle and mass. There’s no better remedy for mental anguish than physical pain, not with needles or food, but with bars and weights.

On

December

28th of 2005 I made one of the best decisions of my life, I asked a stranger to be my girlfriend. This random and strange decision led me to have a high school sweet heart and a first love. Fast forward two years and troubled waters hit our relationship, with 15 foot waves, unfortunately things don’t go according to plan and we end up being friends. Although the physical attachment to her was gone, the emotional and mental pain that followed was unbearable. I was consumed with hatred and did nothing but blame myself. It was at my lowest of lows that my best friend Julio gave me a life ring. Unlike the ones used at pools, this life ring was a 25 pound weight, he said “suck it up, let’s go to the gym, and get her out of your head; Out of sight out of mind.”

And so

my regime began, for the next three years I would be in and out of relationships, and in and out of the gym. I used the pain and mental anguish I received from one relationship to thrust me into my gym relationship. My father always went to the gym so I decided to follow in his footsteps. I figured, I’d rather put myself through my own pain than have someone else who isn’t even present do it for me. I wanted control, I wanted power, and I wanted more.

My dad

and I may have shared many features and desires. Always holding back, never wanting to show off his physique, my dad hid behind books and his school work. Unlike him, I chose to show off what I had, playing water polo, and basketball treating every season as mating season. And so I didn’t want my hard work at the gym to be hidden like my fathers. In my head my physique showed people who I am and my willingness to achieve a goal. Working out commanded respect, showing everyone that I’d rather put myself through pain before some one else tried to. Julio and I would drive to Florida International University and use their facilities; it was

46


University of Miami

Professor Pamela McCluney

Spring 2009

the best gym we could both get into for free. It was my first break up, so I just wanted to get stronger. I figured I’d make the outside like a vault that no one could be able to break into to reach the valuables. I went to the gym the second time when my next relationship with a water polo player ended. She was young and less mature than the girls I usually talked to, but I figured she would change. Over time, she kept doing non-girlfriend like things and being unfaithful, and our relationship ended. The relationship with the water-polo player ended but Julio still had the same remedy. He suggested once again, “Out of sight, Out of mind.” After several more failed attempts at finding that special someone, I found myself once again in the gym. This time I took a new approach, instead of going for the quick fix I started a program, P90X. The program puts the client through 90 days of an intense regime of workouts in order to get into great shape. I’m not looking to cover up my past with a curtain of muscles anymore, but layers that will stop anything form getting through to what underneath. Now I’m entering into my new relationship with a wonderful new girl who seems to fit me well. But she couldn’t quite seem to understand why I would religiously go to the gym to do these silly workouts, so she asked. And I responded, “I go kick my ass so you don’t have to do it for me”, and I follow it up with a smile.

Changing for Comfort It is common for people to express their independence and strength after a hurtful experience through different methods. My first relationship was not very serious therefore I was still new to the feeling of heartbreaks. My second boyfriend of two years is the first person I felt strongly for. It was the first time I felt like I could not live without someone. Every free moment I spent thinking about him. The first breakup we encountered occurred a few months into our relationship. This breakup was due to a misunderstanding. All I could think and talk about was how I needed him in my life. I knew my friends were tired of listening to me but I could not stop myself. One day I was at the mall with my mom and we walked by a hair salon. I knew I needed to get highlights. If I changed my appearance then it would prove to people, including my ex boyfriend, that I am strong and not easily affected by change

47


University of Miami

Professor Pamela McCluney

Spring 2009

because I was the one making the changes to myself. It was the perfect disguise. Of course my mom would not question my action because many people change their hair color, including her. I went into the salon not knowing what color I wanted. I flipped through a book and picked a caramel color. Even though I was not completely satisfied with my decision, I did not bother the hair stylist by changing my mind. Instead of going into a second relationship with someone else, my boyfriend and I decided to give our relationship a second chance. Right before we got back together I got a haircut. My hair is usually long, below my shoulders, but I got it cut shoulder-length. The highlights and haircut made me believe that he noticed me changing. I did not want him to see me affected by our previous breakup and my life without him. . The second relationship with my boyfriend felt different. I felt as if there was an invisible wall between us. We both set up a wall because we did not want to be hurt by each other again. A few months passed before I told my boyfriend a lie. A lie that would ruin our relationship but I was afraid to lose him for the second time. I knew how painful it was for me. Since I thought I could hide the lie, I tuck with it until he ultimately found out. Once he found out, we sat down and talked about our relationship and mutually decided to end our relationship once again. Even though I did not want to be apart from him I knew it would be better for us. After a painful second breakup I was so hurt that I could not even cry. I just had an empty feeling inside me. I felt foolish to be so dependent on a guy. I would constantly tell myself, there is no such thing as not being able to live without someone. This was when I decided to get a different color highlight over my current caramel ones. I was a little more prepared this time. I wanted a reddish color that was not too eye-catching but noticeable. With the strands of reddish hair on my head I felt like a new person who was ready for another change. I needed to move on with my life and not dwell on the past. But once again my boyfriend and I found each other. At times I wonder if my theory is correct about wanting to look strong and independent by making a little change to my appearance only to capture the attention of the one I wanted most. The last and final break up was much easier on me. This is probably because I knew there was no way for us to be together since we would be miles apart. After the last breakup I did not change the color of my highlights nor did I change my hairstyle. But when I look into the mirror I see the fading highlights in my hair and remember the story behind them. When people look back at their past they realize they made certain changes for various reasons. Commonly it is to prove they are in control of their own lives but in actuality they are attempting to take attention away from or compensate for what they cannot control.

48


University of Miami

Professor Pamela McCluney

Spring 2009

Numb In the last month or so of high school I suffered from my first broken heart. I met a guy whom I thought would be in my life forever, but when our romantic relationship ended our friendship died with it. I had never felt such a depression as I did from this breakup and I unintentionally pushed myself into a void – I no longer felt anything real. Growing up, I had always been the single girl: one who was chased, but who never did the chasing. I was content on being single, and although I had a few flings here and there, I always cut them short before it became anything more than a casual flirtation. I guarded my heart in this way, never wanting to fully expose myself to others, to become vulnerable, susceptible to the impending heartbreak I was likely to encounter during my high school years. I had always seen those girls who gave their relationships their all, and saw them still when they were heartbroken, by yet another guy, after a month or so. I never wanted to be those girls. Things changed when I had my first real relationship, which lasted for the majority of my high school career. This was the first guy that I had ever fully let my guard down with, and he soon became one of my closest friends. After two years of dating, we finally called it quits. We spoke empty words as we tried to fill the ever-widening gap between us: “everything will be okay” and “we’ll still be good friends” were just distant echoes of our lost relationship. For a day I could no longer function, and I locked myself in my room and cried of a broken heart. I felt so empty inside that I eventually pushed myself into a perpetual numbness. In the words of another young and broken heart – the emptiness felt like poison – a poison that spread through me like wildfire and temporarily eased the pain of heartbreak. I found solace in the vast numbness and I eventually felt void of any real emotion – which dampened the depression I felt from the breakup and allowed me to be carefree. I literally felt as though I no longer had a care in the world. I knew I should have cared, I knew I should have felt something – but my emotions were shot and although I still wanted to care, I just could not bring myself to do it. Right away my friends noticed a difference in me. Nothing they said could break me from this seemingly permanent state or from what I knew was true: I’ll always feel this way, he will no longer love me, and I’ll never regain the friendship I have lost. Until one friend, surely troubled by my lack of emotion, sat me down in the local Starbucks, green tea frapp in hand, and asked me to spill – to let it all out – what I was thinking, what I had been feeling – everything. She sorted through it all and concluded that time would heal all and in the meantime I should just focus on not falling farther into the void. Her 49


University of Miami

Professor Pamela McCluney

Spring 2009

words were the light at the end of the tunnel: there was hope for me; my lack of feeling was only semi permanent. It was summer then, and as the days passed I grew used to being numb. To everyone but my closest friends, I was alright, I was fine. But my smile was nothing but a façade, drawing attention away from what should have been plain to see – there was something missing, I was no longer whole. Over time I began to regain some emotion, and although the feelings were there I still did not feel like my laughs were wholehearted or that I genuinely cared about things I really should have. I also found that although other emotions came back, I still could not feel anything negative. I no longer got upset over things, I never felt awkward, and I could not even remember the last time I had cried – nothing affected me in the least. Soon enough I began to date again. The first was an old friend I had grown up with and someone I had casually dated previously: a lifeguard at the local pool complete with blonde hair, brilliant blue eyes, and an endearing smile. We had come together in a rush of excitement: we hadn’t seen each other in years but the chemistry between us had always been there. Over time, though, I still felt like there was something missing in me and knew that he could never be the one to fill in the missing piece, and with that I ended it. A few months later I was back at it, searching for the guy who could make me feel whole again. My second attempt was someone I had never thought I would go for, a guy who shared the same friends as I did, but I never really knew. He gave off the whole rebel without a cause vibe that initially drew me to him and although I knew right away that he could never be the one, I stayed. Eventually, it was he who ended it. Time passed and one night while I was out with my friend, who had spoken those empowering words that had given me hope all those months ago, we received an invitation to get together with some of our old high school friends. As we pulled up to the house, I could barely make out the people standing outside – all except for one. There he was, leaning against his car, talking to some shadowy figure – my ex-boyfriend, my high school sweetheart. As the night went on, I found myself alone with him, and from there on it went like this: we talked and laughed like there had been no time spent away and the more we talked, the more liberated I began to feel. All the numbness seemed to evaporate and I felt genuinely happy for the first time in over half a year. Mid-laugh he embraced me in a bear hug that lifted me off the ground and had me gasping for breath. It all hit me at once: the smell of his shirt, our laughter, and the familiarity of the hug – it was as if I had been teeter-tottering over the edge and all I needed was that one last push. I was suddenly overwhelmed with emotion and I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. I ended up doing a combination of both. He held me silently then, always the understanding one, and patiently waited for me calm down. The wall I had tried so hard to form around my heart, my shield from

50


University of Miami

Professor Pamela McCluney

Spring 2009

vulnerability and the cause of my lack of emotion was finally broken. It was as if I had been waiting for him all that time, to come and save me from myself. I was finally free, free from the void that had been me for the past half of a year. It was him and had been him the entire time: it was his presence in my life, his friendship that I had been lacking, and I finally felt whole again. Since that night we have been inseparable, our love and friendship stronger than ever. The other day, after I had just walked through the door after spending the day with my other half, my mother waltzed in the room with a big smile on her face. “I’m glad you’re with him again,” she said. “He keeps you out of trouble.” She moved in for one of her great motherly hugs, and as we embraced, I couldn’t help but smile. “You have no idea,” I replied. No idea.

A Symbol of Love That Time Cannot Erase In my early 20s I was enjoying my college experience, endless parties and spending time with my friends, without a care in the world. Until, I met the love of my life, or so I thought. He was everything I had always wished for everything I wished form intelligent, tall, and handsome, what most would call the “complete package”. We shared similar, goals, and enjoyed the same music, all the things any couple in love would do. We had conversations that lasted for hours and ended with the sun rise, it was all so perfect. Everything that I had wished for was finally falling into place. He just had a way of making me feel like a queen. He would often tell me, “You are everything to me, and you are the most beautiful woman in the world.” It was like I was trapped in an endless fairytale. But, as we all know, fairy tales are just fiction stories that eventually come to an end. Even though the relationship ended, it’s easier for me to see now, that I was searching for love that couldn’t be found in a 6ft 1inch man, but that was the was discovered in a 6 pound 12 ounce baby girl. However, before I could find the genuine love that was found in my daughter, I was forced to find my true identity and come to grips with my insecurities and unvalued self-worth. Having a baby made my life much more complicated. I was so uncertain and didn’t know how my decisions would affect my life and the relationships I had with my family and friends.

51


University of Miami

Professor Pamela McCluney

Spring 2009

Exhausted by my relentless disappointment, uncertainty and fear seemed to hover over me like a dark thunderstorm cloud.

I was raised in a bible driven family, with strict and Godly beliefs. It was

known, that any decent woman should wait to get married before she had children. This was an uncomfortable position. I didn’t tell my mother, because of the reaction I assumed she would have. My sister would say” You’re going to have to tell her. But, everything is going to be just fine. This too shall pass.” When I finally decided to tell my mother that she had a grandchild on the way, I was surprised and shocked when she informed me that she was aware of the pregnancy the entire time. What a relief that was. It was time for me to become a parent. My life was changing. I was virginal when it came to raising a child. I read books, went to classes, and asked for any helpful advice from friends that had children of their own. I tried to gather as much information as possible, to make my parenting experience appear somewhat easier.

My mother would say “It’s like

riding a bike; you won’t learn how to ride unless you get on.” My mother’s words were seemingly helpful, but I needed someone to show me how to be a well informed parent. I didn’t understand what she was really trying to convey until my daughter was born. However, my mother was right; this was an experience I would have to learn on my own. When my daughter was born, I had mixed emotions. I was nervous and excited at the same time. I remember thinking, this is the final result, after all the doctor’s visits, hours of pain and pushing, she finally arrived. When she was in my arms for the very first time, she looked up at me, and it was like she immediately knew me. I was so overwhelmed with emotion and exhausted from the intensity of labor pains and delivery. It was challenging just to hold her in my arms. It was an amazing experience, just to see the blessing and gift that had been given to me, I was extremely grateful. Even though it was our first official meeting, I know that I loved her and she would be an inspirational part of my life. A few months later, I watched as she took her first steps. There were times, she would stumble and sometimes she would even fall, I would stand behind her with my arms stretched out to catch her. I remember thinking, there will be many days she will stumble and fall but, I will always be there waiting to pick her up. My mother would say” Let her fall”, she has to fall sometime. That’s how we learn.” She was right. I would learn what these words would really mean later in her life. As she continued to grow and her features and personality began to change, I wanted to always have a symbol that would always remind me the she would always be an important part of my life. So on a typical Saturday afternoon, as I was driving with one of my closest friends, she said “Let’s get a tattoo.” At first I was a bit hesitant, thinking, why I would put myself through the discomfort and pain. But, I

52


University of Miami

Professor Pamela McCluney

Spring 2009

began to think back to the discomfort and pain I experienced when I had my daughter. I thought, even though the pain wasn’t similar this would be just the symbol I needed to show how much I loved my daughter. I love her enough to endure a painful needle tearing through my skin. I know that I could with stand pain, because of my previous experience. On the wall, was an array of tattoo options to choose from, hearts, butterflies, and many different designs that would make the ultimate decision a difficult one. As I paced the floor, I tried to find the perfect symbol that expressed my love. When I searched my eyes were drawn to a rose that was centered on the wall next to the skull tattoos. The rose was fully bloomed with two leaves beautifully draped on both sides. I knew this was the tattoo I wanted. Before the process begun, I was introduced to a thin man that used his body as a tattoo display. As he began, I thought what better way to show the love and affection I had for my daughter than to place her name in the very center of the tattoo. It was weeks before the pain and scabbing disappeared. A beautiful flower had blossomed out of my pain. The tattoo was a permanent reminder that beautiful things could be birthed out of pain and struggle. My daughter is an unforgettable symbol of that beautiful thing. I had to endure a tremendous amount of pain, but when I look at her every day; I’m remained of how she is that rose that was placed in my life 13 years ago. She was meant to be a permanent part of my life. Having her wasn’t only a gift but a learning experience that was the helped me become the person I am today. She is now a teenager and thinks she knows everything about life and what it has to offer. The other day, when I was getting ready for work, she stood in the doorway of my room. She asked me” Mom who’s the most important person in your life”. Looking at her with a silly grin on my face, I said “Well, Denzel Washington. “Mom!” She relied. At that moment, I looked at her with sincerity and said, “You are the most important person in my life, and that is something that time will never change. She stared at me for a moment and said, “I Love you Mom! But, don’t tell my friends I said that.” I laughed, and said, “I’ll think about it!”

53


University of Miami

Professor Pamela McCluney

Spring 2009

Overcoming the Breakup Blues By the age of sixteen, I had yet to hold a serious relationship or procure my lifelong soul mate the way all other teenagers seemingly had. I was yearning for a boy to make me feel whole, and I found him. He gave me the hope that I truly was not destined for a life of absolute solitude. But in time, he broke my heart and I was desperate for a way to cope with the pain. I wanted to ease the memory of him and the emotional scars that were his signature though there was no way to truly remove the scars he gave m, I overcame the hurt by choosing to inflict a pain on myself that is now my mark of courage. My relationship with Courtney ended mysteriously. He was my friend’s brother; rather short for a guy, hilarious, out-going, with watered-down Chinese Jamaican features. We started talking right before summer yet only after he broke up with “the love of his life.” I was determined to be his friend first, not wanting to just be a summer romance that fizzled at the signs of winter. Yet, every night we’d stay on the phone until the early morning, anticipating the next time we could see each other. I couldn’t deny my attraction towards him no matter how curious I was of my heart. That summer I was going on a road trip and was shattered by the thought of leaving him for two months. Still, we talked or texted every day. I was happy the physical component wasn’t there to distract us. (We had only pop-kissed up till then). It was a long trip away from him and surprisingly when I returned, he had the same deep interest and passion for me that was tempered by our separation. About a week after I came back, he took me bowling with some friends and we had a blast. He drove me home that night and at my front door asked me to be his girlfriend. In between sweet kisses and mosquito bites, I said yes. The next month was as pleasant as I’d hoped it would be. We saw each other all the time and the conversations never grew stale. One day he came over to my house to hang out and made me laugh as usual. I walked him to his car and he kissed me as the sun went down over my street. The next day he called to tell me it was over. The incidents remain like this, only snapshots; a sequence of seamless events that don’t make any sense, still. But just like that, I was thrown into a world of darkness. I was sure I

54


University of Miami

Professor Pamela McCluney

Spring 2009

couldn’t be loved or appreciated by another boy. My body felt hollow yet so full of pain. The repetitious thoughts of what had been or what could have been taunted my waking moments. And in my bed, my tears were the lullabies that put me to sleep at night. This was my first real relationship and I had no idea how to deal with the relentless sorrow. My only other relationship was never made official but ended much the same. Courtney was the second guy I trusted with my heart who rejected my love. (By now, I was going at 100 percent rejection rate, and thought I was sure to be alone for eternity). I didn’t cover my friends with my cloud of doom like many people do after a breakup. I was looking for a way to deal with my unhappiness on my own. I tried exercising, listening to music, going out. Nothing seemed to work until one day I got an absurd idea that consumed my mind. I set out all my stud earrings on my dresser in my room. I found a long, thick sewing needle. I got some matches from my nightstand and took a bottle of rubbing alcohol from the bathroom. I cleaned my ear with the alcohol then burned the needle with a match. I went to the kitchen for a bag of ice, locked myself in my room and proceeded to numb my right ear. It never got numb enough. Still, I attempted several times to get the needle through my ear. I pushed harder the last time and it pressed through the first side and came out the back with a pop. The deed was done. I put a shiny gold stud in its place and hoped people would notice its gleaming brilliance. People noticed my piercing. They gawked at my courage, my new emblem of freedom. I hoped most of all, though, that Courtney would see it. I hoped that he could see the confidence I radiated with my new piercing. He never did. After Courtney broke up with me, I just wanted something new. I wanted something fresh that I could say I chose. It was empowering to wear a shiny symbol of pain that proved how much I could bear. If I could hurt myself, I thought, then whatever he did to me is nothing in comparison. I am in control of my feelings is what I hoped it would convey. It was my symbol of strength and I wore it with pride. By then, I hadn’t realized that I used this self-imposition of pain to overcome my deeper emotions. I was just so overwhelmed by feelings of inadequacy: my inability to be loved and to make a guy stay. These feelings kept me from moving on, kept me in a state of constant suspension that left no room for growth or change. The months that followed was a time of mind renewing. All my changes up to that point were outwardly, just displays of strength for other people to see and hopefully believe. But I had to change my thoughts and renew my mind to truly believe that I am precious and deserve the best. “How could I, of all

55


University of Miami

Professor Pamela McCluney

Spring 2009

people, ever be rejected?” I often ask myself. It was more so a question based on pride than on my selfworth. I had to move away from a thinking that made me feel I was too good to be rejected, to an assurance that I am too good to let this rejection make me think any less of myself. It was a freedom that no piercing or person could ever give me, because it could only be given from within. My emotional pain soon subsided and the small stud in my right ear began to look foolish. I began to believe again that I could be loved, was worthy of being loved. I took out the earring a couple of months later. It closed quickly. In its place is a small dark spot. It is a constant reminder of the impermanence of pain and the wisdom gained in patiently riding out the storm. It is now a story of my first breakup, a history Many years have passed since those summer days when Courtney had my heart. As all things do, it took some times to get over our breakup. Now I can look back with a renewed feeling of self-worth and appreciation. It was painful to get to the point where I could be this assured of myself, yet I am confident I wouldn’t have matured this much had I not experienced this heartbreak. Sometimes when I’m in the mirror putting on my earrings to begin my day, I see the mark on my ear, now only a ghostly image of what once was bright and clear. It is a mark that will never go away. It is a memoir of a hard time in my life that is now only a dull smudge. Though the piercing itself did not take away my sadness, its mark remains a symbol of my strength and I wear it with pride.

A Present for Myself There are certain events that leave a mark on your life. These marks are not always a visible scar but something that you will always carry with you, symbolizing what you have made it through. In my life, the mark is not physically a part of me, but is in the form of a large, brown, leather bag. This bag started my trend of buying something new, a present to me, whenever someone hurt my feelings. This pattern all started with buying one new handbag at the end of a relationship. What I thought was my first real relationship ended out of nowhere. It was the summer after my freshman year of high school and I thought that I had found a boy who actually liked me. One week, we were speaking to each other every night and the next he just stopped calling. I had gotten used to falling

56


University of Miami

Professor Pamela McCluney

Spring 2009

asleep to the sound of his voice late at night and once he stopped calling I lay in my bed thinking about what I had done wrong to end this relationship. I looked to my friends, searching for comfort, and was told the things teenage girls typically tell a broken-hearted friend. “He’s a jerk and you can do better,” one friend told me. Another friend offered, “Do you want me to punch him? Because anyone who messes with you messes with me too.” Nothing they said could make me feel better. I tossed and turned at night wondering why he stopped calling out of the blue, still waiting for the phone to ring. I was convinced that it was something that I had done or said. Summer was ending and it was time for the yearly tradition of shopping for new back to school clothes. I wandered the mall, still thinking about my failed relationship, and worrying about what would happen when I saw him at school. I walked into a store and wandered over to the handbag section out of habit. There I found it, the perfect bag for me. It was a large Juicy Couture leather bag, big enough to fit a couple of school books and I had to have it. It was even on sale (for thirty percent off), a bargain at only three hundred dollars I convinced myself. It didn’t matter that it had taken me several weeks to earn that much money or that it was too much money for me to spend on one purse. I had to have it. This purse made me feel a little better, at least for a little while. I had bought something new for myself, something that was all mine.

As I thought of this purchase, I began to realize that maybe it

wasn’t my fault that this relationship ended. The purse was all mine, but the blame was not. I carried the bag with me back to school, hoping that maybe it would ease the awkwardness of seeing him again. The bag did not really change anything, but it somehow gave me courage. It somehow helped me get over this failed relationship and move on. I had a clearer outlook on things. My next relationship did not end any better than my first. I had been set up with him by a friend but eventually realized that I did not really have feelings for him. I just could not bring myself to end a relationship with someone so nice. I blamed myself for not being able to make things work. The relationship did have to come to an end and when it did I once again bought myself a present. This time it was a gold charm bracelet. I saw it in the store and knew that I had to have it. It was another impulse buy. Once again, I felt like I carried all the blame for ending this relationship. I believed that this was my fault. I began to wonder if there was something wrong with me that made it impossible for me to be in a lasting relationship. I thought of all of this while wandering through a store and once again I saw something I had to have. The gold charm bracelet that was something that was all mine. It did not have the power to change anything, but it cheered me up just a little. It cheered me up enough to get me to try and think things through. I found a new outlook on the situation. Maybe the blame was not all mine. I was still depressed about the breakup but I began to look at things a little differently. I began to understand that no one was to blame.

57


University of Miami

Professor Pamela McCluney

Spring 2009

The next time my feelings were really hurt, it was not by a boyfriend but by my best friend. We got into a fight that nearly ended our friendship. The hurt and pain from this was worse than any breakup. This time the relationship that ended was with someone I had known since childhood, someone I could always count on. I treated the end of this friendship the same way I had my relationships, by buying myself something new. This time it was a pair of shoes that I had to buy. Once again the purchase cheered me up just a little. It still could not change the situation. It could not repair the damage to our friendship. I took my new shoes and began to think about what went wrong. The shoes did not help solve my problems, but they made me feel better, even if it were only for a short time. A couple of years later, I look back and can see this pattern in my behavior. I began to notice that I even treated myself to little presents when smaller things went wrong. Whenever my feelings were hurt, I would buy something new. I look back at this and realize how wrong I was to think that a new purse could make me feel better. It only seemed like these new items helped ease the pain, but really all I needed was time to cool down and think things through. I did not do anything to change my situation by buying that purse, but it will always remind me of the reasons that I bought it. It will always be a reminder of the mark that the end of a relationship left on me.

Love means something different to each person. Because of this, there are so many kinds of love, so many forms of expression; platonic, romantic, passionate and unrequited. Loves comes naturally, it can’t be forced. To describe it broadly, it is an emotion.

Is No Commitment Really All It’s Cracked Up To Be? I’ve never really understood what the phrases dating someone, hooking up with someone, or seeing someone meant; I always thought that they implied the same things. Even when my mom asked

58


University of Miami

Professor Pamela McCluney

Spring 2009

me a couple years ago, I naively said, “If you’re dating someone, it means they specifically asked you to be their girlfriend.” However, in today’s society, dating someone could refer to periodically going on dates with someone without the commitment- a noncommittal affair that has the potential to get feelings involved. But when feelings get involved, things get messy and who wants that? Like many other women, I live in a society that stresses no commitment, yet I constantly want more out of relationships. And that one thing that most of us yearn for is permanence; we just want one guy to stay long enough to see how great we really are. Ever since I was a little girl, I imagined myself as a Disney princess who would find her knight in shining armor and live happily ever after. Realistically, I now know that this is never going to happen. Relationships require a lot of work: work to find someone worth the time and effort, work to keep things interesting, and work to keep the other person around. In the short eighteen years that I’ve experienced in my lifetime, I’ve had many encounters with boys. There was the blonde, lacrosse player whom I dated on and off for two years and then later dumped me because he was also seeing someone else. Then, there was the black guy who thought he was French just because his name was Pierre. We dated exclusively for two weeks until he realized that he still had feelings for his ex. Then there was the baseball player who ended things rather abruptly with the only reason being that “he was afraid of commitment.” Whichever way they spun it, it all came down to no one wanted to be in a serious relationship, and for me, that just wasn’t enough. I wasn’t looking for a boyfriend in the theoretical sense of the word; I was looking for someone that would always be there for me when I needed him- not someone that would leave when feelings became intertwined. Back in September, I broke up with my long-term boyfriend. He and I were together for ten months, and we remain close to this day. However, our relationship is a complicated one; we have broken up in the political” sense of the term meaning that we no longer apply the title “boyfriend/girlfriend” to each other, but emotionally, it feels as though we are still together. Because he attends GA Tech, and I attend the University of Miami, the distance between our schools put a strain on our relationship. Because we are both young and live in two of the liveliest cities in the US, it’s expected that we are going to find new people and move on. However, neither of us has. The first time I saw him since we broke up was over Christmas break, and it was like we had never been separated. However, we still were not in a relationship, and I found myself avoiding the fact that I was in a non-committal relationship, the one thing that I have always hated, with the person I still consider to be the love of my life. It was a night just like any other when I saw him for the first time in what seemed like forever. We talked about the new friends we had made at school, what we did on the weekends, and finally, about the break up. I asked him why he broke up with me and why he stopped calling me to which he replied:

59


University of Miami

Professor Pamela McCluney

Spring 2009

“I don’t know.” Then it came. The same long, unoriginal, and condescending answer he had been giving me for weeks: “I don’t want to have to start over every time we see each other since we won’t be seeing each other that often. I don’t want to reminisce about old memories. I want to keep making new ones, and the distance is just making that impossible.” I tried to convince him that it wouldn’t be like that, that people have long distance relationships all the time. But he was set on his decision, and he went on to say, “But whenever we’re both home, it can still be like we’re together.” As he was leaving my house, he said, “I love you, Brittany.” Cross my heart, he actually said he loved me. But to me, it felt like he only loved me when it was convenient for him, only when he could physically touch or see me, never when we were apart. After he was gone, I tried to process the conversation. I tried to remember that we had already broken up months earlier and that this was just a random discussion we had had tonight. However, I still felt the sting of this conversation just as bad as the one from the break up. I tried to remind myself that when I first met him, I thought he was a goofy looking boy who I could never see myself dating in order to make myself not care, but it didn’t help. I had fallen in love with someone who just didn’t want the commitment. Months later, we continue to have many more conversations about us eventually getting back together. One day, when I get the courage, I plan on giving him an ultimatum: either to commit to me, or to watch me walk away. Recently, he asked me, “Can’t you just be happy with what we have right now?” I keep telling myself that I’m young and that life has too much to offer for me to be overly concerned about a boy. But I won’t lose sight of what I want, and I will always demand more out of relationships because that’s what I and every woman deserves from the men we spend our time with. For right now, however, I’ll be lighthearted and fun just like he wants our relationship to be. So I guess my answer to his question is yes; I won’t ruin what we have- for now.

Living the Hood Life, Or So I Think It is ridiculous to say everyone loves the hood life. Sure, they may listen to rappers like 50 Cent and Lil Wayne, wear oversized jewelry and say they’re gangsta, but that’s as far as they go. To actually boast living in the inner city is like women looking at real outlaws—they settle for “a guy with a few

60


University of Miami

Professor Pamela McCluney

Spring 2009

misdemeanors and a bad haircut. Those living in suburbia choose to drive through another highway ten blocks away instead of taking an exit leading to the hood. I live in the neighborhood of Allapattah, thanks to Section 8 housing and Social Security benefits. My mother always has some war story when it comes to paying bills, and the phrase “No tengo dinero”—Spanish for “I’m broke”—is like her financial catchphrase. It is a reality “I’m neither proud of nor shy about admitting to” (1), and that I had to deal with ever since I moved to Miami. As of now I am a full-time student at the University of Miami, in the suburb of Coral Gables, Florida. Whatever I have been able to buy it’s thanks to my financial aid refund, which provides some relief for my mom and me financially. I commute from my house to campus through the Metrorail, which should be a turn-on to any girl—as much as deep-blue tattoos, profanity pouring the mouth tobacco factory smell. With that said, it should be no shocker that, in a way at least, that I am exploring “alien land”. My best friends on campus live either in Doral, Kendall, or Hialeah Gardens, if not on campus. One of them, whom I met during Orientation week, graduated from Hialeah High, which is as much of a school as the school I escaped from. The Monday before the first day of classes, we arranged to meet at the Wellness Center for their house party. For me, such arrangements to meet were few to none and far between during the middle of my freshman year in high school, to me, it was like a self-bragging right, to have several people I am able to relate to and hang out with. Of course, I have to limit myself to campus-sponsored events. Our group’s favorite was the football games. We actually managed to go to all the home games at Dolphin Stadium, where we had great times together, but, even though I had enough to buy anything to eat or drink, I did not try to convince myself to do so. Although I would be the only one buying something really cheap or nothing at all, there would be no difference with our Miami Hurricane pride. The emptiness I felt at my high school was filled by the entire experience at UM with my friends. There were some times when I compared my life to that of them—asking myself how they were better off compared to my life in the hood. I overheard a conversation in which someone complained about passing by 17th Avenue, the heart of Allapattah. Whenever I speak to any of my friends, I try to stay away from financial circumstances and how life is, yet if I have to; I go ahead and try to reveal the surface parts of my story. With them I delve only to my academic achievements and aspirations. It would be great to bring all of my friends over to my house and cook something for them. Just like another get-together on campus, we would still have a great time, coming up with inside jokes only we can understand. However, all of us are always doing something, whether for class, job, or anything of the sort—I do not even get to see them unless we are at our club’s meetings. Resigning from

61


University of Miami

Professor Pamela McCluney

Spring 2009

all that in my life so that I get to spend an afternoon with them would be as crazy— how would I finish my education? Nothing is more important than education. As of now, I must keep paciencia and take one day at a time. One day we will all meet again and continue what we started. Even though I may come out of the inner city everyday in the train while everyone drives from their nice suburban homes to campus, or wake up from their dorm rooms, we are able to keep contact and talk to each other like the good friends we already are, and it doesn’t cost a buck.

Fire Shivers, From Depression comes Addiction In my lifetime, there have been many critical moments that have shaped my perspective on life and made me what I am today. Amongst these experiences, the one which I believed truly changed me occurred when in was in my junior year of high school. It was then, when I experienced how easily I could fall into a dangerous addiction. After a minor motor cycle accident, my ex boyfriend Knox was treated in the clinic for bruising and scratches over his legs. I visited regularly; at that point despite being only a close friend, I was still very scared by the thought that someone that I was close to could get hurt. I guess you could say that my visits were my ticket to being a greater part of his life, my way of trying to show him that I cared for him more then a friend. Soon a relationship grew, but I never expected that his injury from his near death experience would drive our relationship to under a shade of darkness and lead me to self mutilation. From the beginning, Knox was clearly the wrong choice for me. He always seemed a little bit of a social outcast before I talked to him. He never failed to live up to his Italian stereotype; smoker, constantly debating, patriotic and arrogant. It seems weird to think that it was these qualities that drew me to him. That somehow his cocky approach brought focus to what I thought was a confidence I hadn’t seen in many people at that time. A type of confidence that appealed to someone I thought I could respect.

62


University of Miami

Professor Pamela McCluney

Spring 2009

As our relationship grew, hourly calls became habit, texting more than talking even when around each other made our bond more passionate. At that time I could always depend on looking down at my phone and seeing a message from him waiting for me. It became addictive; my involvement in his life and his in mine was a new experience that I didn’t want to lose. But our conversations were not the everyday teenage love affair which one day is in high bloom and the other an embarrassing moment of the past. This connection, this union was far beyond one I had ever experienced. Knox would love to discuss about the values of suicide, the temptation of death, how he didn’t feel like a real person. Over time I realized how dark and mysterious his life really was, it was this curious new nature of a relationship that just got me more interested. Our talks were always so special; they held a whole new level of value compared to the typical conversations I had with my other friends. The ironic part about it was while we would engross each other; there was always one topic he never opened up to. One night I woke up to find a missed call from him on my phone. There were no warnings; waking up to a missed call or message from him was a typical scenario. But on this particular night I felt something was wrong. When I called him I would never question my internal instinct again. I just had a profound impulse to say, “What wrong, where are you?”, and in and unnatural fashion he responded, “my house, come now”. I would walk out of his room the next day a changed person. It took me a while to get him to notice I was there. He was unresponsive, lying straight on his back staring at the wall as if it was the most calming thing he could look at. I scanned the room but couldn’t figure out why he was so detached. I remember curling up in the bed beside him grabbing on to his body as tight as I could, turning him over so he could see I was there beside him. After minutes of silence, curiosity bubbling up, I saw it. In the top of the bin lay papers of blood. I lifted up his sleeve and found deep cuts into his left arm, cuts that were still bleeding. I was in shock and awe at these new developments that now marked my past boyfriend. I enveloped him. There were no words, I didn’t question his actions, I just wrapped myself around him and didn’t let him go all night. I was not going to let him experience this alone, I wanted to share this pain, ironic how later this sharing became so literal. In the next few days, I didn’t hear a word from him. We had met the climax of our relationship and he abandoned me with a million more questions, more ideas, and more mysteries. When he broke up with me the next week, I was distraught and bitter. I remember locking myself in my room that Sunday and refusing any calls from friends who I knew would quickly find out we had broken up. Eventually when I talked to my friends they echoed the typical “you’re worth so much better”, “He made the mistake” and “you’ll find someone else”, but they didn’t know the truth; Knox wanted to forget that night, and that meant forgetting me.

63


University of Miami

Professor Pamela McCluney

Spring 2009

Later that month, my friend Liz fed up of my relentless resentment took me out on a boozy night to forget all my worries. During a high point of the night, a friend suggested branding each other with our cigarettes to remember the crazy night we were experiencing. I quickly obliged curious to see if this damage could help me understand what Knox had felt from that night. As the ash melted into my skin of my left arm, and shivers of fire woke up my system, I had release. Somehow by trying to relate to Knox, I had experienced a method which provided an escape from everything. It was on one stressful night, where I would use my ice hot cigarette to break away from everything. I was extremely wound up from the many pressures in life, and quickly found myself on the balcony, stabbing my arm with my cigarette, using my pain therapy to dissolve the anxiety. Over time these “fire shivers” became a thoughtless habit, my own personal routine in putting a final statement over a bad day. After six serious burns, I hid my left arm, and sported a wristband to school. At the time, I never felt ashamed of them, in fact I was more scared that someone would steal and repeat my little discovery. Those days I would walk around school feeling a little inhuman to my peers who I knew probably couldn’t take the pain of my fire shivers. It

would

not

be

until

two

months

after

that

night

with

Knox

when

I would be found out. After a less than average day I went into my car outside school to have a cigarette, lifted down my wristband and leaned my head back while the enflaming heat seared into my skin and the small whiff of flesh numbed all my senses. "Stop it!" Liz had screamed when she saw what I was doing. I remember thinking, while I exposed the many blisters of disturbed skin, I was intrusting my friend in what I had thought was the great new method of relief. But it was her reaction that both kicked the habit and stops me from doing it today. She simply pulled me out of car, hugged me and said “this is going to stop now. Emily this is dangerous, you’re smarter then this". When I look back on it, I find the irony of the role reversal almost amusing. I had become Knox the self harming maniac, and Liz reacted to it, just like I did with grave concern. Am I happy that these dark blotches are still present on my left arm? As I look at them now they remind me of a dark time stemming from a damaging relationship, an addiction I never want to return to. Even though they show I can take pain, I can acknowledge that these little scars are a part of a past which even though dark, was still an important learning experience, and as these left over’s of my fire shivers fade, I separate from their memory and move on.

64


University of Miami

Professor Pamela McCluney

Spring 2009

Naïve Trust The impact of this breakup left a permanent scar. Like an embarrassing tattoo, I felt as though everyone could see the damage that had been done. I trusted no one but myself. The confidence that I had collected over years of continued success with the opposite gender suddenly evaporated in less than ten minutes. This was the person that I thought I would marry, the one that I trusted completely. I was so naïve and virginal in all my actions that I set myself up to fall and fall hard. I had been seeing her for close to two months at the time.

It was early October outside

Annapolis, Maryland and high school homecoming was quickly approaching. Learning in my first two years at an all-male high school that girls were not easy to come by, I was convinced that I needed to pull the trigger and ask her to the dance. We had already been on several of the cute little dates that soon-tobe couples often experience. So, after a fun night of bowling I asked her to be my homecoming date and was relieved to hear her joyful response. Everything seemed to be going my way. Never once did she give me a sign of the heartbreak that was to come. We would text during school hours, trying to decide what color to wear on the big night. We settled on a shade of dark green, a color that I once loved but eventually would grow to lament. Like a hurriedly picked out tattoo received in youth, I can no longer look at that color without some feeling of regret.

It was the night before homecoming when I got online.

I opened an instant messaging

conversation with my date and began what I thought would be just another normal flirtatious dialogue. Unfortunately, it soon turned into a disappointing confession about how she had a boyfriend, but was glad that I understood that we could have a good time at the dance as “just friends.” Well I didn’t understand, but I was so shocked that I couldn’t even react. Did she really just tell me this the night before homecoming? She soon went offline, and I just sat there at my computer. I just sat there, feeling so stupid, so naïve for trusting her so much. Then I just became hollow, not knowing what or how to feel. An emptiness lined with poison permeated my very being. Would I just skip the dance or would I go and try to have a good time? I decided to go out of respect for my parents who had paid for my ticket and organized a limo for my friends and me. I tried to hide the pain, but it was almost too much. I felt betrayed and alone the whole night, even while I danced on the crowded floor with my friends.

65


University of Miami

Professor Pamela McCluney

Spring 2009

The damage from my homecoming heartache had a continued effect. For the next year and half I didn’t take girls seriously. I was so convinced that no girl would ever be faithful. I thought relationships were stupid, pointless even. I felt there was no need to even try to date a girl because there was nothing to gain from a relationship, only something to lose. Looking back, I now see how naïve I was to trust someone so completely in such a short period of time, someone who I barely knew. Yet, in a way I am glad that I had this experience to grow from. Although I set myself up to fall, it was from this experience that I learned how to get back up. Even though I may never look at a certain color in the same way again, and may treat it as if it’s a tattoo concealing a painful memory, it is a part of who I am. To deny such an experience would mean denying a part of my self. It is a scar that will fade, but will never disappear .

Love takes on many different forms depending on the recipient. However, it’s always a passionate and strong emotion that involves the ultimate caring for another person. Love may begin simply as lust however; it grows into a bond that is not surface deep, and never selfish.

An Accident Waiting to Happen Is an accident always a bad thing? Many times, people associate accidents with bad memories that leave both visible and internal scars. Sometimes scars are visible and self inflicted while others are deep inside and not always put there on purpose. These scars are not memories we look forward to thinking about and we often try to forget them. But in my case, my accidents serve as memories that have to do with something that I loved most. While my scars are not all visible, they are still there, affecting me in more good ways than bad. When looking back on some of my most painful experiences, I am

66


University of Miami

Professor Pamela McCluney

Spring 2009

actually reminded of a time in my life that I enjoyed more than anything else, a time when I experienced triumph, defeat, sadness, death, friendship and growth, and I look back on my scars with fondness. I have been a swimmer all my life. Swimming has defined my character for as long as I can remember and a lot of my life experiences have to do with swimming. My first true experience of disappointment came after my first swim meet when I was six years old. The meet was held at a rundown pool with fake starting blocks and dingy lighting but to me it was as good as the Olympics. All I wanted that day was to win a trophy. I was one of the fastest kids my age on my team and I had this unstoppable attitude even as a six year old. Well, I came home from that meet not with a trophy, but a container of strawberries and a pep talk from my dad. He told me how I cannot win every race but every race helps prepare me for my next one. That container of strawberries stands out in my mind because it was the first time that I realized that it wasn’t always the big things in life that mattered, sometimes little thing could make me just as happy. That initial day of defeat was certainly not the last but it did prepare me for my future failures. A few years and a few hundred swim practices later, I had improved immensely. At eight years old I was now at the New England Championships for my age group. I could feel both excitement and nerves building up inside me. I had five races that weekend but my main focus was my butterfly event because that was my best chance of getting first place. As it turns out, I never even swam my race. I was so nervous that I was running around my house trying to find my goggles, my suit, towels, anything and everything I thought I would need. All of that panicking made me late leaving and by the time we got to the pool my race was over. I was devastated and really mad at my parents, blaming them for not driving fast enough, but my frustration actually motivated me to swim even better in my other races. I ended up dropping time in all of my swims, and placing better in all of them as well. That weekend, I realized that being calm and collected was really the best way to succeed. I realized I couldn’t blame other people when I didn’t do well, and that my sport was a mental sport more than anything else. Whenever I get nervous about something I remember that day, and how nerves ended up hindering my performance. Since then, I have only let my nerves get the better of me a few times. Fast forward a few years, my friends and I were fooling around in the three foot shallow end of the pool in between sets when I decided to do a back flip in the water. About half way through the flip, I realized I made a big mistake. I smacked my face on the bottom of the pool and came up bleeding. I wasn’t in any pain and was actually laughing as I came up for air but my friends were freaking out. I had two black eyes and two indents on my nose from the tiles on the bottom of the pool. I made a pretty good mess with all of my blood. For some reason, that night stands out as one of my favorite memories with my friends. It was a Friday night and after we got out of practice and I stopped bleeding. We all went to

67


University of Miami

Professor Pamela McCluney

Spring 2009

Brigham’s to get ice cream and French fries (our weekly tradition) and then we went back to one of my friend’s houses. They teased me about my face but we had fun that night, running around outside playing flashlight tag and jumping on her trampoline. We also made up our own pact and promised each other that no matter what happened, we would always stay friends. It sounds corny now but at the time, we were all getting ready to go into high school and we had seen the older swimmers before us lose touch when they got there. Our pact was that “with black eyes and French Fries we will always be friends”. It was the first time that I realized how much my swimming friends really meant to me, and that they would be the friends that would help me through life not matter what it through at me. Our friendships didn’t stay as strong as we had hoped throughout high school and some of us lost touch. But two years ago, one of our friends was diagnosed with leukemia. He was only nineteen years old and had the brightest future out of all of us ahead of him. Even though we hadn’t all seen each other in a while, we all made sure we were there for him and his family. When he died, we were all heartbroken but it was our friendship that got us through it. Even though we didn’t see each other every day any more, the bonds we had formed as kids prevailed through distance and change and got us through an awful time in all of our lives. The scar of his death lays heavy on my heart but the warmth of friendship overpowers the pain we all experienced. My sport finally got the better of me when I decided to go to the University of Miami. I swam with the varsity team and suffered a huge reality check.

The amount of practicing and workouts were

way beyond what I could handle and I was faced with the decision of whether or not I would continue doing what I had loved doing all of my life. I stuck it out for a month because I was convinced that I would regret the decision of quitting. Swimming was my backbone throughout high school, it kept me in shape, it provided me with time management skills, and it made me happier than anything else in the world. I now had to decide if I was ready to give that up. When I made the decision to quit, I realized that I could do other things that I hadn’t always had time to do when I was swimming. I still, however, feel like there is a void in me that is yearning to be filled. At first, I felt like I had failed, that I had given up when the going got tough and that I hadn’t pushed myself hard enough. I miss a lot about the sport, the competitions, the excitement, the discipline, but I have also realized that the memories that I have from the sport and the lessons that I learned from swimming are still going to be with me no matter what I am doing. Swimming’s final scar left upon me was the feeling of failure and defeat, the same as the first one it gave me, but this time, I feel that I gained more than I lost. The decision to quit will always be one that I wonder if I will regret someday, but for now, I chose to focus on the good that came out of my experiences, and to look back on the best memories of my life so far.

68


University of Miami

Professor Pamela McCluney

Spring 2009

Two Weeks I once heard the expression,”scars are tattoos with better stories.” At this point and time in my life, that is something that I have come to both believe and embrace. Scars. They are course marks staining my soul. They have molded me into the person I am today, and each one has a story, a reason, a deeper meaning. I believe in scars, as in the scars you get when you have overcome adversity. They show that you were hurt and have healed. The last two weeks I spent with my grandfather marked a special spot in my heart and will be there for the rest of my life. The mark, my scar, will always remind me of what has been and what I have learned. My grandfather developed medical complications a year ago and was repeatedly in the hospital due to shortness of breath. Our family cancelled our annual trip to Europe because of his illness despite his determination to proceed with the trip. This trip was always the highlight of every year for him, not just because it was a European adventure, but because nothing thrilled him more than spending a few small moments with the ones he loved. My grandfather’s most precious token was family, and he would exemplify his pride with tears of joy each time we were all together. The tiniest occurrences wouldn’t cease to bring a smile to his face, and his optimism always managed to shine through no matter the circumstances. Even throughout this trying time, he maintained his sense of humor and held on to his positive attitude on life. His infectious confidence made me believe that everything would be okay, and as I had hoped, his return from the hospital was followed by a miraculous comeback. Suddenly he wanted to experience everything as if he was a new person. My grandfather’s philosophy has always been to “look at the glass half full.” In January of 2007, my grandfather was suffered a severe heart attack and was diagnosed with lung cancer. Before we were able to cope with the news, he passed away in February. I distinctly remember my mother confronting me with the news, and even though I knew that she was hurting inside, she was still capable of seeing this as a blessing. Her optimism and the tone of her voice reassured me that this was for the best. My grandfather’s cancer was the most severe anyone had known, and he only had to deal with the thought of having cancer for merely two weeks. For a man who loved life so much, for him to live with the notion of being sick would have been a death sentence in itself. This way he didn’t have to endure the suffering and pain. With this belief in mind, I came to the realization that as difficult as this

69


University of Miami

Professor Pamela McCluney

Spring 2009

was for me to cope with, it was truly the best for him. I remember times I ignored him when I was young and it made me realize what a mistake that was. I wish I could go back in time and spend more time with this remarkable man that I call my grandfather. I realized how spoiled I was and it has left a lasting impression ever since. When I look back, I regret the times I ignored him while I was so caught up playing video games, when I knew all he wanted was a half an hour stroll in the park, possibly even wanting to squeeze in stories about his memories as a soldier in World War Two. Memories like these make me truly reflect on falling because it gives you the opportunity to get back up. I believe in rain because I know after it falls there is always going to be a rainbow. Optimism is the key to my success. My belief in that there is good to everything leads me to find each and every struggle easier to overcome. After the death of my grandfather, I began to appreciate and realize that there is so much good in life that sometimes the bad inevitably has to filter in with it. Things happen for a reason. I strongly feel that the pain I suffered was meant to be a permanent part of life, something that one, is supposed to learn to accept, a process that is continuous. When I look at this particular scar regarding the passing of my grandfather, I instantly think of the story that goes with it. He truly made me a better person and taught how to not take things for granted. I believe that a scar is more than a blemish. It is a reminder of an experience that has changed me permanently. Everybody leaves a permanent mark on each other whenever they interact and it leaves a lasting impression. I know the experiences I have had with others has helped define me as a human being and shape my morals and beliefs. With any mistake we make, whether it is a physical one like a tattoo or a tainted regret that marks our soul, life supplies us with a lesson. Life teaches us that our strength comes through adversity, but most importantly these lessons help us find who we really are. We learn that it is our decision to be whom we want, and this is why I believe that destiny is choice, not chance. Destiny is said to be the power that determines the course of events, but I believe that power is in us. Many destinies are a course of inevitable events, and it is easy to fall into the idea that â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;destiny figuresâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; control our lives, so why intervene? But this is not so. We cannot deny that every act we do does not have an effect on what comes next, and that every decision we make only leads us into a bigger picture. The scar I have, show my tough road of learning from my actions. Destiny is about getting what you want by acting on it. It is also about preparing for some bumps along the road. Destiny is in our hands and will be crafted into what we mold it into. It is not enough to want something and wait till you get it. You need to work to reach your goals. Both these episodes exemplify that the plans we make without a solid foundation are likely to fall. In any event I would just like to say that I have moved on. I have gone through obstacles and tribulations, and

70


University of Miami

Professor Pamela McCluney

Spring 2009

ever since the passing of my true role model, my scars will always pay tribute to what he has made me become today.

Love is strength that allows us to become our true selves. It is the pure energy that quenches our desire for fulfillment.

In a College Board Life, a Road Less Preferred People are always flustered and unsettled when things do not go according to plan. Most times, our plans focus on the perfect love life. We may spend countless hours planning a flawless outcome, ironing out any complication that may occur, only to be dumped the next day or stood up on a date. Similarly, I too have had my eyes set on a perfect life. Instead of a love life, however, mine focused on every high school senior’s ambition and fear: college. Ever since junior year I had dedicated all my time to ensure my acceptance into University of Washington, but as I would latter find out, the unexpected happens. I remember my first visit to the University of Miami quite clearly. It was in the middle of March during spring break and the weather was almost as welcoming as the pamphlets and letters I had received a few weeks ago. Blades of grass blew in the wind, squirrels frolicked, and so far, everything was great. But as the student-guided tour progressed, I saw myself nitpicking at minute flaws of the campus and school to keep me from actually enjoying myself. Drowning out the tour guide’s uneven tone with each step that he took backwards, I scanned the campus and noticed one major observation that would prompt my later concerns: there were absolutely no Asians. Everywhere I looked I saw a Hispanic person and everywhere I listened, I heard the Spanish language. Because Hawai’i’s population consisted of about

71


University of Miami

Professor Pamela McCluney

Spring 2009

99.99999% Asians (a rough approximation), I started to panic. I wondered if I could handle all of it: being so far away from home with absolutely no familiar faces besides the obligatory ones I had met at a potluck back at home. Then I experienced my first day of college life. School had not started yet and so, in celebration, UM hosted a welcoming foam party. A bunch of acquaintances asked me if I was joining, but I politely declined. A foam party full of scantily clad men and women was just not for me. So that night, I sat alone with no one and nothing to accompany me except the comforts of Facebook. There, alone in my room, I talked to my friends from Hawai’i as I ate the leftovers from the meal I shared with my parents the night before their departure. As I realized how pathetic I was being, I wondered if I would ever be able to have fun or find anyone else who turned down the foam party to do something as depressing as I did. Would all my nights be as lonesome? I transferred high school six times and had no problem, yet this time there was a hollowing loneliness. I no longer had the comforts of my own home or a family to turn to when problems arose. I soon missed things I never thought I could: my mother’s jewelry, the sound of my father’s electric shaver, my stepfather’s grunts as he woke up at 5:30 in the morning, my dog’s annoying yelps and whines, and the smell of my mom’s perfume of which I was never fond. Sadly, the list went on. However, months passed and I broke out of my shell of self-pity. I met Sana, who I would later stay up til nine o’clock in the morning with, just to pour out my soul. I met Jessica, who I would later visit in Michigan to experience my first snow angel, cup of hot cider, and the importance of layering. I met Bryan, a boy I would later meet and fall for who rekindled my passion of photography, late night drives, Polaroids, and rock concerts. I look at these people now and wonder what it would be like if I had not met them; if I weren’t on the same floor in the same dorm building, or in the same business class in the same business group. Each of them are all so different: one a Pakistani/Indian girl from Dallas who’s constantly pampered by her Daddy (Sana), another a Michigan nurse in training who has a fondness for Japanese Rock and language (Jessica), and the last, a mix of Filipino, Russian, and Polish heritage whose nerdy laugh and light hearted impressions make any day a little brighter. All of them so different, yet I see a part of myself in each. I remember the day when I anxiously awaited my University of Washington acceptance. It did not help that fate was mocking me: I would see a person walking two huskies in the summer, only to go to work and take care of two more huskies (I mean really, how many huskies could there be in Hawaii?).

72


University of Miami

Professor Pamela McCluney

Spring 2009

Then, on the car ride home, I would witness three University of Washington bumper stickers. All the signs seemed to be pointing to a sure acceptance. But as I eagerly awaited my acceptance, a fellow classmate told me that they had been accepted, and then another still, until I knew six people who had received their acceptances. The doubt started to settle in. My college counselor reassured me by saying that acceptances were mailed sporadically and that I should receive mine soon enough. But as the second week passed, I started to feel insecure. I thought of myself in a nutshell: what did I have to offer UW? What made me so special? As I pulled for answers to reassure my ego, two and a half weeks passed and I finally contacted the school against my will. It was as if I subconsciously knew the answer and avoided facing the truth and seeing my rejection in tangible form. But I did soon enough in a nonchalant, impersonal email. Not even so much as a letter to measure my importance. But as I wallowed in my self pity, I received pamphlets from the University of Miami, Portland, Oregon, Fordham, Boston University, and San Diego which all told me how unique and extraordinary I was. I felt a little better, especially when I opened letters regarding scholarships I had obtained. The final two that it came down to was Portland and Miami. Portland offered me a scholarship that would cover half of the tuition and I would stay there to transfer to UW the following year. I would be close to home and be in the same state as my current boyfriend. Or UM, over 5000 miles away, absolutely no similarities to home and a completely new experience. As I grazed each envelope and spread them across the dining table my mom came up behind me and asked which one I decided on. As I concentrated on the envelopes, each with its individual formatting and appeal I replied “I’m thinking Miami” and she nodded in approval. At the time I wasn’t sure why I chose Miami but now I know I am sure. I knew inside; even though I was loathe to admit it at the time that I needed to go past my comfort zone. I needed to burst the bubble of home and challenge myself in order to grow to my full potential and become the best person I could be. As I say my goodbyes to Jess and Sana for spring break, I observe Bryan sitting in the driver’s seat concentrating on the road. He taps his fingers to the beat of the new CD I made him as we make our five hour trek to Orlando to visit his friend and have fun at the theme parks. As he’s oblivious, I deeply ponder what it would have been like to have never met him, Sana, or Jess and I’m so glad that I ended up where I did.

73


University of Miami

Professor Pamela McCluney

Spring 2009

The Hidden Scar that Left a Permanent Reminder A permanent etching marks the body and leaves everlasting effects to never be forgotten. Whether received on purpose or by accident, these marks stay with a person forever and tell a story, a story with a learning experience involved. It could be a scar, a tattoo, or something of the sort. No matter what, each person will have their own unique story behind the mark. I, for one, have something different from many, a fake tooth. While I have other scars and tattoos of my own, it is this permanent item for me that stands out the most. That fateful day of bike riding and its consequences will never be forgotten in my mind. The results of falling from my bike and getting a root canal in the past helped shape my future and left a permanent mark as a constant reminder of what happened. It all began in the summer after first grade; I finally learned to ride a bike but was still afraid of riding alone. Training wheels gone, my dad at work and bored at my house, I decided it was time to get over my fear and go out on the road alone. Smoothly riding around my neighborhood, I felt like I was on top of the world, my heart racing with adrenaline, like someone with a new love interest. A stick lay in the road ahead of me, obstructing my pathway. The next thing I know I was on the ground with a bleeding mouth and scratched knees, destroying my adrenaline rush as if a true love had just left me. I thought the worst was over; however it was yet to come. On our family trip to California the next day, my mom realized my two front teeth were not only chipped but one of them was turning gray. She would not tell me what was wrong for fear of scaring me. Upon returning home after the trip, I had to return to school with my two front teeth gray and cracked. All the kids stared at me and made me self-conscious of my mouth. It made me realize how superficial people actually were and it was only what was on the outside that counted. So I kept my mouth shut the rest of the day and knew I had to go to the dentist and get it fixed. When my mom picked me up from school after that dreadful day, I could not stop crying the entire night. How could kids be so mean? Why would they make their own peer cry? It was devastating and traumatizing in so many ways.

74


University of Miami

Professor Pamela McCluney

Spring 2009

My mom still could not get me a dentist appointment for a few days, and she would not let me stay home from school. So the next day it was off to school again with the taunting kids. This day was no different than the day before, and it may have even been worse. It felt like getting your heart broken time after time, except not from a boy who you thought you loved but from kids who you thought were your friends. That was it; I could not go to school another day looking like this. Luckily, the next day was my dentist appointment. Even though I was so scared of the needles and pain to come, I could not take the torture from the kids anymore. Three hours and a completed root canal later, my mouth was finally almost back to normal. The pain to fix my teeth and stop the harassment was almost soothing in a way, releasing all the tension and making me numb to the kids’ words. Like getting a tattoo after a breakup to escape the pain and appear strong, the root canal took away my peers’ opportunities to hurt me. Going to school the next day, I felt like a new person. The kids no longer had a reason to make fun of me; my appearance was back to normal just like everybody else. But even then, I never got an apology or condolences from any of them. It was like they did not see anything wrong in what they had done. Making fun of someone for what they looked like was okay to them, no matter how it made the other person feel. Looking back on that horrible week, I’ll never forget how those kids treated me. The memory still makes me wonder how young school children could be so cruel to a fellow classmate. In the future, I can tell my children this story and be sure they behave better than that and never commit such harsh acts. The cap on my tooth now hides any sign of damage, but the hurt still remains on the inside. Everyone is unique in their own way and an appearance does not define a person.

The story of my life

Most of the time men seek what they do not or cannot have. A lot of guys cheat, but it’s not always because their wife or girlfriend is some horrible rigid woman, but I have come to realize that they all have this primal urge to seek variety. They may go for a hard to get decent woman with the perfect manicure or a more emotional woman filled with tattoos on her arms with bitten nails and a dark hidden

75


University of Miami

Professor Pamela McCluney

Spring 2009

past. No matter how different these characters may come to appear, all these women connect to each other through an endless bond of betrayal from which I felt I was part of. I have learned to trust no one but myself. When I was fifteen I was confident enough to believe I had fallen in love with one of my high school friends, Carlos. Little did I know that love is a lot more complicated than just believing in it. It drives us to do things we least expect at the most unexpected moments. After realizing Carlos had been with other girls I felt a great emptiness, but I did not hesitate to take action and stand up for my values. Now I saw Carlos as a petty thief who stole my heart, but at that moment he became part of my past, one that now seemed darker than ever. I felt I had a history of intense misfortune, and wanted him to be punished as if he had done something illegally worldwide, like drugs or alcohol. I wanted him to feel something that he would remember for a lifetime just like a tattoo on his sinful skin that would mark his soul with nothing but regrets. This mark would be a permanent reminder of me, and what he would miss out on for the rest of his life. After a while I decided to just let things happen and learn from them, and so all my remorse vanished along with Carlos memories as a handsome, loving, young man whom I believed was the perfect prospect; but fortunately realized I was mistaken and continued on with my life. Although this situation truly changed my ways of thinking I always seemed to get trapped by some handsome guy who tried to pull a smart move on me, because no matter how much I believed I had learned from past experiences there always was this genuine side of me which did not want to let go. I lost my faith for men, they all seemed so fictitious now, and doubts reigned constantly in my head. Men should simply be called actors since they seemed as if their life were based on a play, they do not see the consequences of their actions all the stories and feelings they have to tell you are made up and scripted for your ears and the ears to follow. My expectations at this point in my life were so high that I was positive that no matter whom I dated they would end up disappointing me. As time passed and my scars from Carlos started to heal, but I started building walls which isolated me from others, especially those I loved. Soon I felt the loneliness running through my veins, but even though this bitter feeling had taken hold of me I considered it was much better to sense this void within me than being hurt once again. I acknowledged that is was indeed there because it is easy for a person to learn from their successes, however what separates a good person from a great person is the ability to take from their failures. Eventually I got used to the idea of being alone but this did not necessarily mean that I agreed with these thoughts.

76


University of Miami

Professor Pamela McCluney

Spring 2009

The situation grew complicated, as boys were no longer boys but young adults whose misconceptions of love grew along with their ego. Young men were not interested anymore in a romantic picnic at the park or holding hands at the movies. I realized now that men were simply romance intolerant meaning that they were more interested in casual opportunities rather than working for a reliable relationship. This situation made it difficult for me to put myself out there and finally find someone that would care enough for me and take the time and effort to destroy the walls that loneliness had once managed to build inside me. When I graduated from high school my parents and I decided that it was time for me to become independent and so I moved to college in Miami. This experience helped me view life through different eyes, I was able to see a whole new world, but this did not mean that I was going to waste the effort I had made to not get hurt. However, even if my past was somewhere behind those walls inside me, I knew I had the choice of a better future for which I was given the opportunity for and was going to strive for. About six months ago my friend Maria and I were invited to our friend Enrique’s birthday party. As soon as we arrived my eyes were directly drawn to a mysterious gaze that seemed to have complete control of me. Seconds later I was introduced to the mystery man who had my attention since the second I walked in the door. My eyes had been so focused on this mystery guy that I hadn’t noticed Carlos’s presence in the room. Until then I hadn’t noticed that destiny had cautiously planned every minute of what was about to happen. -I see you have met my roommate- Carlos said, as he slightly tapped his shoulder. -Yes, Enrique just introduced us; he seems really interesting-I said hesitating a few seconds. This so called mystery man was Carlos’s roommate who had accompanied him to the same party. From then on, Mr. Mystery and I started talking. After spending the whole night sharing our thoughts and getting to know each other, he started calling me everyday. At first I wasn’t sure if he was worth the chance. After all, I had worked hard to avoid deception, it was not that easy for me to all of a sudden, forget my beliefs about men. However, he began to prove me wrong. We started hanging out, and as our relationship grew stronger so did our confidence towards one another. He clearly contradicted my ideas of men because he never forced me to act against my will. Mr. Mystery was always there when I needed him and even though fear within me still prevented me from completely trusting him, he had patience and openly trusted me in everything. I appreciated his actions and eventually I also started opening up with him. For once

77


University of Miami

Professor Pamela McCluney

Spring 2009

-I love you-he said. -I know... but I am just not that into you-I replied. This example shows how I was indeed able to learn from my mistakes and not be so quickly drawn into a relationship. As for Mr. Mystery, I am sure he also has learned something from this experience and from now on will also not be so quick to dive into another meaningless relationship. Love can be misleading but it can also help us overcome our greatest flaws and fears leading us to strengthen our characters and becoming who we want to be.

Love is an emotional perception, experienced differently by each individual-a deep adoration which transcends above barriers.

It Was the Perfect Ending to a Movie in Which I Was the Bad Guy Some people are fortunate; they have a backseat view of a great romance. I wasnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t so lucky, I had a great romance going on in my own backseat, and all I could do was think about which direction to go as I watched the girl of my dreams and my best friend in my rearview mirror. My plan had been to be free of love and romance by the time I had gotten to college, not be tangled up in a messy little cobweb. I was going to beautiful, sunny, party-crazed Miami, and the fresh idea of college in the sub-tropics seemed like the perfect excuse to be free of my nagging girlfriend. This was the same girl who seemed to treat me like her ex, before we even got into a relationship. She was beautiful, yes, but she would go between obsessing over me and totally writing me off. Though we were going to different schools, this girlfriend/ex-girlfriend type person we were becoming too serious too quickly, and Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;d been fighting that the whole time. 78


University of Miami

Professor Pamela McCluney

Spring 2009

Being tied to someone going into college just seemed like a bad idea. However, there was something strangely comforting about having someone to talk to, even as I was going off into a far corner of the world, but as a college freshman was I supposed to be careless and uncommitted? The first breakup came when she told me she loved me and I was unable to reciprocate. With college looming, I didn’t want to lie to her about my feelings or make something out of the thrill of going away. I thought I would be free; instead, she had the clever idea of having sex with me a few weeks into the breakup. I spent the weeks after that trying to get back with her, trying hopelessly to convince her that, maybe I was wrong. In time we found a common ground. I forced myself to believe that I did do the right thing in breaking up with her. After all, compared to the wiles of college, the idea of love through text messages and occasional visits was too flimsy to hold any weight in my mind. In the end, nothing really stuck, except a quiet ambiguity. I would try my luck with other girls wearing a new air of a fresh start before college, but no conquest lasted more than a couple days. On lonely nights I would find myself dialing the un-girlfriend’s number with an exasperated look on my face. .

As a distraction, I spent more time with my best friend through high school. He always was

having some kind of problem with his two or three rotating girls, and at his mother’s urging he began living in Shaker, a large suburb at the foot of the city proper, and I began spending more and more time away from home, avoiding the thirty minute drive by sleeping at his step father’s house. The section of his family I stayed with was three or four men, loosely assembled, even by city standards, but they were amazingly welcome. I was instantly another son. My friend, Shawn, after four years of all boys’ preparatory school, soon simply adopted me as another brother. Afternoons were spent lazily traveling around town, one of Shawn’s favorite spots was the library, a forum dotted with Shaker’s prettiest girls, late spring worn students, and the occasional book. We talked about girls mostly, as was expected. The un-girlfriend was a favorite topic of discussion (he wasn’t a big fan). Most of his conversations fell onto one of his favorite girls, a carbon copy of Rihanna named Rachyl. It never bothered me much that she was another one of his charges, until she showed up at the library one day, and sat across the table from me, glowing in the beauty that Eve must have seen in the apple she was told to never eat. After a lull in the awkward threesome conversation, she looked up at me, and grabbed a hold of me with eye contact. I had a feeling I knew what was coming. “I really like her.” Shawn said to me when we got back home. The last two words had a stinging clarity to them. (He preferred never to really discuss exactly how much he liked his conquests- clearly this one was different.)

79


University of Miami

Professor Pamela McCluney

Spring 2009

I tried to convey my standard response to girl stuff (“Yeah, I mean that’s good for you, she real cool and shit.”) in an awkward mix of trying not to be overly excited about seeing this beautiful girl, and still cheering on my best friend. At the time, I thought he ended the conversation there because, well, we were guys, and guys don’t have to talk that much; now I wonder if he sensed the under tones, and it was my pining that left him cold. Rachyl came to visit that day, and we made strange eye contact again. I knew in some abstract way she was going to friend me on Facebook as soon as she got back. And I knew all the same we were doomed to some complicated friendship. Even as she sat far away in the house, not really knowing anything about me, she had a way of digesting my words, it was something unfamiliar: she was listening. It was refreshing. It didn’t take long before we ended up in an awkwardly comfortable conversation over instant messenger. It felt good to be talking to her, but I never knew exactly why. It didn’t take long before the conversation fell onto Shawn. She decidedly told me she was taken… ish. “What about you?” she asked, expectantly. As far as she knew, I was the talk of the town. She appreciated me in that way that couples use to make each other think that they’re the best person for one another, and it seemed absurd that someone walking around looking like Justin Timberlake could be single. “I have a friend,” I said, but from the time it took to appear on the screen, it was clear to her that it was nothing more than that. Our symbiotic importance seemed much more certain than I had ever been about my ex-girlfriend type girl-friend person. Over the next couple of weeks we talked more and more, and it wasn’t long before we were texting each other, and it was a short jump from there to talking on the phone all the time. The conversations were, once more, refreshing. I hadn’t ever talked to somebody who understood me in the way she did. She was like a culmination of all the people in my life that made me happy. The only time she ever annoyed me was if she wasn’t there when I called. Somehow, we had come to an understanding. We were brand new best friends. And, no, Shawn didn’t know; he wouldn’t approve. In this time I began missing my ex more and more. I was not at all for the drama of an illicit rendezvous, especially when I was messing with things that weren’t mine. So one evening, I called up my un-girlfriend. I had to see her again; I had to at least make some attempt to rekindle a flame. I concocted my best plan to see her and make things right. We were going to go to our favorite open-air mall, and we were going to enjoy each other in the June air, and it was going to be official again, and I could be rid of this unintentional love. It sounded a little far-fetched, but, to me,

80


University of Miami

Professor Pamela McCluney

Spring 2009

the idea of cheesecake, summer breeze, and the stars sounded like a winning formula. I picked her up and headed towards romance. When we finally arrived, I saw my dreams of the night slowly unravel in the light of the streetlamps. She ran into a few school friends; I watched them wave wildly at one another, and stood patiently as an hour and a half worth of conversation escaped in front of my eyes. She became less attractive as she wasted I climbed back in to bed later and watched my mind speed off with the possibilities that Rachyl afforded. She rhymed with me, and I knew that was enough to build something. I was wondering whether or not I was going to spend the night alone when, without further ado, the phone commenced to ring. It was her. Curled up on the couch I pretended to be more interested in complaining about her ex, but years of searching for the right girl made sirens go off in my head that everything was right. There was nothing to do. I eventually relaxed and allowed myself to let go. It was love, and here it was, happening before my eyes. Six hours later the sun came up, and I was still on the phone with three new words ringing in my ears, “I love you.” It was time to hang up, but it left me giddy for the next few days. As this went on for the next week or so, I found myself in the midst of love. That is, until I went to pick up Rachyl while riding around with Shawn. It all happened in slow motion. The look she gave as she was entering into the car, and went to sit in the back. I drove, for what seemed like forever, while they cuddled in the backseat. I knew that I couldn’t make any motions of what had happened between us, and that I should have been supportive of my friend, but there was nothing I could do but stare in the rearview as the car slowly crept up the street, and my heart slowly crept down from my chest. Despite my appreciation of the tender moment, the lining of my heart was as prickly as ever. I didn’t want to lose what seemed like I worked so hard for. I didn’t want to lose what I thought was the culmination of my emotions to that point in life; I didn’t want to accept that the only thing I thought was real was really a lie. But, I didn’t want to lie anymore. So I sulked; it was unfair, and cruel, and I would sit around complaining aloud. Things seemed to be going well again with Shawn, until one day in July; he seemed to think I was trying to be intimate with a different one of his charges. The irony of the situation was I was guilty, but not of what I was accused of. The cheater called the liar a betrayer. It was funny, really.

81


University of Miami

Professor Pamela McCluney

Spring 2009

After that, I put myself under virtual house arrest. I was six weeks away from moving to the very southern tip of the country, so I just forgot about everyone and everything until I could be rid of it. I was worried that Rachyl would accidentally let something slip of the affair, but she was too smitten to care. There was no spectacular resolve to our situation, the fire just kind of fizzled out, I got over it, went off to college, and let the embers burn out in the ‘forgotten loves’ section of my heart. Shawn quickly endeared himself to Rachyl, and set aside his side chics for an honest relationship. Had I seen it in a movie, I would be angry at whoever wrote it, but hearing Rachyl crying while recounting the story, I could only wonder why I was talking to her. Things slowly changed, Rachyl and Shawn delved further into their relationship, she quickly became friends with Shawn’s new friends, and he went to Morehouse only to quickly run back home for family reasons and end up at Cleveland State. I spent most of my first semester lonely in a different way than back in Cleveland. I was surrounded by people now, but they just didn’t matter. With time, I overcame my addiction to little signs of interest from Rachyl, and could pass days and then weeks and then months without hearing from her. Ordinarily, I would have needed something to help me through the loneliness, but now, I understood that I had to handle this alone. For months, I turned the problem over in my head before admitting what had to be done. Moving through the contacts in my phone, I came upon her number and slowly erased her out of my phone. The room I was sitting in suddenly felt very quiet. I was alone, and free. In a way, it was my own version of the best romantic gesture I could make; the best way I knew how to honor love. I still feel for Rachyl – the friendship, the jokes, the intimacy – but whatever we had, it would unfair to call it love worthy of ruining a good thing.

Love is an uncontrollable, powerful, overwhelming feeling and/or action. It can be towards an object or person. It’s a blinding emotion that can manifest itself into a positive or negative manner.

82


University of Miami

Professor Pamela McCluney

Spring 2009

Permanent Memories All souvenirs have a specific importance to their owner, price excluded. Mementos enable one to remember significant moments or situations, which they have experienced. From a post card to a painting, each piece exerts a memory. In my life, I choose to buy pieces of jewelry as my mementos. Jewelry allows me to have an object to look at everyday, which remind me of a person or event. Jewelry is a symbol to me. These individual pieces of jewelry are one of the first steps in my healing process; they allow me to recall past experiences rather than erasing them. The red ring which I wear on the middle finger of my right hand has much more importance than simply a piece of painted metal. This ring reminds me of the most exceptional, kindhearted, strong individual that I have ever known. On October 17 th 2008 my closest family friend, who was practically my sister, passed away at the age of twenty-one. Friday, October 3 rd, Casey was diagnosed with leukemia and three weeks later she was put in the hands of God. She was truly an extraordinary person. Attending Hamilton College, she received exceptional grades and was recently accepted into one the most prestigious internships in Washington DC- her dream. Feeling devastated, distraught, angered, and confused I decided I needed to find something to remind me of this remarkable girl. My usual first step in recovering from a significant event is to purchase a piece of jewelry that reminds me of that particular person. I want something permanent, a symbol of the positive, the memory I choose to keep. I spent hours pacing up and down the store looking for the perfect memento. I found it, intermixed with gold and silver bracelets, stood out a red ring. It was simple and red, perfect. Although it looked simple on the outside there was much more meaning than just any old ring. Like skin, it had multiple layers. Each layer possessed a different meaning or memory, just as Casey had layers of personalities and stories. Red was Caseyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s favorite color; representing power and strength, which were the exact characteristics Casey possessed, especially in the last days of her life. This ring was her symbol. Now chipped and scratched, this ring allows me to recall the enjoyable times I shared with her rather than her last days. She will always remain in my heart and now upon my finger. Similar to memories, the ring can never be erased. This past summer a new piece of jewelry entered my life. Unlike my other pieces, this necklace was about me. Instead of reminding me of times spent with someone, this necklace represents my 83


University of Miami

Professor Pamela McCluney

Spring 2009

accomplishments. To many a four-leaf clover signifies good luck; however the clover that rests upon my neck stands for much more. I have suffered with learning problems since pre-kindergarten, most of which were a result of my frequent hearing problems as a child. It was not until the third grade that I was diagnosed with dyslexia. Throughout my fifteen years of school I had been forced to work extra-hard and put fourth a great deal of effort. The frustration that came along with dyslexia was my prime enemy. While my friends received high A’s and B’s, I was left with low B’s despite working and studying even harder than them. I was trapped, feeling unaccomplished, unable to achieve my goals, and discouraged. My determination was the steady destroyer of this frustration and my mindset was the key in overcoming these obstacles. With the help of tutors and learning programs during the school year and summer, I was able to obtain a satisfactory GPA. The respect I gained from my teachers and advisers was the fuel that kept me going. The summer before college I was tested for dyslexia once again (testing is required every four years). However, this test had much different results than the past- I was no longer diagnosed with a reading deficit.

I automatically thought that this landmark in my life needed a

remembrance. Returning to my jewelry store, I again searched throughout the aisles looking for the perfect symbol of my determination, hard work, and accomplishment. I decided I needed a necklace, something closest to my heart and feelings. A silver necklace caught my eye immediately. A sparkly clover resting upon a silver chain- this would be my symbol. Clovers have always been very special to me, green being my favorite color (standing for success), and St. Patrick’s Day denoting my most favored holiday. Many people assume four leaf clovers represent good luck, however for me it stands for a good attitude. This necklace will always remind me of the road I took to be where I am today. This clover will always be my symbol of accomplishment. Looking back on my multiple pieces of jewelry, I wonder if they still hold the meaning they once did. Does my ring still represent Casey the way I had planned, or does my necklace still remind me of my accomplishments? Luckily as of now, the answer is “yes”. My jewelry has not become ordinary. Everyday when I put on my necklace, or glance at my ring I am reminded of these significant moments in my life. They are the pieces in my life that will always remind me of the positive. Although times change, the memories stay the same. The memories will always remain in my heart and now on my body, permanently a part of my life, a story.

84


University of Miami

Professor Pamela McCluney

Spring 2009

Scar Tissue In my junior year of high school I suffered a serious injury while playing football. In the middle of a varsity game I was running when someone blindsided me, causing my knee to bend in ways that it shouldn’t. I heard a snap and a pop and I knew right then that this was going to be a serious problem. My journey shows that not only the physical pain from an injury, but also the mental anguish that accompanied it resulted in me feeling dependent and lonely. It was almost like everything was going in slow motion, as I lay there in pain, unable to walk. I felt like I was watching someone else get carted off the field, surely not me. This kind of thing didn’t happen to me, I made sure of it. I worked hard all summer to ensure that I was ready for the season and I would not suffer an injury like this.

But it was me, and the magnitude of the injury slowly started to sink

in as the doctors in the emergency room told me the bad news I had a broken leg and a partially torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL). For the next couple weeks, I was on crutches, unable to walk, when a month ago I was sprinting around a football field. I thought what most athletes think after an injury: I will never fully recover; I’m bound to be in this crippled state forever. Almost like someone who suffers a breakup thinks they can never love again, I thought I could never play again. After months of hard work in the gym and in the doctor’s office, I finally was cleared to play just in time for basketball season. Then, the unthinkable happened. In my very first basketball practice of the season, just as I was finally getting used to running around, I went down. I tore what was left of my ACL. This meant one thing: reconstructive surgery. In a matter of hours I went from injury-free to back in the doctor’s office scheduling the best time for my five-hour surgery. I felt the same familiar feeling of hollowness, like I would never be the athlete I once was. After my surgery on December 15th, 2006, the feeling worsened. I knew I would never be able to play football or basketball competitively again. I knew the second I took a step on this reconstructed knee, it was sure to collapse below me.

What made matters worse was that days after the surgery I became

infected with a staph virus in my knee. I was too sick to leave the house, and eventually required another surgery to get back on track. Stuck with nothing but my own thoughts, I was left with a feeling of great dependence. 85


University of Miami

Professor Pamela McCluney

Spring 2009

For the first couple of weeks after surgery, I could do nothing. My mom had to change my clothes, bring me food, and even wash me because I couldn’t get up off the couch to shower. I didn’t sleep in my own bed for a month because I wouldn’t dare try to tackle the stairs. Also, I was taking all sorts of painkillers, antibiotics and other medications. I had always been healthy, for the most part, so this new dependence on medicine was something new to me. In addition, the feeling of dependence multiplied when I returned to school. I needed someone to wheel me from class to class, and someone else to carry my books. I would sit in class, still in pain, and look around at everyone with two working legs. I wondered “Why me? Why am I the one on crutches or in a wheel chair when all of these people get to walk normally?” I was bitter and jealous, and I hated being dependent on other people. I used to pride myself on being independent. I never needed anyone else’s help. And now I needed assistance with the simplest things such as putting on my shoes. However, if I thought the dependence on other people was bad, it was nothing compared to the loneliness that would follow. Sure my friends and family were wonderful to me throughout my injury and recovery. But that’s not what I wanted. I just wanted to be treated normally, not like some outsider. There were several times that my friends would come over my house. We would talk, they would ask how I was, and everything seemed normal. But then they would go out to some party or some other social event that my physical condition wouldn’t allow me to go to. I would be stuck alone again, with nothing but my thoughts. I’m not sure what I expected from them, but maybe I was just being selfish for wanting their company. I would relate my feeling of loneliness to someone who just got out of an intense relationship. I felt alone and empty, like there used to be someone there for me and now there was no one. Even later when I felt well enough to go out, it just wasn’t the same. I would stand in the corner watching as everyone else enjoyed themselves. I sat and watched as my friends pursued the girls they liked, and all I got was the occasional “How are you feeling?” from a sympathetic girl. In addition to socially, I also felt like an outsider with athletics. Even though I had practiced for all of 45 minutes, I still considered myself to be on the basketball team. I went to every practice and every game. I cheered the team on when all I really wanted to do was be out there with my teammates. Throughout the course of the season, another kid got hurt. Although I was not especially friendly with him, I connected and bonded with him. I identified with his sadness at not being able to play. But a couple weeks later, he was back out there, and I was still sitting on the bench. One instance where I felt particularly lonely occurred a couple months later when I could walk and things were finally starting to look up. I was over a friend’s house, when they decided to go play hockey on a pond in town. I could barely jog, let alone ice skate. My friends seemed to have forgotten my struggle as they made their plans to go skate. I just sat there and listened and when they started getting

86


University of Miami

Professor Pamela McCluney

Spring 2009

ready I got up to go to my car and leave. It was right then I knew there was only one way to get out of my current funk. Only one way to return back to who I used to be: I needed to have a healthy knee again. I started going to physical therapy at least four or five times a weeks. I worked past exhaustion, past pain. I had one goal that I was focused on: I needed to be 100% healthy again. I became good friends with the receptionist at the physical therapy clinic because I was there so frequently. My therapist would often ask if I needed a break, but instead I asked for more grueling exercises. It was “pain therapy” in a way. I would work so hard that I was too exhausted to think about my problems. I replaced my emotional pain with physical pain. But this physical pain was different; it made me feel like I was accomplishing something. As the saying goes “[if there is] no pain, [there is] no gain” and I was definitely gaining. I would wake up in the morning and my leg would be sore. However, the soreness was not my knee joint, but the muscles around my knee getting stronger. For the first time in a while I was actually excited about my life. It was the beginning of summer and I was finally starting to feel normal. No more depression, no more dependency, no more loneliness. It was like I was coming out of a 9 month haze and I was just starting to see clearly. So many people’s lives are so much worse than mine, so why am I complaining? I realized that everyone has problems in life, and the only way to overcome them is strength and hard work. I worked so hard in physical therapy that I overcame the injury to my knee. There was one distinct moment when I knew I was finally back. It was when I stepped on the football field for the opening game the following fall. I was not nervous, lonely, or dependent. Instead I was excited. I was excited to prove to myself and everyone else that I was healthy again. Now the only reminders of those dark days are a scar and an occasional cracking of my knee. I appreciate my scar because it shows me how valuable hard work is (and chicks dig scars, of course). If I had not put all that work into during physical therapy, I may have never recovered completely. Instead, I am perfectly fine because of my efforts.

My scar is comparable to a tattoo: a reminder of past

experiences. Many people look at a tattoo and remember a certain night, or a certain reason for the tattoo. Similarly, I look at my 3-inch scar on my knee and I see the loneliness, depression, and dependency I experienced, as well as the hard work that helped me recover and be the person I am today.

Love is an emotion that causes two possible outcomes; you can love someone and treat them well or love someone and treat them badly. Love is always a choice one that should not be taken for granted.

87


University of Miami

Professor Pamela McCluney

Spring 2009

Oh Where Has My Identity Gone? Three years ago, my identity was stolen. There are times that I feel as if he stole my soul. We met when I was a sophomore in high school, he was two years older than me and the “relationship” that we had was based on abuse, torment, and pain, it lasted a year and what he did, lasted a year and a half. I had not realized what he had done until I was able to leave him. His name is not important; suffice to say he was the one who ruined me. The relationship was a cycle of never ending pain. If I saw him at a party he would grab me, drag me to a corner and start hitting, but never in places that others could see. If I went to a friend’s house without his permission, he would find a way to be there and accuse me of not loving him, of wanting to leave. Towards the end of the relationship, a psychological tug-of-war began; according to him I would never leave. He told me that it would be impossible. I believed him. I tried many times, but like he said, it felt impossible to do so. It was never ending until he went too far; he tried to get me to help him cheat on his girlfriend, he wanted me to sleep with him and he wasn’t above using force to get his way. It hurt to leave. He had become my life, he was my everything, and he was able to steal who I was. What happened is difficult for me to comprehend. How could someone steal who I was? It didn’t seem possible. But I had to leave; I had to deal with what he did. As difficult, as it was, I am proud of myself for leaving. He was no longer part of my life, but I knew I had to get help. I called a friend and she told me to get ready to fight a battle that I would continue to fight until I regained my old self. Who was I? How could this happen? Why me? I was certain that I hadn’t done anything wrong to deserve such a horrible punishment. I was a good person, I wasn’t mean to children or the elderly, yet I was in a bad and abusive relationship, and no one can fully explain to me why it had to happen to me. I just couldn’t understand; it was surreal. I hurt so much and for such a long time that I couldn’t function for weeks after I left him. Even after I had the time to think and analyze what happened, it didn’t sink in. I couldn’t believe the situation I had found myself in, how did I let someone take away all that I was?

88


University of Miami

Professor Pamela McCluney

Spring 2009

No one knew what happened; I was too ashamed to tell anyone, but I knew I had to. I told two friends, friends that I trusted with all my heart, what happened right under their noses. . When I had told them, they couldn’t believe it. “How could this happen to you, Adriana?” I remember them asking, I didn’t have the answer. How could I have an answer for them when I didn’t have one myself? They asked the standard questions, “Did you realize the type of relationship you were in?” “How did you let this happen to yourself?” “Why didn’t you tell us sooner?” all questions I had anticipated and had formulated answers for, but when it was my turn to speak, all I could do was cry. When they saw my reaction, the questions stopped; they pulled themselves around me and forced me to stop crying. Once they had the story, we made a pact, “us against the world, no matter what,” It was decided that they would protect me from him, protect me until I fond myself. I used to be a very nice person; I would help friends with whatever problems they had. I would listen with a patient ear; provide thoughtful advice, and promised to pray to God, so that His will would be done. I didn’t mind helping friends, even if I couldn’t relate to their situation, I tried to put myself in it and I would offer the best advice possible. After my breakup I couldn’t deal with other people and their petty problems. I didn’t care if my best friend’s boyfriend wasn’t talking to her this week, I had my own problems to deal with, I would tell people to suck it up and grow a pair. My friends, the ones that didn’t know what happened and couldn’t understand why I was being so mean. I had become a different person, one they couldn’t recognize. I didn’t care what others thought or their problems. I was dead inside and they couldn’t get it. I was abused physically, emotionally, and psychologically, couldn’t they realize it? I often wondered. I was so scared that it was obvious. I couldn’t understand how my friends didn’t realize that something was wrong. I was the one everyone went to for advice and it had gone from being kind and well thought out to mean and hurtful. No one was helping me cope with what happened, why should I care or help my friends when they couldn’t help me. I was at the point where my problems were the only ones that mattered. I had to fix myself before I could fix others. I continued with my routine; school, family and church. I tried to focus on school, but many times I just couldn’t care about what was being said. Then I tried to focus on family, I tried to be a better sister and daughter, but I had a short fuse and I just couldn’t be bothered with the stupidity that was my family’s problems. Then I moved on to church. I tried to fill all my hours with stuff, anything, and everything, whatever the church needed I was there to help or do. Then I realized pouring myself into just only one of these parts of my life wouldn’t help me cope, I dived myself in three. I had three different, distinct personalities. I was the model, if not cold student during school hours, and then I would become the bully

89


University of Miami

Professor Pamela McCluney

Spring 2009

in the family, except on Thursday nights when I went to church. At church I was the happy young Christian, the same went for Sundays. I was three different people inhabiting one body, trying to deal with the aftermath of a bad choice. I was moving forward. I wasn’t dwelling on the past, and after the shock wore off I didn’t question why I was abused, I just dealt with it. I thought I was happiest at church; therefore I tried to make it the center of my life. I never missed a youth group gathering, unless I was out of the country, I was always at Sunday school and service. No one could complain, but it was in my eyes, behind the smile, there was no life in me, I was just surviving. Until one day when in my senior English class we started talking about our first true love and the relationships that shaped us. It was in that moment that I shared with the class my story, of who I was, what one boy did, and my constant struggle to live in a world in which nice Christian girls don’t make mistakes. Who was I? I was no longer the nice Christian girl that had never had sex and didn’t know a bad relationship if it hit her on the head. Nor was I was the cynical, hard eyed woman of the world that thinks sex is a thing better left to animals. I wasn’t either; I was stuck in the middle. I was no longer as innocent as before, but I hadn’t taken the final step towards my loss of innocence, I’m still a virgin and I believe that sex is great if it is between two people who love each other. But I couldn’t ever claim that I didn’t have the first hand knowledge that there are people in the world that take advantage of any and every situation. I couldn’t tell who I was, I had split myself into three, I couldn’t stand to remember who I was, I had purposely altered everything that had made me who I used to be. I fooled myself that I would never want to be that innocent little child ever again. This new person that I had become shared nothing with the old me. After a year, one of my friends that knew what happened, Kathy, asked me if I was okay, I told her that I was, but deep inside I knew that I wasn’t. I hadn’t faced what had happened. I hadn’t faced my tormentor. I just closed up and went on as if nothing had happened. The new me can’t deal with silence, can’t handle another’s touch, and is terrified to trust. I break down very few months and each time I do I try to figure out which part has broken down so I can fix it and move on. I turn to my faith, to my God, and I pray that He helps me. The first time I relied on God to solve my problems was when I was ten, my father had a drinking and gambling problem, I trusted God that He would keep my family safe and nothing would happen to us. This time I pray that He shows me how to become the person He wants me to be. He has been doing as I asked. For the last three years He helped me get through so many difficult situations that are a direct result from what happened to me at 16. I can now deal with silence and I’m not as scared to trust. But I still can’t handle others touching me,

90


University of Miami

Professor Pamela McCluney

Spring 2009

invading my personal space without my permission. I doubt that I will ever be okay with casual touches as I once was. This past Christmas I told a guy that I liked him, nothing has happened and nothing will probably happen but the mere fact that I was able to tell him that I liked him was a miracle. I am happier than I have ever been. Not many people would understand how I could ever go back to God after He allowed me to get hurt, I am one of His children and yet look what happened to me. I understand their logic, in fact I was once asked how I could believe in God after being abused, how anyone for that matter could turn to God, it isn’t a smart or logical choice. I couldn’t come up with an answer that would satisfy this person because no answer could satisfy. I can’t explain why I go to God when so many things in my life go wrong, I just do. It keeps me sane; praying to God helps me get rid of all that I have inside, emotions and thoughts that I can never share with others, ones that I would never want to. I don’t want to share how lost I once was. “Until we lose ourselves there is no hope of finding ourselves,” I can now understand these words of Henry Miller. I am finally am on the way to finding out who I really am. I was lost before, searching for what I had lost, and forcing myself to reassemble. That feeling I first felt when I placed all my trust in God, now I feel every day. I am at peace with who I was, who I am, and who I will become. No one can take away what God has given me, He comforts me and keeps me safe, He reminds me that underneath all the damage I have done to myself I am still worthy of love and all I need is a little bit of patience for my identity to come back to me.

The Change That Made Me Feel Powerful Before I had fallen in love for the first time, I had always thought that I was strong enough to bear any pain. During my first relationship I felt that I had the power to control my life and my boyfriend’s life. After the break up things didn’t go like I expected. I felt depressed and I knew that I lost control of my life. I thought my life just slipped away from my fingers and I couldn’t control it. I stayed in bed, lying for hours, hollow and hurting. I walked around the streets, and was with friends only because I had to be. I was starting to think that I was useless. I was 15 and I wasn’t doing anything to improve myself. So after eight months, I decided that I needed to be in control of my life again. I discovered that I needed a change to feel self-sufficient when something bad happens, and the easiest way to make that happens is a change in the appearance. Even though hair seems a minor and temporary

91


University of Miami

Professor Pamela McCluney

Spring 2009

change for the body, it changes the way people look. And therefore my own kind of beginning always involves a haircut. Whenever I break up with someone I really love I run to my hairdresser to ask for a change and I just sit in the chair trusting his taste. Change makes me feel strong because even though I know I have some weak sides I still know that I am in control of my life without causing any physical pain to myself. I decided to change myself. But I already had pain, so I didn’t want to have more. Self-destruction, like a cigarette or a drink gives relief to some people but I always thought that I was stronger than needing a substance to make me feel relieved, happy and make me forget things. I live a happy life; I had the perfect childhood I had more toys then I needed, I was a popular kid in school, my mom and my dad had a happy marriage and I had so many friends that sometimes I forgot their names. My younger years were a success for me; I knew French, English, Turkish and Spanish. Not only I was a successful student but also I was good with boys. I got everything I wanted in my life and that made me a little bit spoiled, nothing was hard to reach. I even got every boy I wanted till I was 15. Here I was, falling for the guy who would never love me as I loved him. At first we were on and off for four months. But suddenly things changed, he was not behaving like he was before. The calls suddenly stopped. He started to ignore me. The more I was falling for him the more he was running away from me. Then later he started to date his ex girlfriend, the one that he was dating before me. I was becoming weak: I wasn’t going out with friends anymore; I wasn’t answering phones and worst of all, I wasn’t eating. Ever since I am a small kid I always had this habit. Whenever I was sad or something annoyed me I would stop eating. Not to protest but because I couldn’t eat. My stomach would hurt and I would have nausea. One day, my friend called me and gave me the news that he was dating his ex girlfriend, After this call, I couldn’t get him out of my mind. How could he do that to me? Did he ever love me? My sadness was not only hurting me but also my parents were starting to get worried. My mom took me to a famous psychologist after I told her I didn’t care about anything and I wasn’t looking at the cars when I was crossing the street. She got worried that something might happen to me, and in the meantime she would always tell me that the world has bigger problems and that it’s not worth crying over teenage love. Even the psychologist couldn’t understand me. I thought I was alone in the world no one was able to understand me, not even my closest friends. Later that month he broke up with the girl and he called me crying, telling me he wanted to get back with me. I didn’t accept it right away but I did in two weeks. Everything was fine again. I could hear the birds singing and I was smiling. I watched myself in the mirror for a week, looking to my pretty face,

92


University of Miami

Professor Pamela McCluney

Spring 2009

thinking that I wasn’t unlovable anymore. Over time, I realized I didn’t really love him; I just needed him to love me. Sad and unfilled, I cheated on him. I thought he couldn’t meet my needs anymore. Eventually he learned what I did to him and we broke up. This time I was sadder then the first break up. My parents got worried again so it was time for me to go to the psychologist for the second time. As I was crying in his long chair that I had only seen in the movies, I felt powerless. He told me to come again next week; I was surprised because the first time I went he didn’t say anything like that. He said that I was fine and there was no need for me to come back. Finally I understood that something was wrong with me. I got scared to turn into the freaky in love women that has cats all around the house. I had to find something to make me feel happy again. I needed to feel that someone would love me and I needed to understand why I was a terrible person who cheated on the only guy she loved. That’s when I decided I need a change. By the time I left the psychologist’s room I knew I was going to change something about myself. I wanted to have a change which wouldn’t be permanent because I knew in the future this relationship wouldn’t be as important as it was then. One day I had a haircut and I felt a big relief. I went to school and all of my friends told me how different I looked. I felt happy again. Going to the hairdresser became a routine for me. I would go there and pass hours changing my hair to different colors, making it curly and straight again. And I would leave really content. I would walk around the streets looking to other guys. There were more guys! How had I forgotten? By time, it became a sign for me. It meant that I had control of my life. I wasn’t hurting myself as others often do, and it made me feel stronger. As I was looking in the mirror, I felt my life coming back. I changed my hair every time I felt sad and it became my own brand of heroin. It showed my mood in general. I would have curly hair if I was happy that day, I not only changed the shape but also I changed the colors often. I had red, brown, black and blond hair. I started to have boyfriends and I always told myself that it was because of my beautiful hair that shows my personality. Even though I wanted to make these changes, I never wanted it to be permanent. I never let the hairdresser put chemicals on my scalp because I didn’t want to be bald when I am old. Even when I was desperate for a change I could control the temptation to change something more. I even thought of having a tattoo on my wrist. Then I changed my mind, I didn’t want anything about this relationship to be permanent on my skin. I started to go to have a haircut less, now I was going only once a month because I didn’t have much hair. Later I found someone who loved me for who I was. I was having a happy and long relationship with him when he cheated on me. I cut my hair as short as a boy to forget my pain. I wasn’t mad anymore

93


University of Miami

Professor Pamela McCluney

Spring 2009

but I became really ugly. It no longer made me feel pretty or in control. It was simply what I did after each breakup; it was my post breakup ritual. That’s when I realized it wasn’t about the hair anymore. I heard my mom’s voice in my mind, saying in order for someone to love you; you need to love yourself first. I was sure by now that I was the only one who thought as I did; it was my insecurity. My hair had nothing to do with my sadness, it was me all along. I quit going to the hairdresser I started to love myself for who I was. I never regretted my past; it made me become more mature. And for the first time, I felt I had my life back without changing anything. That’s when I told myself “O.K., Sakine everything is going to be fine you don’t need this addiction, you are someone worth loving” O.K.

Revival of a Broken Heart Whether it has left a scar on our skin or bruised us sight unseen, life’s experiences leave marks on us all. The loss of my grandfather left me in a raw and vulnerable state that made it difficult to continue on the same path I was on while he was still alive. While this event heavily impacted me, it has not been men that have wandered out of my life by choice or the pain concealed by artistic expression or outward display of worth that have left negative imprints on my heart. The emotional scars of having lost my grandfather who had a significant influence on an epic part of my spirit and being, are felt every day. This untimely and devastating event branded my soul with inspiration to help those traveling along similar paths and gave me the ability to grow as an individual, accepting the inexorable fate of humanity. Losing an integral part of my life, at sixteen, during the years marked by extreme emotional development, led me down a path to ultimate acceptance of life’s heartbreaks and made me a stronger person. When the news had finally trickled down the lines and reached my young ear, I collapsed. Just having emerged victorious from a battle against cancer with my grandmother, I was recalled for round two with my grandfather. Although this time, the opponent was not going to let us win. Presenting an ultimatum to my family, I walked onto the airplane to the Bay area the very next week. Soon the every now and then flight out west, evolved into habitual trips to California as well as the Emergency room. I found myself unable to do anything to cure my grandfather of his illness. As the treatments progressed and medications increased in strength and quantity, the stages of deterioration began. Dealing with my

94


University of Miami

Professor Pamela McCluney

Spring 2009

frail grandfather, I brushed aside my tears and gloom with every piece of bad news to create a pleasant ambiance for him in his remaining months. I focused on generating strictly positive vibes provoking genuine smiles, and eruptions of laughter in place of the honest truth. During this time, my mother and I would also develop a brand new bond over the loss of my grandfather. She had once paced down a similar road almost a decade and a half earlier, when she lost her father when I was a newborn. I saw the vacant stares and the pain that she carried with her over the years, especially during days that reminded me of him. Little did I know the pain would impose itself in my own heart, as it had in years before. I soon found myself in a similarly painful yet inspirational situation, finding it difficult to overcome my grandfather’s downfall but thankful to recognize what a beautiful life that he led. As days waned, an unbelievable surprise lifted my spirits. I was never one to believe in miracles or to have anything ridiculously significant to be thankful for on Thanksgiving other than the redundant clichés of health and family. While those are things that I was thankful for, I never truly felt the profound emotions and cause for celebration during the holiday. This year was different. We travelled across the country to my grandparent’s house. On Black Friday, when the ladies were too self-consumed with their overwhelming desires to shop, my father and grandfather snuck a few shots of the fine liquor he had been unable to enjoy since his therapies had begun. Amidst the drinks, the new CD of the Red Army Choir played old songs in the background. As we all gathered around the fire, he sang and reminisced. Witnessing his miraculous revival as if cancer had never drained seventy pounds from his body, his spirit was as radiant as ever. For once, I found meaning in the holiday and was thankful for an amazing few days with family. Even though the past few months had been emotionally draining and more ominous as time progressed, the tides changed for the better. My family and I were blessed to have quality times overshadow the clouds on the horizon. Despite continuous hopelessness and troubled days, some emotional relief offered us a bit of resolution in the most unsuspecting times. Yet even after a beautiful and serene week with my family, the future seemed too good to be true. Only a short week later, my grandfather fell weak once more. Over a late night phone call, I told my grandfather all of my deep sentiments toward him. Telling him what an amazing man I thought that he was and how much I loved him, the strength to respond escaped his mouth. Before the phone call ended, I whimpered “I love you” in Russian, his native tongue. In the early hours of the morning, the phone rang. I refused to answer it because I didn’t want it to be the end. Once I heard the phone cease its pretentious rings, I sunk deeper in my bed and starred into the darkness that surrounded me in my usually upbeat room. It was over. All of the suffering, the pain, the trips to the hospital in the middle of the night, all of it was over. The only battle that he had lost was his battle with pancreatic cancer. While it felt like a part of me had

95


University of Miami

Professor Pamela McCluney

Spring 2009

died with him, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that it was a part of me that I was proud to have. He always will have a part of my heart, a part of who I am. He indirectly taught me persistence and determination, and most of all, strength in the face of weakness. These qualities were part of the permanence he left me with. It was this eventual acceptance that loomed over our heads until the clouds rained with such force that it poured right in our hands. I had to accept the fate of my grandfather. He had a limited time left. I chose to spend all the time that I could with him and it was within this time that I learned the most from him. These memories marked my heart and soul with acceptance that life does not go as planned, but it continues without pausing and waiting for you to catch up. As I saw it, I only had two choices---I could have either stepped up to the plate and accepted the offer put on the table, or lived being chased and haunted by constant reminders of the past. When I chose to accept the reality, I finally reached some understanding in my life. It only takes the one beautiful glimmer of hope and adoration in the rubble of heartache and despair to brush the soot from our feet and embark down a new path with clean soles. On every anniversary, birthday, or Russian holiday, I don my Russian Orthodox cross from my baptism. This memento makes me remember my grandfather’s beautiful and strong life. On the anniversary of my grandfather’s death, the blue and gold cross sparkled as it hung from my neck. Grabbing the attention of a wandering eye while I was running a few errands, I was approached by a familiar face surprised at the sight of a cross around my neck. Questioning my religious devotion, I responded with a hearty smile and said “It reminds me of my grandfather and makes me feel like he is with me.” Returning a friendly smile, she could tell that my response was whole hearted and she replied with a genuine “That is beautiful.” Without my grandfather, I would not have my religion. Since he is the only person in my family with this religion and even though my practice is far from routine, it is a part of me that can never be traded or changed. I was proud to have been blessed with knowing such a modest hero. Although it deeply saddens me that he is no longer with me, I always find happiness in the thought that I was given the chance to know a man of his caliber. I felt resolved. The healing process was ridding us of the poison that had subjected our minds to unanticipated demise. While there were no permanent marks visible to others from the passing of my grandfather, it was the mental and emotional scars that had burned holes through my heart all along. It was difficult to continue to travel down my own path while I watched my grandfather’s dead end in my rear view mirror, but I always had the warmest memories of time well spent, especially in his last months. In the end, it was the acceptance of the past. For me, I came to terms with the passing of my grandfather and his physical absence from my life. He will always live in my thoughts and memories standing strong and proud, accomplished and peaceful.

96


University of Miami

Professor Pamela McCluney

Spring 2009

Regardless of the visibility of scars, there are events in everyoneâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s life that cause heartbreaks and remain with us as reminders of the past. For some these scars represent regret and bad decisions where self-esteem plummeted and left almost no hope for future amends. For others, these wounds embody the good decisions and time savers triggered by intense devastation. For me, it was picking up the pieces by myself and taking the good from a hardship, realizing my own life goes on. Either way, scars illustrate the permanence of our experiences like rings on a tree that mark who we are and what we have endured in our lifetime.

Love is a feeling of desire or affection towards another person romantically or not. Other emotions are felt separate from each other, but love is a culmination of feelings from anger and sadness, to compassion and joy that can be felt at any given time.

My lifeâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s frustration is the love of my life It was nearing the end of the summer, and a new school year was about to begin. In addition to transferring to a new high school; I was going to be a junior that year, and so I wanted to relax and savor the remaining two and a half weeks of freedom. During the day I would swim in my pool, and by night I would sit in front of my laptop, my eyes burning from staring at it for so long. In order to pass the time during the night, I did my regular favorite pastime of giving online teen advice and signed up as a member on a dating websiteâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;not because I was interested in dating anyone from the internet, in fact I found that to be odd and unimaginable (why would anyone want to date online?) but because just as oddly enough that was how I liked to meet new people, online. Perhaps a smidgen different than buying email addresses, but it was something I liked to do. Yes, occasionally there were the few (okay, many) individuals who turned out to be creeps and definitely were not looking for friendship as I was, but usually I could make do as long as there were enough good people to compensate for the bad ones. Unfortunately I could not make do with this particular site and one night decided it was time to cancel my

97


University of Miami

Professor Pamela McCluney

Spring 2009

free trial. As I stumbled around the website desperately looking for a way to end the trial, I received more messages, and naturally from more creeps. The greetings were always too similar: “Are you single?”—“yes”; “Wanna have some fun?”—“Nope”. While praying that I would find the location of the trial suspension, I finally did, and was completing the information when yet another person messaged me. I groaned. I replied to his greeting with a simple and curt “hi”, not knowing I was speaking to a man who was going to become one of the most important people in my life today. During the following twenty minutes of our conversation we exchanged locations. He was from England and so tried to teach me some of the terms English people used, and we laughed as I failed horribly at trying to memorize and use them in sentences. We talked about likes, dislikes; employment; education; almost anything one could touch on in a conversation, and it was not until an hour later that we exchanged names, he introducing himself as Joe. Almost four hours later we decided it was time to say goodnight. He promised to come on an instant messaging application the next night, despite the five hour time difference, and I promised the same. I remember laying in bed for about an hour, not being able to stop thinking about him; I was in a state of bliss and wanted to stay in that state, unaware of the countless and relentless frustrations to come. As time went by I realized how difficult this relationship was going to be. I honestly am not one for relationships; in fact, I hate being in them because of my fears of commitment and falling in love, so I suppose it was a comfort knowing that I did not have to be in a real one, but in a way a heartbreak knowing that I could not be in a real one. About two weeks after we met, Joe told me he would like to meet in person soon, particularly because of the strong feelings he was beginning to have for me. He did not have a job but planned on getting one before long and with the money he made, he would use it to come to America perhaps around Christmas time. This seemed like ages away, but nonetheless I promised to wait for him. In the beginning we exchanged email almost regularly, and I found myself disappointed when I did not receive one. He had been forced to move back in with his mother because of an argument with a roommate, and since there was no computer in the house, often times he had to go to a friend’s house, the library or his school library to drop me a quick email. I admired him for his sacrifices, and even if it contained three sentences, I cherished his emails. I read them over and over, still unable to comprehend the good fortune that I had just received. Just weeks prior to meeting Joe, I had spoke with my best friend, and we joked about our ideal husbands and interestingly enough, Joe had all the features I wanted in a husband. He was, however, older

98


University of Miami

Professor Pamela McCluney

Spring 2009

than me (21 at the time) and I had not yet told him my real age for safety reasons (I had told him I was 18 but was really 15 turning 16). I was afraid of how he would take the news, especially because I had realized how much I had begun to care about him, and began to panic. Because of my panic I resorted to the technique I knew best: find a reason to make him not like me. I was hurt once in a prior relationship by someone I trusted (and I do not easily trust others) and who had insisted he loved me. It was a childish love; we were young, naĂŻve and foolish, but nevertheless in love. I trusted him so much that I shared a very personal part of my past with him. My honesty with him, however, scared him and caused him to leave meâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;hurt, still in love and confused. Because of this one particular relationship I vowed never to allow myself to be hurt again, nor allow myself to trust just anyone. Unfortunately I have hurt many people due to this vow and my fears of falling in love and commitment, simply because I do not want to make an effort to try and trust or love someone without reservations. Even though I know it is not wise nor fair, I often call a relationship quits or simply walk out of it without warning before it can ever come close to reaching the commitment stage or before I can fall in love, and do so by either trying to get that person to leave me or by coming up with a reason for the person not to like me. In the case of Joe, that reason was my age. Ironically, however, to my relief but somewhat disappointment, he took the news pretty well. Although he made me swear that I was actually telling my real age this time, he expressed his gratitude in exchange for my honesty. At that point we had been speaking for about two months and the revelation of my real and young age had not affected anything. Although confusingly happy at the fact, I was still anxious about the situation. I liked Joe more and more with each passing day, and I knew that because of this I could resort to my old ways, or if I fell in love with him, that I would have to tell him something more severe about me than my real age. After I confessed my real age, the regularity of the conversations between Joe and I diminished considerably and frustration began to take its place in our relationship. As I wondered if maybe he really was bothered by my age, I became paranoid and extremely unhappy towards his sudden disappearance. Three weeks passed and I contemplated whether or not I should simply forget about him. Luckily for him, he wrote me an email before I came to a decision. He claimed that he had an outstanding amount of work from college and simply had not had time to email me. I read his excuse over and over, asking friends for their advice as to whether or not I should believe him. Surely, no one could be that busy that he could not write me a short and simple email for three weeks time. But then I thought (or tried to convince myself) perhaps he really is that busy and came to terms with it. I did not, however, let him get off so easily. I expressed my disappointment and anger at him for his lack of communication and he made it up to me by going to his auntâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s house to speak with me via microphone. It was now the middle of November, and I had seen him once via webcam but he had only seen me through pictures. He wanted to

99


University of Miami

Professor Pamela McCluney

Spring 2009

see me via webcam and was becoming impatient with the fact that I had not yet purchased one. His impatience to the webcam situation seemed to match my impatience and frustration with his lack of communication, but while I could not make up for his impatience, he, however, made up for mine. He began by telling me how much he truly cared about me and how happy he was that he had met me. I was used to these comments, but it was what came next that I was not ready for. That night we made a promise to each other in a manner similar to the recital of vows during a wedding. We promised “never to lose contact with, fall out with or lose interest in the other, no matter how hard times were, until the day we would finally meet”. Despite the sincerity and sweetness in his words, I was not sure if I could keep that promise, but because I could sense how sincere he was, I knew I would try. There were many more periods when Joe and I lost contact, adding more to our pot of frustrations, but I could tell that he was making an effort to write to me as frequently as possible. December was the hardest month for us that year. He had never been able to get a job as planned and was not going to be able to visit. We exchanged email only twice that month and he had not been able to go over his aunt’s to talk with me via the instant messaging program. By January I got tired of the lack of communication and came to the decision that the relationship or whatever it was, was not going to work. So, in mid-January I gathered up all the courage I had and called him, determined to end whatever was going on between us. The phone rang numerous times, and I was afraid that he would not pick up, but as my panic and relief arose, I heard his voice on the other line. As I suspected, his greeting was followed by a plethora of excuses in regards to his course load and suddenly my nervousness transformed into irritation. I cut him off mid-sentence, advised him to focus on school and not to contact me until he could find time for me or until I could figure out what I wanted for us. He sounded dumbfounded but requested that I continue to hold on for him. “We’ll see” I replied, and conveniently enough the call was immediately terminated. Just like our relationship. February came slowly and Joe had taken my request to heart and not contacted me. I would be lying if I said that I did not miss him during that time. He was all I thought about and all I wanted to think about. I felt guilty, as if I should have been more understanding but my friends told me that I had done the right thing. Nonetheless, I could not help but silently disagree. In late February I raised my white flag and wrote him a short email. His response came only two days later and he was undoubtedly happy to hear from me. I suppose my request that we not talk for a while affected him in some way (positively) because soon afterwards he began to email me more regularly. It was in March when he told me of an opportunity provided by his university to study abroad in America. He would have to do so in two years, however, and although I longed to see him, I conceded that two years was the best time for the both of us because I

100


University of Miami

Professor Pamela McCluney

Spring 2009

would be in college then. At that time Joe and I lacked privacy since I still lived with my parents and so I concluded that if he were to come in two years, there would be no interference with them. We would be able to spend more time with each other, enjoying the privacy that we were deprived of when we first met and make up for lost time without restrictions. For now, we would have to make do with the internet and we did just that. Joe and I spoke very frequently in March. He went over his aunt’s house at least once a week in order for us to use instant messaging. During those times we exchanged the frustrations we felt about our relationship. He was growing more impatient with the fact that I had not yet gotten a webcam, as well as with the fact that my parents did not yet know of him, constantly asking me when I was going to tell them. I allowed my brother to speak to him that month (he does not know that Joe and I have a romantic relationship), but he was the only family Joe had spoken to as I had no intention of telling my parents about him just yet. In truth, there are a lot of things about Joe that my parents certainly will not be comfortable with. For starters, he is Caucasian, and I am African American and of Haitian descent. He has an earring and tattoo, is 5 years older than me, and lives halfway across the world. Not exactly a dream come true for my parents and a topic that is going to be very hard to discuss when the time comes. I, on the other hand, became more impatient with his impatience in regards to the webcam, and had acquired sudden feelings of touch deprivation. I am definitely the kind of person who needs affection and the fact that I could not be physically affectionate with Joe crushed me. I felt like a prison inmate, forbidden from having physical contact with the outside world, except I committed no crimes, and this was unfair to me. Why was it that the only person I ever felt a true connection with had to be so far away? Joe shared in my frustration and tried to ease it for me. “Just wait” he would say, “When I see you, I’ll hold you in my arms forever.” I had become accustomed to those responses, and it was responses like those that melted my heart and made me fall for him even more. However, what he said at the end of March practically stopped my heart. We had been saying our goodbyes one night when it happened. “I love you.” he said. I stared at the screen for probably two minutes before I answered. “Rosie?” he entered.

101


University of Miami

Professor Pamela McCluney

Spring 2009

“I’m here” I replied. “Say something” he said, adding a laugh at the end, most likely in an attempt to break the awkwardness between us. “We’ll speak soon” I said in return. “I miss you” I added. He did not push the matter, said he missed me as well and signed off. I sat in my computer chair, stunned at what I had just read. “Crap” I said over and over in my head. It would be a lie to say that I had not anticipated this but I had been wishing that I was going to be the first to say those words. The fact that Joe said it first made things harder and more complicated for me. I had put the prospect of revealing my secrets to him towards the back of my head, but at that moment they resurfaced. My worst fear had finally come. Joe believed he was in love with me, translating to me as a step towards commitment and I was not sure what I felt about him. I felt that I loved him as well, but was not admitting it, perhaps because I was using a process very familiar to me: suppressing my real feelings in an effort not to get hurt. With Joe I knew I cared deeply, and I could almost say I loved him, but I knew that as long as I was not sure, it would be a lie to say it back right now. Joe did not bring it up in our instant messaging conversation the following night but I did not want the topic to go untouched, and so I asked him the question I had been pondering all day: “Do you really love me?” He did not give me a straight answer. He replied that he thought he did, but it was a feeling that would “take time to grow” and that he wanted to take a chance on something good in his life that he believed in...with me. Even though his response was confusing, I did not press the issue any further. It turned out that this decision did not matter because once April came around Joe and I lost contact again and it was not until May that I heard back from him. Within that month of no communication, I thought over a number of things. I decided that I would not tell him my secret, in fear that he would leave me, as my ex had. I really cared about him and for the first time I actually wanted to keep someone and stay in a relationship. I was (and still am) afraid of commitment, but somehow Joe made that prospect seem bearable. I knew I was not in ‘definite love’ with him, and I believed that he probably was not in definite love with me, considering the fact he never again directly stated that he loved me, so what was the rush? I would wait and see where this relationship would take me, and it soon took me to my senior year in high school when Joe and I reached our first year anniversary. We were ecstatic that we had made it thus far and renewed our promises to each other to keep going. He was on schedule to study abroad in America the following August and I was able to get a webcam which allowed Joe to see me the first time. In September I confessed to Joe that I loved him, that

102


University of Miami

Professor Pamela McCluney

Spring 2009

I was sure he was the one I wanted to spend my life with, once again renewing my promise that I would stick with our highly unorthodox relationship until the day we would meet and it would become a regular one. He shared my love, and for the first time, everything seemed perfect. Unfortunately it did not stay that way for long. When I realized that things could not get any better between Joe and I, I told him that there was something I wished to share with him when we finally met each other in person. Naturally, he was curious but I constantly told him that I wanted to wait, in order to ensure he would not leave me like my ex had done. For weeks he questioned me about it, insisting that he would not leave me because of my secret. I wanted to trust him, but I began to become paranoid, and at the worst possible moment my emotional and mental stability (a part of my secret) had begun to slip. I began to accuse him of seeing someone behind by back, in addition to lying to me about whether or not he truly loved me. I repeatedly told him that he was going to leave me like my ex had; that he was going to become frustrated with my lack of trust like past boyfriends and that he did not want me and was simply using me; I told him that I had the potential to hurt him emotionally, that I could not be trusted as a love interest and that there was a possibility I would leave him without warning or that as soon as I told him my secret he himself would walk out of the door. Joe withstood every blow I threw at him and although I could sense his frustration towards my behavior, he never ceased to promise me that everything would be just fine. Despite his sweet words, my paranoia did not stop. September was a very hard month for me mentally, and Joe noticed the drastic change in my behavior. He begged me to tell him my big secret was, reminding me that he would never leave me no matter what. Finally one evening I gave in and told him of my past. He responded with kind words, explained that he understood my behavior now, and tried to help me understand that I was not the only one who suffered from a past like mine. Joe did everything to make me feel better and even though his efforts were more than adequate for success, I did not feel better. Instead I became more paranoid because of my confession. I cried for hours at a time, afraid to talk to him because I was afraid of what he might have really thought of me. September was soon over, clearing the path for October which proved to be an even worse month. One night I came home to have Joe tell me of the rough day he had hadâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;after a disagreement with his mother, she kicked him out of the house and although he was currently staying with his aunt, he did not really have a place to stay. Perhaps because of the stress he was feeling in combination with my mood swings, the night produced a fight between us, and I practically went hysterical, suffering an emotional breakdown. But, even though he was tired, stressed, and angry, Joe was still there to comfort me in our instant messaging conversation that night: Me: No, I love you. But it's gone now. Me: Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ve ruined everything

103


University of Miami

Professor Pamela McCluney

Spring 2009

Me: And it’s not even how I thought I would… Joe: I love you too. Me: No you don’t. Me: Don’t say it because I did. Joe: I DO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Me: STOP LYING! Joe: I AM NOT LYING! Joe: God, what is wrong with you? Joe: I can’t win with you. Joe: I am sitting here TELLING you I love you and want you. Joe: But you’re adamant I’m leaving; you don’t believe me. Joe: It’s like I’m destined to be a liar or something and I tell you over and over I want you when I don’t. Joe: Why do you see it like that? Me: Listen! Me: Listen to yourself! You see how frustrated you're getting?! Joe: Because I LOVE YOU!!!! Joe: IM HERE FOR YOU! Joe: IM NOT GETTING FRUSTRATED! Joe: IM TRYING TO GET YOU TO LISTEN TO ME BABE! Me: God I need help… Joe: Listen to me. Joe: Think now Joe: Now is the perfect time for you too see how fabulous and wonderful you are to me, to others, and to the world. Joe: Babe, I love you ok? Joe: Tell me you love me. Me: I love you”

After that conversation, I calmed down. Joe was very patient with me and careful with his words, knowing that I could go off at any point. But as I calmed down and my situation got better, Joe’s situation got worse. Two weeks went by and Joe’s mother still had not let him back into the house. He signed online one night—drunk, rude and confused, and this bothered me immensely. I yelled at him for being so drunk and he in turn yelled at me to mind my own business and that he could not “be bothered” with what I thought at the moment. I replied with a snide remark and he responded by signing offline without saying goodbye, something he had never done before. I sat there stunned and not knowing what to think or do, began to cry. I called my best friend, sobbing and barely intelligible saying “I think Joe and I just broke up; he left me; he’s gone; I can’t believe this is happening”.

104


University of Miami

Professor Pamela McCluney

Spring 2009

After many comforting words, my best friend advised me to go to bed and wait to see whether Joe signed on the next night. He did, but his attitude was just as sour as the night before, and it was an attitude he continued to have for months. I figured the stress had gotten to him and he was at a point where he could not deal with my personal and emotional problems because of his own issues. I wanted to stay with him, to help him like he helped me during my problems, but by December I was fed up with his attitude and tried many times to end the relationship. Each time he would apologize, excuse himself for his behavior, tell me how much he needed me and plead with me to stay. Foolishly I would listen and stay, only to suffer the same heartbreak over and over again. In January I tried to end the relationship again, and again failed. “Please, Rosie, I need you. Don’t leave me. Please don’t leave” he said. I reluctantly listened, prepared for more heartbreak in the future. It was, however, a slap in the face when the heartbreak came only an hour after I tried to break up with him. Joe decided he wanted to break up with me, stating that he was causing me too much pain and that he needed to sort out his life. I sat on my bed, unable to respond, unable to think. Finally, I gave my consent and quickly signed offline. That night I cried so hard, I could not breathe. “This is the kind of pain I’ve caused other people to feel” I thought as I lay in bed sobbing, my pillow soaked with tears. “This is what it feels like to truly have your heart broken.” The next morning I somehow awoke with the clearest mind I had had in ages. I wrote an email to Joe, explaining that I did not want to talk to him, at least until I felt completely over him. I detested him at that moment. I felt betrayed, beyond hurt; foolish and stupid for not ending the relationship sooner. But I still loved him, and for me that was a problem. I simply could not love someone who hurt me so badly and I did not want to. After the email was sent, I then began the process of continuing with my life. It was a month and a half until I decided I was ready to speak to him, and that the strongest feelings I had had for him had passed. The first conversation between us was awkward. He seemed embarrassed and I was embarrassed for him. He fumbled with the conversation, asked me how I was doing about ten times, tried to make small talk with the worst possible topics and failed miserably at an apology for how he treated me. He did not, however, apologize for ending the relationship which made me realize that he had no regrets. We talked occasionally for the next month. In every conversation he told me that he missed me

and appeared to be more apologetic but I was still angry and even more so because I could sense he was trying to re-establish a relationship with me. The conversations became more comfortable and we fell back into old habits. We joked and at times Joe made an attempt to flirt with me, but every time I

105


University of Miami

Professor Pamela McCluney

Spring 2009

turned him down, reminding him that it was he who wanted us to be friends. He then suggested that we not be friends and asked me to think about it. That night we used the microphone, talking until around 2 am (7 am his time). The combination of the softness of his voice and his sweet words made me go to sleep in a daze. I was falling back in love with him. Again. It was no surprise when Joe and I got back together in early April. After a very bad week, I asked Joe to come online. He did, and that night did what he had used to: comfort me and make me feel better; appreciated; loved. He asked me to wipe the slate clean and begin a new relationship and I agreed. I knew for the second time I was submitting myself to a world of frustrations and pain, but I did not care. Nothing could have been worse than the week I had had and I was convinced that Joe’s situation was getting better. I believed he had changed. Time would tell if I was right or if my grief had blinded me from reality. April had turned into May and I had not heard from Joe since two nights after we had gotten back together. He called the first week of May, again with a book of excuses as to why I had not heard from him in a month. I made it no secret that I was furious at his behavior. A couple days later I broke up with him again, explaining that I did not want a relationship where I spoke to him only every month or so: if the relationship could not be as normal as possible, then there would be no relationship at all. I made sure to tell him that I still loved him and that no feelings had been lost, but the situation we were in made things difficult. My sense of touch deprivation had increased. When I longed for physical affection I only wanted it from Joe, but at that point it did not matter where the affection came from. I simply needed it. As always, he pleaded with me to stay and once again his pleas broke my heart. In the end we compromised. We would not consider ourselves as together but we would acknowledge that there was someone important in our lives that we were waiting for. I promised him I would hold on but unfortunately and tragically, that was a promise I broke. My older brother graduated from college in May, but as his graduation was in Connecticut, my parents, cousin, aunt and myself were forced to pack ourselves into my father’s SUV and drive up there in order to see the ceremony. At the reception, my godson’s mother told me that her oldest son, James, was graduating from high school and invited me to his graduation party. I went to the party with my aunt who because she had to work that same night thought it would be a good idea for me to spend the night over my godson’s house, since she would not be home. I quickly accepted the idea and packed an overnight bag for my stay. I had never found James attractive but that night he seemed different. We flirted a lot while waiting for his parents to take us to their home, and when we arrived at his house, James invited me

106


University of Miami

Professor Pamela McCluney

Spring 2009

to sit downstairs and watch television with him. Although it was almost 3 am, I accepted. We sat on his couch holding hands, flirting more than we had at the party. At one point I ended up sitting on his lap which is when he then started to kiss my neck. “I don’t think that’s a good idea” I said. “What?” he whispered, continuing to kiss my neck. “This” I said, pulling back. I asked him if he had a girlfriend. He said no. “Do you have a man?” he asked me. I said “no”, but hesitantly and so he pressed me for details. I explained about Joe, telling him that we were not exactly a couple, but we planned to get back together when I saw him in August. James stopped kissing me for a while but started again shortly after. This time, however, I did not stop him, thinking about how long I had gone without affection and using that as an excuse. We made out for probably five minutes before we went upstairs to the room I was staying in and exchanged goodnights. The next morning James and I did not talk about the night before. He acted as if nothing happened, which made me angry and a bit hurt. I was prepared to leave it behind when his mother suggested I stay for a couple more days. I could not decline and agreed. Later that night James was back to his old tactics, holding, stroking and kissing me. “Why weren’t you like this earlier today?” I asked him. He shrugged. I was so wrapped up in this new array of affection that I did not care about my anger for long. I responded to his flirting just as strongly as the night before and eventually we went upstairs to his room. There, things went too fast for me. I started thinking about Joe, about my promise to him and how selfish I was being. The overflow of thoughts caused me to break down into sobs in James’ bed. “Shit!” He said in alarm. “What’s wrong?” “Shit!” he exclaimed again. I could not stop crying. “I’m sorry” I sobbed. “I’m so sorry, I should go.” I crawled out of his bed, hurried downstairs and then called my best friend when I got back into the room I was staying in, still sobbing. “I cheated on him” I cried “I’m such a slut”

107


University of Miami

Professor Pamela McCluney

Spring 2009

She calmed me down, trying to make me feel better and argued that what I had done was natural. I wondered, however, if it really was. I had been selfish and could not forgive myself for it. She advised me to tell Joe of the incident as soon as possible and to let James know that he did nothing wrong. The next night I assured James he did nothing wrong but that we could not continue whatever was going on between us. As a result we did nothing but cuddle the last two days I stayed over, perhaps a less drastic way of curing my touch deprivation. We talked about what could happen between us, and even though we liked each other, decided it was best to simply be friends. I left my godson’s house two days later, trying to forget about what I had done, wanting desperately to leave it behind but anxious about what was ahead. In June I called Joe for his birthday, but decided not to tell him about the incident at that point. I did not want to spoil his special day, but it was my day that was soon spoiled. “I have bad news” he said somberly. It turned out the he was not able to come to America because of a lack of money and coursework he still had to finish. If he were to be able to visit it would have to be the following January, which was in seven months. I was angry at first but then remembered my promise to stay with him no matter how hard times became. “I promised him”, I thought. It was then that I also remembered how I had already broken one of my promises. Not again, I thought to myself. Seven more months? So be it. A month later I told Joe of my summer incident. He pretended not to care, and it was his lack of caring that made me so angry that I tried to make him jealous using an inappropriate comment. He never responded and so I signed offline. We did not talk for a month afterwards. When we finally did talk again we apologized for our behavior and in addition, talked about where our relationship went wrong, blaming ourselves for its disastrous end. For the first time it seemed that we were at peace with each other. Joe finally did what I had wanted him to do a year ago before he broke up with me: talk and share what he felt with me, and for that I was grateful. We formulated a plan to stay good friends until we could finally meet, and perhaps then we could officially become a couple. Till then we would take it slow, and for a while we did just that. I went off to college in late August, and we began to talk to each other quite often. It was clear our feelings for each other were surfacing again and in September our promise to stay friends was broken and we became an unofficial couple once more. Seven months had soon transformed into two and a half months, and I was more than ready to finally see him. I asked for an update on the study abroad situation every day, determined to not let this opportunity slip away from us. He told me everything was going fine —he passed his exam but was not yet able to get a job to pay off the debt. He was waiting to hear back

108


University of Miami

Professor Pamela McCluney

Spring 2009

from the college as to whether or not he could pay it off in installments but his plea was denied. Again he was not coming and once again I was left in a daze. It was the third disappointment. For the third time I asked him, “What are we going to do?” He said he understood my frustration and left the fate of our relationship up to me. I think he was stunned when I decided to keep going. He had obviously been expecting me to go on another one of my tangents, stating all my frustrations; my disappointments, my lack of trust and faith in the relationship, and I did, but something stopped me. I remembered how I felt, how I felt he was the one for me. I could not leave him, not now. Not after all the trouble and struggles that we had gone through together. “We’ll figure it out” I promised. We had to. In the coming months Joe and I spoke less and less because of his schoolwork. I felt lonely and once again frustrated. We came to a decision that it was now up to me to see if we would finally see each other. I would apply for the study abroad program at my college and see if we could meet that way. If that did not work he would try to get a job again and visit during the summer or following fall. I was praying that it would not lead up to that, uncertain of how much longer I could hold on for him. It turns out that I could not hold on that much longer because in January I broke up with him, again, because of our lack of communication. He agreed almost reluctantly, as always, and we settled on being friends, again. Undoubtedly, Joe and I have had our share of frustrations. I never in a million years would have imagined that I would suffer so much emotional pain, particularly with someone who lives so far away. Although we are just friends, our contact now is ironically better than it has ever been. It is hard to describe the relationship between Joe and me, and while the frustrations in this relationship have been almost surreal, the pain has been very real. Joe and I know, though, that this is what we want. I have not seen him in real life, I have never touched him, and no, I have never had the comfort to look directly into his eyes or anything else normal couples take for granted. So how could I love him? Quite honestly, I have no idea. That question passes my mind every day, but I think that it, as well as my answer could be used for a normal relationship too. How does anyone know that he or she loves someone? Sometimes a feeling is just enough. So, how do I know that I want to spend the rest of my life with Joe? Because the feeling is simply enough. I know very well that I could be wrong. When Joe and I finally do meet we may figure things out about each other that make us never want to speak to each other again. We may not turn out to be the soul- mates we thought we were but best friends instead, or we may not turn out to be anything at all and go on with our lives without the other ever to be a part of it again.

109


University of Miami

Professor Pamela McCluney

Spring 2009

Or, hopefully, we may turn out to be everything we hoped and wanted: lovers, together forever. I look at my story, full of frustrations stemming from a webcam to touch deprivation, as an example of how anything is possible, but only as long as one tries, and Lord knows Joe and I are trying. In the end I am happy with my decision to stay with Joe, and view it as a way of overcoming my fear of falling and love and commitments. I believe that despite the frustrations in the past and those to come in the future, Joe and I will keep trying to see each other until the day it is finally possible. In the mean time, I am keeping my vow: Yes, I will hold on for him, never ever to fall out with, lose contact, or lose interest in him, until the day we meet, where we will remain as strong as when we first met. I promised him.

Love is an emotion one has for another when they make a decision to put the other’s needs before their own. There are many types of love including agape, unrequited, and passionate. It’s a unifying force that brings people together.

Loving Pain

Having control of is a very important factor in my life. Losing control of my own life makes everything go off course. Whenever I endure pain is inflicted on me I deal with it in a way unfamiliar to others. I counteract pain with pain. Although it doesn’t seem to make sense, I believe that the pain I inflict on myself, be it a piercing or a tattoo, is something “painful yet lovely and all mine.” This exchange of pain for pain might seem like a never-ending circle that doesn’t get better, but it allows me to regain control of myself. This exchange, whether, physical or emotional, leaves a permanent scar or mark to remind me of where I’ve been and what I’ve experienced. About a year ago I was in a five-month relationship that led me to lose full control of who I was. My personality was molded into what he wanted, I was to do and act the way I was told. Slowly but surely, I started to lose interest in everything that used to excite me.

My life turned into a dull

monotonous cycle. I didn’t realize how much I was actually being affected until I was able to escape from the relationship. As I began to gain all my freedom back I didn’t know how to handle it. I went through a 110


University of Miami

Professor Pamela McCluney

Spring 2009

period where I felt useless; I was no longer capable of making any decisions. I’d lost complete control and didn’t know who I was anymore. The pain was ridiculously intense, and the only thing I could think of doing was inflicting pain on myself, because even though I knew it’d hurt, at least it would be a decision I made…something I wanted to do for myself. I decided on an industrial; a bar that would pierce through my ear in two places. When I got to the tattoo parlor and told them I wanted a piercing in my ear they asked if I would like it done with a gun or by hand. Clearly knowing that the gun would be quick and painful I chose to have the piercing done by hand with a needle. The experience was indescribable. This piercing became the first step in my coping process. Not only was it the first decision I had made on my own in five months, it was a means of ridding myself of the anguish that piled up during the five months of the relationship. Coping with emotional pain tends to be more difficult because it’s completely up to you. Emotional pain is mental, and our minds aren’t really built to forget. Sometimes it seems impossible. Physical scars heal on their own, day by day; and day by day you can look at the scar and actually see and feel a difference whereas an emotional scar can remain fresh for years. As the needle began to pierce through the first piece of cartilage, I gripped my hands together and let out all the tension as I allowed my emotional pain to be replaced with physical pain. A pain that in my opinion is easier to deal with. The ugly metal bar wasn’t in my ear for long, but I didn’t take it out because of regret. I got the piercing with a purpose and it greatly fulfilled its function. Getting the piercing masked the emotional pain, taking it out was like actually boxing up the emotions and stowing them away for good. The ache of the relationship is done with, but the experience molded and tweaked just enough to make me more of who I am today, a change that will stay with me forever; along with the two unnatural yet lovely dents I feel every time I run my finger across my ear.

Love Was a Snake Sent To Destroy Me We were driving in the car back from school, after being picked up by his mother, heading for my house to drop me off. It was senior year and his birthday. He always said birthdays were special since they came only once a year, so I decided to buy several gifts and surprise him. He opened the present in the car and glowed with happiness. “I am going to give you a hug!” he said as we arrived to my house and I got out of the car. We hugged. I was surprised, since our affection was always behind closed doors, but I figured a small token of friendship and gratitude would be all right in anyone’s eyes. I felt glad and held

111


University of Miami

Professor Pamela McCluney

Spring 2009

tight. “You’re welcome,” I said as I waved goodbye and shut the door behind me with a huge smile on my face and my heart pounding with joy. We met each other, junior year, during my first day of school at a new high school. He was never a big deal to me but for some reason the summer before senior year brought us together. When school started, we became even better friends and could not leave each other’s sight. But according to him I made many mistakes. “You didn’t wait for me!” he yelled one day in the hallway. I had gotten caught up with a friend chatting after homeroom and forgot to wait for him before walking to class. He rushed ahead of me and frowned as he ignored that I was calling through the crowd of bodies walking to class. This went on the whole day, just like every other time I ever did something wrong. My only purpose at the time became trying to make up for my errors and be better in his eyes. My dependence on making him feel happy and on making up for my relationship mistakes, soon led me to feel like an alien inside my own body. By the middle of the year things were not the same. I decided to end our relationship, or at least start by eliminating the hidden physical aspect of it. “I just don’t want to be caught. I don’t think it is right and I am scared,” I said. “You said you felt the same way about me!” he said. I knew it would be painful because I did have feelings for him, but having someone at the time did not seem like something I would be willing to risk my family’s love for or perhaps I was afraid of falling in love with him and that led me to push him away. Then, he began to move on and that just made me want to draw in closer. He signed up for online sites and created his own avatar in order to meet people. Soon, I did the same. For any new website he became a member of I did too. I kept tabs on whom he talked to online and whom he befriended through the sites. Any new friend seemed like a potential threat. And any comment left on someone’s profile had to be scrutinized for a hidden meaning. At night in my room, I would feel the pain travel through my face and bang against the sides of my head. I would lie on my bed and listen to music just to feel even more depressed. I allowed the tears to come out and cascade slowly down my cheeks. In agonizing silence, I would wonder whom he was talking to, what were they saying and if he liked them better than me. It soon became an obsession to know every single detail of what was going on, in that world that I lacked access into but craved to be a part of. Inside my room, I taped a drawing he once gave me of a black and white snake to the back of my door. To have his drawing there was good enough. It filled me with his presence, the only thing I desired the most. My life revolved around him. At school, we were best friends in everyone’s eyes. I helped him with his schoolwork and made him the supreme law of the land over my actions. I became a drone, tending to his every need. The only thing I hated the most than him resenting me, was me not being what

112


University of Miami

Professor Pamela McCluney

Spring 2009

he wanted. He did not like to study alone, so I would spend afternoons and nights with him studying for tests. Even if it took me three times as long to get through the material. I agreed that by making him feel loved and happy, everything we shared would be perfect. I went to all of his club meetings after school and went out of my way to spend more time with him. I stopped going home on my bus and decided to walk to his house when he came up with the idea of exercising more. I would fight with my mom for missing the bus, for making her pick me up or for arriving home late, but I did not care, he was worth all of that and more. Things were not the same, but we never stopped seeing each other since at school we had very similar schedules and shared a circle of friends, whom believed us the best of friends. One night I called him. “I can’t talk for too long. I am expecting a call from someone,” he said in a not unkind way. “Sure, it’s fine,” I lied. I could hear him typing away on his computer. Every key stroke meant he was getting to know his new friends better. And every click meant we were moving further apart. Whenever he hung up, I was left in a void of desperation and jealousy. At first, I did nothing to gain access to his private world. Some time later, I remembered he had given me his password for a school website we had to use. That day, I rushed to my room knowing he would still take some time to get home after dropping me off. I opened the website and looked for the login menu. I typed in the username and stared at the password box. I spent some time trying to decide if he would notice. Mulling over last login notifications and who else would be online to notice him, or me, was signing in. Logged in, my heart racing, I explored every inbox and outbox there was. From then on, I went back and logged in again every single day. Sometimes, I would feel left out whenever he seemed to laugh more with another friend than with me. It was the jealousy and the desire that ran through my veins which made me feel this way, like poison from a bite with no antidote but his presence. Why would he not enjoy my company more than anyone else when I was the one making his life so wonderful? Who could deny such unconditional love that puts one’s loved one above everything else? He seemed to enjoy my company and whenever he did not, whenever he felt frustrated with me and sprinted away ignoring the trail of my voice behind him, I would follow suit and catch up with him to try to make things better. To try to make him feel happy with me and glad to have me close. One day, a friend told me I could be part of my school’s production of Romeo and Juliet. I had always been interested in acting, just as a hobby, but never really did anything about it besides taking a drama class. I attended the first rehearsal and exuberant for the amount of joy it brought me I decided to tell him all about it. “If you are part of that play, I will not even go see you in it!” he told me. I battled

113


University of Miami

Professor Pamela McCluney

Spring 2009

against myself on whether I should be part of it or not. The play came and went. I decided that avoiding something that would perturb him so much would be better and never mentioned it again. Then, everything seemed promising. The failed online relationships left him with a bitter taste of online affection and I was there, like always, for him. I believed he could love me once again because my love was so strong for him that it would wake him up and make him want me. We tried to be together again. “It will take some time to go back to where we were,” he told me. But in the back of my head I knew it was impossible to ever go back. At times, I recognized that he did not love me and I would ask him to tell me what he thought of me. “Do you see me as just a best friend or as more?” I would ask him. “Sometimes as a friend and sometimes as more,” he said. Weeks later, graduation came along. I was accepted to the University of Miami and he moved out of the country with his family. I kept in contact with him. I called him. Sometimes there was no answer. I called him back. He was busy and had no time for me. I could not stop myself. My dependence on talking to him and knowing how he was kept me glued to his memory. With his birthday approaching I shipped a box full of presents. A sweater he yearned for, tarot cards he always was curious about, a list of song dedications, and a letter telling him how important he was to me and how I could not believe all this time had gone by without seeing him. All I knew or thought he would like. He called me to thank me for it since it had arrived early. I called him one final time the following week on his birthday to talk to him. “Happy Birthday! Did you read the letter?” I said. I could hear typing on the other end. “Yeah,” he answered in a monotone voice. Silence. “Good night,” I said and hung up. Now that I am in college, I realize that all I had was an attachment to someone that clearly had let go. I was not his best friend, nor best boyfriend. I lived for someone instead of living for myself. I had fallen into a state of blindness and of guilt that made me feel like I owed him something for ever trying to break things off. I definitely invaded his privacy and gotten carried away with looking at his messages and friends, but I never noticed his indifference and how I never really needed him to be happy. “You are better than that,” my sister would tell me whenever I talked about him. Now, in my second semester, I am rooted in my studies, my new friends, and my involvement at the university. Sometimes, I ask myself whether things would be different if he had stayed. I wonder, think to myself, and realize things are better off. Until recently I had kept the snake drawing. I had cherished anything from him as my companion in his absence. From the snake to his pictures, every keepsake meant something. I had decided to give the drawing to a new friend I met at U.M. because she would appreciate good art whenever she saw it. I met up with her for dinner and showed her the drawing that had been once so special. “You can keep it for

114


University of Miami

Professor Pamela McCluney

Spring 2009

your next art project idea,” I said. She looked at me with hesitance and told me that I should find a better place for it, since she did not want it. I finished eating and got up to put away the trash. I held the drawing in my hand and with a simple push I let it fall into the trash can. The snake remained inside and did not stir. I looked back at my friend and headed for the door. She caught up with me and said with a grin, “it’s good that you got rid of such hideous thing.” We walked out of the place and I said, “Yeah” with a smile on my face and not looking back.

I couldn’t end things with him; did it make me a coward? We were sitting on the moss-covered grass by the side of the lake, lost in thought, watching the blue colored fountain illuminate the night. The feeling of his arm slightly brushing against mine served as a reminder that we were supposed to be figuring ourselves out. It was the first time we had been together since our escalated fight seven months before. We were going to work out our differences because deep down both of us really cared about one another and we would attempt to put the wreck and immaturity of the previous months behind us. I let out a huge sigh. “Why must things be so complicated?” I whispered. He had been my best friend throughout our junior year of high school. My naivety caused me to stumble a few times over guys who sought only to use me, and during my heartbreaks he was there to listen and put me back on my feet. Unlike my other best friends who lamented on my heartbreak and mourned with me, he was different. He was brutally honest and domineering, and each time I fell he ridiculed me, thus forcing me to see how I caught myself in the mess and to learn from my mistakes. I was particularly grateful for his honesty; however, I committed the same error again by secretly dating his best friend. Upon realizing I had once again fallen victim to another self-absorbed guy, who most importantly happened to be his best friend, made him furious with me and our friendship began to fail. Fights began erupting where smiles and laughter once existed. These exchanges dragged on and seemed more than just some senior year drama. We sat in my car, and he was direct with me, serious, and for the most part unintentionally mean. He wanted me to be completely open with him, but I was at a loss of words.

115


University of Miami

Professor Pamela McCluney

Spring 2009

By contrast, I was afraid, confused, and was never good at expressing my emotions. Losing him for those seven months felt as if a chunk of my heart had been ripped from my chest, and all that was left was a gaping hole my body could not fill. Our mutual stubbornness let the fight drag on over a long period of time. I've always been one to over think things, trying to decide what's wrong and what's right. When I really want something, I tend to turn away from it because I over think everything and tell myself Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;m being selfish, greedy, or naive. In other cases, when I'm unsure about something I go through with it without thinking and end up doing what is worst for me rather than what is best for me. Seven months later by that lake I found myself at a loss of words again. My mind was going over my time without him and it had so much to say but couldnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t put it into words. I wanted only his friendship back and I assumed he wanted the same. But as a surprise we kissed that night, an action I would quickly regret for it exceeded the true reasons why we were there together by that lake. I restrained myself out of respect for the friendship I had worked so hard to put back together. I put the kiss aside, and apart from that everything seemed easy. The summer had just begun and we were both smiling looking forward to our reunited friendship. I knew little about the physical force of a kiss and as it turned out the kiss doomed any chance of returning the strong friendship that existed just several months before. The kiss signaled the start of something that required more than I could give. We spent long evenings hanging out together, more than ever before. We would catch a movie, get dinner, eat ice cream, or just hang out and talk for hours, only to end the night with a repetition of that single kiss. Something I hoped would stop with time. Unfortunately, for not stopping it at the beginning, we both fell into a routine, and I could see the passion in his eyes, while I had confusion and discomfort in mine. My feelings for him were stronger than I had felt for anyone, but I confused the affection in missing him as something more than just friendship. I cared about him deeply, I cared what he thought about me, and I cared about his friendship and because of that I held on to him. So why couldnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t I bring myself to be happy when he kissed me? He also

116


University of Miami

Professor Pamela McCluney

Spring 2009

couldn’t grasp why I pulled away from his touch. All of this would lead us to more and more fights where he would dominate the argument and push me low into the ground. Why didn’t I recognize that everything was never fine? The friendship we sought to revive was forever dead, and replaced by a new form of connection between us that was hanging on a thread. The beginning of our college experience came and he moved to Gainesville, meanwhile, I stayed behind. There were days when we didn’t talk and so the arguments continued and I hoped that with time he would move on and so would I. At one point, we agreed that things between us weren’t working out. He promised he would not kiss me again and I was happy that we finally both agreed. Unfortunately, it wasn’t as easy for him as it was for me, and he wrote me a letter telling me that he needed to end all connections with me because he needed to move on. I was planning on answering, but I got caught up with school work and delayed my reply. By the time I got around to responding it was already too late. My lack of response didn’t stop him. He came down to visit again and, with the excuse of a couple of shots of tequila, called me to once again point out my weaknesses, my lack of honesty, and my contradictions. The fact that I cared so much about him caused me to fall back into that ditch that we had been digging at since the scene at the lake. At the end of that long night, after giving in to his accusations, he finally calmed down and I was able to sleep. Things were back to normal. Before long we fell into a routine consisting of late night phone calls, but promising each other that when we saw each other no kissing. I started opening up to him, but little things I said would anger him. When I told him about a date I was going on, I could sense the despair in his voice and I felt cruel. He asked me, “How would you feel if I went on a date with someone?” I replied, “I’d be happy for you, you finally like Gainesville.” However, those words were not enough to convince him to give up. He asked me as a friend to go visit him in Gainesville. I agreed. I still had a long winter break ahead of me while he started school. I agreed to stay at his apartment. We stayed up all night talking about everything. I helped him with some homework, and we watched some TV. It was a great night. I felt a momentary weight of relief lifted from me because things between us were going smoothly.

117


University of Miami

Professor Pamela McCluney

Spring 2009

Before long I was falling asleep, the bus ride to Gainesville had drained me. We both fell asleep on his bed. I felt his arm make its way around my waist, grab me and pull me towards him. Little did I know that the moment I agreed to stay at his apartment I destroyed endless promises of never kissing again, and secured his guaranteed intimacy with me. “We shouldn’t be doing this, please.” I pulled away from his hugs. He was happy I was there; he reminded me, but more so himself that I was finally myself around him and that I had no one affecting the way I acted around him. But I insisted that it was the biggest mistake I had ever made. I told him that being there that night had ruined everything. For the first time I finally finished my train of thought and I was left stricken feeling the distance between us widen. What we had would never be healthy or right. He paid little attention to what I said. He did not want to believe that his actions would push me away. I decided it was about time to end things with him for good. A part of me longed to hold on to him, to the friendship that was long gone, but an even bigger part of me knew that each fight had dug a hole so deep that there would be no easy way out of it. I let him know finally all that was on my mind. I told him I was fed up with the fights. I was fed up with feeling low and trampled on. I was fed up with the way his manipulations cut me down every single time, but I put up with them because I held an unconditional love for him, but a love of friend and not one of an intimate lover. I was going through a break up of a relationship I was never really in to begin with. “It’s sad you feel that way, because Giselle, I…. I fell in love with you,” was his response. Those words were like a thousand shooting arrows piercing my heart. I almost let my guard down but managed to keep composure without once again giving in to his demands. Weeks later, he found out about a person I had met, and blamed our separation on it. He allowed his stubbornness to blind him away from the dysfunction of our friendship. He called me to have the final say, something distinctive of his nature. He claimed that things between us could never be only because I had refused to embrace them from the beginning. He insulted me, blamed me for using him and doing to him what the guys in my past had done to me. He ended our friendship once again, and said he would never speak to me again. 118


University of Miami

Professor Pamela McCluney

Spring 2009

Whether or not I led him on or used him, I am guilty of having my intentions unclear. At times I miss him, but I know that’s not how it was supposed to be, together we were like oil and water, unable to come together as one. I can’t let myself feel too guilty about hurting him. What happened between us was inevitable. I came to a fork in the road and chose a new path. I am now with someone who makes me happy and it reminds me everyday that sometimes things fall apart so newer and better things can come together. My past cowardice still haunts me, not just because it led me to actions I regret but also because it made me feel low and undeniably weak. Now, I know that I am changing myself slowly but surely. I will no longer end up doing what is worst for me, but instead will trust myself to choose what I know and feel is right.

The heartfelt bliss, passion, and attraction that causes one to give his/her unconditional devotion to, can only be defined as love, and even that doesn’t come close to its true meaning. There exist infinite ways to love, each differ from one person to the next. However, mostly everyone can come together to agree that love is the more powerful of all their emotions.

Past Lessons I’d be lying if I said someone who has cheated in the past most likely won’t cheat again. But that’s someone else, not me. All the great love stories that are written about in books, described in poems, and sung in painfully romantic songs are between two loyal lovers. These stories do not give room for even just one slip up but in reality, people do make mistakes. Real people get caught up in their fast paced lives and before it even hits them, they end up doing something out of character. They do something that does not resemble them at all. I have been unfaithful in a relationship before, a one-time decision that I didn’t mean to make. This part of my past doesn’t exactly appeal to people who could potentially love me. In this society, infidelity is not an attractive quality. I want to be accepted for the person I am and not what I did in ill

119


University of Miami

Professor Pamela McCluney

Spring 2009

light, but I can understand how someone could be quick to judge. Although I am not proud of this part of my past, I find comfort in knowing this is not who I am. I met Andrew my sophomore year in high school. He was a senior and captain of our football and lacrosse teams, with dozens of friends who adored him. I was intimidated by Andy at first, he already knew the school hallways like the back of his hand and had a confidence that I admired. Our first time meeting was in one of these well-known hallways; he introduced himself with a friendly handshake and me being the shy girl I am, thanked him for his introduction instead of saying something meaningful back. Months went by, with hundreds of phone calls that lasted hours and drives in his car to the railroad tracks by his house. The railroad tracks were one of his favorite places, filled with memories from his childhood; we’d hold hands and walk down the thick planks of steel. I saw him as my best friend at first, which progressed into helplessly strong feelings after a few months, but he always wanted something more. Once I knew how it felt to love another this way, in this consuming and helpless way, I never wanted to go back because I feared how I would cope without having someone need me the way I needed them. Our relationship started the summer he graduated high school. It felt so right to be with him although the timing was unfortunate because he was leaving for college in the fall. Andy said he wanted to be with me though, regardless of the conditions. I worried about staying close with him when hundreds of miles and three states separated us. “I know we can make it through these hard times babycakes,” he used to say in such a comforting way. His confidence in our relationship is most certainly what pulled us through the first few months. While he was away at school in South Carolina, home was hard and at times, unbearable but I made it through and his frequent trips home helped ease the pain of missing him. The stress of junior year, the SATs, and college searches made home that much more straining. My friends’ relationships were also a constant reminder of what was missing in my life. I craved the love he gave me especially on weekends when my friends would be doing things with their boyfriends and girlfriends, leaving me somewhat lost, like something very important was missing I think another reason the weekends were especially hard is because there were always our time; whether it was just hanging out at one of our houses or going into DC at night to see the monuments lit up so prettily in the dark. My desperate need to be loved was similar to how an alcoholic needs alcohol or the way a drug addict craves that high. I had become addicted to the feeling that was shared between Andy and me. I believe our relationship was so strong because of how close we were as friends; it would not be an exaggeration to make the claim that we knew everything about one another. We even knew the dumb stuff that wouldn’t matter to anyone else, but meant everything to us. We had our disagreements, our struggles, and our problems, but we always found a way to make the situation better. It was a nurturing relationship with a lot of love.

120


University of Miami

Professor Pamela McCluney

Spring 2009

In late March, when signs of spring were finally beginning to emerge, flowers starting to bud, I made the mistake of kissing my friend John. Although I did not initiate the kiss, I did not prevent it from happening so the responsibility for this I carry heavily on my shoulders. Because our relationship had been going through a rocky spot, I feared the worst: breaking up. How could I possibly go on without this love? My insecurity in our future clouded my thinking. With everything falling apart around me, my strong faith in our relationship slowly fell as well. In no way did I plan to cheat on Andy; it just happened as a split-second decision that I wish I could take back. Subconsciously I think my reasoning for my actions was to hurt him before I could be hurt. I couldn’t allow myself to be heartbroken first but I quickly learned that I hurt myself in a way that was very hard to deal with. I confessed to Andy what happened and he struggled in finding words to say to me. Speaking those words felt like a ton of bricks hit my chest, taking my breath away. After hearing the news, he decided to break up with me and I talked to him about us meeting up in a month to reevaluate the situation and he agreed with my idea. Everything that happened however, made it too hard for Andy to meet up so that’s how things were left. When I lost him I lost a part of my heart as well. That summer was one of the most challenging times of my life. I frequently woke up in the morning not being able to catch my breath because of the pain I so strongly felt. My dreams tortured me as well; many nights I dreamt that Andy and I made up and things were back to how they used t be. Accepting that he was no longer mine took me a long time; it was only until I left for my summer vacation with my family to Greece that I finally let go of what I hoped would happen an just live my life again. It is hard for people to look past this part of my past because the past, in many instances, is a good indicator of the future. But the truth is, this situation has proved to me that that’s not who I am and I now know I would never do that to someone again. I have learned a lot from the pain of losing Andy and the experience helped me recognize my somewhat unhealthy dependence on our relationship. I feel that potential boyfriends are apprehensive around me once they’ve heard what I am capable of. I am not capable of this anymore. I have learned to be more patient with people and have gained this sort of faith in people that even when everything feels like it’s slipping away; I should try my best to hold on just a little longer. I’ve been with a couple people since then and I am hopeful about the future. I am currently seeing someone who has known me since elementary school; seen me through every stage in my life and still sees something beautiful in me. He looks past the ugly imperfections of my past and recognizes no one’s without fault. Making mistakes shape who we are so I try my best to be somewhat grateful for what has happened to me because I have this newfound awareness of how love should be. I will always see Andy as I did the first day I met him, the friendly boy with the letterman jacket, the big mop of dirty blond hair, and the trusting smile. My past has helped reassure my values and is a reminder that I must

121


University of Miami

Professor Pamela McCluney

Spring 2009

grow from the mistakes and not shrink away from them. I valued loyalty before Andy and although I did not keep up this moral throughout our relationship, I still value it today. From my relationship with Andy, I walk around with a little less of my heart but its okay and Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ve accepted it because I know how far Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ve come.

Watched. Ever get that eerie feeling as if you are being watched from afar, kind of gives you the chills? I have, but in my case, it was more serious than someone staring from a distance or the person with a pair of wandering eyes. I was being watched on a daily basis; from the time I walked to my first class, to the moment I set foot in my dorm room for the night. It was someone I knew, someone I called by best friend, someone I loved; my boyfriend. When we met I could tell there was a special bond between us (as most of us girls like to say about our significant others). What I wasnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t aware of was the mania about to come into my life due to him. In hindsight, I would have looked in another direction that night, the night I laid eyes on him. A simple instant message led to months of disorder. Our relationship started off on such a good note, I never thought it could turn sour. I was in for one heck of a ride... It was 7:00 PM on a Friday night; I had just finished getting ready to go out on a date with a boy I met that past week. When I looked over at my phone I noticed the red light blinking telling me I had received a message. It was him telling me he needed to delay our date until 8:30 PM rather than 8:00 PM. Fine with me, until ten minutes later when I received another message saying he needed another fifteen minutes. Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice shame on me. I cancelled and decided to find alternative plans for the evening. My, at the time, best friend Jessica called me and asked if I wanted to go to Starbucks with her, her sister, and her friend Bobby. I accepted the invite. Once I arrived, she introduced me to Bobby and I could tell there was something there. We locked eyes in an indescribable way. The next day, I got an instant message from Bobby telling me he was happy we were introduced to one another and then he went on to ask me if I would like to go to dinner with him and a couple of other people that night, nothing too formal. Of course, the romantic girl that I am, I accepted the offer. As excited as I was in the moment, if I would have known how terribly he was going to let me down I would have re-thought about starting anything with him to begin with. Some women may think a man being obsessed with them is a fantastic thing, but when it is taken to the level similar to the relationship between

122


University of Miami

Professor Pamela McCluney

Spring 2009

Stanley and Blanche in A Street Car Named Desire, it becomes a terrifying experience. By the time my “adventure” ended, I felt as if Blanche and I could relate to one another. As summer vacation went by, I was spending every waking hour with Bobby. He knew how to wine and dine me, take me to the nicest places Boca Raton had to offer, and buy me things that would make my heart melt. Thinking about it now makes me think our relationship was like a spell that made me want to do nothing but always be with him. At first, Bobby and I were not intimate, but that came along soon enough and before I knew it, we were a couple. We spent endless hours together and figured it was time to give the dating thing a chance. Whether we would be out to dinner or just relaxing at my house, there was never a dull moment. What I never thought about was how our relationship began, with pure manipulation. On our first “date” I noticed that all he did was bad talk, who I thought was, our mutual friend. The more we hung out, the more I noticed his tendency to talk about her and her family in nothing but a negative manner. Bobby was trying to manipulate my friendship with her as much as he could and in the end, he succeeded. I was always with him which left me no time to ever hang out with her. This is exactly what he wanted, me all to himself so no one else could spend time with me and he could know where I was at all times. He even made me drop by and not stay for her birthday dinner because he felt the need to take me out for a romantic dinner that night (as if he couldn’t do that the next night). I wasn’t in the right state of mind to say no because all I wanted was for him to like me as much as possible. When I think back, it is now clear that he wanted me having nothing to do with her, especially without him being present. God forbid something was done or said without Bobby being there. When mid-July rolled around, Bobby informed me that he intended on transferring to the University of Miami in the fall to be there for me. I was a bit stunned when I heard this bit of information but ultimately felt happy to have him with me on my big journey off to college. I no longer felt scared about leaving home but could tell my mom was worried. She noticed how much he had been taking over my summer (to be with him) and didn't want him coming to Miami where she knew he was going to hinder my college experience. Every-night my parents knew I would not be having dinner at home; I would be going out with Bobby. Now I regret not spending more time with my family during my last few months at home. The time I could have been spending with my family is gone forever; too little too late. I began to notice the obsession he had with me when I returned from my 4 th of July trip and he told me he wanted to take me to Disney World, that night. Part of me just wanted to go home, relax, and sleep in my own bed but I was scared he wouldn’t love me anymore if I said no. I was somewhat scared of him and the way he would react if given an answer he didn't want to hear. I gave in, argued with my mom, and was on my way to Orlando. When we returned, he didn't get the hint it was time for us to spend some time apart. I wanted to have dinner with my family for once considering I was eating out basically every day. He demanded to take me out to dinner and, foolish me, couldn’t decline fearful he would leave me.

123


University of Miami

Professor Pamela McCluney

Spring 2009

Things weren't as carefree and ideal like they were a few months ago. Unaware, I was starting to get a taste of what was to come; an obsession for the books. I wasn't at a point where I felt like I needed to worry about him. One afternoon we were lying by the pool and I risked asking him why he constantly wanted to spend time with me and not take any time apart (even just a couple of hours) to see other friends and family. Let’s just say his reaction was not what I was looking for. I was scared. I had never been yelled at like that before, not even by my parents when I supposedly did something wrong. Was he going to hit me? Why did he get so offended? Does he still want to be with me? My thoughts were going crazy. I didn't want to lose him, so I caved and apologized for my actions. (Something I now see was the wrong way to resolve the issue) There were times where, if I didn't pick up my phone or answer a text message within a certain amount of time, I would hear a knock at the door and see him standing there wondering if I wanted to go get coffee with him and talk. As if he didn’t have other motives for coming to my house. I (the female) was the one being monitored and possessed unlike Blanche and Stanley’s story where the female was obsessing over the male’s attention. As I was warned numerous times by more than one person, Bobby’s hold on me wasn’t normal, but love blinded me. When it got to the point where I was continually convincing myself he was doing all of this because he cared about me more than the average person, I should have said good-bye. August rolled around and I had seen my mom and dad a total of around twenty days for the past two months and it was finally hitting me that I was going to be leaving home soon. One night, I was in my room packing up my things and Bobby showed up at my house. My mom was wondering why he sporadically showed up at 11:30 PM to just say hi. He came upstairs and asked why I was not answering his messages. I didn't realize I had left my phone in my car, but I was surely reminded by his presence. Troubled can’t even describe how I was feeling about our relationship and my own sanity. He supposed that I was out with other people and sneaking around behind his back. Boy was he wrong. That night I laid awake for hours with one thing on my mind; how is this going to work once we move down to Miami? I can’t have someone on my back day and night manipulating my life during what is supposed to be some of the best moments of my life. I came to the conclusion that I needed to give our relationship time because, after all, he was moving to Miami to be with me. I gave Bobby another chance to shape up and made him fully aware that he had no room to slip up again. Orientation week should have given me the wake up call I needed to flee our relationship along with all the other instances of the summer. I told him that I would not be able to go out to dinner that whole week due to events at school. He flipped out. “Why? Is it because you don’t want to see me? If that’s so you should just tell me instead of leading me on! I don’t know why you put me through this! I’m here for you!” I felt like a kid being reprimanded by their parents, like I needed to go sit in the corner for timeout. I didn't just sit back this time around, I told him how irrational he was being and needed to let me do what I needed to so I could adjust to my new life

124


University of Miami

Professor Pamela McCluney

Spring 2009

on campus - the proper way. I didn’t hear from him for hours and was upset until I looked outside the window of the dining hall. There he was, pacing back and fourth. Robert was like Stanley, creeping around the area where he knew I roamed and could find me. I confronted him and he apologized greatly and showered me with gifts. It won me over for the time being. Weeks went by, and all was well. I felt relieved that we were back to the normal Bobby and Claire we were before hanging out all the time and constantly going to dinner. My mother made me aware of how bizarre it was for teenagers to be going out to dinner everyday, “You are not Paris Hilton you know.” The dining hall wasn’t for me, but going out to dinner each night to top notch places was not the right thing either. Lincoln Road, Collins Avenue, Aventura Mall, Bal Harbour; you name it and the owners of restaurants there probably knew me on a first name basis. I felt like I was living in a dream and nothing could stop me; I felt exultant. Everything between us wasn’t flawless, but I wouldn’t trade in what we had for anything. I wasn’t even comfortable in my own skin anymore. I was unable to go to the gym for as long as I typically liked because my schedule had to be altered so a majority of it was with Bobby. If I didn't, I knew a guilt trip was headed my way and never felt like dealing with it. My clothes were getting tighter and when I would tell him that I needed to hit the gym before we went out he kept telling me I was in perfect shape and didn’t need to work out so hard all the time. Foolish me; I believed him. Eating out all the time and not working out to my full potential was taking its toll on my body. A little bread here, a sample of cheese there and before I knew it I was fifteen pounds heavier than when I first started school. For me it is important to be trim and, at the time, I felt anything but. On one of my visits home, I decided to turn things around and lose the weight I gained. For this to happen, I had to alter my eating habits which annoyed Bobby to no end. Every meal I ate with him turned into a fight, “Why are you only eating that? You should have more. That is just not enough. You used to enjoy eating this! It isn’t fair.” It was enough food for me; I felt satiated but yet didn’t go overboard with my caloric intake. I also started staying at the gym as long as I felt necessary which also did not go over well with him. He ignorantly felt that I enjoyed going to the gym more than spending time with him. The more he said it, the more I began to feel like it may be true. There, I didn’t feel like a prisoner and could let my thoughts run free. During one of my workouts, I looked out the window to find Bobby roaming the gym lobby looking for someone, me. It was 7:45 AM, and I was getting in my workout before my first class and couldn’t figure out why he was there because I never saw him before my morning classes. I kept pedaling on my elliptical hoping he wouldn’t see me. Thankfully they wouldn’t allow him into the gym area without a towel or gym shoes, I was free for the time being. After my shower I saw I had five missed calls, all from him. I hesitated to call him back but I did and told him he may come and get me after my class for lunch. I confronted him about his adventure to the wellness center that morning and he claimed he was there to see what the rave was all

125


University of Miami

Professor Pamela McCluney

Spring 2009

about .(Probably wanted to see why I always wanted to be there for so long). I wasn’t born yesterday; I knew he was there looking for me. I let the issue go, again, for the time being. It was like I had a constantly growing vault full of occurrences where Bobby acted anything but ordinary. When winter break came, I was ready to go home and see my family for more than four days (the typical duration of my visits home). After Christmas, my family was going to New York City and Colorado and I couldn’t be happier to have a break from Bobby, or so I thought. He was staying in his apartment in Miami all winter break and I knew he would ask me to come visit him over break. One of my friends from school was staying on South Beach for a few days and asked me to come spend the day and have dinner with his family. I agreed to go. Once Bobby got wind of my trip down there to see someone other than him, he was not happy. “How could you come all the way down to Miami and not want to see me? I see how it is.” It wasn’t fair, why was I not allowed to spend time with one of my other friends and meet his family? I put my foot down and didn’t see Bobby on my venture down there. As I was headed back to Boca after dinner, I received a call from a friend at home asking if I wanted to go to the mall with some of my high school friends. I was always up for shopping! I called Bobby during my car ride and told him I was sorry he felt the way he did but I wanted to see my friend and informed him of my plans for the rest of the night. He felt left out and I didn’t understand why that was. I could hear elevator noises on his end of the phone call, as if he was going somewhere. I asked and he told me he was going to Walgreens for something and we ended the conversation there. Once I arrived at the mall I got a text message from Bobby, “Go to Saks.” I told my friends that I would be right back and when I entered Saks’s doors I saw him standing there; I was dumbfounded. He told me he thought it would be a pleasant surprise as he continued to ask me which shoes I’d like him to buy me, just another little gift. I was reluctant, but he said that he wouldn’t leave the store until I had a new pair of shoes in hand. Soon after we met up with my friends, I saw the look I got from my best friend Melanie (She knew about the madness going on in my life with Bobby following me and having to know everything I was doing). Later that night she called me to ask if he was crazy for driving from Miami just to meet up (to make sure I wasn’t doing anything he didn’t approve of) with me. I was speechless. I knew something was strange, but I thought to myself, “Isn’t this what every girl wants, to be pampered and loved?” I now know I was the ignorant one choosing to ignore the destructive path my relationship was on. Once I was back in Miami I had time to think about what went on over break. Every time I went away I was messaged or called every hour asking me what I was doing and who I was with. Each time he called I had a feeling he may be right around the corner waiting to surprise me; I wouldn’t have put it past him at this point. While in New York City, I was restless thinking he may be wandering the city, being he’s from there originally. A flight there wouldn’t be anything out of the norm for him. Thankfully he never showed up and I was able to enjoy a week without him and spend quality time with my family. To

126


University of Miami

Professor Pamela McCluney

Spring 2009

my surprise, it was the one of the most stress-free weeks I had in a while. It had me thinking, would my life really be better without him in it? A part of me didn’t want that to happen just yet. Toward the end of January I noticed we were fighting a lot more than normal and the reason was always me. In Bobby’s eyes, he never did anything wrong. He never took the time to realize how tolling the relationship was for me and never saw how much I sacrificed for him. He was oblivious to my needs because he was too occupied only taking his into account. I was worn out. Every other day I was calling my mom in tears because of something that happened with Bobby. She warned me that it may be time to take a step back and rethink the reasons why I was staying in such a demanding relationship. Both of my parents liked him a lot, at the time, but what they didn’t like was how he made me feel. The bad times were starting to out weigh the good. There was one night where he asked me if I would take the Miami Metro-rail with him to Dadeland Station. I declined the offer politely saying that he may go with someone else, but the train is not for me. I have had bad experiences on trains and didn’t want to go on one if it wasn’t necessary. He hung up mid-argument and I had yet to hear from him an hour later until I heard a knock on my door. I had a feeling that it was him on the other side of the door. Nervously, I opened it. He entered my dorm room and was all up in my face. “Why the hell won’t you go on the damn train with me!? Why can’t you ever do a damn thing for me!? All we ever do are things you want…” Bobby couldn’t have been farther from the truth. I realized it was a losing battle and any response I had was not going to go over well with him unless it was an apology or concession. I asked him to please leave. He resisted until I threatened to have the campus police come and escort him out of the dorms. Later that night I received a message online from him stating how sorry he was and that he would never act in that manner again. Same story, different night. It was becoming quite the routine; I wouldn’t be keen on doing something, he’d go psycho, realize he was wrong and then apologize later that night for what happened. This was it; I accepted the apology but was finally coming to my senses and getting tired of feeling like someone's property. I wasn’t married nor was I doing anything blameworthy, so why did I feel like a cheating wife on a constant basis? Valentine’s Day felt like Bobby and I were putting on a show. I painted my smile on my face and went on with the day, as he planned. We went to my favorite restaurant for lunch, shopped around Bal Harbour and Aventura mall, strolled around South Beach, and ended up eating dinner at our favorite place to get Russian cuisine. To anyone else, this would have seemed like the perfect day organized by the perfect boyfriend. I was presented with gifts some girls could only hope to be given by a boyfriend and was treated like a princess the entire day. The drawback to such a magnificent day, nothing felt legitimate. On paper, one might ask what I could possible complain about but they wouldn’t know the half. Our chemistry was gone and it felt like this ever since the train incident. To my dismay, the Metrorail issue was going to be brought up one final time.

127


University of Miami

Professor Pamela McCluney

Spring 2009

Here it was, the straw that broke the camel’s back. Not that I wasn’t already aware things were heading in the wrong, un-healthy direction, Bobby was sure to assure that to me with one phone call. “I called my friend Dan this afternoon and you know what he told me, he would ride the train with me unconditionally, because he was my friend.” I had no idea how to respond to that because I assumed the issue was long gone. I didn’t want to go on the train and that was that. My decision wasn’t changing and he knew that but had no other ammunition to upset me with at the time so he chose to fire with that. As I was sitting on the couch with my family I started tearing up and asking him why he was doing this to me, especially when I was home and wanted to have a relaxing, calm weekend. I hung up the phone. Hearing his voice now was bothersome enough and didn’t want to continue the pointless, hurtful conversation. The rest of the night I received a slew of messages calls pleading to talk to me about what happened. I had nothing to say to him. One thing he always knew was what issues agitated me most, and he picked the most inappropriate times to bring them up. At dinner that night with my family, the only thing on my mind was how I needed to handle the situation. Bobby had no more chances with me and even if I were to give him another one, he would just mess up again in days to come. Not only that, but I was worried about myself. I didn’t have a life of my own anymore because it revolved around him and his needs and wants, never my own unless it was time to present me with a gift which was usually because he did something to me earlier. It was time for this relationship to end even though I knew it wouldn’t be easy. A few somber days for me would lead to a joyous and free life. The red light on my phone blinked. I knew exactly who it was, but didn’t know what I was about to read. It was an e-mail from Bobby which confused me because we never sent e-mails unless it was essential. I opened it and read it (on my phone) while I was with a group of friends. As I read it my eyes began to tear up. I couldn’t believe what I was reading. It was a letter virtually dismissing our relationship away. Not the way I would have handled breaking off the kind of relationship and connection we had. “Since we came to Miami, you have demonstrated a self-centered attitude that has, as you know, hurt me on many occasions, and made me feel as if it was my duty to serve you and accommodate your needs and views on things, with little or no regard for my own.” His take on things was so misconstrued and I didn’t understand it. He claimed that I was the one who originally manipulated his friendship with our, at the time, mutual friend Jessica when he was the one who did that on his own. “What is most evident is your fear of being abandoned,” another line of his letter than confused me beyond words. He was the one who could never be alone, and if he ever was, it was a constant inquiry of what I was doing (Even though he would never be able to admit that to himself or others). His final line, “I hope that you find what it is you are looking for in life, and I regret to say that I will not be by your side while you attempt to do so,” was, in a way, a relief. I no longer had to deal with him and his obscurities and hindrances to my life. I sent a message back expressing how I felt and how I thought it was for the best that we no longer communicate

128


University of Miami

Professor Pamela McCluney

Spring 2009

and go our separate ways, for my own well-being. That week, I returned all the gifts he ever gave me so he could never talk about me like he did the other people he gave things too who were no longer in his life. I wasn’t Bobby’s charity case and I didn’t need the things he gave me to be happy, I needed sanity to live my life like a normal teenager in college. My parents never felt the need to keep such a tight hold on me, why did he? I never felt so suffocated and watched as I did with Bobby. It is one relationship I can happily say is in my past and hope that one never comes along in the future. It’s a shame that the unhappy moments now out weigh and good ones we had; I never wanted what we had to end on such a note. Although everything ended only a few short weeks ago, I have never felt so liberated. I can now go to the gym whenever I want and for as long as I’d like, I can go out with whomever I’d like without worrying about any surprise guests showing up, and my life can be lived to the fullest of its potential. I am sad to say that I have now become the main topic of discussion for Bobby, and not in a positive way. Once things were over I knew he would focus on the bad times, but I've come to realize that it is just the type of person he is, he looks for happiness in other people’s misery. I was just one of his victims. I can only hope that Bobby will be fortunate enough to move on with life and change his ways. My hope is that he doesn’t do what he did to me, to someone else. I want nothing but the best for him in life and wish he felt the same about me. Due to the fact I was so engrossed with making sure my actions were up to Bobby’s standards and liking I forgot what is most important, my own happiness.

Love is an emotion that is intertwined with all other emotions: joy, fear, happiness, sadness, kindness, hate, and many others.

Rebellion as a Crutch I had been dating my high school boyfriend since I was 15, but finally after three years we ended our relationship. I didn’t know what to do without him or how to handle being so lonely; he had always been by my side. My girlfriends sat up with me countless nights wiping away my tears and telling me why I was better off without him, but nothing seemed to pull me out of my sadness.

129


University of Miami

Professor Pamela McCluney

Spring 2009

To my devastation, my ex jumped into another serious relationship with a much younger girl, a mere two months after our breakup. Since sitting in my dorm thinking about where things had gone wrong did not seem to get me anywhere I turned to partying and new boys as an escape. I continued to watch in agony as my ex-boyfriend started a new life and became happy again without me. All I wanted was to find the peace that he had found. I realized that I needed to be on my own for once in my life; I needed to pick myself up and be strong without any help for the very first time. Like many young girls turn to tattoos and piercings to numb an emotional pain, I turned to clubs, bars, and friendly strangers. When I got in a fight with my ex I would run to my girlfriend’s dorm and say that we needed to go out immediately to get my mind off of him. I racked up countless crazy stories and countless acquaintances. My friends never complained, they had seen me shed tear after tear over my ex and watching me enjoy myself at parties was much easier for them to handle. Every once in a while I would look back at the last three years of my life and stand shocked that I had changed so much. But, I wasn’t afraid to talk about the breakup and if anyone asked me I simply said that it hadn’t been working and that I was finally finding myself. I saw my actions as a strength rather than a weakness, to me my ability to lose myself in a night out meant that I was strong enough to push pain and bad memories to the back of my head and push forward. I would never allow myself to sit alone long enough to let the emotions of the past few months truly seep in, I would just text one of the new boys I had met and make myself feel better because at least this boy wanted to talk to me. Early on after the breakup I met a guy named John. He was a little bit older than me and loved to show me a good time at my new university. We became pretty good friends and me and the girls always called him looking for plans on a Friday night. One night downtown he met up with me and by the end of the night we were kissing at the bar. I felt good about myself, strong, empowered, and independent because I started this new adventure all on my own. We kept in touch and he always sent me texts looking for me to come over his house and hang out. The fact that someone wanted me around, something I never thought would happen again after my breakup, made me feel great. We watched a few movies at his house and he always treated me like a princess when we were together. One night I went to a holiday party at John’s frat house. There were hundreds of people there and my friends and I quickly became the life of the party, dancing and taking pictures with everyone. In the middle of the night I turned my head to see John making out with a red-haired girl on the couch. Surprisingly it didn’t bother me much because I knew that we had never talked about exclusivity.

130


University of Miami

Professor Pamela McCluney

Spring 2009

Yet, he continued to come up to me through the night apologizing for his actions and saying that he didn’t even know the redhead’s name. At about 2:30 a.m. my girlfriends and I began exiting the party only to find John outside of the front door kissing a second girl. Not wanting to be bombarded with more empty apologies I sneaked past him and onto the bus back to campus. I was unable to escape him however, and he jumped on the bus behind me and crammed into a seat with me. We didn’t talk much on the ride home because the bus was a crowd of loud and drunken college students, including John. When we arrived on campus John’s friends all disappeared with their separate girls and I was left taking care of him. I stood outside with the 180-pound guy wrapped around my shoulder and searching through the bushes for his lost cell phone. I couldn’t believe that I was there taking care of him, but I couldn’t leave him alone without making sure that he got home safely. Eventually one of his fraternity brothers came and lifted him off of my sinking shoulders. The two of them began talking and I heard John say, “She actually thinks that I am all hers and I care if I am with her.” I just looked at him in disgust and began walking away as he grabbed my arm and attempted to kiss me. I abruptly pulled away and removed his hand from me. “Do you really think that I am that stupid?” I asked him. He replied simply saying, “Yes you are that stupid.” I was amazed that anyone could be so blatantly rude and I stormed away while all of my friends tried to catch up. As I continued walking away I heard him shouting slurred versions of the word “bitch” behind me. I turned around one more time in disbelief, and as I saw him stumble off he shouted in my direction again saying, “I’ll call you if I’m ever desperate.” With those words he cackled and we both walked away. I could feel tears welling up behind my eyes, but I refused to let myself cry over someone that was suddenly so meaningless to me. I got a jolt of reality as I walked home and thought of how pathetic it was that I had allowed him to hurt me so much. I no longer felt strong or independent, I felt alone. I stopped talking to John for good despite the sporadic texts I got from him asking me how I was doing. I began confiding in the friends that had always been by my side and started allowing myself to really analyze the breakup. I started staying in for girl’s nights more often and visiting my family more. I was never able to erase the memory of that night, but eventually it faded and I began thinking of it as a learning experience. My ex and I became friends again and I moved on in a healthy way. John’s words made me notice that the partying and random guys that I had been looking for comfort in did not care if I was comfortable or not. I had been seeking refuge in all the wrong places and

131


University of Miami

Professor Pamela McCluney

Spring 2009

all the wrong people. I thought that being independent meant being able to drown out overwhelming emotions, but I saw that being independent meant being able to really deal with those emotions. As I watched friends go through breakups over the next few months I saw that I was not the only one that looked for a crutch to paralyze sadness. I was just glad that I had realized what my crutch was and kicked it to the side, allowing myself to truly stand on my own for once.

My Own Tattoo I have a scar of my own that is a constant reminder of a poor decision I once made and similarly, I have learned to respect myself and my future. During high school, I got into the habit of drinking with my friends on the weekends. At first it was for the thrill. My friends and I did not so much want to get drunk but just join the fun. We hung out with older boys, senior boys that were adventurous and funny. They drank almost every Friday or Saturday night that we hung out with them and eventually we all played along. Eventually, however, my friends and I began to depend on alcohol to make any situation seem crazy or simply less awkward. I knew it was wrong. In fact my parents preached to me that drinking was harmful. “Alcoholism is in our blood” they would tell me; and rightfully so. My Grandfather and several uncles had faced the horrible trials of battling the addiction which had greatly impacted both my parents’ childhood and adulthood. I listened and vowed that I would never let a substance take over my life. I learned from watching the pain on my parents’ faces that alcoholism hurts more than just the victim. On the other hand, I was a teenager and I did not want to be like my parents. They seemed to have lost the excitement in their lives and I resented them for that. It was a warm summer night when it happened, reminiscent of any other evening. I took a bottle of rum from the basement the previous night and stashed it in my bag to ensure I had it for this night. Stealing alcohol went against every moral and every value that my parents instilled in me. Yet I still supplied the alcohol because it made me feel important and needed. I walked outside to say goodbye to my parents before leaving for the night and I watched them as I approached the screen door. They sat on the patio chairs drinking coffee, reading the newspaper, and watching the sun set. They were at peace, and I regret taking that away from them only several hours later that night.

132


University of Miami

Professor Pamela McCluney

Spring 2009

The plan was to drink at my friend’s house because her parents were not home and then go to a party that a classmate was having. Being young and inexperienced drinkers we all took down several rounds of several shots. I felt the need to take even more and soon I blacked out for the first time in my life. The next morning I woke up in my bed, extremely tired with gauze and bandages wrapped around my head and across my face. I slowly got up and looked in the mirror. I gasped at the sight of myself and the dry blood on nearly every inch of the bottom of my face. What happened? I felt like puking, not because I was hung over but because I knew that something must have went terribly wrong and my parents were clearly aware. I found my parents waiting for me as I slowly walked downstairs. The look on their faces marked the sign of my failure and their pain that resembled the look that I vowed I would never inflict on them. Fighting to speak through tears I told them everything I could remember, and they told me the rest. Supposedly I had fallen onto a dresser and cracked my chin open and the bleeding would not stop. My friends choose to take me home because they were scared and did not want to take me to the hospital because most of them had been drinking and they feared getting in trouble. Once they got to my house my parents aided me and had my friends sit down and tell them everything that happened. My doctor gave me scar remover to apply three times a day to try and remove the scar that my stitches left. I did not care to show up to school with a glossy ripped up chin because I trusted that eventually the stitch marks would vanish. However, even after months of scar remover my scar was and still is clearly visible. I look in the mirror at the scar every day. It is ugly but I am used to it. It has become part of me, faded now and part of my history. Some days I am thankful for my little reminder on my chin. As I apply makeup on my face before going out at night I am reminded to be safe. I see my parents and I promise myself to make choices that they would not only choose themselves but that would make them proud. I believe that I have made decisions I may regret however each choice that I make have has made me into the individual that I am today. Every once and awhile someone will ask me about my scar and I usually reply with, “I fell” which is usually followed by a laugh. I smile politely to avoid making them feel uncomfortable. “I just fell…” I say. They nod when they realize they have hit a delicate subject, “Oh…O.K. Ashley.” O.K.

133


University of Miami

Professor Pamela McCluney

Spring 2009

Relationship Undefined For four years it’s been back and forth. He is the love of my life and at the same time, just a boy from home. I’ve spent more time trying to define our relationship than actually working at it. This is because I constantly question if it’s worth it, does he care, and am I just wasting my time? We’ve always been together, and at the same time never have been. He has told me he loves me and I have told him the same. We started out as all lovers do, just as friends. Then we began going out on dates and spending more time together over the years. We grew close, though all the while, he was never my boyfriend. It was never the right time and I wondered if it ever would be. He has been with other people throughout this time and so have I. For the most part I have been okay with not being his girlfriend and pursuing other relationships, and so has he. Does that mean we are not meant to be, or that we are just not trying hard enough? Or like people say, am I just scared of commitment? Like many girls, my friends and I spend hours talking about the guys we have been seeing. We discuss all the basics like their looks, their personalities, and if we will ever see them again. Then the discussion becomes complex. This is the part where I have to label the relationship as just hooking up, talking, dating or being together as boyfriend and girlfriend. Most of the time I just shrug and reply, “I guess we’re talking.” This is the safest answer. It implies the relationship is not serious, but yet has the potential to get there over time. Throughout the years, I have talked to several guys. There was the boy I went on a blind date with at the movies. That ended when he started calling my phone and leaving me four voicemails a day saying he missed me; we had only been on one date. There was the good-looking baseball player from high school that I dated for awhile, until I heard from two other girls that he might have gotten them pregnant; it was then that I discovered exactly the type of player he was. In the end, I put my faith in the fact that one day a guy I would start talking to would stay. Yearning for an exclusive relationship, I struggled to define the ones I was involved in and at the same time I chose to seek out new relationships before knowing where the previous ones would lead me. All the while, I also never forgot my relationship with the boy from home. Maybe the best way to sum up all relationships is to simply shrug and say, it’s complicated. After numerous discussions with my girlfriends on the topic of dating and relationships, I decided to ask my friend Brendan what he thought. “Even when interested in a girl, there is a specific way to approach her and lead her on, without giving her too much attention. Giving her too much attention makes the worst happen, she becomes clingy, “he said. Relaying the information to me as if giving away 134


University of Miami

Professor Pamela McCluney

Spring 2009

the secret code to unlock the final level of a video game, Brendan divulged the secrets of the relationship game and how to stay in control while dating a significant other. For example, it’s about power in a relationship. The person who appears to care the least has the most. This is the partner in the relationship who receives more calls than he/she makes and the partner who is always the first to stop texting in conversation; always putting in just enough effort, but never too much, to keep the other coming back for more. I recognized later that this was the situation I would find myself in with the boy from home. We met one day at a party and I was introduced to him by an acquaintance who said the two of them had been dating for a few months. Little did I know that soon after, I would become the girl who he would spend all of his time with. Spending several hours of our day together and several hours at night talking on the phone, over the course of a year we became very close and of course he was no longer with the other girl. We knew everything about one another and it was obvious we both had true feelings for each other. We became comfortable with just hanging out and talking, occasionally going out on a date, however he was never my boyfriend. He asked me to be his girlfriend once, but I turned him down when I found out he still kept in close touch with his ex-girlfriend and I didn’t want to get hurt. This pattern of growing closer to each other, yet never making a commitment went on for another two years. I enjoyed his company, but something always kept me from being with him exclusively. It never felt like the right time and since I was sure he was still pursuing other girls, I did the same with other guys. My close friends knew that he told me I was special and occasionally he even told me that he loved me. When they asked if he was my boyfriend, I had to be honest and continuously say no. I kept most of the details about our relationship to myself because I felt like it didn’t make sense to anyone but us. Truth be told, I didn’t even know where we stood. I suppose he was just a close friend, who I consistently cared for in a romantic manner. It was nearing the summer before I would leave for college in Miami, Florida and he would stay behind in Rhode Island. We had never been closer. Our love was stronger than ever. Still not his girlfriend, I hoped I would be soon. But then most of the constant texting back and forth between us stopped. The hours on the phone at night were significantly reduced. We still talked often and loved each other’s company, but we became participants in the relationship game. I would be having a conversation with him and he would stop answering; I would be devastated. We would be talking on the phone and he would ask to go to bed first and I would stay up to wonder why he had to hang up so early. Then the tables would turn, I would play the game right back. Purposefully not answering a phone call or text from him and all the while wondering if what I was doing was what I really wanted. Whenever we discussed my going off to college, it was obvious he tried to avoid the topic. It was clear that we couldn’t make a serious commitment to each other when we lived in the same state, so it seemed like a long distance relationship

135


University of Miami

Professor Pamela McCluney

Spring 2009

was out of the question. We began to discuss this topic less, in fact the more caught up we got in playing the game, the less we talked about anything.

As much as I acted like I was enjoying becoming

independent and getting ready for the prospect of more hard-to-define relationships in college, I secretly wished that at some point in our tangled relationship, we had become more than friends. It was the day I would leave for school. I finished packing and he helped me load my luggage. It was time to leave for the airport and head back to school. We hugged and he leaned in, I turned my head and he kissed my cheek. I got in my car and drove away. I tried to sort it all out. I tried to remind myself that when we first met he was just a nice guy I happened to be introduced to. I tried to remember the conversation I had with Brendan. The person with the most power in a relationship is the one who seems to care the least.

In essence, it’s all about playing

the game of nonattachment. Don’t ask too much from the other person, and they will do the same for you. I’m still young and in college; the perfect time to be laid-back and enjoy life. No expectations leads to no disappointments; it’s not my place to complain.

Love is the emotion and feeling of unconditional affection and a sense of commitment to a person or thing. It may require certain personal sacrifices and is more than just a warm, fuzzy feeling.

My Broken Pieces Left Permanent Scars By my late teens, I had experienced death, deception, betrayal, and heartbreak, all in an incredibly short period of time. Each experience left a mark on me as a person. I was chipped away at piece by piece. The first cut was when my Aunt and Uncle, my only family in America, decided to take themselves and my five-year-old cousin to move back to our home country of South Africa. They were my world, and to have them disappear was as if parts of me suddenly disappeared too. At the time, I didn’t do anything to retaliate. Instead, I just listened to everyone who constantly said, “Things would get better,” and would “soon return to normal.” Unfortunately, no such thing

136


University of Miami

Professor Pamela McCluney

Spring 2009

happened for me. And I would always respond to my caring family with comments that you usually hear from someone who is hurting: “they won’t come back,” “if they can leave like that then they will never really want to return,” and of course the classic response of “I’m not good enough for them to come back.” I constantly found myself consumed with anger, hatred, and sorrow. I slowly started to change, instead of being my usual warm-hearted self; I started to close my usually open heart, and allowed my feelings to eat up everything inside of me. By the time I had almost recovered, I suddenly received another cut, a cut that left a deep and strong wound. My Uncle and Grandfather passed away within the space of ten months. I was devastated, it was my first time dealing with death, and one can never be fully prepared to lose a loved one. Immediately, I became attached to those around me, consumed with deep fear that they might suddenly leave too. I was obsessed and on edge, I started to change and didn’t even realize it. Before I knew it I was hounding my friends to find out where they were, why they didn’t want to be with me, and how soon could I see them. I was trying to keep them closer to me, but instead I was obsessive and controlling, and soon pushed them over the edge, until they no longer wanted to be with me. As I felt myself changing, I started to look at how other people in my family were dealing with our losses. My middle sister, dealt with her emotions in an extremely different way. Instead of allowing our losses to affect her, she instead would shove everything under a rug, and would pretend as if it had never happened. Deep down I knew that eventually everything shoved under that rug would come back to haunt her. And so I decided that I didn’t want to hide my hurt and scars like my sister, and instead I wanted to keep my scars open for everyone to see. In my mind, I felt as though showing my emotional scars would help me deal with the pain. However, putting my scars on display just allowed me to think about it all the time, and let it consume me and everything that surrounded me. The more I thought about it, the more I felt bad about myself and how the people I loved were capable of leaving as quick as lightning. I was creating my own scars and was allowing the wounds to emotionally sink deeper and deeper. When I thought all the development of new scars was over, the biggest of them all came down on me like a ton of bricks. My best friend of twelve years informed me that she no longer wanted to be my friend and that she never wanted to see my face again. And to put the cherry on top of everything, she decided to tell me this on the very day that I was moving to start my very first year of College. To say I was devastated is a complete and utter understatement. I was distraught and officially broken. There was nothing else that could possibly break me any further then what I already was.

137


University of Miami

Professor Pamela McCluney

Spring 2009

I didn’t know how I was going to recover from such heartache, but I knew I needed to somehow get through the next couple of months in order to be a successful college student. I soon became the textbook example of someone who had completely and utterly closed their heart to outsiders. I had zero interest in making friends, being a part of social events, or anything that dealt with needing to give my heart or soul to someone new. Someone who I trusted had hurt me, and I was drowning with fear that I would get hurt again. I soon created what I feel to be my worst scar of them all. I once again shut myself out from the world, in order to protect myself from becoming broken once again. My scars feel as though they are my emotional tattoos. Just as tattoos are permanent and are incredibly difficult to erase, my hardships and personal events have left their mark and have shaped who I am today. They are permanent and will never leave me, for they are chiseled into the shape of my personality. They have allowed me to learn who I am and what people in this world are capable of. They have also allowed me to conquer emotional mountains that most people of my age have not even begun to climb. It has been eight months since I unconsciously started to change my personality and ways of life. I am coming to a point where I can no longer let my scars drag me down. It is time to let my scars heal, and the deepest scar is the most essential to disappear. I need to open up again and no longer allow my scars to drown me in fear, sorrow, disappointment, or depression. I need to “remove,” my ugly scar that I wear on my sleeve, and to showing the world how I have been hurt. Throughout the experiences I have undergone in my life I have come to realize that I have allowed those incidents and life changing events to leave their deep and permanent marks on me as a person. Each time I view myself or think about my emotional bumps in my road, I think about the scars that were left behind, as if I have my very own personal residue, and as if I have a body that is smothered with tattoos. Although they are deep wounds, scars can be erased or at least they can become faded over years. But no matter how much you try to cover up or remove a personal mark, it will always have residue that will lie within you as a person and will carry with you into your future. Because the truth is, God only gives us what we can handle and what doesn’t kill us just makes us stronger. Our experiences shape and mold us into the people we are today. My scars have allowed me to realize that people, even those who you love the most, can leave you in the blink of an eye. However, we must learn from our emotional and devastating experiences in order to grow. These life changing events are going to occur throughout our life starting with childhood to adolescence and coming to a conclusion during adulthood.

138


University of Miami

Professor Pamela McCluney

Spring 2009

A Daughter of Loss, Day by Day It is not true that people are accepting. They may say they understand devastation and provide sorrowful smiles, but as far as I’m concerned, they are internally thanking their higher beings for sparing them. For me, that higher being hasn’t quite been on my side; for just under seven years, I have experienced firsthand what it means to be judged by my past. The passing of my mother not only changed my view on life, but it also changed others’ views of me. I prefer to keep it to myself rather than be labeled as a woman I am not; a woman to pity. Pity does not belong on the table. While the void in my world is vast, I move forward. I’m open and social. I wear my heart on my sleeve. I am emotional and I often give more than I get. Despite my evident faces, many people who “know me” don’t know one of the most profound elements in my lifenot for lack of interest, but for lack of me telling them. My mom was diagnosed with esophageal cancer in 1998 and died of the powerful disease in September of 2002. As inmates, encounter touch-deprivation, the absence of physical intimacy, I encounter my own form of a necessary link. While prisoners desire a lover’s caress, I ache for that of my mother. I didn’t think I could return to the seventh grade. I didn’t think gravity would continue its due course. And when it did, so did I- forever changed. When someone that didn’t grow up with me and send meals to our home when treatment got worse, learns of the obstacle that we faced and still face each day, I become a different person in their eyes. Meaning to or not, they pity me. Perhaps a form of sympathy, this only deems me and in need.

feeble, unable to cope,

After this knowledge is gained, I am no longer the sweet girl with the unique name or the girl

who likes to dance; I am the girl with no mother. These newly enlighten people, thankful that they aren’t me, that they don’t have to deal the way I do with life in the aftermath, at this point conversation gets filtered. Careful not to flirt with seemingly scary subject matter, they are overly nice and often superficial- heaven forbid they say the wrong thing. The point of such barriers? To avoid that inelegant stillness, that blundering quiet that allows for reflection and potential tears. And what’s even worse? When they slip and express hatred towards their parents for not buying them the newest bag or allowing them to venture to Acapulco for spring break. At

139


University of Miami

Professor Pamela McCluney

Spring 2009

this point, my face clearly falls in disappointment and disgust, speculating how they could be so utterly unappreciative. Stuttered apologies ensue and I usually brush them off warmly, not wanting to force uneasiness between us. It is they who deserve pity, not me; those who have no perspective on what are truly important. For some, what is important means seeking love in a foreign land, with those not familiar with their past of convictions or abuses.

Contrarily, I dread becoming intimate with those not weary of my

past. However vexatious telling someone new is for me, I can hardly stand the awkwardness that evidently washes over him or her. As an adventurer and an individual who craves new experiences and relationships, the fact that I can so easily make another uncomfortable (simply by being myself) plagued me. I wondered how I would handle my connections in college, an environment so unique and full of peers who would become my best friends. My background of summer teen tours and travels allowed room for practice, and with each acquired exposure to letting others in on my past, I grew bolder. I understand that death makes people nervous. I accept that the unknown is frightening and difficult to envision or come to terms with. Those that have yet to combat something that alters their every breath cannot possibly realize the damage they cause when they refrain from honesty. And so, I am patient with those who do not grasp how strong I am. Confident that they will learn to treat me as their equal rather than brittle and vulnerable because of my loss, I will wait and persist- as poised and passionate as ever.

The Invisible Scar When I was a freshman in high school, I had the habit of dating the typical, attractive, arrogant boy that every girl falls for. I dated three of those jerks my freshmen year. Those relationships didnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t last long and consisted of make out sessions and partying. Back then, I thought it was cool to be associated with a really good looking guy that other girls drooled over. Thatâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s until sophomore year when I met James. James was new, a senior that had just moved to Europe from Texas. He was gorgeous and confident. The attention he received instantly made him cocky. The day I saw him, I couldnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t keep my

140


University of Miami

Professor Pamela McCluney

Spring 2009

eyes off of him. He had that look, he had swagger, and there was something about him that I just desired. I wanted him. My mother always told me, “Looks aren’t everything” but I couldn’t help my feelings for James. The other good looking conceited guys I dated didn’t have the aura that James exerted. I secretly hoped that James would be an exception and wouldn’t be the typical asshole. Well, I was wrong and I learned my lesson the hard way. James hurt me and left a scar on my heart, but instead of letting people see how I felt, I hid my scar and since then never let anyone get too close to me. I built a shield, not trusting anyone. When James first moved, he dated two girls from his grade, Danielle and Laura. Both were outgoing and attractive girls that liked him more than he liked them. Neither relationship lasted long, once he broke up with Danielle, he waited two days to ask Laura out. James dated both girls for only two months. He liked being the center of attention to so many girls and wanted to live it up. The first time there were “sparks” between James and I, was on New Year’s Eve. We were at the same party and his girlfriend, at the time, Laura, was out of the country. I was excited to see him but I also knew he was still with Laura, so I contained myself. However, his relationship with Laura didn’t stop him from flirting and dancing with me all night. Of course nothing happened between us physically but the hours we spent dancing made me fall for him even more. He was incredibly charming and looked at me in such an enchanting way. I was in love. A few days later, a group of my friends and a group of James’ friends were at the same bar. James instantly came over and we spent the entire night drinking and flirting again. After that night, I couldn’t get him off of my mind. I liked him so much; I wanted to be his girlfriend so bad. All I ever did was talk about him to my friends and spent my days dreaming about being with him. I had never felt this way about anyone before. And because he was taken, I wanted him even more. A week later he broke up with Laura. I couldn’t believe it; I was so thrilled and couldn’t help but wonder if it was because he was interested in me. I controlled my excitement and resisted making any moves or initiating conversation with him. I wanted him to make the first move. On Friday of that week, I was at a bar with a group of my friends and I suddenly got the text message of my dreams. James wrote “Hi beautiful, what have you been up to? I really want to see you, where are you at tonight?” It was the first text message he had ever sent me. Before we didn’t really talk much besides at the bar, because we both knew his girlfriend wouldn’t approve. Neither of us ever mentioned anything about having feelings for each other but we knew there was sexual tension. Our interactions looked like two friends innocently conversing and having a good time but I felt so much

141


University of Miami

Professor Pamela McCluney

Spring 2009

more. After answering his text, James and his friends came to the bar where my friends and I were at. James walks over, and at first it was awkward, because we couldn’t tell what was going through the others mind. We talked for a little and then as I went out for some fresh air, he followed me. Outside stood one of his obnoxious friends who was a little drunk and was speaking loudly about a bunch of nonsense. But neither James nor I were paying any attention to him, we were both staring into each others eyes, and at that moment his eyes spoke to me. As the drunken guy left, James and I stood together shivering for a few minutes watching snowflakes slowly fall to the ground. As I turned to go back inside, he pulled me into his arms and started kissing me. I felt butterflies in my stomach and got goose bumps all over my body. We ended up spending the entire night kissing and dancing. The next day he invited me over to his house for lunch and a movie. We didn’t eat or watch a movie; instead we spent the entire day kissing in his bed. When we finally took a water break, he asked me to be his girlfriend. For a second I hesitated, and he asked me again, and as my eyes began to glow, I said yes. The beautiful James was finally mine. Then things changed, it was the beginning of the week, we were back in school and James was acting very weird, ignoring me, not seeming interested in me at all. I felt like if I hadn’t acknowledged him, he would have walked right by me in the hallway. I was so confused and frustrated. The next few days he didn’t text me, call me or anything. We greeted each other in school but that was it. I didn’t understand, hadn’t he asked me to be his girlfriend last weekend? Did I misunderstand him? Well after five days of James’ awkward behavior, I called him and asked him why he was being weird. He simply said, “Yeah I don’t know, I just don’t think we are going to work out.” I was so shocked and hurt by the way he was acting that all I said was, “yeah you’re right.” That was the end of our conversation. I didn’t know what to think or do. I just didn’t expect it or think he would suddenly turn on me. I didn’t understand what had changed. But I was naïve all along, it makes perfect sense, he played me. It took me a while to wrap my brain around it because I was still so into him and secretly hoped he would call me and tell me he made a mistake and want me back. But he never did. A week later he hooked up with another girl in his grade, Natasha, and asked her out. What a surprise. But I took all of it hard. The way he was so charming and then blew me off by ignoring me, how he asked out Natasha so quickly and how our relationship was a week long (if you could even call it a relationship). I pretended I wasn’t devastated but I was. I liked him so much, I even thought I was in love with him and I put myself out in the open and he took advantage of my feelings for him.

142


University of Miami

Professor Pamela McCluney

Spring 2009

To make it worse, I heard how he told his friends that I was merely a rebound, just a hook up, nothing else. I was extremely hurt, I felt like someone stabbed me right in the chest. I didn’t want to go to school because our school was so small and I would definitely run into him. I didn’t want to see him. I couldn’t believe how stupid I was. I couldn’t get over this for a year. I couldn’t be with anyone for a year. And even when I finally let people come close, I have never let them get too close. Never close enough to feel pain and never enough to feel love. I never spoke to James again and I never will. I haven’t seen him since then and I never will but I will always remember him because he was the first guy I fell for so deeply and he taught me a lot. I have changed significantly since that time. Sometimes I see myself leading guys on and blowing them off and being proud of myself. I enjoy playing games just to know that I win. Some of the guys were great guys who would have been good to me but I never gave them a chance. I tell myself I wasn’t into them but the truth is that I was too scared. I portray myself as this confident person who is too good for everyone, but this confidence is my shield. Behind it I’m just a frightened, vulnerable person. I have built this shield that no one has managed to break through yet. I hope someone will soon because I am starting to feel very lonely. Sometimes people hesitate to approach me because of the image I portray but really I’m just trying to protect myself. I have a small scar on the front of my heart. It’s not too deep but deep enough to hurt and remind me to always be one step ahead of the game. My scar is like an internal tattoo imprinted on my heart. It’s a tattoo of a cut. And even though it is invisible, I can feel it and it’s keeping me from falling in love.

Love: a predisposed emotion that bonds humans to the world around them; abstract and pervading, causation for impulsivity may or may not be reciprocated.

143


University of Miami

Professor Pamela McCluney

Spring 2009

Changing Colors My hair has suffered different phases reflecting the stages of my relationship with the first boy that made a difference in my life. Changing the color of my hair did not mark the aftermath of my relationship, but rather an ongoing timeline of events. It was not a battle mark or an illusion of power, but a tint pronouncing my shifting emotions.

I liked changing the color on a whim and, whether

subconsciously or not, it mirrored my relationship. My hair was a physical manifestation of the passion, the sorrow, and the calm after the storm. I wore the shades of my relationship in my hair for everyone to see. It was my personal mark, like getting a tattoo. During my junior year of high school, I met this boy who changed the color of my hair and left me with a long-lasting stain. When we first met, the underside of my hair was a shockingly bright pink — he turned it blue. Soon after our relationship ended, I decided that the symbolism tied to the color blue was a bit of foreshadowing and ironically, the temporary dye lasted about as long as our relationship. The short-lived romance changed the color of my hair and left me with a temporary, physical reminder and a permanent, emotional mark. My hair tells the story better than I can. We met on spring break when we were both out of our element and gravitated toward one another. We were doing an internship in Tallahassee, but both lived in Miami and the idea of a future after we came home excited us both. The relationship began quick and fiery like my hot pink hair. The beginning was full of butterflies — light and giddy. He left his girlfriend within a week of meeting me and I radiated with happiness at the prospect of my first real boyfriend. We became inseparable. I would steal my mom’s car and drive to his house and he would come visit me during rehearsals at school. He seemed to like me as much as I liked him, yet his ex-girlfriend was always an obstacle for us. I knew that they were still friends and would see each other on weekends, but he said he didn’t have feelings for her, he just felt bad for her. I tried to convince myself that he was telling the truth, but all too quickly it was over. Prom should have been the climax, not the finale. Our romance was brief and ended too suddenly for me to comprehend. It was nearing prom when he surprised me with the blue dye. I bleached my hair and colored it an aquamarine blue. The color quickly faded into seaweed-looking green. Things ended between us because he got back together with his ex-girlfriend the night of my prom. I didn’t see it coming. The next week a rumor was going around both our schools: a secret he had only told to me and her. I still have never told a soul. Despite my pleading, he blamed me. Not a word 144


University of Miami

Professor Pamela McCluney

Spring 2009

was spoken between us for a nearly eight months and I tried to forget him. My sorrow was mocked by my ugly green hair â&#x20AC;&#x201D; my own version of pain therapy. I added to my feeling of rejection with my lack of motivation to fix my taunting hair. As my hair grew out, the remnants of green faded leaving my hair a subtle blonde. I tried to dye my hair after that. Once again using pink dye, I strived to feel renewed and full of passion as I had the first time, but the dye was temporary and the bleach was too strong. The color didnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t last five minutes. After many months I simply got a haircut, removing most of the stained hair and shedding a large part of my sorrow. The silent streak endured close to a year until we found each other once again. He broke up with his girlfriend and attempted to make amends. My scars left me hesitant, but my heart felt a renewed passion, making it all too easy to forgive him. We become lovers again, too soon. Then simply tried to be friends, but found it too hard. We were in and out of each otherâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s lives while he went through several other short-term girlfriends, but during our time apart we both matured in a way that made it possible to put up with one another. Our relationship has grown and changed significantly; no longer full of butterflies or bitterness, but a pleasant mix of fighting like children, talking like old friends, and playing like would-be lovers. A few inches at the tips of my hair are still blonde and reflect the mark of my history. I have moved on and accepted my blond hair, accepted that once I cut it again nothing physical will remain to remind me of my experience. The visible signs of our relationship will disappear. They are not a permanent ink-blot reminder of sorrow or shame. As time has passed, I have reflected on my relationship with this boy. My hair grew and I grew from the experience. I learned to take each memory and move past the feelings of bitterness and regret to appreciate the good stuff. I truly did learn from him, I learned about myself and I learned how to be stronger. My manifestation of strength not superficially displayed with a tattoo, but engrained into my spirit. Though the physical tint of my hair will disappear, the emotional growth I have experienced will stay with me permanently.

Allow me to introduce myself 145


University of Miami

Professor Pamela McCluney

Spring 2009

There are two approaches in the dating game when people first meet. It’s either tell your life story when you first meet them and decide that night if you want the relationship to continue or gradually allow the other to open up at the same pace. Contrary to women who believe by being an open book the first time they meet to initiate an honest relationship, I use my mystery to ply men open and then allow myself to open up with them. I hate being the one under the pressure of questioning like a felon during interrogation. So I turn the tables and dominate the conversation to see how far a man would go to build trust for me. Mystery. This constant word that has been looming over my head ever since I was old enough to date, thanks to my mother, has been the tool to avoid my feeling of vulnerability. Never say everything about yourself, you’ll come off too strong”, says my mother. Well I must say, mystery has done its magic for me and has allowed me to build trust in my five-year long distance relationship. When I first met my boyfriend, I was 14 and ready to graduate from my prison of a Catholic school. I knew I could not date the same boys I went to school with because I could not relate to them or attract them at all. At the time I thought I was awkward, but looking back I know it was just because I was mature for my age. I knew I had to look outside of my realm of fellow inmates, for dating, I was different and accepted that. The first time I spoke to my boyfriend was via an AOL instant messenger chat room with my best friend who played tennis with him and was interested in him at the time. As the three of us spoke in the chat room about a car wash fundraiser my school was having, a separate window with his screen name popped up on my desktop “so can we talk about something that’s not so boring? This discussion is reaching its end” as did the possibility of my best friend and now current boyfriend dating. So we talked about other topics: religion, hobbies, interests, and hit it off immediately. For the first time I was given the role to control a conversation, I was able to ask questions I thought were important and I was not under any pressure of an interrogation. I found out the basics: he goes to public high school, is in a magnet program, is Catholic [like myself], has siblings, and attends the same church as I do. This sparked some more interesting dialogue for the next month and a half on the phone. Since I was only fourteen years old, Catholic school was not the only thing keeping me a touch deprived prisoner; my parents were another obstacle I had to overcome. After three weeks of talking to my soon-to-be-boyfriend over the phone, we were going to meet face to face for the first time at our Church’s carnival in secret. We did not get to spend as much time as we would like because of schedule

146


University of Miami

Professor Pamela McCluney

Spring 2009

conflicts, but we were both finally able to put a face with that voice over the phone and those words that appeared on our desktops late at night. I found companionship with someone who was not from the same world as me. He came from public high school, he was Filipino, he was older than me by a year and a few months, and just seemed to understand my awkwardness more than any other guy my age or in my school. I was not sure what to expect from this first meeting. I asked for a description from my best friend after I got her blessing to continue talking to him, but it was never adequate enough for me. All I got was he was tan, had short dark hair, and nice arms. To me that description can be imagined into all types of people. We decided to meet at the potted plants stand at the front of the carnival to finally meet. I told him to call me when he got there because I was already going to be at the fair with some friends of mine. I finally got the call while I was waiting at this Egyptian boat ride and sprinted over to the potted plants stand when I hung up the phone. I finally got to see this “tan, short dark hair and nice arms guy” and was so nervous to meet him. I could only imagine what description my best friend gave him, probably skinny, braces, and awkward. I finally saw him, tan in a dark blue button down shirt and dark jeans, with a friendly smile, and arms that gave the greatest hugs. I kissed him on the cheek and we walked around the booths area of the carnival and chatted for a few minutes until he had to leave with his family. Although we could not see each other for another few weeks we continued to talk by whatever means of communication. After a month and a half of knowing one another he asked me to be his girlfriend. I accepted immediately and was extremely happy to finally have a boyfriend fourteen years into my lifetime. It seemed like I finally finished my sentence in prison and was free of my Catholic school awkwardness, but I wanted to see him so I had to overcome one more obstacle to completely break free, my mother. Our first month of being official allowed us to see each only twice before I told my mother that I had a boyfriend. Seeing each other behind our parents’ back was not working to our advantage and my mother’s solution was to be a chaperone for one date so she could meet him. After that one date we continued our relationship and are still dating to this day. Although we did not start like most couples do, our strong foundation has carried us through so much at such a young age. Being a long distance relationship feels like the beginning, but we both try to make the trip to see each other as often as we can.

147


University of Miami

Professor Pamela McCluney

Spring 2009

Love is a feeling that begins in the brain and manifests itself outward thorough physical and emotional expression. It is an attachment that begins with one person who feels a connection with another person, place or thing.

My Scar I have encountered many difficulties in my life and have a lot to show them by: my scars, particularly one that represents the situation that scarred me for life. Each scar represents a separate devastating story. I am incredibly clumsy and have had many, too many in fact, accidents. I broke my arms 4 times and have 6 scars that prove my suffering. The scar that represents the possibility of my death is the long, Frankenstein-looking scar on my wrist that missed my essential artery by less than 1 centimeter. This is how it all began: When I was 14, I had a new serious boyfriend and knowing that I wanted to spend every second I possibly could with him, I lied to my parents saying I was at a friend’s house when I was staying over at my boyfriend’s apartment. His parents lived in another town so they had to get him his own place for him to study in a prestigious school. He had a beautiful place right on the beach and it was incredibly romantic. That weekend we had shared our first kiss. I couldn’t have been happier because it was a time in my life that I wanted to love and be loved. He was my high school sweetheart but at the time, I never wanted our beautiful moments to end. What could possibly go wrong? I stayed over for two nights, enjoying the sun and sea. We visited friends and went to the movies together. My mom was calling me, asking me how I was and if I was having fun. My voice got nervous every time I lied. It felt as if I were swallowing something huge. I would hate it if I got caught, how could I ever look at my mom’s face again? I tried my best to cover everything and she bought my whole story which relieved me.

148


University of Miami

Professor Pamela McCluney

Spring 2009

A mutual friend was staying at my boyfriend’s apartment on my last night I was there. I was going home the next day which made me sad to leave my boyfriend who made me so smitten. In the morning, I packed my clothes preparing to leave when I noticed randomly that my toe nails were incredibly long, so I decided to cut them. I couldn’t seem to find a garbage bin to throw them in and I made a terrible choice to throw them out the balcony. As far as I can remember, I was walking slowly towards the balcony, thinking it was open. Then a big blur... Screaming and calling for help, I was holding my left hand with my right. My boyfriend and my friend came running as they saw a pool of blood on the floor and broken glass everywhere. Half of my wrist was sliced. We didn’t know what to do. They took me downstairs where I thought I was going to faint since I had lost so much blood. Then I found myself in the local emergency room where they said that I couldn’t have an operation there because if they were to stitch my wrist, I would lose function of my entire hand. The emergency room was not in a hospital but in a health clinic where doctors did not operate. As a last resort, I had to call my mother for her to call the best doctors in the best hospitals. Doctors had pumped me up with medicine so I couldn’t feel a thing, but what made me nervous the most was what I would say to my mother. My father was up in the mountains so he didn’t know what was happening which was reassuring. My father is a traditional Turk so if he had found out where I had been all this time, he would never forgive me. Therefore, the fact that he was away diminished chances of him ever knowing. I went through the emergency room in the main hospital where it was certain I would get an operation. The doctor was a friend of my father’s which made the process easier. My mom helped me through every step. She held my hand as the doctor examined my wrist. The doctor deducted that my nerves, my tendons and veins were all cut and that I needed extensive surgery. My mother treated me like royalty which made me even guiltier. I never planned on telling her the real story but was afraid she would find out sooner or later. The doctors prepped me for surgery to save my hand, then my mother kissed me and I noticed her eyes were watery. My mother eventually learned the truth because my friend’s parents had to tell my mother exactly what happened. The scariest moment in my life was when she confronted me. To be honest I wasn’t sure what I was more scared of: the severity of my injury or my mother’s reaction. I had to tell my mother the whole truth. She was understanding and didn’t want to make a big deal out of it since I had just gotten out of surgery. This moment was when my physical pain turned to my emotional pain. Every time I look down on my wrist, I see my mother disappointed in me, which hurts me the most. I’ve learned a lot from this experience. My family means the world to me and I was too ashamed to look at my mother. I had lost her trust and it would take a long time to regain it.

149


University of Miami

Professor Pamela McCluney

Spring 2009

The whole incident scarred me because I hate lying and I hate lying to my mother the most. I felt guilty for months and months. Even though the pain went away within 6 to 7 months, the emotional pain that I made my mother go through cut a bigger part of me because I could not endure to see her sad or disappointed being the angel that she is. I kept reminding myself that I let her down by looking at my scar making sure it doesn’t fade away, in a way how a woman would remind herself she was strong, as an outcome of her failed relationships, with the tattoos she would get. For the woman with the tattoos, the tattoos show her the failed relationships and how she coped whereas for me my scar shows how I failed my mother and wasn’t able to cope. I learned that physical pains come and go but emotional pains can last forever. Five years have past from that day. Whenever my mom mentions that incident my face reddens. Who knew that a lie could scar me deeper than an actual cut from glass? With experience, physical pain is nothing compared to emotional pain. Not Just A Scar

Since I was a child, I had a habit of scarring my body. The first was when I fell into the bath, splitting my chin. My mother was cleaning around the house. I made an effort to be helpful by “cleaning” the tub with bath soap. I was five years old. I was still virginal when it came to marks on the body. When my mother took me to the emergency, I laid on the table unable to cry because my mother promised that I would get a doll if I didn’t. That was good enough an incentive for me. Although at the time, I didn’t understand why I would have a reason to cry. Soon after, I was being strapped into a restraining board. They are used to ensure that kids don’t move while being administered shots. In all, I received 4 stitches, and everything was fine. The feeling of getting them was not bad. I didn’t cry. And the next day, I got the doll my mother promised me. There was another occasion that I scarred myself. This time was simple. I took the trash out. Broken glass was in the bag, and I handled it carelessly. A piece of the glass scraped against my thigh. This time, I didn’t seek any professional help although the cut was deep. I treated it with peroxide and Neosporin. Then I place a band-aid over it. It closed, and I was left with a my second major scar. On the last day of school before winter break during my tenth grade year. My mother picked me up from school that day. She was waiting for me outside and I came out as soon as the bell rang. We were on our way to pick up my boyfriend at the time to go Christmas shopping. After getting him from his home, we were on our way to the mall.

150


University of Miami

Professor Pamela McCluney

Spring 2009

To get to the mall we took the interstate. At the time, the city was building a new runway for the airport. It is made like a bridge over the expressway. As we went under the tunnel like bridge, it was like any other time going under it. But, as we reached the end of it, the most shocking thing happened. Approximately ten minutes before the incident, my mother made sure that we were wearing our seatbelts. I am appreciative that she took charge, because the police explained to us that had we not been wearing them, our injuries could have been worse. An 18-wheeler from J.B. Hunt swerved from their lane into ours. The truck plowed into the side of our car, sending us spinning in circles. We were in traffic during rush hour. As we spun out of control, another tractor trailer came along and hit us in the front, running over the front of the car. This is what stopped us from spinning. After that, I do not remember much about what happened on the scene of the accident. I do remember being on the stretcher in the ambulance. An E.M.T. began a conversation with me. We joked. I must have passed out as we spoke. The next thing I knew, I was in the emergency. There was a gash in my face. I think that my boyfriend and I collided while spinning, but I am not sure. A plastic surgeon came in the room. He stitched my face from the edge of my mouth to the middle of my cheek. Everyone was worried about how I was doing, but I was more focused on my mother and boyfriend. They were both fine, suffering only minor injuries. I got the worst of it. We were all extremely grateful to be living, and thanked God for our safety. I would compare my situation to a young womanâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s in an article that I read in English class. After her relationships ended, she got tattoos expressing the experiences she had. This way she would never forget because of the permanence of tattoos. Although I did not choose to mark my skin, the scar on my face represents what I went through in the accident. The scar is survival, reminding me that I can overcome anything. And I believe that tattoo girlâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s markings are representations of obstacles that must be overcome throughout life.

151


The narratives of Love 106