********

What?! Did you think that I was done complaining? Oh no, no, no. Please. Those two posts were only my warm-up.

****

So I look down at the book C had slipped on Mansie’s desk for me, “Slavery by Lisa Kristine“. It’s a lovely book–gorgeous photographs. But it’s pretty sad, and by now, my chest is thumping faster, faster than little thumper in Bambi, like a sub-woofer speaker in a low-rider. I mean it is THUMPING! It’s shaking my ribs all up! I had thought I’d maxed out my anxiety at C’s office, but apparently being there in that dark office by myself is only making my smallness more apparent, the darkness just amplifies and the glowing halo behind me seems out of reach.

I look at the window behind me; it’s such a sunny day. I get a text from Mansie, she asks if I can call her after 1:30 instead. At this point, I’m growing increasingly light headed, my breathing gets heavy so I’m sitting there doing my mindfulness and distress tolerance breathing exercise, the only one I’ve manage to master and I go down a little. I figure I better go pee, but the restrooms upstairs aren’t fit for a wheelchair. Sure, I can walk to the stall from my wheelchair like I have before, but I don’t want anything to make me anymore irate. Besides, I need an excuse to get out of sight.

So I’m downstairs in the lobby pacing in my chair after I find a restroom which unfortunately was locked. I’m pacing. I’m breathing in deeply, I’m breathing out slowly. Breathing in deeply, breathing out slowly. 

I’m flushed. I’m heaving. I’m having hot flashes like a woman in menopause; I’m having cold flashes like a bikini model in an ice cold beach; I’m having flashes and shakes in a  hallelujah-I’ve-been-touched-by-Jesus-but-I’m-really-just-having-a-stroke-in-a-pentacostal-church fashion. It’s a good thing the downstairs lobby is a ghost town because if anybody takes one look, they’ll see a disheveled mouse twitching and heaving and mumbling and rolling to and fro in an electric wheelchair.

I call my dad and tell him what just happened. I ask him for advise but he merely says, “I don’t know what to tell you. You know I don’t have an opinion in these things.” That’s his default phrase these days. I know why he says that. It’s basically a defense he’s built in after all of my “explosions” in he past. He doesn’t want to risk saying something that will trigger me, so he says nothing. I tell him I love him and head back upstairs, but not after trying the New Male Therapist and leave a message thanking her for getting me that DBT group. “I still haven’t gotten the letter though… and…” Of course, I sound quivery and like I’m getting ready to cry. So I head back upstairs before I do.

I’m breathing in deeply, I’m breathing out slowly. Breathing in deeply, breathing out slowly. Iiiiiin two-three-four. Ooooout two-three-four. I’m rolling across shiny tile floor, I am pushing the elevator button. Elevator lights up, door opens. I am feeling anxious; I am going in. I am mindful of my surrounding. I am mindful of my actions. I am mindful of my feelings… My feelings are just feelings passing through me like leaves floating across a river… I am…

****

This is where I decide to get on WordPress and Sailor becomes my night in shinning armor, helps me see things a little more balanced, more clearly. Thank you Sailor! See, I tell myself much of what you said Sailor, but it just makes more sense seeing the way you wrote it, having it come from someone else. I guess I need too much reassurance sometimes. But it’s a good thing you said what you said.  And I’ll say it again, you guys, my mental, very mental and only-averagely-mental bloggies are like a first response team.

****

What else? Well, I take D’s picture because by the time I head back up she’s there waiting. I have a good, though rushed and anxious conversation with her and eventually head back downstairs to wait on the MetroLift.

While I’m down there, I call Mansie and we both devise a plan! It’s excellent, or the best we can think of.

Wanna know what it is?

Well… I can’t say!

mehehehe

****

I’m out in the hot sun thirty minutes and damn MetroLift is nowhere to be seen. For a split second I think I see it, but it flashes in front of me like a ghost. Only I’m the one that feels like a ghost, all the people coming in and out of the building and I’m melting into the white light.

****

Fourty minutes later I’m calling the MetroLift dispatch service for the third time and again they’re telling me the cab should be there within ten minutes.

****

I’m on the side of the road, trying to see if the cab has missed it’s turn. Nope, that’s not it. It’s just another damn SUV. By now, I’m hoping a car hits me.

****

I’m on hold with the dispatch. I saw the cab pass me by, but on the OTHER street, not on the street I’m on. “Can you tell them I’m on the Over-Fuckin-Here-Entrance not in the Over-Fuckin-There-Entrance please?” I try not to be angry. It’s not the dispatcher’s fault, but by now I’m in tears.

****

I get home and take my straps off, you know all those straps they put you in. And driver lady says, “hey, please don’t take your straps off”. I’m looking like I’m about to turn into She-Hulk but I maintain. I’m cool.

“Sorry. Didn’t mean to…”

********

And today? Well, today I saw the immigration lawyer! Just one; the other was in a conference. I forgot to bring originals and all this other stuff. But, but, here it goes… I went swimming! I did eight laps in thirty minutes. I’m still having withdrawals from my third day of not watching Battlestar Galactica.

****

Oh no, this blog is becoming what I promised myself it wouldn’t become– a damn journal!

*le mouse sigh*

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Read “P Gets Fired On Her Second Day of Work Part 1”

********

“So what’s your offer?” C clasps his hands.

I’m fuckin’ stumped! I mean stumped. This man really wants to hire me and doesn’t even know he can’t!

****

When I called the lawyer on Friday to ask him for advise on the internship, he reminded me that I’m not hirable. I know this dear lawyer. I just wanted to know if taking the internship would affect my process later and he went on with the sh-peel:  “You’re not authorized to work P, but *coughs* I can’t say you shouldn’t *coughs* or that I wouldn’t *coughs* in your shoes. And no, it I haven’t seen that affect negatively on the humanitarian parole or your I-130 but it may in case of deferred action. And I’ve seen work places get raided by immigration officials plenty of times. And you’re not authorized to work.”

I’d called the lawyer to ask him if filling out a W-9 (contract/independent worker) for tax purposes would affect my “humanitarian parole” proceedings, proceedings we haven’t even begun. He said they shouldn’t. He said it shouldn’t affect anything except maybe the “deferred action”. That’s when you get called in court before a judge and the judge has “discretionary decision,” so basically if he has his panties up too tight and is cranky that his wife left him or some other personal shit, he can swing his gavel and have me DEPORTED!

********

Here’s a quick rundown.

I need a Social Security number to work. I do not have one nor can I obtain one. There is no magic line I can just get on. I only have an IRS number which in my case is really an “ITIN” number and it is what I was going to take a risk using for the internship because as an intern I wasn’t going to be on the “payroll” so the risk of getting raided was very low. I am as the lawyer bluntly put it, “not authorized to work”.

My parents became permanent legal residents last year. It’s a long fuckin’ story, so stay tuned! I’m currently filling the I-130 which is the “petition for family relative”. It costs $420 which isn’t too bad compared to the price of the other forms I’ll have to send in later. I’m having my mom petition me because the lawyer said moms are better in the eyes of the law or some shit like that. ha! Ay, I do love my crazy mami though. The crazy little nutcase didn’t fall far from the crazy-nut tree in this case.

Anyway, my mom is petitioning for me, but because I am an “single adult child” I am not an “immediate relative” nor priority. I am what they call B2 or B3 relative or something similar. So, my wait time is longer–7 to 9 years to be exact. Let me say that again, my wait time is SEVEN to NINE years. NINE FUCKIN YEARS!

I arrived in the U.S. in August of 1990. I’m twenty-six now. You do the math. Yeah, I sure as hell don’t want to be in my mid-to-late thirties before I can even BEGIN my career life. People with Osteogenesis Imperfecta have a shorter life expectancy, let alone all the damage I’ve already done to myself! Ok. Just blowing steam. Phew.

Chill P. Chill. Remember Sailor’s sweet words. Remember to breath. You’re getting yourself worked up.

End of quick rundown.

********

“Fourteen? Fourteen what? An hour?” he asks. I had zoned out and must have looked a bit terrified or terrifying. I was staring behind him out of the window.

I wonder if I jump from

“Uh, yes, an hour. Fourteen an hour. But that’s my minimum and since I don’t know what yall’s budget is, I’m putting it very low. Normally, I’d say seventeen dollars an hour would be my minimum. I uhhh… I think I’d be best to do this by the project. I normally charge by the project.”  I reply indefinitely. I feel like an idiot. I’m scratching my thigh under the table. I really want him to hire me, but I have no idea if what I just said was too low or too high. I suspect it was too low, way low for my level of skill, but I roll with it and pretend I knew what I was offering all along.

I’ve never been hired on salary. And I have no way of knowing if what I offered was a safe bet. Actually, I do. I’ll do a google search. Fuck, I’ve never even held a real job! I used to complain about this to my Ex-Young Therapist and she would remind me to remind myself of how much I had already accomplished despite my limitations. “Sure, you don’t have a job like so-and-so and you’re not married and have a kid like your other friend what-chu-ma-call-her. But didn’t you finish college? Aren’t you trying to work despite being held back legally? What else can we list?” And MENTALLY! I want to add. She had a point, but in the long run, I always ended up feeling like shit.

It’s moments like these where I feel very small, like baby, like a little adult baby. Hell, I’m the size of one, I can just crawl in a crib and cry. The adult baby that I am. I don’t even know what to tell a potential employer who can’t hire me anyway what I want for in a salary.

“Good. Well, like I said, I just have to figure out if we can move some funds over so you can start with the C-4 team–”

“I mean even if it’s just part time really…” I interrupt. At this point I think my nerves are noticeable. There’s that other awkward silence I created.

“So tell me more about yourself?” he asks, taking me by surprise.

“Ummm. As in what I do? What I’d like to do for your guys?” I stumble. By now I’m really mashing in those nails in my thigh.

“Yes, that too.”

I decide not to tell him that I’m a “filthy little illegal immigrant he can’t hire” anyway so why bother. I tell him about my passion for film and documentary filmmaking.  We end the discussion with our idea about the video blogs or b-logs I’d talked about with Mansie and using them as monthly educational segments. Then I tell him the reason why I’d brought in my camera today was because I’d already scheduled to take a photo of D for the brochure.

“Is D here?”

“No, I’m waiting for her. She said she’d be here in half an hour and I don’t get picked up by MetroLift until two,” I say.

He leads me into Mansie’s office and asks if I’d be alright working there while I waited for D. Then he hands me this book to look over while I wait.

“I think you’ll like her. She’s a great photojournalist. This one is about labor slavery and she’s opened a fund from the proceeds of the book. Alright, I have to go to a meeting.” He leaves me alone in the room.

I look at the book he’d handed me: “Slavery by Lisa Kristine”. I want to cry. These are the kind of jobs I prefer. Working with people who make an effort at changing social ills, making a fuckin’ difference in the community. Ugh.

I pick up my cell phone and text Mansie: “I got the news from C. Can I call you in ten minutes?”

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