Coronatine, Day Thirty-eight

these organized shelves

ready to be fully stocked

with his last paychecks:

they represent us,

our Coronatine journal,

worry turned to work

work we’re still doing

with tiny pics on small screens

working for our kids

our creative kids

with a cat-house-building night

paw prints, love, and all

“new normal” softens

as we make the best of fate

on day thirty-eight

The Story of my Life

I can’t write about all the things I wish to write about, but it has been HELL at work.

It’s not the kids (it is never the kids).

You know the burdens if you have carried them. Weights of national, state, and school district policies that bear down on our daily instruction. Weights of internal decisions that are never made with the voice of a teacher who sits each day with those kids. Weights of parents who sometimes don’t have any idea what it’s like to gather, with full attention, the love of thirty-two strangers. Every. Day.

And here we are, Friday Night Lights, chasing our peaks.

The sun is setting later now, and our ski seasons are coming to an end. I can’t even write the sentence without crying.

Because skiing is a luxury afforded to rich white people, which we have been for exactly four years and nine months.

Because this is our last little weekend getaway for a long time.

Because whenever we open our home, it seems like the world closes its doors.

But check out this sauna:

It comes at the very affordable $94 rate for the singular queen-size bed and free breakfast, just 47 minutes from the closest free parking lot (shuttle to the slopes).

It comes quickly and too hot and it feels amazing on my too-cold skin. My skin that has shivered for a week with news I don’t want to carry.

It is the story of every American. That, even with two raises, even after a teachers’ strike, even after committing seventeen years to a profession, I cannot afford to pay for my house or my bills on a singular salary.

It is the story of my husband who can fix anything you ever asked for with his hands, from laying a hardwood floor to replacing a toilet to connecting fiber optic wires to fully cleaning the impossibly-dirty grout in my parents’ bathroom… But who did not earn a degree, only four years of service to this God Bless America Country that has done nothing other than save us from down payments on properties.

It is the story of health insurance that we will either no longer have or can no longer pay for because I make too much to qualify for Medicaid but shouldn’t I provide shelter for the four children living under my roof?

It is the story of my life.

And we have less than three months to figure out exactly how to win these mountains back.

 

 

 

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.