Friday, May 30, 2008

In all likelihood- a story

Alice arrives at a bar, where she is expecting to meet Drake for the first time. They have been communicating online for about a month. It started innocently enough, with Drake replying to her personal ad. As the weeks passed by, they graduated from e-mail to IM. They chat all the time, but have never spoken on the phone. Drake is ambitious and driven, but a little shallow; not the kind of guy she usually likes. Still, he makes her feel sexy.

She has lied about her looks; she's not really a petite blonde with size double D breasts. The photo on her profile is a fake. He will not be able to spot her in the crowded bar. That gives her some security and the chance to see him first and decide if she really wants to meet. If he looks like a creep/psycho stalker, she'll hightail it out of there. She worries a little about his reaction when he finally sees her. Will he be disappointed or mad? Will he like her? Will he think she's too fat?

Dan is sitting at the bar waiting to meet Ambrosia for the first time. He is crazy about this girl, literally gaga. After a month chatting, they have finally scheduled a meeting face to face, and he can't wait to meet her sweet hotness. Their chats have progressively gotten hotter and raunchier, and he is hoping that they will enact some of the sex scenarios they have been chatting about.

As much as he is wildly enthusiastic about meeting Ambrosia, Dan is afraid she'll blow him off because he has exaggerated a few things about his physical appearance. He doesn't really have a wide chest and hard-rock, six-pack abs; in fact, he's got a bit of a beer belly. At least he does not have man boobs, and he still has all his hair. She's gotta go for that, right? And while he does not drive a Porsche, he hopes she finds his Prius sexy. Gotta save the environment.

Ambrosia will be carrying a red rose, so Dan scans the crowd on the lookout for the telltale sign. He had said he would be wearing a red shirt, and at the time he meant it. But he figured he wanted to check her out first, in case she turned out to be a dog.

Alice sits at the bar right beside Dan. She catches a glimpse of him out of the corner of her eye. He's not at all bad looking. She orders a drink and settles into her stool. The TV behind the bar is showing a Battlestar Galactica rerun. Weird. Bartender must be a sci-fi geek. Where’s Drake?

Dan takes notice of the newcomer. She's kinda cute. He says hi, asks her if she likes Galactica. Turns out she is a fan. Cool. If Ambrosia doesn't show up, he might have someone to talk to and share a beer with. Where is Ambrosia, by the way? Has she changed her mind about meeting him?

After thirty minutes, both Alice and Dan get bored and tired of waiting for their respective dates, so they strike up a conversation at the bar and Dan buys a round of drinks. He asks if she comes here often. They tell each other about their jobs, their hobbies and where they went to school. They talk about their favorite bands. Both lie about their reasons for being there; each finds it embarrassing to admit they are meeting someone from the personals.

Alice realizes she likes this guy a lot. Sure, he’s no hot stud like Drake; but he might end up being something much better. Not only is he cute, he's intelligent, funny, and doesn't take himself too seriously. She has blushed a few times as his eyes held her gaze a little longer than expected. In turn, Dan finds himself wondering what Alice looks like naked. He is fascinated by her. She has a beautiful smile, she is smart, likes beer and sci-fi. What's not to like? He can see himself bringing her breakfast in bed in the morning.

Once it was plainly obvious that they have hit it off, Alice feels bold enough to tell Dan the real reason why she is at the bar. As she does, his jaw drops open. Not a good sign, he must think I am a loser. She braces for the inevitable brush-off.

Dan is dumbfounded. It has dawned on him that this girl is his date, and she is every bit as much of a liar as he is. The absurdity of it all hits him full blast, and try as he might he can't control his laughter.

Alice is puzzled at first, then angry. What the frak is so funny? What a jerk. She should have known better than to trust a man she met at a bar. She gets up and turns to leave; but Dan grabs her by the arm. She turns around to slap him when all of a sudden he says: "Nice to meet you, Ambrosia." The color drains from her cheeks as she stands there, a kid caught with her hand in the cookie jar. So this is all a game to him. What a bastard; he's known all along and he's been baiting her, mocking her. Alice is mortified. If only the earth could open right then and there and swallow her. Oh God, just kill me now.

But Dan has stopped laughing. He holds her hand. He apologizes profusely for laughing; it's a nervous reaction, he says. A stupid guy thing. He's very sorry about that, and would she do him the honor of having coffee with him? After all, despite lying about everything, they still managed to find each other in a crowded bar. That's got to count for something, right?

She looks him in the eye; he holds her gaze, standing her scrutiny until she’s satisfied. "Sure Drake", she says. "I'll have coffee with you, if you drive me there in your nice red Porsche." "Sorry, I drive a Prius," he replies, smiling sheepishly. "Oh well," she says. "I'm not a blonde either. Let's go."

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Thursday

Peel the layers of my heart
Dig deep
Take away the hype;
the should be, would be

Take away the flash and dash
Come on, peel another layer
Go underneath the glamour;
past all the excitement

At the core, there is no fantasy
No rollercoaster
Only the quiet voices of trust and loyalty
And a deep sense of belonging

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Ghosts

Sometimes I jump from blog to blog randomly. Sometimes, in that six degrees of separation way, I find a ghost from my former life. As I did this morning. I saw on someone else's blog a mention of someone I knew back when we were both at the Honors Studies Program of the U.P.R. She got her PhD, teaches at the U.P.R., and has now published a book. I remembered she was a good person, someone I looked up to, and I was proud to see her accomplishments.

That being said, inevitably, I am overcome by the same sickening feeling in the pit of my stomach that I get every time I hear about any of my accomplished former college mates (especially the writers, the college professors). I can't control the barbs, the digs: that could have been me, if only I had stayed the course. If only I had persevered. If only I had not thrown my life away.

Never mind that the academic life was not something I particularly enjoyed. It was the path to follow in the circles I ran in back in college. It has remained the big "what if" of my life. It doesn't really matter that I have been successful in my career, that I have come quite a long, long way in eleven years with my employer. It doesn't matter that I have a family I love and a good paying job at a Fortune 500 company. The mantra of reciting my accomplishments never works.

The mere thought "I was not cut out for that life" causes a paroxism of despair. Trapped in the echo of a time long gone and forgotten, I will forever be the girl who dropped out of graduate school, the one who chickened out. I am the mediocre writer who stopped writing because she had nothing interesting to say. Failure is my identity. If I was not cut out for Academia, for an intellectual life, that means I am beneath them, their inferior. And I can't stand to be at the bottom. I am an idiot, a lazy, indulgent idiot; a sellout who can't even keep a blog in her native Spanish.

At a certain point down this spiral of self-hatred, I manage to step back and look at the mess I have become, all teary-eyed and trembling. Why can't I get over this? Why is it that I am powerless to conquer this block? Why do I anticipate a judgment, why do I worry so much about what these people would think of me? They probably don't even remember me, and those who do may not be as critical as I imagine.

Finally, a survival instinct kicks in. I stop crying and get bored. I remember that I need to be working, not bemoaning my past. I think about the vacation we are taking starting tonight. I start looking forward to sitting by the hotel pool with a good book. The knot in my chest loosens and I convince myself that it was only a harmless, childish fit, a momentary lapse of reason. I am really not as hung up on those people and that period of my life as it seems. They have no room in my current life.

As I click away from the blog I was reading, I push the vestiges of my recent outburst deep into a corner of my recondite mind, where they will continue to fester until the next time I hear about a ghost from my past.

Vacation and withdrawal

Tonight we leave for San Antonio on vacation. It's a nice, long, flat drive on I-10. Gabriel is taking a CLE class on entity formation tomorrow, and we are coming along for the ride. We'll relax and have fun at the pool or go to the Market Square while he is in class. We'll probably have dinner in the Riverwalk area tomorrow night. Saturday we are taking the girls to Six Flags Fiesta; it will be part of Paula's birthday gift/celebration. Then we drive home on Sunday and have Monday at home to rest.

I am looking forward to this short vacation. I love San Antonio. But in my heart I miss my island so much. I would love to go back home for a while. It's just out of our financial reach right now. It's been two and a half years since I visited last, and I feel so disconnected it's not even funny.

The cat's out of the bag

Well, it's done.

Yesterday afternoon Paula's friend came over to play with Paula and I asked them both to step outside so I could talk to them. I told B that Paula had told me what she confided on her because Paula was concerned about her. She started to cry, poor sweetheart. And she wasn't mad at Paula at all, quite the contrary.

What I saw in her was a mix of being scared about what is to come and being relieved, like a load had been lifted. I made sure to say several times to B that what was done to her was not her fault, that it was a horrible thing for this adult to take advantage of her like that. I also told her she needed to talk to her parents, and offered my support if she wanted someone to accompany her. Poor girl, her biggest concern was that she didn't want to cause problems. As she cried, I gave her a hug and told her she did nothing to deserve this, that her parents would want to know so they can get her help.

She wanted to talk to her mom alone, so I gave her space. She did take Paula with her, who stood in the wings outside her house in case B got too nervous. But she did it, she told her mom by herself.

About an hour and a half later, her stepdad came to see me and we talked for a bit. I think he may have wanted to see who I was and what was my take on the whole thing. I think he also wanted to make sure I was not some crazy flake planting weird ideas in his stepdaughter's head.

His concern was "why did she tell us this now?" It was shocking to him because he said the girl and her mom have a close relationship and her mom has always made clear to the girl that she can tell her anything, no matter what. My answer was that I had encouraged the little girl to talk to them after she had confided in my daughter; and that she had been hesitant to do so before, not wanting to cause problems.

I also said that although I had no way to know for sure if she was telling the truth, I had no reason not to trust her. She seemed very sincere and not someone making things up to get attention, and I had believed her.

We'll see what happens. I have faith that they will get to the bottom of this.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Sometimes I get stuck...

...in a loop and I can't seem to find my way out. Something is rumbling underneath the surface of my sane mind. I find this happens often when I am in a rush to meet a deadline, or juggling too many urgent things at once. A sense of dread, of impending doom, overcomes me. Left unchecked, it would paralyze me. But I always come through, always manage to deliver. At a price. I become a little unhinged, an emotional basket case. But because I can't afford to indulge, and because I do not want to show it, I turn it inward. Sometimes I listen to the same piece of music over and over. Sometimes I end up feeling like I am about to have a breakdown. The world becomes a sad, uninspiring place. My life becomes a parade of failures. Everything is dark and dire. Then it fades away. It is quite strange and unsettling.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Unspeakable

My almost 10 year-old daughter and I bicker constantly. We also love each other fiercely. I have always tried to encourage her to talk to me about important stuff. As she gets older, I tell her that she doesn't have to share every single bit of information with me, but to always tell me about things that are serious or may put her in danger. And she does confide in me a lot. I hope it continues to be that way as she gets older.

She tells me about things that happen in school, episodes in the lives of friends or classmates that cause concern, sadness or shock. Two years ago she was in the same class as a boy whose father had killed his mother by shooting her in the head right in front of the boy. The father was in jail and the boy was being raised by his grandmother. You can imagine what an angry and confused boy he was. She has also seen a boy being teased mercilessly by other boys because he is effeminate. She's had a girl tell her that she can't be friends with someone who does not go to church. And so on and so forth.

Usually when she tells me these things I try to put them in perspective and help her learn something from them. We talk about right and wrong, about compassion, about tolerance. Yesterday's revelation, however, has left ME shocked and trying to figure out what to do next. One of her friends from our neighborhood, who lives in the street adjacent to ours, confided in her yesterday. And what she told my daughter is the kind of secret that one can't sit on.

My daughter's friend told her that she had been raped by her grandmother's ex-husband from the time she was a baby until she was 8 years old. Since then, her grandma divorced the guy, so he is out of the picture now. But for years she was molested by this man, and she has not told anybody in her family about it. It seems my daughter is the first person she has told about this, and she swore her to secrecy. But Paula knew this was something critical, so she came to me for advice. I will not go into specifics, but based on some of the details Paula relayed, it is obvious that she is not making this up.

Now I am sitting here, with this knowledge, wondering what to do about it, how exactly to proceed. I do not know her parents, so I do not know how to approach them. But I know that if it was my daughter who was in this situation, I would want to know. So I am trying to figure out what is the best next step.

This is what I have done so far. I have asked Paula to be completely discreet and not comment about this with any of her friends in school. She was not planning on telling anybody, but it is good to reinforce the message. Next, I asked her to encourage her friend to talk to her parents. In fact, that was the first thing Paula suggested when her friend made her revelation yesterday, but her friend is afraid her parents will be mad at her. My daughter kept on telling her it wasn't her fault, that her parents will not be mad, that the person they will be mad at is the grownup who took advantage of her. I was very proud of Paula for this.

I also asked Paula to do is suggest to her friend that if she doesn't feel comfortable talking to her parents yet, that she should talk to the school counselor. I know the counselor would be bound by law to notify her parents. Last, I said to Paula to ask her friend if she wanted me to talk to the mom. As I said before, I do not know her, but I can reach out as a fellow mother. I just do not want to do it unless the little girl feels comfortable with me doing that.

My heart breaks for this girl. She seems very well-adjusted, if a little shy. She does not show any signs of anger or inappropriate sexuality. She is a normal kid, interested in playing with my daughter, riding her bike, hanging out. And yet, she cries herself to sleep every night, confused and scared by the memory of the horrors she went through. Something needs to be done.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Thursday Lull

I have spent all day with my head buried in charts and numbers. I have a meeting at 3:00 PM about something else. But right now, at 2:50 PM, I take a break from numbers and trend lines and come here to record my existence as something other than a worker.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

No rest for the weary

My brain is tired. The last couple of days I have been working intensely. There are a couple of overlapping deadlines, high visibility items that require me to be on my toes. I have several meetings today for these items, and in between them I have to work my ass off to have answers and quick scenarios ready. Just venting about it makes me exhausted, and I am not done yet.