Coronatine, Day Thirteen

My elderly uncle with the ‘No Solicitors’ sign on his door happily steps right out onto the covered porch to collect the three Costco-oversized boxes of tissues that I have brought to him.

“Are you going to come in?” he asks as I creep backward, down the three concrete steps.

“You better wash your hands now that you’ve touched those boxes,” I immediately reply. “I could have it, and it lives on cardboard for 24 hours.”

He brushes me off and acts, quite nonchalantly, as if he’s been expecting me. “Thanks, I was waiting for something like this. I use five or six tissues every time I have to clean my catheter.”

What a lucky find, I think. “Well, Floyd, you’re the master of social distancing. How have you handled the Coronavirus?”

It’s true. He’s been reclusive, the middle child and only boy wrenched between six sisters, for his entire adult life. He lives in the same house he bought as a young man, the 1950s Mayfair ranch decorated exactly the same as the original owner, and “Why should I change what’s already there?” He worked as a TV repairman for as long as there were TVs to repair, and happily retired twenty years ago to a lifestyle of only visiting the grocery store and denying most social invitations from his six sisters.

But now there are no tissues in his grocery store. No toilet paper. No frozen vegetables. No eggs. No sense of security for the five square miles he drives within any given week.

He talks my ear off in the fifteen minutes I stand in his front yard, keeping my six feet of social distancing requirement.

This isn’t like yesterday when I drove to all corners of the city to deliver my students their much-needed headsets, folders, notebooks, and supplies, when their parents seemed grateful for my latex gloves and, more importantly, my brevity. “Check Schoology!” I found myself shouting too many times, “It has everything you’ll need for your life right there!”

This is Coronatine, Day Thirteen: my elderly uncle, my not-so-elderly parents (who also need tissues), who I can only stand on the porch with, and not really visit.

“You’re really not going to come inside?” they inquire, and I mention Italy. We’ve all heard about Italy. My father’s mother was from Italy, still has living relatives there. “Over sixty, Dad,” is all I really have to say (my parents are 66).

And how did I manage in the Costco line today? The rain hadn’t started yet, nor the snow. It was cold, and I had my latex gloves on, plus my ski mask (I didn’t think far enough in advance to buy medical masks, so when I put it on in the parking lot, Fabian said he’d prefer to wait in the car. I didn’t care. I’m not fucking with this shit). I waited a good thirty minutes to socially distance myself, six feet back from the guy in front of me, to get in the store.

And they still didn’t have toilet paper.

This was after we visited the Mexican Envios, always open, line out the door, everyone ready to send money home to their poorer-than-any-of-us-here families back home. My boy was in and out in fifteen minutes, but his poverty-stricken father had to wait in line for three hours to get that money we sent him because this was the first day out of seven that the banks were open, and the seventh day out of infinity that he is unable to work and support those two baby girls.

Never mind that he lives in the most dangerous city on Earth with a corrupt government and police on every corner making sure you don’t go where you’re not supposed to.

Never mind that he doesn’t even have a mortgage because his house is a shack on his boss’s property constructed entirely of corrugated sheets of metal.

Never mind that however bad you think this is for us, standing in the cold in the Costco line, cleaning your catheter with the last bits of tissue, wishing you could hug your parents…

We still live here. Where capitalism, evil as it may be, allows me to trump the system and send an extra hundred dollars home to Honduras because, God, why the fuck not?

This is Coronatine, Day Thirteen: six boxes of tissues delivered. Check. Three hundred dollars sent to Honduras to buy food. Check. Wondering who has it among us, and which ones will die. Check.

What else is there to say?

I planted spinach just in time for the snow to water it. Please let it grow. Please, God, let it grow.

 

 

Funny (Not Funny)

Sometimes negative energy just builds upon itself. I suppose that’s what’s happening now, even though this has been happening to us for weeks and we are just entering the actual week of Daylight Savings, full moon, AND Friday the 13th. Madre mía.

So I am going to look at the funny/not funny moments of the past twenty-four hours.

Funny: In the emergency room waiting room last night, I had to explain Furries to my Honduran son. “Some people just think they are animals, and they like to dress that way all the time, and that’s why he has on the suit and the raccoon tail.” “Oh… well his face already looks like an animal.” I had already looked away, so I had to wait a moment to steal a glance of the dark glasses, the perfectly-raccoon-shaped beard, the dyed mustache, and be ever-so-grateful that Fabian only speaks Spanish so the poor gringo couldn’t understand what he had said as I stifled my laughter.

Not Funny: After a long day of working and screaming at children for ignoring me and running seven blocks in frustration and watching my baby girl kill it in her ensemble role of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Jr., after I had just put on my favorite outfit of all time (pajamas) to settle into a stupid sitcom in my bed with my puppy who has his own water glass (Figure 1)… a loud crash in the kitchen called me downstairs (we thought the cat had knocked over one of her daily glasses).

I rushed downstairs because, as usual, all three girls ignored our, “Clean up after your cat!” calls, and found myself standing in a trail of blood that led from the knife on the floor at the kitchen entryway all the way to the sink where my son stood, trying to flush out a wound so deep and scary that all I could do was grab a wad of paper towels and scream, “BRUCE!!!!! GET DOWN HERE NOW!!”

(No, I did not actually take a picture of the bloody knife. This is a reenactment)

Funny: The mulleted, heavily-tattooed paramedic whose job at the emergency room was to walk into the waiting room and scream out his mispronunciation of names, then rush back behind the desk to reread the names and try again, most times failing on the second attempt.

“Luceeero!!” No response. Breathless rush behind the desk. “Sandra (the a pronounced as in apple, heavy Southern drag to boot) Luceeeero?” No response. Breathless rush behind the desk. “Lu-SAR-oh?” “Oh, yo soy Sandra Lucero.”

“Rizzo! … Rizzo!… ” Breathless rush behind the desk. “Roos! Roos!”

“Do you mean Ruiz? I think that’s us.” (To the side: “Rizzo? Like in Grease? Have you seen Grease? Maybe we’ll have to watch it later.”)

Not Funny: Walking into my kitchen at 9:30 pm on a Friday night after bitching and screaming at my son, after posting a blog post, after my love-hate relationship with him, after everything I’ve done, and thinking, “Is he trying to harm himself?”

Because everything that I complain about means nothing.

Because every spot of blood splattered on my wall, on my tiled floor, on my heart, means everything.

Because if I lost him now, I would be as brokenhearted as if I lost one of the three babies I gave birth to.

Because I love him.

(And he did not harm himself. He is a boy. He ran across three countries to come to my home. And he was literally trying to catch a Japanese steel chef’s knife that was falling from the counter to the floor. Because he’s a boy. And he catches KNIVES.)

Funny: “Oh, I will call the actual police on you! You think I’m part of the DPD? I don’t work for the DPD, and you need to get out of here NOW!!! I will NOT be cussed at! I don’t have your stuff and I don’t know where it is! GET OUT NOW!!”

“Miss, what’s she yelling about?”

“This guy was looking for his stuff, and she doesn’t know where it is, and she wants to call the police on him because he used bad words.”

“See Miss, that’s why you shouldn’t use bad words.”

Not Funny: “This emergency room is so calm and quiet compared to how it is in Honduras.”

“What do you mean?”

“In Honduras, everyone in the emergency room is either dying or dead from gunshots and knife wounds. Everyone is screaming. And dying. Because the gangs have ruined their lives.”

Funny: The doctor asked us to come into the temporary room until we could get to the real “room behind a curtain” that had a bed. He was the only one so far who had attempted to speak Spanish to Fabian, and even though my Spanish is always broken, I don’t think it was as broken as his.

After asking about the cut, the incident, the pain, he asked, “Está numblado?” Fabian didn’t respond. He asked again. No response. “Está dormido?” “Sí, sí.”

After he wrapped it up, he told me he thought Fabian cut a nerve, and that was why it was numb. “But you know, I don’t know why he wouldn’t respond to me. I use that word all the time, ‘numblado,’ and usually I get some response.”

Fabian and I returned to the waiting room. I must admit that, other than dormido, I didn’t know the word for numb in Spanish. “The doctor was asking you if your finger was numblado, did you not understand?”

“Like, the sky is cloudy?”

“No, not nublado, numblado, because the word in English for dormido is numb. Numblado? Es una palabra?”

I pulled up Google Translate. “Numb: entumecido.

And we were crying laughing. Because language is so hard. And the poor doctor took the word numb and added “-lado” and it sounds like the word for cloudy skies (nublado), not a slashed-nerve finger. And because it was almost midnight by then and he’d lost a lot of blood and we were exhausted and everyone around us was wearing a coronavirus mask and he just couldn’t understand why. And it was just… funny.

Not Funny: “I hate hospitals. I’ve seen too many people die in hospitals.”

His cousin. His other cousin. His friend. His everyone-in-his-life-he-can-think-of killed. By gangs.

Funny: Me telling the story to the girls over biscuits and gravy the next morning.

Numblado? Numblado?”

And Fabian smiling like he’s not in pain, like it doesn’t matter, like life can go on because this scar will match all the other scars he’s acquired from his life lived in poverty searching for food, searching for transportation, searching for a reason to keep on keeping on.

Not Funny: Everything I just put on this page.

And life. Life is funny. (Not funny).

Inquilinos

My Rohingya refugee who could not read or write in Burmese (but learned somewhat decent verbal English from the militia who murdered his parents) had to quit school, after just three months, to work full time at a chocolate factory.

My Honduran and Salvadoran refugees live lives in limbo waiting for court hearings that are mostly clouded in misery with threats of deportation.

My son awaits the opportunity to work while his cousin, his only nearby family, has to move from state to state working roofing jobs with no options for permanency because of his lack of papers and English skills.

Meanwhile, 20,000 people stood in line in 8-degree weather this morning to support our president, just down the road from my house, claiming his stance on immigration is one of the most important policies they support.

These white people (it’s always fucking white people) are simply fulfilling their American dream: If it works for me, it’s fine. Fuck everyone else.

And he isn’t my son. I was reminded of this last night when DHS came and told me that we can’t send so much money home to his destitute family, that he cannot leave the state for more than seven days (forget our three-week family vacation), that he must take extra English classes and study a vocation and be an independent tenant.

Not an eighteen-year-old boy whose vision was so focused on running for a train to escape abuse and poverty that he couldn’t see much beyond that journey. He just knew that here was the goal, here with all the money in the world… here with all the opportunities in the world… and screaming, raging racists waiting behind every third door, anxious to keep those things from people like him.

I didn’t know the Spanish word for tenant, so after the meeting, when I was explaining all the depressing news to him, I pulled up Google Translate and couldn’t help but be immediately disturbed by its interpretation: inquilino.

The word sounds wrong to me, like a sour slice of lime in my mouth, a cottony accusation. So similar to inquietude. On the same list as inquiline: an animal that lives habitually in the nest or abode of some other species. Its origins in Chile speak of servitude… submission… slavery.

“We can’t have you taking our money for a vacation. This isn’t a handout.”

I’m not asking for a handout. I already had the entire trip booked and paid for, and he could easily fit in the backseat of my Honda Pilot and lay his eyes on Yellowstone, Glacier National Park, and Puget Sound, places he may never be able to see otherwise, but… OK.

I won’t use your fucking handout to take a sliver of his summer for three weeks of adventure and joy.

I won’t ever see my Rohingya refugee again because he will be working twelve-hour shifts for minimum wage for the rest of his life so that people can buy a box of chocolates for their Valentine.

My husband could lose his job at any moment because he works for a corporation, like all other corporations that are part of the white American dream, that overpays its CEOs and lays off its workers to cut costs.

But the economy is great, right? And with Democratic infighting led by billionaire Bloomberg, it sure feels like that crowd of 20,000 standing in the cold is going to win this election. So we are in for another four years of heartbreak.

We are all inquilinos. Tenants in houses not owned by us, in jobs not guaranteed to us, in a country that owns us because we are not allowed to own it.

Inquilinos. Inquietude. Indefinite. Inmigrantes.

And it would be nice if we could just be human.

 

 

 

 

Perfectly Cracked, Perfectly Hopeful

i walk my puppy,

fight weekend grocery store crowds,

and bake a cheesecake

before 10 a.m.,

i cook raspberry compote

and finish laundry

by noon, i’m ready

to begin this Sunday cleanse

and climb out of here

the city beckons

(no, no—the world beckons

for another chance)

our democracy

and the fate of our future

rest with how we vote

(even though it’s cracked,

my daughter’s birthday cheesecake

is one of many)

let this election

be one of many chances

to give us all hope