Haiku for the New Year

December 31, 2011

Morning light appears.
The sentient awaken.
Nature stirs and sighs.

© PAZ 2011

Floridaze

December 31, 2011

It’s 2:20 a.m., my third night here in Florida.

I arrived Wednesday night, and tonight I have been tossing around with those tiny, dancing and restless legs of mine. Been trying to sleep since midnight. I told myself I wouldn’t take the Zolpidem/Ambien tonight. For one, I feel I’m becoming dependent on it again.  Two, I’m starting to fear that it’s affecting my already deteriorated hearing. I’m becoming increasingly cautious of any neuroleptic drug or any drug that affects the central nervous system in general, which makes it challenging since all psychiatric medications affect the central nervous system in one way or another. I’m also taking Hydrocodone again. *sigh*

Months ago, I’d read somewhere online that Bupropion can increase tinnitus. I plan to get off of it soon because, well, I’m afraid it’s affecting that too. The only reason why I didn’t stop taking it then was because I had improved so much during the summer. I was afraid to stop. I still am, though I’m not much of a believer in or a fan of pharmacotherapy. That’s me, a rolling contradiction, a wadded ball of indecision. That’s probably what’s keeping me up too–fear. That fear of decisions I’m facing has me partially paralyzed.

I didn’t cry myself to sleep the night I wrote the post about the interview (by, the way I heard back from the reporter yesterday and have avoided to look at the now syndicate article which probably has me blabbing nonsense again). But I digress. I have been crying a lot since then, a lot more that is. The tears keep huddling behind my eyelid–all ganged up–wanting to bail out of my eye sockets every other hour, and I’m having to mentally punch them back into place where they belong.

It’s just so damn hard to cry in another home, as much as close to home as this may be for me. It’s difficult to find a private corner, fall into a fetal position and have it out with the tears, the spit, the mucus and the funny gagging noises.

I’m just too anxious; my hands are unsteady.

And I’ve been getting that god-awful facial nerve pain again. It kicked in hardcore today. The kind of hardcore where I’m screaming inside, “God, just rip my face off already! Just rip it off”

To top it off, I hurt a rib, or a couple. My lower right ribcage popped a little while I leaned over for toilet paper. That’s part of what comes with being vertically challenged and having a brittle bones condition. Who the hell… I mean what type of industrial/interior designer or architect or whoever the hell it is that designs homes places the toilet paper holder behind the toilet?

And why does it seem like I’m inundated with ideas at night? Like the moonlight and shifting tides call to me. I guess I was born for the night. I shift with the tides. And maybe the moon is my true muse, my impossible lover.

Blah.

Bleugh.

It’s times like these when I’d really like a doobie to burn, but the kind that make you just munch and chill and fall asleep. I’m not talking about the hydro that makes you want do yoga while cooking and then binging on whatever it is you cooked while then deciding to either clean or lay back and wonder about quantum physics’ ties to new wave religions (and the mysteries of the universe). Somehow you then find yourself staring at the water trickling down your hand and the plates for half an hour as the shiny aluminum sink glistens and you think about how we are all connected to that water and all that food you  just ate can be summed down carbon and water like yourself. “That’s all we are,” you think and then realize you just wasted a lot of precious water.

Only right now, I do not feel connected to anything. I do not feel that I am part of that water.

Maybe I should read a little bit more of The Omnivore’s Dilemma that Eloise had saved for me when I arrived. Or maybe I’ll lay back down and see if I can sleep. Yeah, I think I’ll do that. Plus, I better get rest because Eloise mentioned something about going to a farmer’s market tomorrow morning! Or would that be later today since it’s already morning?

All apologies. I have no epiphany to share, no philosophizing, no metacognicizing, no politicizing and no toilet jokes (unless you find the predicament I was in with the unreachable toilet paper holder funny, and in that case, you’re a heartless bastard). Not really. I kid. It was a little amusing, but only a little. And only because I was on the crapper.

So yeah, no mediocre poems, no little doodles and no story concluding the toilet-rib-cage-rupturing incident, just a cheap, bitter complaint tonight.

Ugh. Alright, the bed beckons. Hopefully I don’t have another tug-a-war with the pillow.

Sinterklaas

December 25, 2011

Santa'sDead

Santa’sDead (c) 2011 Melancholically Manic Mouse

There’s always that one elementary school teacher you hear about somewhere, the one that murders her students and their wild but fragile imaginations by telling them Santa is a hoax; that his slaved sweatshop elves and reindeer are also a hoax, AND, that they should go home and shame their parents. I read about such story not too long ago. I can’t blame her. Sometimes the scrooge and Grinch in us comes out.

I’m reminded about the time I tried to tell my third-grade classmates about Santa’s non-existence. It didn’t go so well, obviously.

********

Firstly, I’m Colombian. And Colombians–at least when I was a kid in the late eighties–don’t celebrate Christmas with Santa Clause. People do put him on Christmas trees, little figurines are sold for decoration, you can hear his bells in shopping plazas, but he’s treated more as an uninvited guest, the bawdy drunken relative–distant relative–you let into the party obligatorily. Santa is second in show, maybe third after Virgin Mary, or fourth after the endless row of saints.

****

In Colombia, it’s all about Baby Jesus, the true star of the show! White Baby Jesus abounds.

There are baby Jesus songs, baby Jesus dolls, and baby Jesus candy. Baby Jesus shoes, baby Jesus earrings, baby Jesus backpacks, cakes and ice cream cones. Man, that’s one of the commandments broken all over the place. You don’t know a nativity set until you’ve seen a homemade one that includes the entire village and spans the length of an entire living room.

And most importantly, Baby Jesus brings you your presents, because, like in most of Latin America, the Catholic population is the status-quo. I imagine that poverty stricken kids, kids who didn’t get much if anything at all risked being bitter towards Baby Jesus, but I wonder if that’s any better than being bitter towards a morbidly obese, bearded white man from the cold isle of oblivion.

In my family’s case though, we had been told, and I quote my mom, “Baby Jesus helps us with the money to get you the presents, mi amor. We’re the ones who buy them, but Baby Jesus helps us.”

I didn’t get the metaphor then and envisioned the ghost of baby Jesus spiriting down from the heavens all Sistine Chapel like and laying down some extra cash on my parent’s palms before shooting back up to the clouds like superman. In sum, we had a very different take on Christmas than here in the U.S.. We got to fall asleep hugging our presents after sniffing around for them behind couches and under beds  like hound dogs in a scavenger hunt that started on midnight of Christmas Eve. I think the scavenger hunt bit was one of my dad’s ideas, not a Colombian tradition. I may be wrong though.

****

In any case, it’s no surprise that when I was hauled to the U.S. just in time to start pre-school, I laughed at the notion. I was momentarily culture shocked. My brain tickled and I rolled high off newness for a couple of years. And when Christmas time came, I quietly giggled and scoffed.StabSanta drawing

********

One day I finally decided to tell my comrades the truth. Those dumb asses had to know! I was a self-righteous crusader, sword in hand, ready to stab and deflate Santa’s imaginary bloated belly!

StabSanta2 drawingStabSanta3 drawing

****

That day came unexpectedly. As silent reading time wrapped up, the teacher prompted us to gather in a circle for a little talk about a story the class was going to read together. It was about Santa. When she began asking us what we thought of Santa and if we’d asked him for anything special, I felt the urge rise. I couldn’t resist it. I hoisted myself far back up against my little wheelchair and straightened up my diminutive shoulders.

“BUT STANTA ISN’T REEEAL. HE’S MADE UP,” I blurted midway through one of the other kid’s answers.  With my head held high, I scanned my peers for reassurance and added, “Stanta’s stupid fat red cheeks ain’t real either! They’re all made up dumb ass baby stories!”

Stillness settled in the room like fog.

“Big… ass… babies,” I whispered to myself no longer triumphant.

The overwhelming silence lasted forever and a day. I wished I hadn’t said anything. But no! They had to know!

I sat there confused and ashamed.

A few classmates started to argue with me, telling me to “prove it”. “Prove Santa isn’t real!” Others desperately asked the teacher if what I was saying was true, some were panicking while some were on the verge of crying. Their little brains began questioning childish but profound questions about the realness of things, anything and everything. I had burst their bubble, swallowed the innocence they had along with my own. A few however, agreed. Those brave few claimed they’d known all along. Mostly though, it was just the foreign ones like me–Vietnamese and a mixture of other browns. These few who knew took the torch of indignation from me and fueled it further. Then there were the clever ones who had figured it out.

****

Like a true king, I relinquished all in my defeat, backing down from a war I had started but wasn’t ready for.

At that point the teacher hushed the class with “yes’s” and “but’s” and “if’s” and I asked to go to the restroom. I was scared.  I wanted out.  God, what did I do?! Diosito lindo, am I gonna get a demerit! I’m gonna get a demerit. I’m gonna get a demerit. I’m gonna get a demerit.

The teacher let me go but gave me the squinty eyes and an impish smirk. Aaah!  I AM gonna get a demerit!

I rolled out as quickly as possible and was surprised to find my aid already waiting outside the classroom entrance. How’d did she know? She had overheard the commotion through the makeshift walls. I suspected she was always there lurking behind the walls of the classrooms which were arranged in office cubicle manner.

On our way out to the main hall, my aid began relaying the story of Sinterklaas. She assured me that Santa was once a real person who lived long ago in Sweden or Germany or Greece or some magical place of antiquities. And during Christmas, he would give coins and gifts to poor kids in his parish. He was rich and kind so his story lived on. She went on and on trying to inculcate his essence into my being. Looking back I realize that, in part, she was just trying to make me assimilate–to have me acknowledge that the bogus tradition had true meaning, meaning that was lost but that I should embrace nonetheless.

Turns out she was mixing up the stories. Sinterklaas derived from Saint Nicholas who we all know as the bishop/saint but who’s life and existence is somewhat sketchy like baby Jesus. Santa Clause then is just the Americanized mutation of that; his iconographic figure was actually popularized by the famous caricaturist Thomas Nast.

****

Imagine if the US had adopted the same Sinterklaas of southern and western Europe. Instead of green elves [read midgets in green suites], it would’ve been midgets in blackface (I’m a midget who’s never worn blackface, so it’s ok for me to say this). And on December sixth instead, these subservient, blackfaced midgets would trumpet their way into your living room to a ragtime tune while heralding presents and goodness and cheer. I think it would’ve gone superbly well with the children’s blackfaced cartoon characters of the 1920s and 1940s. Christians were always screwing with pagan holidays anyway, so I figure there’s no harm in making history even more screwed-up than it already is. It’d be nice.

Once we were inside the restroom stall, my aid plucked me from my wheelchair and planted me on the toilet seat while going on about Sinterklaas. I was fascinated but by then I really did have to go.  I grew impatient. She’d noticed, closed the stall and stood just outside of it to continue her rant.

Please, pleeease *fart* please, *fart* *fart* just let me poop, I silently pleaded.

But I didn’t get to poop in peace. Over her droning voice, the thoughts of demerits, angry classmates and very angry Sinterklaases circling above me and churning my already messy stomach.

It wasn’t until a year or two later that I began to realize how I knew too much for my own good. I began to feel that “otherness” I would battle with for years.

**********

****

********

NOTE: Yes, the little girl who resembles me doesn’t have legs in the first part. And all of the kids are floating. I got lazy and tired towards the end. It’s also my first attempt at doodling in Illustrator! I’m fairly new with the program and have mainly used it to do more technical stuff like layouts for invitation and business cards. Hope yous out there are enjoying Christmas holiday (or whatever you celebrate) more than I am.

Edit: I just remembered what we called Santa in Spanish! Can’t believe I couldn’t think of it right away. It’s El Papá Noel! And yes, Papá Noel is a lot more hip and popular with the Latin America kids these days than in my time.

I was interviewed this morning by a correspondent of EFE international news.

It was awkward. Very awkward on my part at least, and as a result, my anxiety meter has just shot up to the ninth degree. My hands are trembling Michael J. Fox style. And my heart hurts when it palpitates.

I don’t like talking about myself. [ha!] Ok, I don’t like talking about myself under certain circumstances, like being in front of a microphone and a glaring lens.

Really though, I don’t. I don’t like to evoke sympathy. I’ve had to swallow enough of that in my childhood to stuff a herd of overgrown factory cows. No more. Sympathy can suck it. I don’t think I could say that any more concisely than the Dude: “I don’t need your fuckin’ sympathy, man, I need my fucking johnson!”

I do.

I have had many struggles–incapacitating physical and mental struggles–maybe even more than the average bear (and mouse). But you’ve had struggles too. I’m sure of that. That’s partly why I’m here, to share and read others’ struggles. And maybe we can mix our struggles into one giant ball of Play Doh, roll it down a grassy hill and then roll ourselves down that hill, mash it and laugh about it with a childlike glimmer in our eyes. And in the long run, isn’t all of humanity wedged in the same chaotic ball of energy, a floating ball of infinite energy swimming in an endless void? That in itself is a struggle.

So this reporter fella, J, sends me an email last Tuesday. (I think it was last Tuesday, I’m forgetting what days we’re on. Woke up from a nap earlier, was in a panic, thinking it was Monday already and that I’d missed my flight, which won’t be until Wednesday. This damn seasonal change wrecks havoc on my already fucked biorhythms)

Anyway, I get this email from correspondent J:

SOLICTUD PARA ENTREVISTA

Hola, estoy buscando a Paula –—-. Soy corresponsal con la Agencia de Noticias EFE y me han solicitado un reportaje sobre su caso. La duda que tengo es que no sé si es usted la misma Paula que salió en los medios hace pocas semanas.

In sum, the email is asking 1. If i’m the same Paula from that November Huffington Post article (which he provided a link to), and 2. If he could interview me about “my case”.

I’m in the Huffingon Post? How did this happen? I clicked the link, a terrible mistake. And I read it. An even worse mistake.

The article was from when I was talking to a reporter in a loud convention center in Dallas, TX. It was for a United We Dream event in regards to the DREAM Act. During a lunch break, she sat me down even though I was already sitting, and we talked over coffee. We had a great conversation. But I guess I was so sleep deprived that weekend that I just thought we were chatting it up and ignored the fact that she was scribbling in a little notepad.

The article. It was uh, it was… ok. I don’t believe any article/report can give accurate truth to a situation and it can’t give more than a superficial validation to the people in it. There’s no such thing as unbiased reporting. And her writing made me appear slightly mentally challenged, which I kinda am. But no one has to know right?

Here’s how the article ends:

“If I had legal papers, I would get help for my disability,” said Paula —–. “There needs to be a change in the ignorance over the situation of thousands of undocumented students, people should know the truth about this movement.”

I laughed a little. I mocked myself.

*in mocking robotic voice* “If I had legal papers…” “Oh.. if i had legal papers I be set. Disability.”

What kind of diction and syntax is that? I’ll tell you what kind. It’s the robotic kind because when intense anxiety hits, you become many things you’re usually not. I become a robot with sparking wires flying everywhere. Add coffee to that.

Another thing, it makes me seem demanding. But you know what, fuck it, maybe I should be demanding!

And then, there “needs to be a change in the ignorance over the situation”. I don’t speak like that. Do I? I remember saying something more profound or less stupid.

I know I’m being overly critical of myself. And I know the written and spoken language are not the same. That’s exactly why I don’t like interviews. I writeth better than I speaketh. Don’t know if I make much sense in either form though.

What was worse and more anxiety inducing was the comments/discussion section that followed the article. They were vicious! Re-fuckin-lentless. Very, very hateful stuff man. At least they didn’t have terrible grammar and all caps letters like most of their kind usually do.

So for my own psychological well being, I limited myself to reading three… ok four, which go as follows:

Comment #1:

“Weird twilight zone”? Because people want our laws enforced? What Bizzaro world do you live in? Look around, no country allows themselves to be overrun by illegal aliens.

Yes, this world of mankind is bizzaro kinda like that show. And I did run over and overrun a mean girl in middle school with my wheelchair while I turned alien green, but then again, I’d say it was more of a Hulk green. Either way, green was against school policy which was heavily enforced.

Comment #2:

There are 6 billion 700 million non US citizens on the planet, do you believe they all should be given a right to come to America and live? I say hell no! My wife is from Korea, she is now a US citizen, never has anyone from her family asked to have us sponsor any of them, we never even talked about it. The dream act is just another backdoor amnesty like the 14th amendment, which will some day be closed.

I just really feel for this fella’s wife. They “never talk about it,” which means it’s very likely they don’t ever talk about other family related issues. And the 14th Amendment gave former slaves the right to be seen as a whole person by the law (the law which did nothing to change how they were treated anyway) instead of three fifths of a person. Is he suggesting the U.S. revert to the Civil War era? And I wonder who the good sir thinks is worthy of being allowed to stay, to be allowed to be seen as five fifths of a person. Anchor baby this. *points below*

Comment #3:

“I’m sure most other 4 year olds are totally capable of going through the legal immigration process”

Illegal aliens have a good use for their children, as pawns.

I do admit, I’m a pawn. But I’m not much use to my parents. In fact, I feel like a burden right now. I guess they use my lovin’. I will stick with that for now. And I was indeed a four year old when I came here. However, I could not file paperwork then due to poor penmanship, and even if I could there was and and is no law in place to allow me to do so. My dad did apply, but all was in vain. And because I’m a stealthy pawn, I have been trying to get to that sweet queen for twenty-one of my sweet twenty-six years of pawn living.

Comment #4:

Education = The Immigrant Dream??? Perhaps, but only immigrants from India and Senegal and Korea and China. The notion that Latinos, as a people place, an emphasis on academic achievement is laughable.

Laughable? This guy was right about that. But what’s up with the multiple question marks? One will suffice man. I guess I’m also a failure in the education system because I’m not Indian, Senegalese or Korean like commentator #2’s wife. And my failure in education is why I’m currently unemployed, having graduated cum laud this past May–a B.A. in Media Production, two minors in English and art and another useless degree in sound engineering. The B.A. only took me seven years to arrive at. And I believe my failing pawny ass can also speak English.

This last dude’s comment went on and on about how Latinos have the highest dropout rate, how his tax dollars a being wasted on those worthless illegal dropouts (they’re probably Mexican so they must be illegals) and how he doesn’t get why people dare call him racist when he speaks this undeniable truth. I wonder if he’s ever thought about why these kids drop-out. Why I nearly dropped out.

At that point, I closed the browser window and backed away from the computer like if it were a set of explosives. I was the one at risk of exploding. So I took a breather. Mindfulness. Mindfulness. Remember your mindfulness skills.  People will have their opinions, and that’s ok. Not everyone will is willing to learn with an open mind and heart. Not everyone will get it, ever. And not all are spiteful and idiotic assholes.

Surprisingly, I was calm. But it was a numb calmness. Those calms are worrisome.

And… then today came along resurrecting the frustrations of the week, the anxiety, the twitching body, the sudden mental spasms, heated blood and electric current running through that blood.

Somehow I ended up saying yes to the interview request, and after a week of avoidance and cancelled appointments with reporter J, I found myself in my dad’s home office (I live with my parents), sitting in front of a mic and camera sharing my story. I thought this was going to be a written report like the first one. I nearly backed out when I found out it wasn’t. But the guy came all the way down here, so I felt obliged.

That’s how I put myself in the limelight again, naked, exposed. Exposure is good therapy for anxiety though, no? That’s what my therapist keeps insisting.

I fidgeted, my legs kicked, my hands spun a web, my heart raced almost as fast as my thoughts. So, it’s not even anonymous? They’re not gonna blur my face or cover it with a black square. They’re gonna give my real name? I’m not gonna get an autotuned voice!

I feel like such an exhibitionist now. But I make myself believe it’s for a good cause. It’s for awareness. It’s to be heard. My answers, however, were no better than the aforementioned Huffington Post bit.

“Are you ok?” reporter J said midway into the interview.

“Yes [lie]. I’m just tired. I haven’t slept much these past couple of days. The dogs woke me up the night before last.”

A few funny things kept happening though, and it lightened my mood a bit. My dad burst in from his morning jog carrying one of our two white Pomeranians on his shoulder; the other trotted behind. My dad is a dark, pot bellied, short man in his late 60’s. His round nose, bandana towel thingy hanging over his bald comb-over and the dog he hung on his back like a mink cloak was enough to distract me from the torture. I chuckled.

Then, after I had gained composure and was answering another set of the questions, the sound of peeing and a toilet flushing cut right through my voice. It was my groggy brother who’d just gotten out of bed down the hall.

Reporter J. stopped the camera and said, “We’re gonna have to do that part again.”

_______________________________________________

NOTE: I have a little sketch of me being filmed after the interview and my brother peering out his bedroom door. Maybe I’ll scan it and post tomorrow. Also, if you’re reading this and got this far, you’re awesome. Thanks for reading such a long, acidic rant and withstanding my sarcasm! Or you must be bored. I think I need to relax. I’ma go make myself a hot chocolate, watch The Walking Dead and cry myself to sleep because I can’t wait for the zombie apocalypse.

The other I is crepuscular when it’s nigh

to the feeling of being inept, and

in a single sigh,

it  feasts on my modest breast.

Taught to sit.

I only sit. Agitated.

Shadowboxing

becomes the night,

only long after

meals and memories invited

by wine come and dine

with I and the other I.

Because an evening meal

is never finished

until you’re left by yourself

and hating yourself.

Or maybe not, but just not

quite ready I say.

Just not yet, I’m still so small.

Still so inept.

I’ll just sit in my high chair

and look down at it all,

the floorboards shaking.

And what will you get at?

I ask the other.

When will you get at it?

With thoughts

piled in a chamber, dark and heavy like

a miner’s bushel of coal

ready to carry fire and crumble into–

I and the other I

stuck in a rolling barrel, rolling

head between

the consumption and the

place of self creation

and self annihilation.

What are you getting at? I ask her

the better half of me

stuck between the bark.

Peeled skin like an apple–ripe, too ripe–

thin and brittle little red peels ripped

from me.

Think I say.

God, just think, but not too much.

That’s just it, you think too much,

to the brink,

to the brim you fill your cup.

How long will you let the

self-defeating wake you,

intoxicate you?

How long will the self defeating

thoughts abate your creativity?

You’re late.

Say, how long will the rumination

grow thick

pockets of smoke

that mosh between those

ringing ears while your

abilities slowly choke?

© PAZ 2011

Joaquin Luna is no longer a kid, though he was when he was brought to the U.S..

He was an 18 year-old undocumented high school student, an A+ student before he shot himself a few days ago. Besides that, I don’t know the details of his suicide nor the circumstances the press wants to talk about and/or omit, and I sure as all hell don’t want to think about all of the political implications–all the petty, hateful online arguments about immigrants in the comment sections I used to read so much–and that, I presume, have been stirred by this kid’s publicized story.

I’ve been enjoying my media blackout lately and I hope to keep it that way for a little while, for my own sanity’s sake.

So, I honestly didn’t want to know much, if anything at all. Unfortunately, I could not resist my organizer friend’s Facebook posts and I read on and on. What I do know is that, apparently, there were notes of his with stated worries about his immigration status. Notes not dissimilar to the picture below.

Found this on Post-It[dot]com about a year ago

From Post-It.com


I found this image on Post-It.com last spring and saved in my computer. I’ve had it since and use it as a reminder to stay strong; to not see myself as a victim; to keep my commitment to the movement, the people in it, those who work day in day out organizing, planning, doing, and to the kids. I will continue my efforts to educate them, to tell them they can because I have been there. I am still there. I can only hope the kid who wrote the Post-It didn’t end up like Joaquin. 

********

I was a teenager just like Joaquin. And just like the kid who posted this note, I often thought of “jumping off” a bridge or a ledge of some kind (though at thirteen I could barely stand). I didn’t belong anywhere. All those teenage years, I felt I had no voice. “I might as well drown with my fuckin’ voice” I’d whisper.

I often thought of how I would manage drowning myself in Buffalo Bayou or some other creek in the Southwest or Memorial Park or better yet, somewhere more isolated where my body wouldn’t scare too many people once found. I’d have to shoot myself first; then I’d fall in and drown. Wherever. I didn’t exactly matter. That was my plan. I just dreamed of drowning because it seemed better than the kind of drowning I was already experiencing. Society told me being an “illegal” was less than a person. Being an “illegal” meant you weren’t welcome, wanted, cared about, needed. You were a criminal not a human–you weren’t anyt/hing at all.

“I am seen as a waste of righteous and rightful tax paying citizen’s dollars even though my illegal daddy pays taxes too. I’m a waste of flesh, regardless.”

That’s not taking into account all of what family told me, the fears that were bred. “Don’t ever say anything you hear about it! Nunca! Don’t ever call the police, even in scary situations.” It was more so implied than actually said.

No soy de aquí! Ni soy de allá!” I used to silently scream while banging my limp body against a wall, a doorknob, a table corner–anything that would make my body throb, anything to quell the thoughts.

Then I realized that there is such a thing as a privileged class. I learned how much societal structures try to bind us and how much we willingly let them shackle our minds. I learned this thing we humans do in our wonderfully organized societies–we set classes, we classify. And by classifying, we degrade one another.

I was fortunate: the nineties were easier, hell anything prior to 2011 and the aftermath of 9/11  was easier. There weren’t that many Joe Arpaios in Arizona making immigrant detainees dress in pink panties to humiliate them; there were no Tent Cities in Texas; there were no private prisons who profited on “illegal” children and their mothers being detained. I was able to go to college, partly because of my tenacity and partly because I was in the right place at the right time. I got a private church-based scholarship and with that, and a few academic awards, I went to college. Many cannot; many will not. The limits are boundless. Yes, we are the embodiment of that very oxymoron you see in that last sentence.

***

Initially, I didn’t think to/want to write a post, especially not one like this. I just had this blog here waiting for something to strike me, to compel me enough to dive into this thing, all nervousness aside. It sat here lonely in November, my little blog.

Unfortunately, something did hit me, but not in the way I’d hoped. I just heard so much about this that I feel I should speak now. It is imperative that I speak up for all of my silent years, for those like Joaquin. Yet, suicide is something that I do not feel comfortable talking about. My thoughts on the subject would require many posts because it runs too close to home for me to even begin.

Being undocumented, however, is something still sitting on my doorstep. It scratches at the door of my thoughts like a hungry street cat that never leaves. What shall I do today? Oh, right, I can’t, I don’t have the nine magic numbers. It’s like being chained on a leash and someone–the great big hand of daddy State–smacks you with the belt and places the plate out of reach.

And so the news of his suicide did cause a strange intimate unease in me. Most suicides do, but this one is considerably different.

It was a momentary unease but it was intense enough to tear a piece off of me. It reached a core in me.

Believe it or not, each stressor–be it big or small–can dance around in an emotionally and mentally unstable person’s mind. Any additional stressor can send them spinning over the edge.

I also find both topics–immigration and suicide–are ones I know a good deal about, or think I do at least. But I can’t argue and I am not going to argue about the reasons or the causes now, because for one, to any given suicidal person there are many (mostly reasons arising from distorted perceptions) and they’re all relative; and two, I never knew the guy. So I will not speculate further.

I will say this however: Suicide is a reality in EVERY population. And there is a markedly high population of undocumented youth living in the U.S. whose mental health is being overlooked, whose lives are forsaken.  It is tragic. I cannot say there are so-and-so thousands hurting because I cannot back this up with statistic. Roughly 65,000 undocumented students graduate U.S public high schools every year. If one in four people are likely to have a severe mental disorder, I can only guess. How many feel pushed back and forth like a bobo doll? Pushed towards furthered mental instability by society.

I can only back it with personal experience, though. I was a participant of a study Dr. Lauren Luttinger conducted on immigrant youth and depression in a New York City university near the Bronx. She told me it  was very telling. Some of her findings were that risks are higher for “illegal” kids much like kids from, say an urban, poverty-stricken neighborhood where the daily diet is violence and hopelessness; kids who are raped; kids from a household with an alcoholic parent; or queer kids in a predominantly Baptist, conservative, rural Texas town. These are just a few examples of the many “high risk” populations.

****

This is not just about some bill (D.R.E.A.M Act) being tossed around for a decade by the men in black suits and grey beards calling all the shots, trowing up the bill like a rotten steak. Meanwhile, the chained and malnourished dogs can only look down and salivate.

It’s far too complex. I know. It’s about groups of people and their “place” in society, keeping order, blah blah blah. The “places,” the “classes” nations put them in. The “place” we put ourselves and each other in. It’s the way we treat ourselves and each other.

I just hope people take a little time to consider these things from a broader perspective. I hope they would take a step back from their daily lives for a minute to see it from a more sociological view because society DOES play a role in the nature vs. nurture dichotomy of depression as well as other mental health issues and mental disorders.

***

To Joaquin R.I.P.:

Sonnet of the Undocumented Student

Hackneyed, unkind, lost words my mind once bore
In unspoken airs of my resistance.
They’re not a love to write a sonnet for—
These words barely breathe my fumed persistence.
See we, not conquerors of course, are told
And expected to pay our loyalties
To those who make social constructs; yet fold
And love to scorn whilst in their boundaries.
Gracious ports once opened no longer hear
Hope’s clangs rebound, up down, up down on stones.
Now our bodies, voices and dreams call near
To the only land that’s taxed our bones.
Students deemed ‘aliens’ for lack of forms,
Let’s not trade empathy for empty norms!

© Paz 2009