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collage

Why I Am Who I Am

“Happiness is best when shared.”

*****

Being the only daughter definitely has its advantage, but inside a car it doesn’t. My two older brothers always get the window seats, and yet again, I found myself squeezed in the middle of them in the backseat. They both had their heads leaned against the window, and were fast asleep. I didn’t understand how the excitement wasn’t keeping them wide-awake.

The sun was just rising; dawn steadily breaking the deep purple horizon. My parents animatedly sat in the front seat, holding hands, and singing along together to Total Eclipse of the Heart. My mom was in the passenger seat, thumbing through the map with her free hand, and my dad keeping his eyes on the stretched out highway.

We had about 12 hours to drive to the coast of Texas: South Padre island. Every summer we took a family vacation, and this year was my turn to choose the destination, so I picked the beach, I picked the sun, I picked the clear water.

*****

I watched you grow, while I withered. That is the life of a tree — your tree.
You used to sit on one of the thickest branches that extended out towards the sky, and climb to the top to pick my peaches. I’d watch you toss them down to your brothers, while gathered them for your grandma.

I’ve watched many human generations of your family.

The older you got, less time you spent with me. I think perhaps my roots adapted to this change of pace, as each passing year I developed less and less fruit.

But on the summer your grandmother passed away, you stayed in her house for the following month like you used to during childhood.

Time is linear, my dear child, but growth is not.

*****

“El huevón limpia doble.” (The lazy one cleans twice.)

*****

In May of 2012, I had just arrived home from my second year of university for the summer. I was halfway through my undergrad studies of Biology, and left uninspired and out of place. So I welcomed the idea of going home, of being around friends, and family — of feeling like I belonged.

The drive from my university to my small hometown in Texas is about a 9-hour drive through many different terrains, one I have begrudgingly learned to cherish. Long drives and music really have a way of clearing the mind.

When I finally arrived at home, it was midday. My mom would still be at the hospital working, and my dad just getting off. It didn’t bother me however, our empty house. I preferred it this way, having the alone time to unpack my things for my summer stay without the bombardment of questions from my parents.

While putting away my things, I heard the faint sound of my front door being opened. Getting up enthusiastically, I ran over to the living room to greet my dad and hug him. He smiled lopsidedly at me and kissed the top of my head, “It’s good to see you mija, home feels better with you here.”

My dad took off his boots and put away his things. He turned on the TV and I could hear the news in the background. This struck me as unusually odd; he never listened to this bullshit, normally he’d annoyingly be watching a sports channel. While I let the food simmer on the stove, I walked over to the livingroom and sat with him. Then I soon understood why he had it on the news, his focus was on his phone. I peered over at what he was concentrating on, and saw his scrolling through his sports app. Laughing, I snatched up his phone from him and stuffed it behind a pillow, “You can look at that later.”

His rubbed the scruff of his uneven beard, and looked at me playfully, the corner of his mouth curling upwards in his fatherly smile, “I’m hungry.”

In the background, the news anchor in his haughty voice announced, “North Carolina becomes the 30th state to ban gay marriage.”

It caught my attention, and I frowned turning my head to the screen.

“North Carolina is no longer a shadowy place Trinh, now we can go there,” my dad said smugly, in a terrible reference to a Lion King quote by Mufasa to Simba.

I turned back to him, surprised, speechless and with anger welling up in my eyes.

“Whoa mija, what’s wrong?” My dad cupped my face, and looked at me intently. I didn’t know where this reaction was coming from, or where my delicate courage came from when I managed to accusingly utter out, “Why shouldn’t I be able to get married wherever the hell I want?”

His facial expression registered from confusion to understanding to blind anger, his hands dropping from my face, as he engaged me in a stare down battle.

The doorbell interrupted us, signaling my mom being home. I was frightened; my impulsive revelation to the non blood related man I considered my dad couldn’t be taken back.

*****

I used to loathe the smell of your perfume, and all the ways in which this single scent could make me re-live an overwhelming amount of better off forgotten memories.

Our last encounter, two years ago, ended terribly. On Christmas night, after we had had dinner at your parents, you told me you were seeing someone else. Not only dating someone new, but fucking him too. My brain shutdown, a normal response to trauma, according to psychology. I melted into your evergreen colored couch shocked. I wasn’t sure what you were expecting my reaction to be. In truth, that moment was the closest I have ever come to sincerely hating you.

You sat beside me hesitantly, and hugged me, desperately trying to console me and soothe my anger. I flinched at your touch, and eventually let you — I didn’t have the mental capacity to stop you.

The smell of your skin wrapped around me. Deep and musky, with an underlying waft of lavender and vanilla. I concentrated on this, let it completely blind and intoxicate me. It was all I could do to hold myself together.

*****

My favorite picture is placed in a black frame. It’s my most prized possession, and has been everywhere with me. All the countries I’ve lived in, and all the lands I’ve travelled — this is always the one thing that comes with me.

The picture is of my mom and I. It’s one of the few pictures I have of us together — even more unusual, I’m actually smiling. Not making a dumb face or being silly, but genuinely smiling. I look happy. So does my mom.

I fear missing out on the people I love.

you are my person
i have loved you from the start
and until the end

*****

Whiskey amber surrounds your pupils, while a light evergreen shade makes up the outer layer, infiltrating the golden color. It reminds me of Sunday mornings in the mountains, where I would look up through the ocean of trees to catch a glimpse of the sunrise, while streams of bright golden sunlight pierced through.

My love for your eyes, overpower my jealousy. Out of all of us, you alone inherited grandpa’s light colored trait.

Maybe that’s why I always felt growing up, mom loved you more.

*****

“You have abuelo’s hands.”

Berlin, Germany

———————————-

I reaction essay I wrote at the beginning of my first semester for my Creative Writing class. It goes as follows:

There are seven different short exercises which will make up a collage of your life. It’s important for each exercise to write spontaneously; let the words flow out; just follow your pen; don’t censor, don’t judge. Don’t ask: did this really happen – assume that it did.

My teacher gave us 10 minutes to write for each prompt:

Describe a smell from your past.
Describe a moment everything changed.
Describe a car journey from your childhood.
Letter from a tree.
Describe your favorite photo.
Quotations from your past.
Describe a part of someone you love.

reminder 

Don’t miss out on life by desensitizing yourself. 

People are often scared to say too much, to feel too deeply. 

Caring is not synonymous with weak. 

Yes, expressing yourself will make you vulnerable, and will make your heart a target for harsh criticism. Not everyone will like your honesty. There’s no denying that. 

But please remember, there’s absolutely no shame in it. 

Do not let self-doubt steal your softness. 

Do not let another soul take your tenderness. 

There is breathtaking magic in being honest, in allowing yourself to strip down and be emotionally exposed and naked. 

Express, express, express. Open yourself up, do not harden yourself to the world, and be bold in who, and how you love. 

That is courage. That is love. That is life. 


Berlin, Germany

Star Stuff

We are vessels — the universe is in us
The pulse of story, the soft hums of labor and love
Free from the shackles of space and time

But science works on the frontier of knowledge and ignorance
Some claim evolution is just a theory
It’s also a soaring spiritual experience
And the cosmos reveal that all life on Earth is one

So what can natural selection do operating over billions of years?
What is the life expectancy of a civilization?
Are there any mementos from when the Earth was born?
Or is it possible that life came to Earth as a hitchhiker?

There seems to be a mysterious force in the universe
We call it “dark energy”
But age and size of the cosmos are written in light
And the design in the stars, is the same in our hearts —
Holy

I know this sounds crazy, but —
this story is about you… me… your dog
Written in the a language that all life can read
the ancient scripture of our genetic code
All of it cooked in the fiery hearts of long-vanished stars

And yet — the Universe is under no obligation to make sense to us.


Berlin, Germany 

Home is where the stomach is. 

This is an essay for my Writing Beyond the Boundaries class. It’s supposed to focus on food and/or drink. 

———————–

January 2nd, 2017

When a French, American, and Mexican walk into a bar… they will undoubtedly leave drunk and hungry. 

And so half past three in the morning we followed our stomachs through all the small winding, cobbled streets of Prague, Christmas lights illuminating our way. Soft snowflakes fell upon us, but it would not deter us. In fact, the confetti like icicles only enhanced the gut wrenching desire, or perhaps that was the alcohol overriding our sense of cold. I followed my companions, and let them lead the way. 

What would we finally decide on? Kulajda? Goulash? Trdelník? The possibilities were wide and endless, even at this time at night. Prague seemed to suit my insomniatic nature. I know, I know… insomniatic isn’t a definitive word. But for a moment imagine it means having problems with sleeping due to unimaginable euphoric feelings of happiness. 

Lost in my own thoughts of textbook definitions and the meaning of life, quite literally, I accidentally stumbled into the back of Daniel, who stood next to Ethel in front of a bright neon lime green sign, his deep intoxicated voice faltering with excitement, “I’ve found what we’re eating.” Ethel’s slight chuckle in the background made me curious. 

I regained my composure and squeezed in between them, my eyes searching for what made them stop so abruptly. A small inaudible “ah” escaped through my dry cracked lips, and an uncontrollable grin spread across my face. 


BURRITO LOCO

Initially, I found it hilarious. Earlier in the day we had spoken of finding a nice sit down restaurant to enjoy dinner and savor the many flavors of Czech cuisine, so I hesitated on Daniel’s choice. 
Someone walked out of the place with a small plastic to go bag, the zesty aroma of fresh guacamole following and overtaking my sense of smell — I found myself enthusiastically leading us inside. 
We placed our orders and waited patiently off on the side, or at least I did. “Good food takes love and time,” my mom has always told me.  

I thought of her earnestly and fondly in this moment. Somewhere across the world, in her differing time zone; it was dinner. 

She would have just gotten off of work. Her hour commute from the hospital to home would be filled with thoughts of what to cook for the evening. She would be indescribably exhausted, but would be too stubborn to abandon the opportunity for a home cooked meal shared with family. 

I admired this about my mom, her sense of family. After years of bountiful disagreement and hard arguments, she was still my most loved person. Despite the distance, or perhaps even because of it, our relationship had becoming increasingly vital to my own personal happiness. Time does that, I suppose. It really makes you appreciate people and experiences — 

and food. 

My overly large, aluminum wrapped burrito was thrust into my hands by Ethel, bringing my transatlantic thoughts back to the present moment, back to gothic structured Prague, back to the random small restaurant serving a Mexican dish I missed, back to my friends I was creating this experience with. 
I took my first bite, and chewed slowly… thoughtfully. The texture of the tortilla wasn’t as soft as I’m used to, but the chicken had a delightful smoky hint, accentuated by the burst of lime and onions. 

It wasn’t at all close to my mom’s cooking, but I enjoyed it anyway, recalling another one of her kitchen wisdoms: 

Food, like happiness, is best when shared.  


Prague, Czech Republic