How to be a Latin Lover: in Review

How to be a Latin Lover seemed promising: Derbez was the protagonist and the premise seemed to have room for growth, but then precisely because of the premise the movie did not live up to what Derbez had previously made. Derbez playing a sort of emasculated man with very little regard for anyone, rather than work, finds old women and allows himself to be fetishized, exchanging his body directly for material possessions that very easily fall away. Perhaps I needed a movie where the main character realizes that happiness is not money, or at least that his self-worth is more important than having the sugar mommies that take advantage of him sexually. But alas this movie did not have that sort of plot and instead failed in so many ways selling the image of the lazy immigrant, the spicy Latino who projects his machismo onto his nephew. It seemed like a caricature of the Latino immigrant identity at best, in many ways reminiscent of problematic shows like Modern Family and Fresh Off the Boat. Being extremely white-washed and made for white consumption the movie hardly addressed the systematic obstacles in the way of Latino immigrant progress. Salma Hayek playing a hardworking single mom is only one step away from progress, pulling herself up from her boot straps. Yet again, with this trope the movie pushed the conversation away from the reality of racism, capitalism, and sexism and sympathized with the general issue of work progress versus experience: the neoliberal issue of the age. To an extent in the deep background there were clear moments of microaggressions but these were too subtle to be noticed by anyone except people of color who have probably experienced them at some point. The specific moments of culture mockery attempted to blur the image of the Latino as one that is culturally different but still the same: “whites we are not dangerous, our stereotype instead is really funny”. I wonder actually why the Spanish language was used at vulgar moments and the English was saved for serious conversations almost implying the purity of one culture over the other. I did not like this movie although it did have some moments that I really connected to and loved. One specific moment that I loved was the point where Salma and Derbez are singing together and dancing as a way to let go of sadness, but in the corner comes the very respectable and white-acting 10 year old boy (Salma’s screen son) to inform them that they are acting irresponsibly and should go to sleep. I resonated so deeply with this scene because at times when the white-dominated world becomes too engulfing I play the music of my childhood almost as though the apathy of the world can be hushed down with the rhythmic che-che-che of the music. The child of course was made to be white acting and even white passing to ensure that he can fit into the prep school that will ensure his progress into middle-class status; his identity is blurred into the sort of nerd trope as a way to show that it is the culture of dancing and singing that is vulgar, not the forgetting of roots. I have to stop here and think back to the sort of Enlightenment premise of cosmopolitanism. The way that cosmopolitanism is framed, as the white man feeling at home anywhere, already implies that the European tradition and language are preferred, whiteness being the standard through which cosmopolitanism is actualized. Is cosmopolitanism something that delegitimizes my sadness for the culture which I left behind but am nostalgic about? Back to Latin Lover though:  there was hardly any real critique about having to leave a nation-state behind and accept a new culture as one’s own: immigrants can feel at home anywhere as long as they accept and internalize the new culture. No real critique about capitalism was made anywhere in the movie: the movie almost works in a world that does not recognize how it functions. Now here I know you may say: Laura this was a romantic comedy, what did you expect? But I expected a bit more than ableist mockery, the spicy Latino stereotype, the emasculated irresponsible man, and the acceptance of whiteness as fact. How to be a Latino Lover accepted the American identity as white and made Latinx identity a stranger that had to excuse itself and move closer to whiteness; After all: ” White is but a metaphor for power” (James Baldwin).

Reflections on 2016

cw:rape, mental health and medication

I woke up today and actually felt like a different person, as though a weight lifted and I’m plateauing back to rational. 2016 for me was a stretch of a year, one which made me face myself head on. The lithium medication left me stranded in a small internal hell that I couldn’t represent externally. But I stopped taking it, and even while on it forced myself to be productive. I do remember how inadequate and guilty it made me feel any moment that I was not being productive. I ended my relationship with Dan. I still don’t know how this makes me feel. A great amount of my choices are based on my mood cycle so I never quite feel connected to them, only in some distant way do I feel like they affect my current actions. I’ve gotten very good at compartmentalizing but this has also allowed me to survive the downfalls and bad choices that I have made recently. The resilience to continue despite wanting nothing but to stop has proved to be my best character trait, better than anything I could portray externally. I experienced a third case of rape this year; it left me angry, energetic, self-destructive. I think these feelings are staring to fade, becoming a quiet hum while instead I just want to make real connections. I became for a while this person who kept displaying inappropriate emotions and critique. I think 2016 served to humble me: it showed me that I am no one and that I am not superior to anyone, just living through this capitalist reality. I have a lot to externalize in the sense of repressed sadness but I think that eventually I will be able to and the days are staring to get longer rather than shorter. I think that I am ready to go back and to be at peace again. I beat the beast that was trying to suffocate me and I am in a non-cliche way new.

Insignificance

I ripped the candy wrapper,

Did you hear the news?

I ripped the candy wrapper.

I do not remember ripping it,

it must have happened beyond my consciousness

but I ripped it.

I broke it, I tore it, I killed it.

In some way parallel to how I handle relationships.

I ruin, and wreck, and never even intend to or notice.

So then I become apathetic to it, I don’t even feel sadness.

I blame it on:

the season,

My drinking,

my sadness,

and I find a new tv show,

or another person to distract me.

Because in reality I am sad,

I feel remorse and yet did I truly ruin it,

or did they just leave?

I convince myself that it is the latter, that way I did nothing,

I can’t fix it, and it is insignificant.

I stare instead at some image

and forget.

 

 

 

Fragmentation: my trauma

The fragments pull,

what fragments and how exactly can objects, or ideas, or parts pull and in what direction?

I suppose the fragment of forgetting,

the fragment left behind by compartmentalized pain,

What exactly do we mean when we say trauma?

It all goes back to the concepts of consciousness and memory,

but we discussed that memory is often reinvented, remade

the balloon suddenly appears and it is red

never-mind that you never consciously perceived it,

but it is there,

an explanation to the fuzzy image that distracted you and made you vulnerable.

Perhaps the falsification of memory allows us to exist beyond violation.

We not only invent after the fact but interpret memory in whatever way

allows us to exist, allows us to not jump when the subway zooms by,

so when I woke up with no memory,

I remembered the question, that I would have theoretically posed:

I never expressed my consent, except in remorse,

in the crawl on the floor, in the rising anxiety, in de-realization,

in letting you touch me again,

until I couldn’t anymore.

 

The Instant Love; a formula

The liquid dripped, it dripped in an instant

falling from the inside of my crevice

to the leg which sustains me.

It’s almost funny to think

that every experience

that is had

is only perceived to be real

by the sensory organs in the body

and so eventually it all fades.

I keep wondering often

about the illusion of feelings

and whether I will ever

fall so deeply that I won’t rise alone.

Instead leaping up to move

from point a to point d

the point of not being a singular

but of trusting enough to be a second

and yet a first.

humanity has redirected the desire

for stimulation and pleasure

and instead made themselves vaguely aware

of the death instinct,

living moments as though the immediate does not matter.

I looked at the dripping liquid,

it dried on my leg instantaneously

That’s the magic of the male orgasm,

it flows out, hits something and then is over

in many ways the same way as being with someone who

can’t be forever.

They appear, hit you, make you feel

and then leave as though

you could simply wipe off feelings.

The Plague

Being alive is not always a rhythmic feeling; sometimes someone gets shot and you have to pause for one single second and think about how a stranger’s death affects you. You will suddenly look up from your book that you had purchased from the Barnes and noble across from Applebees, and you will wonder about how much power your hands hold. You cannot hold a gun to fire it and you cannot control the way words reach the public. The news reporter barely has any tone when delivering news: the order of news is pre-thought. How much in life is pre-thought? The book that you hold was created by someone; approved by another; and publicized by an industry which reaps all benefits and leaves the creator empty. Words are created to fill your soul but the words on the television only fill your mind with emptiness… Are we beings of nothingness? Or are we slaves to some moral code that disallows the progress of those born in a lesser human state? My eyes look down to my ambiguity: Am I white enough to feel safe? Does this question matter in my ethnic and gender state? We like to say that power lies in military. Externally military power is pertinent but you hold a country together not with threats but with burning ideals. Am I destined to be a slave? Debt likes to poke itself in front of my face: “Buy all the pretty things.” Marx shakes his head but my hand swipes plastic: “Another sweater that I couldn’t turn away.” I’m not sure about who I will become. I was given the opportunity to join the land of the American Dream. Milton Friedman told me that capitalism, alone,  leads to freedom. I like to turn to Simon de Beauvoir who stated that the man who achieved freedom from ideals by having financial independence was simply an adventurer who would not achieve true freedom. True freedom is dusting off the mentality that freedom has blocks which can never be challenged. If hell is other people, then I will have to burn in my lack of action. The news can push the person towards accepting a nihilist outlook: “But I will never achieve anything, I am too small.” Instead we have to mimic Wedekind by creating words that reach the ones oppressed by the ideals of their society. We have to be the masked figure who promises to go somewhere new. We have to make a play, not in a literal sense, that makes the world uncomfortable because the consequences of ignoring a problem is always human death. The shot fired on the television, rebounded around the world, and here I sit: Safe.    

Out of the Cigarette Smoke

As I lay on the carpet after the cigarette touched my lips, I felt an energy surge through me. This energy surge reminded me that it was another day and that everything would continue moving, but that I would be okay. How can something that can kill me provide so much comfort? 

Out of all the scars that life has left inside me, one of my biggest handicaps is my inability to let go. This handicap stops the giggle from escaping my lips. Even words stay trapped inside my brain. Sometimes I wish I had a machine that would read my thoughts and say them for me. 

I bite the water bottle cap because it has a rough texture. I listen to the Pride and Prejudice soundtrack because it has the mellowest sounds. 

I’m not sure about what I want. Some days are better than others. There are always days when I wake up and I know that I won’t be doing anything except crying. 

I work at the concession stand of the movie theater. The popcorn must always keep popping unless it starts to fall from overflow. 

Life seems to hold me down but I really want to fly. Every piece of writing is supposed to have some purpose but this one is just to capture how it feels to smoke a cigarette. Where is the cigarette scene? There is only puff and huff. I become this wolf who tries to blow down her lungs. 

I am also this round object with pretty features. I suppose the feminists would say that I shouldn’t call myself an object. But I will like to declare that the body is only a tool that we use to remain alive until the end of our lives.

I believe in God but I have a doubt in people. I’m unsure of how to build my relationship with God while still remaining within myself. I am my biggest comfort. 

To be honest, as people say to emphasize an obvious statement, the number of people that I trust has dwindled down immensely. If I could graph the phenomenon I would begin with a stable two which grew and then sunk; an exponential phenomenon which resembles the human’s population growth.  

I would love to close this free-thought with the image of a flower but flowers can only contain my interest for a brief second and then they are just colors in a world that is full of images. 

 

Where is my Mind?

I was once depressed and I will not pretend to be fully okay. There are days when darkness comes to play with my head. But I have recovered in some ways. What is the experience of feeling depressed? People assume that depression is sadness. But depression is waking up neither glad nor sad. It is a disinterest that rots life away. This is my interpretation of how depression looks and feels, though only one who holds a similar internal mirror may find my own experience as a small replica:

Every day I try to stand, only to feel a pressure weigh me down. I attempt to lighten this pressure with foreign substances. The sleep never comes on its own…

The clock marks night and the eyes on the face remain close but the mind refuses to shut off; it races and tortures. The eyes open and find darkness. There is no comfort streaming from the television illumination. The channel is switched and soft musical notes fill the room. They serve to comfort until a nightmare shocks the body awake. The pain, the agony consumes, and there on the corner lies salvation: The metal on the skin, stroking, releasing relief to the overactive brain. Redness produced in the innocent outer covering. Cells flying off and new ones found. Thin gossamer produced where there once lay leather. The tears refuse to come down. The pain does not dissipate. The body violated lies worthless. And sleep will not come. The phone lies on the bedside table. It holds loneliness, vile lies in the form of text messages: “I love you”. And a promise for a new day: ” See you tomorrow.”

Is tomorrow an option? Tomorrow is not a promise but a heavy weight. So many tomorrows and no promise of salvation. Forget tomorrow and instead focus on the mirror. Eyes look back red and glazed. The skin around those eyes looks no different. Red with the thread of more tears that made a home and sliced the delicate façade away. Heart stop. Stop. Beating. Only those thoughts race through the head.

A shard hits the soul as the memory of the day endangers to trap the mind in perpetual agony. The gray halls threaten to chill the body yet color alone could hide the decaying body. Skin clinging to bone, losing mass. The mouth longing to break no bread. The stomach requiring no churning. The day was flying away.

An exam in biology, opening the mouth to release musical notes, and then suddenly down the hallway two figures. One stops and moves away. The other continues to move closer finding the lips around the tear streaked face. Hands stroke away some pain. But the eyes of this comfort show a lie. Red eyes look around to see the other moving body. The body is confident, tiger-like, threatening the peace. The truth Is known but blurred by love. Suddenly the arm cannot stay still, finds the skull of the dear lips that just pretended to love, and smashes the skull onto a metal container. Your hand held another’s, the lips on the blotched face say. The other figure smiles, sees the crazy destruction and walks away.

The pain becomes radiating as the figures move away. The pain hits the stomach first. It is an empty feeling that moves towards the lungs and squeezes their capacity away. Breath becomes difficult, the heart replies to the problem by quickening its pace. The pace forces less air to stay inside and the body curves inward holding on to the little life left.

A bell rings signaling another end. With little power the body gets up and the legs manage to run. Cars come, the light is green but the legs refuse to stop. A honk, an adrenaline rush, no sleep, no peace; the body Is home. The bed lays untouched. The pink curtains shield the sun.

Salvation comes in the shade of gray. Blood trickles and suddenly the heart slows, the lungs relax: “everything will be okay,” the pain on the arm sings. Red trickles in drops, iron smells so sweetly and tissues soak up the mess. The bed invites and the body moves closer finding serenity for: ten, nine, eight, seven, six…three, two, One; a nightmare shocks the body awake. Hours later and the body is still awake. Torture is living. Hell holds silence. Another day. The sun once again invites the body to play pretend. When life is hell, is there any peace, is there any home? Only time knows but it serves to torture.

 

Write about something ugly–war, fear, hate, or cruelty–but find the beauty (silver lining) in it.

To see human beings in agony, to see them covered in blood and to hear their death groans, makes people humble. It makes their spirits delicate, bright, peaceful. It’s never at such times that we become cruel or bloodthirsty. No, it’s on a beautiful spring afternoon like this that people suddenly become cruel. It’s at a moment like this, don’t you think, while one’s vaguely watching the sun as it peeps through the leaves of the trees above a well-mown lawn? Every possible nightmare in the world, every possible nightmare in history, has come into being like this.

Yukio Mishima, “The Temple of the Golden Pavilion”

 

 

There are only remnants of atrocities. The human race is one of suffering; We suffer but we also inflict suffering. Today begins tomorrow. My eyes refuse to close, my heart won’t stop accelerating, and the images won’t stop replaying. What if we had stayed home? 

“Jim let’s go!” I looked up from my bed to the small woman shouting my name. It was time to once again go to the market. How I hated going to the market. I got up and ripped open the closet door, found a t-shirt and a pair of patched up jeans and threw them on. Mom gave me the usual bags of merchandise to carry. As I walk out of the front door, one of my classmates walks by the house. I keep my head down hoping that he won’t mention that he saw me to my other classmates. I hear my name but pretend to be too occupied with the floor to answer. 

We walk several miles, the bags begin to feel like 100 pounds but I cannot complain; mother is carrying the equivalent. We wait in silence. There are some boys I know playing soccer. My feet ache to pass the ball from one foot to the next. Instead I grab the bags as the bus pulls up. I fling myself forward and find a seat, lean my head on the window, and clench as mother finds herself next to me. Why do I have to be stuck here? Why is life so terrible that I have to give up my Saturday to help mother sell clothing? Questions won’t stop forming in my head. I decide to close my eyes. 

I awake to a heavy blow to my head. I look around and see mother laying on the floor. The bus has somehow flipped several times. “Help me!” “My leg” There are screams everywhere. My head throbs but I jump to mother’s side. She is awake but she is bleeding. She has hurt the side of her stomach. ” Get me out.” I put my arm around her frame which is now humped over and walk out of the bus. The sun shines outside; it shines on the bus which seems to become smaller as people continue screaming. Mother sits outside the bus, her face seems far away, but her eyes speak of pain. 

I hold her and walk up the hill that the bus had flipped on. We stand in silence.

Six months Later

We stand in silence as the doctor tells mother that she has a cancerous tumor in her stomach. I clench my fists recognizing that I had once hated the small amount of time that I spent with mother. Suddenly Saturdays didn’t feel like wasted opportunities but memories of someone whose soul was being taken away from earthly life. 

Mother stands in her youth among twelve children.

She sits by a sewing machine day and night.

We eat cheap things.

Mother takes me with her to the market.

” I am hungry mother.”

“Wait son there is not enough money for breakfast yet.”

The boys outside play with the cars that they had gotten on Christmas.  

I am making the courses; I have no toy car.

Mother returns and brings me one.

Mother is hurt.

Mother is dying and I have no one left. 

I take mother to visit after visit.

She cannot afford expensive treatments.

Mother is dying and all that I can do is watch.

The cancer is a vine and it is overtaking the only person who loves me.

Beeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep.

She has died. 

But with her death dies her pain. With her pain she has moved away from her burdens. She is still among us but she does not have to wait to provide. Mother in her beautiful struggle. She fought until the end.