In my spare time, I write. A lot.
One of the things I've done while being abroad is founded and written in a zine called Why Am I Always Hungry? In it, writers from around the city contribute to issues on hunger--literal but mainly metaphorical.
My favorite genre is the narrative/blog, but I also adore poetry and the short stories. By clicking on the bubbles to the right, you will be redirected to a page that has samples of my work.
* This is just a sample from a larger piece, which hopefully will be turned into a novella. It began as a project I joined to write about teenagers in a way that depicts them more than just star-crossed lovers. This is dedicated to my friends: CT, Lindsay, Lanoux, KBo, Leigh Lorraine, and Snew.
Part 1: The Beginning
Chapter 1: The Infamous Identity
She sat on the roof of her apartment that gazed over the foreign city, now more of a comfort to her than her own self, while she let her eyes comb across the light that rose from the deadened sky. She got a strange pleasure from watching this light; it always stimulated her cynical mind, making her wonder if the darkness ignited the light, or if the light birthed the darkness.
Either way, it was fucked.
A cold breeze sliced through her skin, so she blanketed her arms around her legs while sipping on her coffee. To her one side lay her pen and papers scattered by the wind and an untouched book; on her other side, her emptiness reigned.
And this—watching the sunrise, reflecting on her ever-so-cliché-and-privileged estrangement, and appeasing her sardonic 17-year-old teenage attitude—had become a morning ritual ever since she had begun seeking the Great Embracement with her Infamous Identity.
She, Charlene Gardenia, first heard of The Infamous Identity when she was 9-years-old, tucked away in the upper shelf of her brother’s closet where she could press her ear against the hot breath of the ventilator, a man-made device that God seemed to have transformed into extendable ears for children to listen to the great secrets of the world. That particular day, her brother Pete, 10 years her senior and a recent high school graduate, had brought a girl into his room, subsequently piquing Charlie's curiosity, guiding her to that secret lair above his closet. There, she eagerly curled next to the vent, waiting to taste the gossip.
She knew her brother had some divine secret that he had been sitting on for weeks; she had noted that he had been scribbling away in his art journal, that he had gone inward, become more laconic, different. And she was pissed that she potentially would not be the first person he shared this divine secret with but with his girl friend, who to everyone's surprise was still not Pete's girlfriend. But maybe that would change tonight, Charlie hoped.
So really, as Charlie lay prone on the shelf and ear pressed desirously upon the vent, she was hoping to hear about sex, masturbation, the agony of unrequited love, all those taboo topics that 9-year-olds weren’t supposed to know about but she did, thanks to eavesdropping for months now in that closet. And what she really, really hoped for, because Pete had locked the door to his room and stuffed a towel in its crack, was to see—well, at least hear—what happens when boys and girls clumsily attempt to make love, and as she was wondering what “making love” actually was, she heard her brother begin to speak.
“I found it,” he began, at first in a soft, wondrous voice. “I think I have discovered what I have been looking for for months,” he declared. "That thing, that concept, that word we couldn't quite seem to elicit but knew...felt... existed," he stated. Charlie could detect his uneasiness by his pacing, indicated by the whispering of his clothes and the annoying creak in the floor that cried every time anyone even breathed too close to it.
“Well,” his friend said keenly, “What is it ?”
Charlie waited in anticipation as silence spread across the walls and seeped through the vent. Her mouth became dry, her skin perspired.
Charlie then heard the floor squeal again as Pete finally stated: “The Infamous Identity,”
“The Infamous Identity…” his friend questioned.
“The. In-fa-mous. I-dentity,” he stated again.
“Thah Infamous Ee-dentity,” she mocked him.
“Yeah,” he said, hushed and resolutely. “Don’t be an asshole.”
No sound was made. Charlie could hear the two of them breathing a language unknown to her while seconds turned into minutes, each tick hammering her naiveté.
“And?” she finally asked.
She heard the creak in the floor yell in agony again as Pete chewed on his response.
“Well,” he began, almost cautiously, “one thing that must be clarified is that to truly obtain this Infamous Identity, you must also enact the Great Embracement. The hardest part."
He continued sauntering through his small room as the girl lay on his bed, whose wood cracked when she occasionally shifted her position and whose sheets were still draped in Star Wars designs from his childhood. Charlie wondered if his friend knew about those sheets and would still want to “make love” with him when she discovered them.
“Remember when I imagined myself in that stark, white room, naked, uninfluenced by Mother Culture—society, my parents, religion, you—and only by my own desires? Well, I knew that was the Infamous Identity…or that by doing that, metaphorically speaking, the Infamous Identity would surface.”
His friend waited for him to continue.
“It’s just that,” he gained momentum, “we are so encumbered by what we think we should do, who we think we should be, where we think we should live, who we think we should love, all of this fucking thinking, and … what is it to truly think? what does it mean to be...to live and be authentically ourselves?”
He was frustrated, Charlie could tell. Both girls waited in the confines of their own ignorance for him to continue.
“So,” he began again. “I decided to read books. I researched. I asked questions to our teachers, and all of this did open up my mind, but then I thought, I’m still not thinking. I´m still not being me. I am reading the thoughts of someone else. Where is my goddamned mind? My own thinking? My own Self?” he stated prophetically, exasperatedly. His friend shifted on his bed again while Charlie, paralyzed on the top shelf of the closet, had no idea what she was witnessing in her brother.
He started up again, a little calmer. “And when I began to write and do my art, that’s when my thinking and my Self-blossomed. I realized that for so long, my—no, all of our thoughts and beings are a product of this Mother Culture, this Bitch Goddess who is like that Queen Mab fairy in Romeo and Juliet, you remember? The one Mercutio talks about that sleeps with all of the men and women each night, jumping from nose to nose, slipping these people dreams they’re “supposed” to have so they can be a product of her, not who they truly are, not of what they truly desire. Well, that’s Mother Culture. Queen Mab. And what’s messed up isn’t that she exists, but that we let her think for us, we let her make our beings, because it is easier, and because most of us, like the dreamers in that speech, are totally unaware of her presence,” he stated emphatically. "We refuse to step outside. We refuse to be... infamous."
After a few moments, he added in a melancholic voice more of an absolute resolution for himself rather than for his friend, who no longer seemed to exist in the room.
“But not me," he whispered. "I no longer will be her slave. I am not afraid of infamy; yes, it’s stitched with shame, disgust, but when you unthread that word, when you unstitch it from the quilt of yourself, all you get is You. And that is fucking beautiful. That is fucking real,” he concluded, sealing a silent prayer between himself and Fate.
Again, silence permeated the air, leaving Charlie to wonder whether they would ever talk about something she understood or if he would continue his philosophical diatribe all night leaving her to sleep in the upper shelf of his closet. Maybe they would fall asleep and she could sneak out. Maybe they would stay talking there forever and Charlie would die in that closet. Whatever was to happen, she knew for certain they'd never be “making love.”
His friend, who hadn’t uttered anything since the banter of The Infamous Identity, finally spoke.
“So, what are you telling me, Pete? That you have found your Infamous Identity-- Your Truth---and are happy about it and want me to accept and love it?” she sighed. “Or are you telling me that because of this Infamous Identity, you’ll need to move on with your life and forget everything that is Mother Culture, including me?”
She seemed to see straight through his garrulous banter and penetrate the more realistic issue: he was moving away from her, from them, something Charlie didn’t recognize yet. There was trepidation in the friend’s questioning, and despondency replaced the silence with a charged scream that seemed to unearth the room.
“Well,” he said, hesitantly, “I am at least trying to find it. To Embrace it. I haven’t quite done that fully, but, and..and...," he seemed to have taken a gigantic bite out of his thoughts and now was unable to swallow. Charlie at this moment was nearly inside the vent, ignited by curiosity. His friend had stopped breathing entirely.
"And, yes... I....my journey towards it will start now. I can't do what's prescribed for me. Not now, maybe never. This will leave me estranged. From you, my parents, Charlie. But, well, one thing I do know, that I have discovered about my Infamous Identity, is....that I’m..."
And at that moment, Charlie, impregnated with overzealous desire, had pressed her ear too heatedly to the vent, causing it to scorch, and with a scream, she tumbled from the shelf onto the floor with a cacophonic boom.
Without even gaining her breath, she saw light stretching across the dark closet, divesting her of her hiding spot. And there were Pete and his friend, eyes blading against her skin.
Moments later, Pete shot Charlie down the stairs and ten minutes later, his friend left the room, never to be seen at their house again. In her room, Charlie plummeted into a deep curiosity about this Infamous Identity and the Great Embracement, but all she could conclude was that she knew from that point on, she’d never learn about the taboos between boys and girls, at least from her brother. And that her brother had gone through something that would take him away from her.
Years later, when Charlie entered high school in ninth grade and she finally read that Queen Mab speech in Act 1.4 of Romeo and Juliet, she gave an unparalleled and astute analysis of the excerpt because she remembered that prodigious event in the upper shelf of her brother’s closet. And while reading that speech, she realized that the Infamous Identity wasn’t analogous to being gay, as she thought for the last five years; rather, it signified being your True Self, whoever that might be, which inevitably would be “infamous” because it would contradict Queen Mab—Mother Culture herself—and anything that contradicts Her could gain no positive fame but blistered lips and banishment. And with this epiphany, she decided, like her brother did, to reject her previous lifestyle—one of comfort, popularity, ignorant bliss—so that she could avoid the spells of Queen Mab and trek down that dangerous road towards finding herself.
Towards the Infamous Identity.
i found your dead body
i found your dead body
the hem of your skirt.
i was in a labyrinth
searching for your shadow
when i found you.
scattered like white pills
over the forest’s sink.
spilled like red wine
across the wood’s carpet.
splintered like the cries
of the shifting trees mourning
i felt you smiling
dead with life,
cold with warmth
the wood’s mouth
would devour your flesh.
And then--the maze’s jaws
began craning open,
screaming with relief,
As it swallowed you whole.
and i cannot lie:
i, too, was happy
You were gone.
i finally lifted your skirt
to discard your bones
When there, i saw it:
your shadow hidden
in the cloak of my own face.
—how transient are such human emotions? –
We slice through them,
like planes through
the thin, wintry sky
just to emerge
on the other side
We cling to them as
a nun presses her doctrines
tightly to her breasts
We flick them
like the core of an apple
towards that cold, biting sky
What might’ve been
the only thing
holding us together.
And on this dreary day,
I cannot help but wonder
if you and I are merely
targets through which
Cupid’s arrow passes
Or if we are something more
too often I am
by your whisping arrow
by your sharpened needle
by your smoothed body
And I think: es demasiado
I need you
pressed against me
speering the life into me.
A Modern-Day Prufrock
"And I have known the eyes already, known them all–
The eyes that fix you in a formulated phrase,
And when I am formulated, sprawling on a pin,
When I am pinned and wriggling on the wall,
Then how should I begin
To spit out all the butt-ends of my days and ways?
And how should I presume?"
How should I presume? —a question that haunts my consciousness whenever I’m tossed into unfamiliar situations, and Awkwardness begins to lift its body from its sedentary position, rubbing its back against my leg, carefully licking its tongue across my body, and lingering in every corner of the room so that all I can focus on is me and myself and all the Awkwardness that is the room and nothing else.
And though this Awkwardness does surface plenty of times for me in the United States, it seems to dwell permanently with me in Ecuador. Like, Awkwardness is my best friend; we travel to school together, the park, grocery store, the almacen, ditches, sewers, mountains–name a place, and Awkwardness and I have probably taken a selfie together there.
The worst, though, is in social situations, especially with Ecuadorians. I try not to bring Awkwardness with me, but the bruja is relentless. No matter what, she insidiously latches herself onto me, and even if I manage to separate myself from her and have moments of normalcy, I know she’ll find me. And when she does, I suddenly transform from a confident, semi-intellectual person into a babbling idiot who slips and falls and basically makes a doo-doo at the table for all to laugh at and see.
The modern-day J. Alfred Prufrock right here, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you very much.
So the worst of these incidents occurred a couple of weekends ago, when, for the first time, I was venturing outside of my gringo posse to chill with some local Ecuadorians. My entry into this party was dependent on a girl whom I had only met the day before. She is a friend of a friend of a friend of mine from the United States—or something unimportant like that—and after meeting her, she invited me to a BBQ with her local friends. How perfect, right?
…. Not quite, because Awkwardness decided to crash the party.
As I entered this Ecuadorian parrillada, only 10 people were there—the perfect number for Awkwardness to decide to arrive. Because, if there had been fewer people there, I could have made an effort to go forth and interact like a normal human being, and if there had been more people, then I could have known for sure that I could be a wallflower, choosing when and with whom I wanted to talk.
But there were 10 fucking people: 10 unfamiliar faces, 10 culturally-distant minds, and 10 pairs of judging eyes that were gathered around a large table, all fixated upon me, already formulating and pinning me up how they wanted without considering who I wanted to be. And I felt my body being shoved into the wall, my arms lifted and stapled up high, my face glued to the left (a very unflattering side of myself, I might add), and my feet left dangling just inches above the ground so that I was left as a spectacle for all to see. Upon completing their display of me, all of their eyes returned to the table at which they formulated a phrase to best capture my essence (perhaps weirdo? awkward? or quiet gringa?) after which they continued their conversations about God knows what, because let’s be real, my Spanish sucks.
So there I was, pinned and wriggling on the wall, etherized by their judgment and formulation, while Awkwardness took the lead and began to interact with all. I was left wondering, what should I do next? How should I presume? And for me, the answer was simple: I should drink.
I began to drink the cheap whiskey and sweet, nasty Ecuadorian liquor–both of which are only $5 if that says anything about the quality– in hopes that the effects would loosen Awkward’s grip at the party and the pins in my arms. And it did work, for a while; I made an effort to reinvent the phrase they had given me, to be who they probably expected me to be–a fun, social American who plays beer pong and has confidence in herself. All was well until about midnight when the alcohol’s effects began to mitigate and what was left was a worse version of my previous self: a tired, semi-drunk, socially-awkward person who was too exhausted to genuinely comprehend life.
So for literally 2 hours, I sat there at the end of the table, regressing into a weird, dumb American while Awkwardness filled the space and took shots with the Ecuadorians. But finally (finally!) around 2:30 a.m., my friend announced it was time for us to go (an early night, she added). It was an exit for me and my Awkwardness! I could be free!
Unfortunately, though, there was still one more barrier to cross: the goodbye hurdle.
In the Ecuadorian culture, whenever you first meet someone–whether for the first time or old friends–you kiss them on the cheek. And not just the host, but each. person. there. A simple wave of the hand doesn’t suffice like it does in the United States; you have to be more personable. And the same goes for departures; even if you don’t know any person there, you are expected to kiss each person on the cheek. And because I’m American, and especially because I have Awkwardness as a best friend, I hate doing this. So here I was, the first to leave, unsure if I should follow this Ecuadorian protocol or if I should just maintain my American Awkwardness and leave. I decided on somewhere in between–that I’d kiss those I actually talked to and the host of the part on the cheek.
As I lifted myself from my chair to enact this gesture, Awkwardness (the bitch!) spilled her maldito sugary drink on me so that as I was leaning in for a goodbye, my head contorted just enough for my kiss to completely miss the host’s cheek and land directly on her mouth. I stood there, frozen, while English-word vomit began to erupt from my mouth—“Uhhh, that…no, like, pshhh, I didn’t mean to, um…oops?” while she and those other 10 pairs of eyes began to fixate upon me again, thrusting back against the wall and permanently nailing me there, while Awkwardness continued sipping on her drink, laughing so hard that she had to hold on to her new Ecuadorian friends for support.
Frustrated and embarrassed, I ripped my sleeves from the wall of shame, waved a completely hella-stupid American goodbye (God, I looked so ridiculous), and peaced the f out, managing to slip in a quick thanks and sorry to the host.
For days, I wondered, How should I presume? By stabbing Awkwardness in the heart? By never hanging out with Ecuadorians again? By never leaving my house so that I can avoid encountering anyone ever? But I decided to just say, whatever.
I called up Awkwardness to have a quick drink, and we decided that if I’m going to be awkward, and if Awkwardness must continually be a part of my life, I might as well embrace it all.
A (non-cliché) Thank You
As I returned a graded paper to my student,
She casually tossed me a
(so limp with apathy,
thick with emptiness)
That I ducked to avoid being smacked with a cliché
Her tossed words,
like so many others,
Dead and forgotten in a vibrant field,
like the crispy shell a cicada sheds
on a warm summer night
As I lifted my gaze to this garrulous girl
--her hair dyed blue and tongue stapled with a bolt--
I couldn't help but find similarities
between her Thank You and attire,
both raiments covering
something more honest and real.
And I then wondered how I could strip this world
Of its trite sayings and images
To replace them
with a stronger emotion,
A truer representation
Of how we really feel.
Because an overused phrase,
like any flat soft drink,
loses its flavor
and ability to awaken.
And the girl, noticing my pause,
Stopped to look back at me
(her gaze saying much more than her empty thank you).
And I, reaching for anything and everything
that could illustrate my thoughts--
how there's always so much more and better ways to
express ourselves than our go-to cliches--
merely landed on the only words
That I could shed:
Zorro SAT Prep
Zorro SAT Prep is a company that my partner and I founded in January 2017. We were inspired to create this company and teach SAT courses after a plethora of our students asked us for private tutoring, so we decided to help everyone.
As CEO, I am responsible for creating the website, recruiting students, and "secretary" of the company, answering all calls and e-mails regarding inquiries and other questions. Additionally, I serve as the business manager, collecting and distributing the money to our employees.
As a teacher for the course, I teach the language and writing section of the SAT. For each session, we have 3 teachers--one for reading comprehension and the essay, one for language and writing, and one for math--and 12 students split into groups of 4 rotate to among teacher every 2 hours.
Lastly, after learning and unpacking the SAT test, I decided to write a book for our students that compiled the best strategies and practices for the reading, language and writing section. It is 164 pages long and serves as a great study guide for the students.
For a more holistic understanding of our company, please visit www.zorrosatprep.com.