La Pascua, Part IIIa: The Weeping Woman

So a few hours after I posted that last blog entry—the one that ended with the words, “Suffering is optional”—I threw a tantrum. It was a lie-on-my-bed, cry-and-try-to-huddle-against-a-lonely-and-bitter-future kind of tantrum, the kind that no amount of calm reasoning can assuage. Like most tantrums, it passed only after I had exhausted myself and my need for sleep overtook my emotional reasoning (e.g. I feel like the world is against me, therefore, it must be.)

The day had started off well enough. I went for a quick run (Week 6, Day 2, Couch to 5K). Then, like I do most Tuesday mornings, I visited the elders at the South Valley Multipurpose Center. I posted my blog entry and then headed to my friends’ place to work on a short film we are co-producing. From there, I interviewed a performance poet for an article I’m writing on the spoken word/slam scene in Albuquerque.

Things started to go wrong after the interview. An uncomfortable phone call delayed the start of a project I had hoped to launch this week. Then Henry texted to update me on a home situation that had felt under control, but now seemed completely out of my hands. Then I got home and checked my blog stats. Never go to blog stats (or email or Facebook) looking for love. It was the worst week I’d had in months. (I realized later I was competing with Bin Laden, but still. Ouch.) Fortunately, Andrea the Poet joined us for dinner. She, Henry and I shared a salad made with fresh Valle Encantado greens, conversation about an artist’s responsibility to her/his community, and some wine.

Maybe it was the wine. Maybe it was the coffee I’d had that morning (my first cup in several weeks), followed by the wine that evening. Maybe I just needed to cry. But when Andrea’s car pulled out of our driveway, and Henry picked up his laptop and walked across the yard to the office, I suddenly felt alone, abandoned, unloved. I walked straight to the bedroom. By the time I curled into a ball on the bed, my cheeks were already wet with tears, my nose stopped up (mocos are an embarrassing and completely unsexy by-product of my sensitivity), and my brain so heavy I didn’t know how I’d ever lift my head from the comforter, which just made me cry harder.

I like answers. If I am crying, I want to know why because, surely, knowing why will help me fix things, and if I can fix things, then I can stop crying.

What could it be? Low blog stats? Blood sugar? Nothing will ever be good enough? Was that demon coming back for me? Didn’t I take care of that by jumping off a table at a workshop? A demon felt like the right metaphor, but nothing will ever be good enough felt like the tail whipping around in my head. Attached to the tail, stood a memory, firm and clear.

Deming Municipal Pool, 1977. A lifeguard, one of the Smith boys, blew his whistle, pointed at me, and shouted, “You’re too big for the baby pool.” He sat on a lawn chair at the wading section’s edge, framed by the high block wall and chain link fence that separated the city pool from Pine Street. Dry sunscreen like white icing covered his nose. He wore a floppy hat and tight swim trunks, and the skin on his shoulders was pink where his sunburn had peeled.

He said it again, “Get out of the baby pool. You’re too big.” I looked straight into his mirrored sunglasses. He didn’t take them off to wink his eye and say, “Nah, just kidding.” He was too far away for me to see my reflection in his lenses, but I know I put my head down and tried to climb out of the pool before he could see me cry.

I was five. On the outside, I was taller than every other kid in the wading pool, I had long legs and a little pot belly that pushed against my baby blue one-piece. But I had not yet taken swimming lessons with Tommy Trujillo and was under strict orders from my older brothers, who now formed part of the masses in the splash section, and parents not to venture out of the kiddy area, which was fine with me. My mom had never learned to swim and instilled in us a healthy respect for water. I was convinced that, until I took lessons later that summer, the big kid sections of the pool meant sudden death.

One of my older brothers found me sobbing on a bench, a towel wrapped around my shoulders. I could hardly speak when he asked me what happened. I was too big for the baby pool. But I was too small for the big pool. And if I was too big and too small, then I could never, ever come back.

He said, “Let’s go talk to the lifeguard.”

I said no.

So he told me to wait at the bench, and he walked over to the Smith boy. I imagine my brother said, “She’s only five years old,” and that’s what made the lifeguard smile, shake his head, and follow my brother back to the bench. He knelt down so our faces were even. He still wore his sunglasses. The white stuff was still on his nose. But this time, instead of saying I had to leave, he was asking me to come back. I think I shook my head. He had already kicked me out, and no apology or invitation would make me feel like I belonged there with the other kids.

Tune in next week for the exciting conclusion of “La Pascua: The Weeping Woman.”

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Published in: on May 10, 2011 at 11:11 am  Comments (3)  

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3 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. You’d think that after so many years of listening to people’s adult reckoning with childhood experiences, my awe at the power of little-kid memories would wane. But it just gets stronger. I’m grateful for your compassion in sharing your wrestling with hard feelings born when you were 5 years old.

  2. Mija, sometimes tears come for no reasons that one can explain. It happens to me, so I’ve learned to embrace the moments as a way to cleanse myself of what ever unexplainable demon, hurt, or resentment has been lurking in the shadows. After it passes I say to myself,”What the hell was that all about.”
    I love you.

  3. dear michelle: my heart goes out to you..want to tell you something but i hope it doesn’t sound harsh…understand that this is coming from someone who not very long ago decided she truly wanted to live and even more recently let go of all the shame/regrets of her adult life and finally feels like she is where she is supposed to be: you only chopped the demon’s head by leaping off the table…now you have to chop up the rest of the demon’s body into tiny pieces, then bury each part in a different part of the world, then clear yourself of all the shadows and roots it left in your psyche and your heart, burning each one to ashes…and then after that, all the daily limpias to make sure the demon never gets a foothold again…
    te mando fuerza…


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