by Gabriela Monico
“So yes, though ‘home’ permeates every sinew and cartilage in my body, I too am afraid of going home.” Gloria Anzaldua
Me llaman la traicionera because I have never been attached to my family, especially after I moved to college. At this point my relatives don’t even ask why I don’t go back to visit.
The truth is that I am afraid of going ‘home’ to Azusa. It feels like… a PHOBIA. I haven’t had a word with my dad since last Christmas. The last thing he said to me was that I won’t go to heaven because I’ve chosen to disengage from all forms of institutionalized religion.
“Fine” I said. “We’ll see each other in hell, then.”
That was over the phone. The last time I went back to Azusa was to attend a scholarship banquet last summer. Anxiety overwhelmed me as I got in the bus. My hands were sweating and I couldn’t stop thinking about the past during that eight-hour bus ride. Bad memories kept coming and going. Don’t get me wrong, I am proud of who I am and where I come from, but going back brings unwanted thoughts.
I got home. As I walked into the trailer, I noticed that the way objects were arranged hadn’t changed since the last time I was there. The old dusty TV was in the same corner next to the couch where I used to sleep. My stepmother’s clothes were scattered all over the place. And the same kind of food was in the pantry: cup of noodle soups, Mac n Cheese, Coca Cola bottles and sweet bread of all sorts. Cockroaches would occasionally run around the floor scaring Lola, the little Chihuahua that replaced Nemo, another Chihuahua that was run over by a car the year before.
As I looked around I felt as if I had returned to the past. I remembered it was in the trailer when my father felt frustrated about life and blamed his problems on other people. It was in the trailer when he told me that studying was not going to make me successful in life after I mentioned how afraid I was to take the AP History test the following day.
When I was in high school, I would go outside the trailer after 9pm, which was bedtime for my parents, to finish my homework with a tiny flashlight in the freezing winter cold. I was determined to finish those damned physics problems. One time my dad was mad at me for staying up so late that he locked me out of the trailer. An hour later he walked out and without saying anything, he pushed me against the wall and tried to choke me.
Tears ran down my cheeks. It hurt. I couldn’t breathe.
“Déjala! Stop!” said my step-mother. Because she knew that she was the only person in this world that he would listen to. She knew that he cherished and valued her above anyone else, even his children.
Sometimes I cried in silence out of desperation when I was alone in the trailer. But I had made up my mind. My plan was to leave Azusa.
Eventually I left home and became the first person in my family to attend college. I have survived poverty, homelessness, registration blocks, humiliation…I have learned how to live with pain in a nation that doesn’t want me here.
Pero los fantasmas del pasado van y vienen. I heard that my father only works a few hours a week. My step mother was fired back in February from the thrift store where she worked after her boss started checking employees’ status. Since then, they’ve been selling tacos whenever they can to make ends meet.
Pero la lucha sigue. Yo sigo aquí con la cabeza en alto y con una extra dosis de ganas.
Porque quiero hacer felices a mi bisabuela y a todos las matriarcas de la familia que vinieron y se fueron de este mundo antes que yo.
Porque no quiero que mis padres y mis hermanos sigan viviendo así.
Porque se puede y se quiere.
Things will change, I promise. One day we will cease to be foreigners trying to survive in the shadows. No hay mal que dure cien años ni cuerpo que lo resista.