Monday, November 25, 2013

Numb, Yet Never Heartless

An unfeeling heart
Is of my possession;
Some may call it tragic,
But I treasure its solitude.
A distrusting heart
Beats within my chest;
Some may deem it foolish,
But I cherish its safety.
A heart unable to love
Is what I hold dearest.
For a heart which cannot love
Is a heart which cannot break.
And yet,
Do not deem me heartless,
For I lack it not.
A bitter gust of wind froze it in time.
Un-beating, yet intact.
It neither alters nor stirs,
But just remains rigid.
Only he can change this.
Him, whose scent I have yet to breathe.
Him, whose strength I have yet to feel.
Him, whose face I have yet to discover.
He alone can shatter such steadfast ice,
And thus release a pounding heart.
A heart 
Which will feel that which it has withheld.
Do not deem me heartless.
Deem me numb, 
Yet never heartless.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Shattered Glass

   Torrents poured from the black sky. The turbulent rain wove a seamless curtain of haze. Streetlights were absent. Garish bolts of lightning provided the brief moments of luminosity. Such dire conditions rendered any hopes of visibility futile.
   The lonely, winding road stretched for hundreds of miles. Its rocky path slashed through the Andes Mountains with the course of a jagged blade. Thunder reverberated jolting the desolate corner of the world.
   Pebbles crashed loudly against the Renault 18’s windshield. The clatter from the falling rocks against the opaque glass could have distracted the most skilled of motorists. Despite this, the driver’s attention never wavered from the treacherous road ahead. The man knew he had chosen a route clogged with natural obstacles. The alternate way consisted of a mostly straight highway which would have reduced his trip from an eternal sixteen hours to a mere nine. His motives for selecting the rougher road were clear though. He needed to protect himself; above all else, he needed to protect her.
   The sleeping toddler lied across the backseat. Brown curls bounced on her soft cheeks as the car trotted along the rugged path. A pink blanket fostered the girl’s small body from the cold night. She enjoyed a peaceful sleep unaffected by the perils her father battled just to ensure her safety.

   The man silently cursed the adversities posed by both of the routes. While one was mountainous and desolate, the other was smooth yet brimming with threats. The government’s feeble political control allowed for traffickers to dominate the country’s best highways. Had the man chosen the seemingly simpler route, they could have faced a band of armed, ruthless criminals. Instead, he elected to navigate through one of the most dangerous winding roads in the country. He had hoped in vain for clear conditions and was punished instead with the most powerful of deluges.

   Fatigued as he was, the father did not entertain any idle ideas of sleep. More than anything else, he longed to reach their tropical Caribbean destination soundly. Never had a road trip been so forlorn. Never had a destination been more elusive. 

   The sultry scent of the sea teased his nostrils; he could almost feel the saltiness tangled in the breeze. All he had to do was think of his wife patiently waiting for her family to arrive. Halfway there, he told himself. Part of him hoped she could feel his thoughts, distant as they were.

   For a moment, the man was certain his exhausted mind was bewitching him. Two fluttering white lights marked their presence in the far distance. Their intermittent flicker baffled him. One thing was for certain though; the distance between his Renault and those lights lessened quickly. The lights' blazing brightness blinded the man in the contour of a traitorous curve. 

   Images raced through the man's mind during those sightless instants. He saw himself as a boy playing soccer in the streets. He saw young figures dancing to rhythmic tunes in his adolescence. He saw his wife's fair curls adorning the frame of her beautiful face on their wedding day. Yet, it was the last image which forced him to open his eyes despite the blinding glow. Five miniature fingers wrapped around his thumb with remarkable force for their tiny size. 

   The urge to protect his daughter was greater than his urge to succumb to the ominous lights. 

   Once focused, the father realized the lights belonged to a semi-trailer truck. He used every ounce of strength within him to force the steering wheel in the opposite direction of the truck. Whoever was behind the truck's wheel had no intentions of slowing the vehicle's destructive course. To the man's absolute horror, his efforts to lure his car away from the truck seemed hopeless. The slick, wet pavement prompted the small car to hydroplane in swift motions. Screeching tires confirmed the man's worst fears: impact was inevitable. 

   The truck's trailer struck the Renault with a bang forcing it off the serpentine roadway. Rocks made the steep descent even rougher. Amidst the commotion, the man heard a loud thump followed by a pained cry coming from the backseat. Horrified, he questioned the safety of his daughter. 

   The car's rugged course halted upon collision against a thick tree branch. Shattered glass rained onto the panting man's lap. Despite his hyperventilating, his rear-view mirror allowed him to see the distant tail lights of the semi. The coward escaped.

   Fatherly instincts propelled him out of his seat. The man pulled the backdoor open in a violent swoosh. There, lying on the floor of the backseat, was his terrified toddler. Her expressive, almond-shaped eyes gawked at him through dark eyelashes. Shaky hands betrayed the immense fear she felt. He let out an alleviated breath at the sight of the unharmed girl. 

   The father then pulled his daughter into his arms with a silent promise to always guard her with his life. 

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

The Birds and The Bees

   Everyone has his or her own particular story. Whether it was the infamous "talk" parents awkwardly fumble through, a classroom lecture, snippets of a graphic television show, or even catching a naughty (yet unsuspecting) older sibling in the act. The details may vary, but the bottom line remains the same: loss of innocence. We never quite view the opposite sex in the same pure way we once did after finding out the truth.

   For me, it happened one fateful afternoon when I was seven years old. I was in my second grade classroom, and it was time for our weekly Sexual Education class. It was held every Thursday. One might wonder why second graders were being taught Sex-Ed. That would be a question for the Colombian Board of Education. They clearly need to sort out their academic priorities. Still, one can only assume they must have their reasons. 
   We had the same teacher for Sex-Ed in second grade as we did in first grade (again, priorities should be sorted in the Colombian BOE). Her name was Miss Marta. She was a stout woman who wore an unmistakable air of authority. Nonsense, such as laughter and snickers, was not tolerated in her class. The fear every single child in that classroom felt for Miss Marta paralleled that which the Boogeyman invoked within us. In hindsight, I suppose stirring fear would be an effective way to teach second graders about sex. We knew laughing about anything Miss Marta said implied the most terrible of consequences, so we usually kept our mouths shut no matter how much it cost us to do so. Miss Marta was my Sex-Ed teacher for a total of four years. It is safe to say only one of her numerous lessons was forever engraved in my memory.

   "Boys and girls, before we begin today's lesson, I must ask something of you. The topics we will discuss today are serious. I ask that you please act like mature young men and ladies." Great. Nothing good ever happened whenever Miss Marta started the class with a maturity preamble. Let's face it, seven-year-olds are not exactly the epitome of maturity. "Turn your books to page 73," Miss Marta's stern voice commanded. 

   Before following her instructions, I looked up and noticed a rare happening. Her eyes were absolutely drawn to the text placed on the desk in front of her. Usually, Miss Marta's glare scanned the room inspecting our behavior. She was not a woman who missed a pin drop in her class. Something about her demeanor also seemed different. Less demanding and more hesitant. I shrugged off my thoughts and turned to page 73, as she specified.

   Emphatic gasps shattered the classroom's deafening silence. Exclamations floated around the room with the swiftness of flying dust. Three words were repeated with painful frequency: what, look, and the all-too-expressive huh. I sat in utter silence. My young eyes were glued to the image gracing page 73 of my Sex-Ed textbook. Though exactly what that image entailed was completely unknown to me. 

   "Oh my God, Laura, do you see this?" Karen, my best friend, leaned her head to my desk and whispered. 

   I wanted to reply that of course I could see it, but the words would not leave my mouth. It was not every day that a seven-year-old, growing up in the 90's, saw what I was seeing. We must keep in mind the Internet was nowhere near as widespread in 1997 as it is in 2013. As such, seven-year-olds back then did not have access to the same amount of information as they do today. 

   Perhaps the Colombian Board of Education perceived it as everyday information second graders should have, but I was perturbed. There, covering the entire lower half of page 73, was the picture of two figures: a man and a woman. The figures were actually outlines of very real-looking human bodies. The male outline was colored green and lay on top of the blue female outline. Considering the fact that the figures were presumably naked, it was possible to see each and every body part outlined in great detail. Yes, even THAT body part.  

   Due to our prolonged Sexual Education courses, we all knew and understood the male and female body parts by that point. However, it was not until that day that we realized they actually fit together. After the initial shock passed, boyish snickers drifted across the room. The girls were sorely silent. Miss Marta did not take lightly the "nonsense" shown by the boys in class. She ordered them to settle down and act in a mature manner or they would get detention. After coercing them into obedience, Miss Marta proceeded to explain the act of sexual relations as a reproductive process. Though her instruction was entirely scientific in nature, some of my classmates found it incredibly challenging to keep a straight face throughout her explanation. 

   I just sat there dumbfounded. Suddenly, it all made sense. My mom always forced me to either cover my eyes or leave the room during "adult" scenes in soap operas. I never quite understood what she meant by "adult" scenes until that day. Well, I thought, I'll go home and surprise my mom with everything I learned today. That would go well.

   I ran off the school bus and sprinted into my house. As soon as I opened the door, I called for my mom. She was in the kitchen. She's going to be so surprised, I thought to myself. But really, I had no idea just how surprised she would be. I took the Sex-Ed textbook from my book bag and flipped it to that scandalous page 73. 

   The scent of my mom's delicious seasoned chicken greeted me upon entering the kitchen. Her back was turned to me as she sliced some vegetables.

   "Hi, Mami!" I greeted her.

   "Hi, Princess. How was school?" my mom asked.

   "I learned something new today! Look, Mami: the man's penis is penetrating the woman's vagina," I proudly replied as I pointed to the diagram on page 73.

   The swiftness with which my mom spun around would have made Jackie Chan jealous. Her eyes were aghast with horror. The ceramic plate in her hands slipped cracking into a million pieces upon hitting the tile. 

   "QUE?!?!?!" my mom's pained voice exclaimed as she snatched the textbook from my hands. Her eyes scanned the contents of page 73 with growing dismay. My mom's knuckles turned white from holding on to the book so tightly. She closed it and put down on the counter.

   Disconcerted, I asked, "Mami, is something wrong?" 

   My mom bit her lip in hesitation before saying, "Nena, we need to have a talk." 

   At the time I did not understand my mom's reaction. As a grown woman, I now comprehend the panic she experienced at being forced to have such a conversation with her only child at such a young age. Like I said before, we all have our stories. I guess mine intertwines a classroom lecture, a much-too graphic diagram, and an awkward "talk" with my disturbed mother.