Category Archives: Fall13


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.

We die, because we need to live.

Her body bounced on the floor, like it was some latex dummy, life size and realistic…

It was real though – so very real. The red paint flowed out of her neck, like a budding rose that could no longer maintain structural stability. I suppose the life had fled from her eyes; eyes which were mere seconds ago alive with fear. The fear came from the cold metal pressed against the left side of her neck…


Oh how she fell. How the blood poured and life just left her. How God showed me there was no justice in the world; all things were limited and precious. Such dark poetry bestowed upon a young child. It has fucked me up for the rest of my life. I saw no evidence of heaven or hell, just that which was here and that which was no longer here. I knew she was gone from this world; I felt it deep within.


The ringing in my ears from the sound of the three shots the asshole emptied in her neck sang loudly in my ear. I couldn’t process any of this. I was too young and I hadn’t a true concept of death, though I supposed this moment changed that; life is the thing we go through before it all means nothing.


The night before I had a dream relating to this moment; how fucked up is it that an 8 year old is having dreams of shit like this happening before the events unfold before his eyes? I’m like a cheap rip-off of The Shining. Imagine a sewer-like environment cleaned up as much as it could be for people to live in. People were depressed in this unseen, but clearly felt, miasma of depression and boredom. Through some less travelled passage ways dark men in hoods who looked like black Klu Klux Klan silhouettes with red eyes stood ominously in the background. One such man came up behind this beautiful blonde woman at the end of the dream. It was abrupt, the terror in her eyes and heart being what I remember most about the dream.


Back to the waking world, and rewinding a bit… I had gone to court with my mother. She was divorcing my father. I must’ve been around eight years old, and a week or so before, we had gone to court prior to this visit as well. Doing anything in court is a process that involves multiple trips, lot’s of wastes of your time, and money, if even only for transportation. In this previous visit, I saw a young lad drawing Venom from marvel comics, and I thought the drawing was awesome. The next time around, he wasn’t in his spot, or anywhere to be seen, but I liked his idea so much that I decided to take residence in his spot and draw.


This placed me in an ideal position, several feet from the front row of chairs in the waiting room, making me able to see the action first. Life can happen in slow motion, and it has done so for me several times.


He appeared from behind one of the pillars like a chocolate Slender-man; he was tall, black, thin, in a black suit. It hadn’t fully dawned on me that this was my dream becoming reality. My nightmare. My real life nightmare.


I struggle between being agnostic and believing that God is out to get us. He’s out for all of us, but especially me. This is a nagging feeling buried deep inside me from this moment, but he took this woman from the world to remind me that I was next. I see the flaw of this logic, but I am human, and this sort of thinking is how I was affected.


He draws the gun from a shoulder holster, slightly puffing out his left lapel. He is probably right-handed like most of us. The silver cowboy gun is in his dark hand. It moves in a perfect sweep from his chest to his target spot. The cold metal — it must be so cold — kisses her neck. The cold metal wakes her up from this dreary miasma holding us all. Her eyes widen. She knows what is happening within an instant of this instant. Her head turns and she looks at him. Those beautiful eyes stare like a deer looking in headlights. His eyes are cold and barely noticeable, blended into the rest of his dark form. The end is here. Oh God the end is here. The baby she is holding in her arms… her baby echoing her beauty into the future; a physical memory of a woman who is no more.








My angle of view changed. Somehow, I knew what was happening. I gathered my things and ran, taking a step for each release of hot lead. When I had made my way some small steps to the side of the room, she fell in front of me. I already told you what that was like. I have to relive that moment in my mind often.  I’ll spare you from the repetition. The moment is gone now and I am here writing about it to you. The tenses change in this writing which is a no-no, but I feel that it is appropriate in this piece. The transitions may be weird, as I dance between multiple thoughts and feelings while writing this. I won’t change them so much. I want you to feel like I did; like I still do sometimes. When I relive this memory, I am in the past and the present at the same time (time isn’t as linear as we often perceive anyway). My heart beats faster and breath quickens as I dig deeper for a way to best describe to you the experience. I regurgitate it on this screen for you to read.


What if God is the bad guy? What if this is his venom?


I’ve tried to make peace with this moment. A few years ago I was able to recall that in her final split-second, the blonde woman passed her child onto someone else next to her. The other woman accepted. There is something beautiful there; the human instinct perhaps. It is a mother caring for her child as best she could. I am so sad now. I feel like crying but the upper part of my cheeks punches my tear ducts shut. Don’t you see people? It’s not up to God. It’s up to us. The only thing we know that exists in some mystical sense beyond our full understanding is death. If there is a God then that is what he is. Death. Make no mistake, our time can be anytime. Everything we do can come to a sudden halt at any time. I read a book written by a warrior once, as a way to come to peace with this tragedy. I’ll paraphrase his words: “Death is a big brother standing over our shoulder, reminding us to live.”


I understand now.


We die, because we need to live.


sorry it’s a mess andetc

Download: F13-ENG23000_Vanessa-Change


You know the sound of a slot machine after you’ve won and there is an overflow of coins just tumbling out of it? That was the sound of a guy furiously searching his pockets a foot away.

Men have this complete and utter refusal to put their change anywhere but in their pockets. It’s a phenomenon to women who carry around large wallets with roomy coin pockets, or who have a separate coin purse altogether.

This is a subject that always seems to frequent conversations with friends after they walk out of the store just having purchased something. Some men are fascinated that women keep their change. They are fascinated that we utilize coin pockets and invest in coin purses. Women are fascinated that men either don’t take their change, don’t have coin pockets in their wallets, or simply just drop their change into the pockets of their jeans.

Women tend to be more careful than men are. The idea of leaving money in open pockets without the security of zippers does not ever seem to be comprehensible to us.

We see bulky wallets outlined in the back pockets of men’s jeans and momentarily gawk. We gawk not at the size of the wallets, but we gawk in wonder of how unsafe the practice of leaving one in open reach is. We see men in raw denim jeans with holes where their wallets are, showcasing the weathered leather or designer branding when we shouldn’t have to know what their wallets look like unless they’re paying for dinner.

Perhaps women are floored by such a practice of men dealing with their money so carelessly because we simply don’t have the same means to carry our own in such a way. Pockets in skirts and dresses are rare, and often for novelty’s sake. Pockets in pants and jeans are thin and many times smaller than the size of our hands. But beyond the trends of fashion, we can look and see a broader scale of hidden meaning that implies women were simply not designed to be as careless as men—something they’ve rebranded as being carefree.

We can’t afford it.

Women cannot carelessly walk around wearing as little as possible, carelessly enjoy a conversation with a stranger too much without giving off the wrong idea, or carelessly tell the truth about what her co-worker looks like in her new dress without being called a bitch. Women are bound by restrictions beyond ourselves that call for a more careful way of living, and we become labeled as being neurotic. A woman’s life is among the greatest subjects of contention.

But above all, being careless threatens our safety and security.

We can’t be careless if turning around at any minute could mean being arrested when our child falls out of a faulty highchair. We can’t be careless when our blouses are an extra button undone and we unknowingly end up flashing our supervisors. We can’t be careless in missing the cue of a potentially abusive husband and having to face years of pain and suffering until gaining enough strength and support to leave him.

We can agree that mistakes are generally made by people, and accidents just happen. The general consensus is that mistakes carry more weight, but should this really apply in every case? Could we have foreseen all that would have gone so wrongly every time? Even when circumstances are beyond our own power, women are often forgiven less and blamed more. Being careful only seeks to minimize chances of mistakes and accidents. But now it’s not enough anymore, especially not if you’re a woman.

Now it’s your fault you were raped because of what you wore. It’s your fault your child died because you were supposed to be a 24/7 stay-at-home mom. It’s your fault the entire human race is sunken in sin because you listened to the serpent and ate the apple from the tree.

We argue that men and women are equals. But as long as they both exist, this will never prove true. We will never truly accomplish equalizing ourselves. We create laws that seek to provide balance for our genders. We create organizations to forward progressive thinking and improve society. It is a beautiful thing to strive for. Our society becomes better because of such efforts for change. At the end of the day, however, there is nothing we can create that will truly fix us.


“Here we go.” I let out a subtle sigh. As I look at the text that he just sent me I realize how inevitable one more fight is if I choose to reply. We miscommunicate often these days so I decide to wait for him here to speak in person. At our spot. Cheesy yes, but this has been our common ground since we were eight when our biggest problem with each other was trading fake Pokémon cards. I place my phone beside me on the green bench and I can’t help but realize how different this time is. He and I were so happy once. Recently I read a book called “This is How You Lose Her” where in the epigraph; Junot Diaz includes a quote by Sandra Cisneros that states

“Okay, we didn’t work, and all

memories to tell you the truth aren’t good.

But sometimes there were good times.

Love was good. I loved your crooked sleep

beside me and never dreamed afraid.

There should be stars for great wars

like ours.”

I find those words imprinted in my mind when I consider where we’ve been and how we’ve reached this limbo we find ourselves in now.

But this time I don’t feel that pressure in my gut, the one that radiates up into your throat and back down; putting so much force on your stomach your feel the need to poop. The one you feel when something overwhelming or disastrous happens. The one every melodramatic teenage girl feels every two point five seconds. I feel an eerie sense of peace. I don’t feel the need to listen to “the playlist”, the one with fifty-three songs I collected over the years in memory of him. With the lyrics that allow my mind to be free and speak my thoughts for me. I tune out for a second then I’m brought back to my surroundings by the Killers “All These Things That I’ve Done”. Fuck I remember how much you loved that song- stupid shuffle. The blaring fades as I take off the beats you brought me. The ones I was originally too ashamed to wear outside because they looked enormous on my already extra-large head.

I look around as the breeze intensifies. The pond in front of me has a bright green layer of pollen on top of it. The leaves on the trees are shades of greens, reds and yellows foretelling the change of seasons is about to commence. There’s an overcast and I begin to pray the rain is delayed an hour or so. The weather is so fitting for today.

I see him enter the 106th street entrance of Central Park. When I’m finally able to focus on him I take a good look at his face. He’s lost the innocence that once filled his cheeks. I’m taken back to the first day we decided to try the whole boyfriend and girlfriend thing, a union set up by my half-sisters who at the time were convinced we were made for each other. I recall him wearing a Minnesota Timberwolves fitted with a matching cobalt t-shirt three times his size. He’s wearing khakis now, with a white button downed shirt and dress shoes and I can’t help but appreciate that age is becoming of him. His face suddenly changes when his eyes meet mine and scenes from our adolescents leave me. He sits beside me and stares at the pond I observed moments before he came. His small talk is stiff and I quickly zone out to the summer we spent together. After spending the whole night on the phone he’d make the three block trip to my apartment from his grandmothers and we’d cook breakfast. At fourteen we had planned out our whole lives. Where we would buy our first home and what we would name our children. Until today it seemed like we had shared a lifetime together knowing each other better than we’d ever admit.

He grabs my hand but my reflex breaks his grasp on me. I can’t let him find any opening to the comfort and security the years of familiarity have allowed us to share. He mentions how long I’ve been with my boyfriend and I take it as a gesture of reconciliation to his adversary. My silence offers my position in return. It is then that he discloses how he is ready to propose to his girlfriend. I smile sweetly as I absorb all I have ever admired about him. The sadness of faded memories between him and I diminish and somehow or another I escape the obscurity of all that is him. The fog of his affection and warmth leaves my mind I’m left with so much clarity despite feeling like I’ve shared a lifetime with him.

Train Wreck

“Due to a signal malfunction at Times Square, express trains will be running local at this time,” the obnoxiously calm voice said over the speakers barely audible enough to hear.

“Fuck,” I replied mentally.

“Due to a signal malfunction at Times Square, this will be the last stop.”

“You bitch.”

“Please transfer to the R,F,D, or M tria -”

“Blah blah blah go to hell you monster.”

It’s bad enough that the MTA dare raise our fares to two dollars and fifty cents, but whenever I take the train from Flushing during rush hour, and even a bit earlier, I feel like I’m being smuggled to the city. Ever have a grandma half your size shove you out of the way? I have, and there’s no way she could’ve done it if I wasn’t caught off guard and I didn’t let her, but I did because what would it look like if I had shoved her back? Plus I’m not generally interested in hurting people either. You have to admire her balls, but then I suppose she knew a dope when she saw one.

The digital display of my cell phone, pale in the midday light on the elevated platform of wherever the fuck I was, showed me that it was past seven o’clock. Calculating that I’d be at least fifteen minutes late on the local, I knew that I’d be at least forty-five minutes late due to the detour. There was no sense in going further. My evening class had been cancelled as well.

I walked toward the stairs leading downward. My descent was surrounded by a miasma of bodies and misery, which I was a part of. I ended up on the other side of the train station, my senses coming back to me more fully when I hear that voice again, “you’re next train will be arriving in nine minutes.” Not more than five seconds after, “you’re next train will be arriving in ten minutes.”


It’s just a voice, I know; a person like me or you, but that voice is representing the MTA, the Mass Transit Assholes. I know that shit happens, and things break down. We are all aware that shit doesn’t always work, but God dammit, I’m not paying for this mess.

And yet I am. I already have. Two fares today spent and I didn’t get anywhere.


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.

The Human Critical Condition

We lack a desire to hurt one another until generally motivated by some perceived slight or a strong enough desire to achieve or acquire something else. Our instinct holds us in place, preventing us from hurting one of our own species, especially someone from our own “pack” or family. Yet, when we feel comfortable enough with the people around us, we relieve our venom onto them because we know they will not abandon us. We take this dark action toward our loved ones because we fear Abandonment and Rejection. I write them with capital letters at the beginnings because they are our great evils; the human existence is beholden to a base question, “Are you there for me?” This whole matter is a constant source of upset for me on multiple levels, a surprising complex of contradictions, and at heart, prevents us from being honest and able to handle honesty.

The amygdala is an actual part of the brain that essentially constantly asks “are you there for me?” It is a mammalian group of nuclei; a thing in the brain evolved to make us rely on one another for the better survival of the species. How many times have I bitterly wished this was not the case… It creates fear of rejection, the ultimate enemy of mammals everywhere, and even the slightest hint of rejection from our parents at youth can spoil us; make us rotten and ruined. I first really learned about it in a relationship counseling class I took. I was not in a relationship at the time, but because I felt I had made too many mistakes in previous relationships, and wanted to prevent these mistakes from happening again, I took this course to better myself.

Among the things discussed in the class, insecurity was a great focus. Insecurity of self stems from insecurity with parents and people close to us. We are intrinsically tied to others. Our ego, no matter how much we indulge it, therefore, is not simply our own.  I learned about several “dances” that couples perform psychologically. For instance, Mary asks John to do the dishes, and John says yes, but does not do them. Hours go by and Mary eventually confronts her husband about this. She is angry at him, and yells at him about the dishes. John in response to her yelling, remains quiet, and when the argument is over he simply goes out for a while. Mary feels completely ignored by his lack of communication. She feels John doesn’t want to talk with her or care for her. John feels similarly; that Mary hates him so she yells at him, but he actually does care and he’s hurt, so he’s gone away to go lick his wounds. When Mary is asking John to do the dishes, she’s actually asking him “are you there for me?” When John goes out for a while and remains calm, it’s because he’s afraid to get upset at Mary and hurt her emotionally, so he retreats until he calms down, but to Mary this means “No, I’m not there for you.” Likewise Mary yelling at John means to him, that she is not there for him either. It may seem silly, but this is the source of most arguments in a relationship. To cope, this couple may begin to lie to each other to prevent further upsets, rather than engage in healthy and necessary introspection, as well as healthy confrontation.

The ego is such a fragile thing, and it makes us humans afraid to be honest with one another. We are afraid to damage someone else’s ego, mayhaps as much as we are afraid to have our own damaged. Consider this: A man is flirting, or attempting to flirt, with a woman. It starts out friendly, and she is unaware of the flirting until talking to him for about thirty seconds. She is made uncomfortable by the process, but rather than simply say she’s taken or that she is uncomfortable, or not interested, she instead keeps talking with him and throwing hints at him. These hints are designed to indicate disinterest, and may even be considered normal everyday hints that people should pick up on. The man, clueless, continues to flirt. She’s still talking to him and he takes this as a good sign. Innocently, he pushes forward, eventually getting to the point where he asks her if she’s single. She smiles wryly and shows him her ring. She’s engaged, then her fiance shows up, and the fiance happens to be an acquaintance of his. The man laughs about it, thinking the whole thing is funny, and he’s a little nervous too, so he apologizes. The couple acts like there’s nothing wrong, and thinking everything is okay, the man simply abandons the flirtation and acts politely towards them, not that he really wasn’t being polite in the first place.

Months later, the man finds out from someone that the woman he was flirting with complained about him. The man, seeing her fiance, attempts healthy confrontation. “Excuse me,” he says, “but I found out from someone that your fiance complained about me. I wasn’t given her name, but since she was the only one I hit on I know it must be her.” The fiance says “Yes, she was giving you all these hints. “You should’ve stopped.” The fiance further states that the place where the man was hitting on his fiance was not an appropriate place to hit on someone. Bear in mind, that the flirting occurred at a recreational event.

The man sees only conflict if he continues arguing his point. If “it is not a place to hit on people,” then no place is. People are at a bar to drink, not be hit on. People are on a subway, not to be hit on. People are at a club to dance, not be hit on. The list goes on indefinitely. The logic is disturbingly incorrect. The whole thing is a mess.

Healthy confrontation would involve the woman in the scenario firmly stating that she is not interested. If the man persisted beyond that, then he would be at fault; however, not being able to recognize “hints,” while being a personal flaw of his, does not actually make him wrong in the situation. No means no, and this is true, but using hints when what is intended to be said is “no,” is going to lead to confusion. This experience was a personal one, and I continue to feel frustration at this issue to this day.

There is not only a disturbing lack of empathy in this country, but a vast inability to communicate directly with or without fear of hurting someone’s feelings. The backwards actions can lead to drama and serious repercussions, when all that could’ve been said, all that should’ve been said, in any situation, was the truth. A person is not responsible for someone else’s inability to handle the truth, only for their own expression of the truth. To assume such a responsibility, is to consider the other person a child; a being incapable of being responsible for their thoughts, emotions, and self. It is a great insult. Furthermore, to then complain about a “child” that a person assumed such responsibility for, is tantamount to a parent complaining to someone uninvolved in the situation about their child, and expecting them to take responsibility. The shirking of responsibility, the response to perceive threats of the ego, and the lack of recognition of our responsibility for our own communication combine to create a dangerous ocean of treachery. We are all sharks swimming in our collective waters.


For October 7th 2013 Monday

Download: F13-ENG23000_Vanessa-Addiction

Addiction implies that you’re unable to control yourself. It implies that you’ve been overtaken by an inanimate object.

Addiction may be many things, but it is not simple. It is elaborate, manipulative. It makes you think you’re fine, and sends you off into a hectic world in which you spend the day thinking about the very object addiction has made your obsession.

Addiction makes you a victim.


You read about things in newspapers that tell you how bad it is for you to smoke. You read headlines like, “Nicotine Addiction May Predict Weight Gain in Smokers,” and “Evidence Shows Smoking Causes Cancer,” but they don’t phase you like they should. You shrug your shoulders and allow these ideas to slip into the back of your mind, where they eventually get erased from your memory. You’re not addicted. You’re fine. You could quit any time you want to. You just don’t want to right now. There’s no need. It’s not that bad.

But still, the notion that you could be addicted lingers around, filling up things in your day from thoughts to conversations.

“Are you addicted?” you ask your friend, gesturing with your cigarette for effect.

You’re sharing a box of cigarettes with him, a new variety you’ve never tried before.

“No, I’m not addicted; it’s just a habit. I have one when I’m walking to the train station, I have one when I come out, I have one when I get out of work…I don’t need it; it’s just habit. I could quit, but you know, I don’t really have the motivation.”

This is something you’ll often hear from addicts.

You tell yourself to be wary of ever making these statements:

I’m not addicted; it’s just a habit.

I have it at this and this time of the day, but I don’t need it.

I could quit, but I don’t have the motivation.

After this conversation, you wait outside the grocery store for him. He wants to introduce his favorites to you, so he’s buying new boxes. You mentally count off the number of cigarettes you still have in your case. Sure, I could open a new box, you think, I only have eight more to go.

He comes out and you walk together to the end of the block before he hands you your box.

“Here, I just saved you five dollars.”

“Thanks,” you say.

And you’re kind of grateful, but it’s such an expensive habit you’ve stopped counting the price of it for a while now; you’ve just been letting money burn.

Keep burning, keep burning.

“I know the owners, so they always give me a discount. I just say pringles, and they know which box I want,” he says, packing his box away. “You don’t pack your cigarettes?”

“I do,” you say, and pound the box into your palm a couple times.

You observe the kids running around the park. Half an hour ago, he was just saying how he doesn’t smoke around children, and here you are, about to do it anyway.

“I thought you don’t smoke around children.”

He pulls out a cigarette and puts it to his lips—“I don’t. They’re inside, we’re outside. It’s fine”—lights it, and takes a deep pull.

A mother passing by the two of you glares at him and pulls her child away.

Uneasiness creeps up inside of you, but you ignore it. She’s a stranger, you remind yourself. Who cares? Just don’t blow the smoke in a kid’s face and you’re fine.

Addicts justify their actions. You don’t need to be in AA to know that. You see it everywhere around you, from the jobless, career gamer justifying his hobby with a TED talk to the shopper with too much in her closet going, “They were on sale, O.K.!” You see it everyday.

But people only define addiction in terms of the unhealthiest pastimes in this society.

Or it might just be you, justifying your actions again: Everyone’s addicted to something—it’s fine if I am too.

So are you admitting you’re addicted?

What does it mean to be addicted as a smoker?

You stay up Googling when you should be sleeping.

“Cigarettes contain nicotine, which is highly addictive.

Even if you want to quit smoking, you may find it difficult because you’re addicted to the effects of nicotine. Some research has suggested that nicotine can be more addictive than heroin.”

Can you really trust this site? NHS.UK? Who’s sponsoring this? Health freaks? Can they be trusted? Then again, could you trust an article about smoking addiction written by a smoker?

So you continue reading.

“Nicotine alters the balance of chemicals in your brain. It mainly affects chemicals called dopamine and noradrenaline. When nicotine changes the levels of these chemicals, your mood and concentration levels change. Many smokers find this enjoyable.”

You remember getting frustrated from not being able to have a cigarette. You remember finding it hard to concentrate.

You’ve rushed friends home so you could be alone and have a cigarette or two, or five, or eight.

You’ve been with certain friends and would suddenly start thinking about going outside to have a smoke and having to make up some plan to get away from them, because you know that if they find out, they’d only give you hell.

You were at a Starbucks once, watching a friend’s bag because she had to go use the restroom. Her drink was on the table. You wanted to walk out, but you would be a bad friend. And it would’ve been too many things to hold. Damn, would it have been annoying. But you could’ve done it. Before you were able to, she came out of the restroom. Your chance was lost, because you know she hates it when people smoke around her. You reminded yourself to have a couple smokes before seeing her next time.

The article has you thinking about too much. You’re about to close the webpage, but you note the next paragraph. It’s short enough; I’ll just finish this section.

“The more you smoke, the more your brain becomes used to the nicotine. This means that you have to smoke more to get the same effect.”

You think about how you’ve told yourself that by the end of every box, you wouldn’t buy another one. But you always do, and every time, the number of cigarettes you smoke per day only goes up.

You remember the time you drove to a 24-hour Rite Aid at two in the morning to pick up a pack of cigarettes because you couldn’t wait until the next day.

Maybe I am addicted, you start to wonder.

Even as you’re wondering this, you’re already thinking about your next cigarette. You find your thoughts trapped, your lungs begging for its next inhale, exhale. You remember the headlines as a memory flashes through your head. In the next minute, all the weight and worry is evaporated. You can’t remember the last time anything mattered, and you breathe out a satisfied sigh in a savory stream of smoke.

Addiction. It is not a friend. Or at least, not a very good one.

When you’re young

Diali Montalvo

The concept of fear does not resonate as an adolescent because we are not fully aware of what it is to lose something. When you’re young, like many can relate, you lack a sense of appreciation not because you weren’t taught too but rather you have not had a chance to experience it. It is instilled in us that youth is priceless and to enjoy it while we can before becoming one of the envious adults who offers this advice.

Finishing high school, my friends and I were overwhelmingly excited to begin what would be the most thrilling years of our lives otherwise known as college. For the summer of 2009, we’d spent almost every weekend over each other’s houses dancing and drinking Devil’s Springs because at 18 with no jobs, no form of income and no appreciation of our livers, it was the cheapest, most appropriate way of ensuring a good time. When we weren’t at someone’s house we were in my friend Greg’s van, which would become known as the “bang bus”. I’m sure my guy friends came up with that name for some unseemly, immature boy reason but nobody bothered to ask. We would park somewhere and blast music, sit around discussing how fun the dorm experience would be, who would gain the freshman 15 and the many experiences we’d face naively thinking none would come with consequences. Many of us being the first generation of kids to go off to college were praised for our academic achievements thus far and were sent with blessings to embark on the next chapter of our lives. We were ready to leave behind the traditional values our parents instilled in us and be free of limitations like curfew and chores.

Some of my friends had decided to go to Syracuse while others felt Stony Brook was right for them. My best friend at the time and a couple of others decided on Albany and then there were a few who thought staying in the city would be the better college experience. Then there was me, who decided that going all the way to Morrisville State College was the best chance of actually being liberated and free to enjoy the best years of my youth. I had no reservations about leaving my comfort zone and didn’t hesitate to leave my love ones behind. I was enthusiastic about getting an opportunity to be in an unfamiliar environment and meet individuals from various walks of life.

I had not thought of how all the factors of being far from home would affect me especially finding myself on a campus in a small town that consisted of mainly hills, horses, and massive amount of fog. I found myself sharing a dorm with a roommate who had an uncanny way of sharing all her intimate secrets with me and seem to be completely unaware of how she always overstepped my personal space. At first I wasn’t social but eventually I found people from back home that I could relate too and because they enjoyed certain recreational activities that came “highly” recommended, I found myself with a new hobby. My classes were pretty interesting but didn’t pose as a factor to my fun time although the work load was quite different from what I was use to in high school.

Every now and then I would venture off to my friends campuses and noticed how much they were beginning to change. Natalie had developed a high tolerance for drinking and Nate became the campus pharmacist. It was odd to see how different my friends were around these unfamiliar social circles made up of people who came to college to pursue the same experience we wanted. More often than I could afford, I would make the six hour bus trip back home for that comfort Morrisville lacked. Being away, I had developed a fascination with piercings and because there wasn’t much more to do when I didn’t have class, I would find myself at the tattoo parlor with my friend Jen Bunny getting piercings we’d find on Google during our hour long lecture of child psychology. Each trip home, my mother’s reaction to my ways of expressing myself went from anger to sadness but I’d comfort her by reassuring her nothing was permanent. When my friends were home we’d all meet up to talk about our diverse encounters away trying to one up each other on how much better our schools were. Despite being in different places there was something gratifying about still being as close as were even though we’d each had chosen different directions.

After finishing finals week I returned to the city to begin summer break. My parents were highly displeased with me being on academic probation and were concerned with my seriousness for my studies or lack of. Truth was my worries on my actual school work were limited and in fact the entire year I didn’t think to include my academics in my experience away as a priority. I didn’t consider the amount of money my parents had taken in loans so I, unlike many, could have the privilege of furthering my education. Looking back I’d like to think I was never that selfish but unfortunately my main concern then was searching for a dress and pair of shoes for my friends’ birthday.

The twins Maria and Mel were celebrating their 19th birthday at what was once a church known for its unholy events. All my friends were going aside from Greg, who had been celebrating his cousin’s high school graduation from earlier that day. At 12:00 a.m. on June 26th, we sang happy birthday to the twins and enjoyed the rest of their party for the next couple of hours. We returned to Erick’s house to converse about all the fun we had and how we planned on meeting that night to continue the celebration for completing our first year as college students. As the sun came up, my friend Carlos and I shared a cab and talked about where we wanted to go later on that day after resting. I reminded him to invite Greg and when I finally reached home I made a point to silent my phone so I can rest peacefully.

Two hours later I woke up for no apparent reason and like most teenagers, I looked at my phone. I stared at the screen confused as to why everyone I had been with a few hours ago had called me numerous times. My first call was to Natalie and like many conversations I had had with her before she prepared me for what was to come as if everything she always had to inform me of was an epic climax of some sort of suspenseful movie. I assumed it was some juicy gossip, something she witnessed at the party. She stated “Greg was in an accident”, then rephrased her statement too “Greg and his cousin passed away”.

I remember going deaf, not being able to hear my dad watering the plants through my window or my dog barking outside my door like he usually does when his water bowl is empty. Sounds that were so clear moments before suddenly faded out and all I could hear was the thump of my heart blocking out Natalie’s voice. After washing my face and getting dressed, I waited for Carlos to meet me on my block so we can go meet our other friends. Before making the trip uptown we held each other and cried. When we met with the others we walked the Greg’s parents’ house where we went inside to offer our condolences. In the living room were Greg’s mother and aunt, both sisters who had lost their sons, sobbing. Over the next few hours I endured the most sadness I had ever experience and began to only imagine what his family had been going through. When the funeral came I looked around to see several young adults mourn the loss of our friends and discuss memorable moments and what Greg and his cousin meant to them.

The passing of Greg and his cousin impacted many in multiple ways, myself included and for the first time I knew what fear was. I became fearful of the not appreciating my youth, not because of aging but not being blessed to age. I became fearful of not being appreciative of the opportunities that I had thus far but from this new found fear I did learn appreciation. I suddenly realized that although I made a point to have fun an enjoy myself I didn’t understand the concept of appreciation and how quickly a moment can pass or be taken away. I began to assess the past year’s events all that I hadn’t cherish. I was remorseful for not showing my gratitude for my parents. All the sacrifices they had ever made for me and not taking the most important part of college, my education, seriously. Ultimately, I realized how I could have made more of that year though it took such an unfortunate loss to make that evident. I found myself wondering about all those adults who up until then, I considered envious. Perhaps part of their advisements is because it wasn’t until later on in life they discovered the value of appreciation. Maybe they simply offer their kind words of wisdom so someone like myself, wouldn’t have to regret not appreciating all aspects of being young and not making the most out it.