Author Archives: Julianne Reynoso


I like to think. I think about a lot of things. Lately, I haven’t been thinking at all. I have a lot of things I should be thinking about like school and work, my career (since this is supposed to be my last year of college), and my boyfriend of 6 years and our future together. But I don’t think of any of that. I’ve stopped being reflective or even critical of my life and the choices I make. Of all the things I’ve been through in my life, this is the year that I’ve stopped caring.

The best analogy I can use to explain my situation is with school. In the beginning of the semester you start with strong determination that you’re sure will get you A’s in all your classes. Then eventually you go easy on yourself and start handing work in late or not at all. By midterms you’re scrambling to catch up and the last week of class you’re just praying for a passing grade. That’s where I am right now. I don’t give a shit about my GPA. I just want to pass. Give me that D, please. I just need the credits to graduate and finish. Finish. I need school to end already. I don’t know how much more of it I can handle.

Once upon a time I loved school. Maybe some part of me still does because otherwise why would I still be here, but the other day I picked up a withdrawal form and hovered over the ‘Drop all classes’ box. I wanted to do it, I still do. But would quitting school make me feel better? I want to believe it would, but I know that’s not true. I can’t say for sure what turned me this lazy or if this is how I am naturally and I’ve finally lost the energy to keep up the front. I started realizing my utter lack of care when I would subconsciously turn up the car radio so that I didn’t have to hear my boyfriend talk. I don’t want to hear anything, think about anything. I don’t care. I’ve become numb and nothing around me can make me give a damn.

Sometimes I have bouts of thoughtfulness when I realize that I’ll go down a spiral if I don’t start focusing again. But those thoughts are fleeting and I ignore them by immersing myself in other stories, stories much more interesting than mine like fantasy, romance and action manga. I speed read through them. I read Orange Marmalade’s 100+ chapters in one day. I could have been doing homework or studying, but I wasn’t. Instead I pass the time marathoning through short anime series and watching lots of YouTube. If I feel like being social, I’ll play video games, but that’s rarely the case. I’ve never had a problem with loneliness. I’ve always liked being alone, but lately it has been true solitude. As a writer there’s always some story going on in one’s head, some moment you observe and jot down for its symbolism or future metaphoric value, there’s always inner dialogue as you reflect the world around you or even debate with yourself. Inside my head it has been dead silent for a while now. There’s nothing going on. I’ve stopped thinking altogether.

Then something that I’ve been anticipating for the past few months happened last week. My grandfather died. I’ve never experienced a loss before. I knew the possibility of it happening as he had major surgeries scheduled, but I didn’t know how difficult it would be to deal with. When I heard the news I fooled myself into thinking I misread the text and went back to sleep. It wasn’t until it was followed up by a phone call where I heard my grandmother’s hysterical crying in the background that it sunk in. He had a funeral here for one day and then he was flown out to his home country, the Dominican Republic, to be buried. My grandmother insisted that my father and I make the trip and she wanted us to stay for the nine days of prayer, but I had school and work and an expired passport, plus my dad had an outdated resident card he hadn’t converted into the new system that was pretty much useless and wouldn’t let him reenter the country. Still we scrambled to get our papers in order and booked the fastest flight out which had us flying over the Atlantic during the time we should have been enjoying our turkey dinner.

Heading toward the tropical weather was the only relief we had from what we’d left behind, but that still didn’t manage to make it bearable. It wasn’t a vacation. I woke up every morning at the crack of dawn to my grandmother sobbing and every night I would pretend not to hear her sniffling in the bed next to me. I had packed a few things to keep me distracted like the New 52 bat-family volume ‘Death in the Family’ that I’ve been meaning to read for the longest, The Fault in Our Stars and all my printed homework. I didn’t take any of them out from the suitcase once. When I wasn’t staring at the bees in the corn stalks or trying to knock down water apples, I was crying. On the day of his burial I watched two of my uncles grab large rocks and beat the coffin. They didn’t stop until the handles came off and the box was ugly and the dents made it hard to open the lid. It was so grave robbers couldn’t throw his corpse in a ditch and resell his coffin like it was known to happen. If I wasn’t already numb inside that was the moment it happened.

I was there for the holiday weekend and insisted on coming back for Monday so I could make it to my classes, but with flight delays and immigration lines, plus the traffic from JFK to the Bronx, I only made it to one of my afternoon classes and even then I fell asleep in the middle of it. My parents are still over there resolving issues that would let my father return into the U.S. and until they come back I have three cars I have to move for regulations and two kids I have to take and pick up from school and feed. This entire event has been so overwhelming for me that I don’t know what it means for my school career. I didn’t do any of my assigned work over the Thanksgiving break and in some of my classes I was already backed up. The stress of how this could impact my senior year has me feeling like a crab with the meat sucked out of it and I’m vacant, completely checked out.

I never understood fully what it meant to be emotionally drained until now. To not care at all about what’s going on around you and shrug off the future like it’s a predestined fate that you have to do nothing but wait for. There are people that believe in taking life into their own hands and there are others that let life happen to them. I always thought that I was a doer. It takes a lot of patience and faith to simply believe good things will happen, but it takes a lot more passion and determination to ensure that they will. I had the passion at some point, but that’s gone and I am willing to accept the consequences of my lethargy. Now I think I’ll just coast through and see where I can go by taking it easy. I’ve never considered myself a quitter, but there has to be a time in life when you’re allowed to sit back and accept the ride wherever it takes you, right?

In class there are people who ask ‘who cares?’ when discussing others’ papers and I think that it’s awfully rude to the author when they do. However, in this situation I believe it’s appropriate to ask. Who gives a shit about my life or what I’m going through? Everyone has their own struggles and if my story isn’t helpful or inspiring to anyone why write it at all. I wrote this 1) because the professor’s response email about me missing my paper made me feel horrible. 2) I need to pass this class to get the hell out of here. 3) These words are all I have left.

Borrowed Memory (Absence Paper)

Many of my childhood memories are ones that I had with my aunt, Leslie. My mother’s only sibling and the only aunt I had, she was very tall, but I looked up to her in more ways than one. As a teenager, Leslie babysat for many families in the neighborhood. One night while my family was visiting my grandmother, Leslie received a call to pick up something from one of the families she worked for. It was late, but I immediately took the opportunity to accompany her. Even though it was just a few blocks away, probably no more than a 10-minute round trip with Leslie’s long strides, the prospect of spending any time with my aunt alone was treasured. I was always sharing her with my family and any chance of increasing my usefulness to her was taken (i.e., pursued) if it meant increasing her fondness of me.

I don’t recall what we spoke about as we walked from 90th to 96th, or even if we did at all, but we got the envelope from the doorman and then went on our way. We walked along the Riverside Park right off the 95th street exit of the Westside highway where my mother had said she was going meet us after my father arrived to pick us up. It was dark out and there wasn’t much light apart from the orange streetlamps lining the parks on either side of us, but it was bliss walking together with her even if it was in silence.

As we waited at the light for our chance to cross, we heard movements in the bushes behind us. After much squinting we noticed an older man about 40ft away from us squatting near the trunk of a large tree. It was difficult to see what he was doing as the low bushes made for easy camouflage, but it soon became clear that he was pushing his business out without realizing he had an audience. The lights in the background from high rising apartment complexes, most of which had their shiny-poled marquises covered with cobwebs and long-nosed witches midflight in preparation for Halloween, silhouetted the man so we could witness him scrabble in the dark for leaves to wipe with.

A woman in sweats walking her Beagle crossed the street near him and the man jumped once she was a few feet away, hastily pulling his pants up his skinny legs. He stumbled and hit the rusty green guardrail behind the tree and nearly flipped over it, his bare backside now visible under the flickering streetlight. Once she noticed the scene, the woman crossed the street back in a hurry without looking in either direction and dragged her yapping dog behind her as she disappeared around the corner.

The man managed to pull himself upright again, but with his pants still by his ankles he fell again face first on the ground with his butt high in the air. A single yelp and the sound of feet struggling to stand on the sloped area lined with wooden chips mixed in with my aunt’s high pitched laugh. She grabs my arm, points at the flailing man and laughs.

“Oh my goodness, Julie! Do you see that man over there?”

Spotting us, the man looks over and falls again. Leslie laughs louder. Two quick beeps refocus our attention to our rendezvous location where my father’s white Lincoln pulled over across the street. My aunt couldn’t stop giggling and we turn back to the man one last time. He picked himself back up again and using both hands to hold up his remaining dignity, staggered off like Sasquatch caught on camera. We rushed across the street and got in the car.

Before the door could slam shut, Leslie starts retelling the story to my mother in vivid details and while she is in the car everyone is laughing. She uses me to validate that the events occurred.

“Wasn’t that so funny, Julie? You saw him, didn’t you?”

I nod.

We all have some memories of events that are so vivid we can recall them with indisputable details as if it happened yesterday. This incident happened over fifteen years ago and this very scene plays in my head whenever I think of funny moments in my life. I remember all this very clearly, but I never tell anyone about it because this actually never happened to me at all. Yes, I was with my aunt that day. I heard the initial shuffling behind us, but didn’t see anything in the dark and turned my attention elsewhere. But my aunt insisted and trusted me to help her with the story so I couldn’t let her down.

“Yes,” I told everyone that night. “I saw.”

And I remember it so well that even I believe it’s true.

Presently Changing

I’ve never gotten into an argument with my brother. Yes, we’ve fought, but he’s never argued back. I’m always right and he knows better.

“He’s going to hate you when he grows up.”

That’s what I’d always hear from my grandmother, my parents, everybody, about Anthony. According to everyone, I was mean. So mean in fact, that they were sure that he’d resent me for the rest of his life because of the way I mistreated him growing up.

Anthony was a good boy. He washed the dishes, swept the floor. Because he wanted to. I was the older sister, I was the only girl and yet he always did the chores around the house. Because of this, everyone thought there was something wrong with me. I thought there was something wrong with him. I mean, Anthony liked to share for goodness’ sake.

I rarely touched a broom, but when I did I would use it to push around his long line of Hot Wheels parked along the hallway. I’d threaten to throw them in the garbage along with the rest of the trash. Occasionally a few went missing. There were many rules he had to follow if he wanted to live in peace. He couldn’t talk to me in front of my friends, he wasn’t allowed to watch the same shows as me and since he liked sharing so much, everything that was his was also mine. He was absolutely not allowed to touch my things.

Our age gap made it so that we didn’t have much in common. While I watched Lizzie McGuire, he sang along to Thomas the Tank Engine. He was the wittle baby that everyone thought was so kind and giving and wished I was more like. I saw him as the annoying copycat that wanted to do everything like me and yet still the only one they ever believed during domestic disputes. That all changed when sweet-cheeked Matthew dethroned him seven years later and I was, and would always be from then on, the only girl in the family, “La Reina” as my grandfather called me, solidifying what I’d always known about Anthony’s role of plain old Jan. I was fabulous Marcia Marcia Marcia and that would never change.

As Anthony entered junior high, all of a sudden I was able to see the effects of being the middle child. He stopped searching for my approval as he found his own inner circle to appreciate him and he stopped caring about what our parents thought, though there wasn’t much concern to begin with at that point. They were too busy reining me away from boys and Matthew was just entering school. Anthony was supposed to be somewhere in the middle, stable, predictable. Instead he was getting reprimanded for disrupting the class with calls ringing every evening about his missing homework assignments.

I watched him from afar, concerned but not enough. I was 17 and had my own priorities. It was not my responsibility to watch over him. He had my aloof father and half-crazy mother. He’d probably always wanted a normal older brother, but he was unlucky enough to have me.

I was always so absorbed with my own drama that I never gave him much thought or attention. It wasn’t until I got older that I started appreciating my family more and became curious about who Anthony was. I started seeing myself in him, the same distrust of our parents in his eyes as he eventually realized their incompetence. I saw rigid defiance arise from overconfidence, the meek boy that would hide behind my mother’s leg at parties completely gone. He was me in his pride, his know-it-all attitude and disrespect for authority. And also in the way he treated his younger brother.

In Matthew I recognized the dejected weight of a young boy’s crouched head as he hoped for recognition from a revered sibling. Because of this, I knew I had to apologize to Anthony about bulling him when we were younger so that he could know what I’d done, and what he was doing, was wrong. He needed to know that I regretted it and I was sorry. After a long talk, he accepted my apology and our relationship changed dramatically. We started talking often, from random things like viral videos and books, to lengthy discussions about the universe. Rather quickly our relationship turned into something we’ve never in a million years could have predicted. All I had to do was ask nicely and Anthony allowed me inside his mind, and for the first time ever, I started sharing back.

He’s 17 now and I think my brother is—gasp!—cool. He’s tall and lean, fashionable (way more than me, I think) and I’m always asking him for recommendations on music and new artists. I introduce him to different food, even though he makes fun of my vegetarian diet, and he deciphers the new high school lingo for me. He even introduced me to the ridiculous world of fancy photo filters. One day while scrolling through Instagram, I see that he commented on a picture I posted of him. I was surprised because he’d been clear that we weren’t allowed to be linked through social media, but I opened his profile and scrolled through once realizing I had access to his pictures and videos. I looked through his uploads and nearly every photo was a hazy selfie. Almost every picture depicted him with thick gray smoke rising from his mouth and nose, surrounded by people I’ve never met, taken inside dark houses I’ve never been.

I was partly in denial. I knew of the hookah and the weed, but my throat still throbbed. This guy walked, talked, acted like a stranger. I looked through more and more trying to find someone recognizable, tapping on every clip in the hope of identifying the kid I’ve lived with my entire life. Instead I found someone who doesn’t come home every night, who takes unguarded loose change from dresser counters, someone who is nowhere near graduating high school in time.

I saw him that morning texting in the living room, the phone that rarely left his hands attached to a long charger wrapping around from the back of the couch. I sat next to him.

“Do you know me?” I asked.

“What do you mean?”

“Like if I were to die right now and you were at my funeral, would you know the people that’d be there? Do you think that you’d find any surprises about me?”

“I think I’d know.”

“Could I say the same thing about you?”

He stared at the TV. I couldn’t look at him either.

“I don’t even know you, Anthony. You’re my brother, but I don’t even know you.”

He shrugged.

“Yeah, I know.”

He said it as if it was dreadfully obvious we were incapable of understanding each other. And it hurt. I understood that what I did know about him was no lie, but it was just what he wanted me to see, what I wanted to see. Now I had become the one looking up, trying my hardest to be seen and recognized by him as someone trustworthy. I wanted to get to know him and I was reaching as far as I could, but maybe it was too late to gain his respect. Maybe he didn’t think I deserved it. After everything, if I were him, I’d probably hate me too.