Trastalleres, Santurce, Puerto Rico (el verdadero Santurce)(source unknown)
I expected la llegada to Borinken to finish my Bachelors studies, to undo me and it did. I expected la llegada to Borinken to unravel me from all things contrary to healing and it did. She did. Borinken, the only mother to hold me tight. I cried my first night, and the second and the third and when I entered the town that held my abuela’s spirit, Mayagüez I couldn’t move or breathe because the air felt so powerful and I was vulnerable.
I had always advocated for the right to be angry, the right to hold on to the past. I still advocate for it, you don’t have to “let it go”. You don’t have to “look at the bright side” or “just be happy”. I snarled at any healer, adult, or mentor in my life who tried to tell me differently. “Tu si que eres negrita caprichosa”, my madrina would say and I’d tell her, “I can be angry all I want to. Nadie me va a parar porque no saben na’.” It was typical, usual, lazy, and immature but nonetheless, a night in Santurce knocked me straight to my knees and I had no choice but to surrender. I surrendered right beneath the stars of the Santurce sky to the act of, not letting go of anger and the past, but digging inside of el coraje and the past in order to save myself from being devoured by them.
Besides the learning, my favorite part of el area metro were the Dominican enclaves of Rio Piedras and Santurce. Dominicans of Santurce and Rio Piedras could anticipate the cibao swing on my tongue before I opened my mouth and they could see a childhood of yanikekes in my thighs.
“Tus padres son de Santo Domingo o tu eres de Santo Domingo?” they’d ask before I said a word, before I made the world aware of who I was, before I bought the Dominican candies on the front counters of the colmaditos in Santurce.
Sometimes it was instead “de que parte de Santo Domingo tu eres”. Dominicans of Santurce and Rio Piedras could see me. Well, most people can. I tower at 5’9”, soy negrita y soy pelua. But these Dominicans could really really see me. Santurce and Rio Piedras Dominicans could see me as “them”. They saw an “us” when I walked by, rather than “she’s partially us but mostly an exotic species of something that needs to explain where she is from”. They didn’t ask me to explain. They saw dominicana and went with it. Nothing else mattered. I’d explain anyways though. Boricua. Mayaguez. Loiza. Dominicana. San Pedro. El Cibao. Higuey. Those words rest at the tip of my tongue and on every part of my canela colored skin because I’ve always been a fusion linguistically and culturally. I had to explain why I’d say chinola and I wouldn’t say parcha, and then why I’d say quenepa and I wouldnt say limoncillos. Esas mujeres dominicanas, the ones who usually asked about my ties to the Dominican Republic and sold fruit and candles at plaza del mercado in Rio Piedras, tan dulces son, they’d hand me caimitos and mangos for free just because, “gracias a dios que esa negrita chula es una de nosotras”. The Dominican women who cooked chillos in Santurce would give me a discount because “que bueno que estas estudiando. Vas a cambiar el mundo negrita”. Some Santurce and Rio Piedras Dominicans would even pass me their numbers after watching me dance. “y tus familiares donde estan? Aqui tienes otra titi. Cualquiera cosa me llamas”. I’d walk away in tears because love, love undoes you too.
“It” happened in one of those chinchorros in Santurce. I say “it” because it doesnt have a name, not everything needs one, and I decided not to name the incident. Antony Santos played, men laughed, women giggled. I sang along. A man, short, blanquito, espejuelos, Boricua leaned over to me as he sipped on a drink. Me miró de cabeza a pie and licked his pitiful lips. I pretended not to notice. I was used to that behavior like any woman in this society would be, but it’s different when you’re negra and from somewhere but not anywhere obvious. Quizás Brasil y quizás Cuba y quizás Santa Cruz y quizás Venezuela. Pero sin duda y como un carro, esa negrita es algo exótico.
“pero que lindura santodominguera” he said to his friend. They both agreed and batted their eyes at me. The one who hadn’t said anything grabbed his crotch and smiled as soon as I said thanks. Im polite to men because you never know. I pretended that I didn’t see him touch himself but my heart sank anyways. Yeah, I saw.
<santodominguera>….y esa palabra…. que palabra
“tu ta trabajando esta noche?” he asked me. Others overheard him. I pointed to the clerk. She was a Dominican woman looking for a cold bottle of water for me. She wore a frowm and moved tiredly as of she had ben there all week but nonetheless very sweet. She had just refilled the freezer with presidentes, medallas, coca cola and botellas de agua. None were cold yet so I waited for her to potentially find me one.
“Yo no trabajo aqui.” I was under the impression that he wanted me to serve him a drink or perhaps hand him some of the dulce de coco dominicano that sat in front of me.
“obviamente aquí no, digo en mi carro o sea te llevo a mi apartamento chula, cuanto nos costaría esa canela tuya?”. He lickednhis lips again and stared through my clothes. I didn’t think my heart could sink any further but it did. He had assummed that because “santodominguera”, “puta”. To be clear theres nothing wrong with sex work but theres everything wrong with sexual harrassment. It turned into harrassment when I denied their advances and they remained determined to pay to share me. They became somewhat enraged when I denied their advances as if their interest in me meant they had already purchased me. They expected me to say yes. Pero la negra no se vende.
The lady handed me a bottle of water that I didn’t drink. I couldn’t drink it. And the big talker followed me outside. I forgot how to breathe and I forgot how to be the cabrona that I usually am towards satos like him. I knew that I couldn’t swallow the water or I’d have to symbolically swallow the words that man spewed at me too. I didn’t breathe, I didn’t speak. I didn’t say “igual” when the lady wished me a lovely night. I felt ashamed. I held the cold bottle to my chest, and put a “no me jodas” look on my face in case anyone else wanted to try to buy me and continued making my way to La Ciudadela, the ugliest part of Santurce. La Ciudadela is a part of Santurce that isn’t really Santurce. It’s more like a horrible replica of gentrified Brooklyn. Gentrificationnat its best, and its so out of place. Drug addicts would struggle to survive across the street from a bookstore cafe that sold ginger ale for 3 dollars a can.
It was a Thursday night and one of Puerto Rico’s most prominent writers had invited me to come sit in on one of her workshops in La ciudadela. She was by far one of the wittiest writers that I knew. When I saw her for the first time I coudn’t help but smile at the saoco in the way she walked and giggle when she complimented my hair. I was late to her workshop but nonetheless I got there, even after calling her on the phone, lost and confused by the gentrified fuckery that is la ciudadela, entirely unprepared, I had arrived and she and her students, all older than me smiled and welcomed me to magic along withher. I didn’t even have my journal nor did I have a pen. I didn’t really know what I was doing besides helping her where I could. She hadn’t exactly explained what we were doing that night, but I didn’t care, I was within a few feet of my favorite author. She handed me both a pencil and a stack of paper without even realizing that I needed them, or maybe she did and she smiled like she always does.
Poesia sexual/sensual/mas o menos erotica pero sensual. I giggled at the topic, oh si oh si, and shook my head smirking. She giggled back, and I picked up my pencil and tried to dig into “nature”, but for some reason I couldn’t think of not a damn experience or fantasy to write about. Even after all of the poems intimacy could give me a blank piece of paper was staring back at me.
I thought of Ochun. Everybody calls her sensual. She carries a sensual ashe in everything that she brings to the world. Then I thought of Oya. Oya, esa mujer anda con machete, and dances under the strength of the wind and storms. People honor her because when shifts happen, Oya is always nearby. I wanted to write about her. How her intensity was so strong that people often overlooked how sensual she could be. The irony about Oyas ashe is that she’s so incredibly intense with more masculine energy than many men, that that makes her sensuality as a woman that much more powerful. The one word I wrote down on the paper was “choice”. I wasn’t sure why but it came to mind. I didn’t like the way it looked or the fact that it was in English. And once I realized that I had no idea why the word “choice” came to mind in an effort to write a poem about sensuality I immediately scribbled on top of it and silently cursed myself for not trying hard enough to dig into “nature”…sexual nature. I looked at each writer in the room. One had professed his love for me several times befoee but his possessiveness towards me was a turn off. Hed become dangerously offemded if I didnt hold his hand when I saw him even though he never had the cojomes to ask me on a date. And hed get jealous any time he saw a man talk to me and come interrupt. Que asco. Another girl lived nearby and had always asked me how my semester was going as the “newbie” in the are. She was always kind to me and smiled when she saw me. Another had a Dominican accent that felt like love. There were a few others I had never seen before and they were all calm and had looks on their faces like the ashe of the workshop facilitator was filling them with a nutrient so powerful they wouldn’t ever have to take another writing workshop again in life. This was it for them. The beginning and the end. Perhaps not so much but the gaze they held in their eyes when they looked at her was incredible. They began to share the things that they had written. One man wrote about el gran orgasmo. I watched my favorite author’s physical reaction to the poem so hard that I hadn’t noticed my own. I needed a distraction. It was really a beautiful poem, you know, kind of like “el gran orgasmo” is a really beautiful experience, but what happens when you’re introduced to that intensity before you even know your body has the ability to go there? It makes the poetry behind it, awkward, almost painful and certainly confusing.
Each of the participants had chosen to express themselves sensually but I had nothing written on the paper besides the word “choice” scribbled out beyond recognition. I twirled my pen, well the pen, between my fingers and played with my “go to” curl. My go to curl is the one section of my hair that I caress with my index finger and thumb anytime I feel nervous or tired. I was sure that I had chosen to be sensual before. I was sure that I had walked a certain way to get somebody’s attention or moved my hips a certain way when dancing to only some of Puerto Rico’s most finest dancers just to make him, them want more…more dancing, more hands on my skin. I was sure that I was any other normal 20 something year old, learning and discovering my sexuality and my body but I also wasn’t sure that I was a normal 20 something year old. I was sensual but without choice, had gotten to know my body at the expense of grown men and a little girl and I didn’t think that to be normal.
I remember the first time I heard the word “sensual” and I’ll never forget it. There was this viejita in el barrio, Little Puerto Rico, Rosa, I despised the way she’d glare at me and scold me for anything I did. Rosa no era color de rosa pa na. She would routinely snatch me out of trouble that I couldn’t see me putting myself into and she’d give me a bofeta like I was her own child any time I sucked my teeth too hard or rolled my eyes. She once told me “negrita tienes energia bien sensual, ten cuidado.” I didn’t even know what “sensual” meant but I assumed it meant that I attracted men, old croaky corona holding domino throwing “I have a wife but esta nena uuuuff” men, dirty men and that I needed to not answer when they asked me “por que tu eres tan bella? Que traje tan lindo. Dame besito. Sientate en mi falda chula” I did, I certainly did “Yo quisiera una muñequita igual que tu.” and then Id smile. Those were the words of one of the viejos in the park. The men played dominos the women gossiped, the kids played and racked up “medio peso” for a piragua or a limbel. Rosa heard him nice and clearly and snatched me close to her in a possessive manner. He and his friends laughed when she stormed off with me. I was taught to be kind to all elders but Rosa snatched me up into her house so quickly after having been kind I thought I had broken some law. She nearly threw me on the couch knocking over the candle that sat in front of the picture of her mother who had died when she was a baby. She looked at me with eyes that stung and that’s when she said it “negrita tienes una energia bien sensual ten cuidado. Escuchame, ten cuidado.”. I sat in silence and took off my penny loafers and watched her water her plants and consequently somehow figured I was special because I could get a man to turn away from his wife to look at me and I was only 7 or 8. Yo me crie siendo negrita con pelo malo y flaquita asi que un hombre que me decia bella aunque tenia 7 añitos era amable para mi. Just so that we are clear tener 7 años es ser bebe.
I wanted to participate in the workshop. I wanted to write but I just couldn’t. Rosa’s the same woman who taught me all about the importance of Santurce and there I was in the middle of ancestral energy with the opportunity to express myself as any woman should be able to, with a lick lip here and a wink there, so freeing, so body positive but I could only think of how earlier in the chinchorro-colmadito, all I wanted was water and two sanganos decided that I was sensual. Or Perhaps, standing there fetching un peso de pesetas was “sensual” and I was to be treated as such. Like an object because “tienes una energia bien sensual” y con esa energia dizque tienes que chichar el que te mire. Then I thought about the time I was sensual at 9 years old while walking next to my mother. A man said “uuuuf regalame esa morenita” and the other licked his lips and blew me a kiss. My mother scolded me for smiling at the man prior to him saying that. At nine I hadn’t chosen to be sensual but the men decided that I was and that I was to be treated as such and I was to be scolded for being such. At 12 years old un oficial de seguridas en la famosa plaza del mercado del oeste de Cleveland, me invitó a su oficina. Me arranque y una viejita me aguantó y le dijo al oficial “es mi hija dejala quieta”. That same year I became so sensual apparently, that the comments escalated to action, “pero que piel, que mujeron. Eres toda una mujer”. It went from comments about my skin to touching my skin in places where men should only touch consenting women, not a little girl at 12 while they told me how much I was going to like it. And it escalated from caricias of men everybody trusted to “te voy a enseñar a ser una mujer de mi edad vas a desearme mas y mas y yo a ti” y “te voy a enseñar como funciona tu cuerpo”. I said no, the word no, a complete sentence, didnt matter though because I was sensual… To be clear, at 12, I wasn’t toda una mujer, I was una nena but somehow I was sensual and existed for the sexual pleasure of whatever men desired it, even if they were just watching. When “you’re” dizque sensual, that’s the response. And then I thought about how even when I denounced their behavior, I said no to their advances…pues al pan pan y al vino vino…abuso es lo que era, even when I said no I was wrong because at 15 the words of a mother, some mother, la mia who finally found out weren’t “sangano del diablo nena dame un abrazo” they were “y esos mahones que tu llevas bien apretaos? Ay por favor los tienes que bajar tu para cualquiera persona meterse. Embustera. Sucia, salte de aqui” was code for “you’re sensual so you allowed it to happen.” I replayed it in my head over and over again while the others shared their favorite parts of sex. “salte de aquí”, “salte de aquí”, “salte de aquí”. I wanted to write about sensuality, I wanted to make my eyes dance as I read a poem about skin in front of the guy who professed his love to me just to tease him with something he couldnt touch because he was essentially trying to do the same to me with all of his many insinuations about negras, but I couldn’t because my head was filled with the words “salte de aqui” and the sound of locking doors, and the sound of me screaming, and the horrible sound of silence, all because I was sensual without ever haven chosen to be so.
I thought I was brave the day that I heard the words “salte de aqui” come from the very person who I thought would perhaps protect me. Before she said the words “salte de aqui”, she hadn’t known.Well she did but not because I told her. I was always in trouble, disrespectful to my teachers, and didn’t listen to my coaches. I was defiant and came home whenever I felt like it, your textbook malcriaaa, and angry so angry that I threw three year old pataletas anytime authority exercised power over me. I hated anyone who asked while I was angry and I was constantly questioning what was happening to my body with the men. Before the broken glass and the comments like “sucia”, I had finally worked up the courage to tell a counselor at school what was happening. It turned into the principal, a social worker, a police officer, my mom, and a detective telling me to act out everything that happened. Not write. Act out. The male cops, male mind you, were supposed to play the abusers while I played myself. “Pretend you’re with them right now. Were you on top ever? Tenias orgasmo? Te gustó?”. Protocol. That translates to “show us how sensual you were behaving for so many years and the same men”. I back peddled immediately said I was confused and never meant to say it and listened to my mother tell them how sucia I was and how sorry she was that I was a liar. So when the situation, o sea, my bravery, after weeks of “sucia tu eres” and serious “peleas”, shed throw glass and Id throw water, with who I thought was there to protect me turned into “salte de aqui, ni te puedo mirar la cara, eres una sucia” and the things which made me sucia continued, I left, far and I went to sit on a park bench. For me at that point “sucia” and “sensual” had the same meaning and were the reason a ellos les gustabs esta piel canela. I sat on a rickety park bench and counted the clouds and apparently that also made me sensual. But I didn’t realize that that action made me sensual, until after months of believing that I had a mentor who cared about my feelings, was kind to children, respectful to elders.
Doña Rosa can smell bullshit a mile away (but can’t read the newspaper up close haha). I had always secretly loved that about her, how I couldn’t lie to her. I was free with doña Rosa in a way I couldn’t be anywhere else. The kids at my school were rich and white and if they had found out my mom couldn’t afford a new pair of nikes for us every month then I was doomed so I lied and pretended to not want the shoes everybody else wanted. Rosa saw it coming and ordered me to keep away from the streets even the ones that gifted me friends who had been through worst than me. I was finishing up homework in the same park and the mentor was returning to me with a piragua. It had only been May, early for piraguas in Little Puerto Rico but nonetheless a piragua. She knew he wasn’t my father or related to me. She saw me, marched over, amd grabbed my arm so tight, the piragua flew to the ground and I came to my feet. Her nails dug into my shoulder all the way to her house. She asked if he had done anything to me. I told her no because he wasn’t like that and she proceeded to make me sit and eat the sopon de pollo she had made herself earlier that day. If a hug had a flavor that would be what all of doña Rosas food tasted like.
When she fell asleep, I arranged through text to go back to the mentor. I told him that the lady wasn’t comfortable with him around me but I was and that was all that mattered. I made my way back to her house. She sat in the front room waiting for me and laughed while I snuck in through the screendoor I had left unlocked to return. “Tu no me mandas” I said “ni mi mama me manda ni los maestros me mandan, hago lo que quiero” y esa mujer, me dio una bofeta pero una bofeta de verdad. I cried because I couldnt believe her anger towards me. She stared at me because she couldn’t believe my blatant defiance towards her. I fell asleep venting to the mentor about how evil women could be. She woke me up with polvorones and explained to me once again, “tienes una energia sensual negrita. Puede ser bien peligrosa. Portate bien oiste? You ever do that again I will tear your ass up myself before he does. Do not test me.” It was too late. I was surrounded with women who told me I thought I was better than they were because while at carnivals while at festivals even still as a young girl, flaquita, with canillas for legs, men would stare and men would lick their lips and men would go as far as driving past and doubling back to get a better look. And I was surrounded with women who didnt protect me while men would hurt me. And I was surrounded by women who would say “you think youre allowed to be una sangana and disrespectful porque hay hombres grandes que te interesa!”
Rosa had reminded me that I was “sensual” and therefore (as I translated it to be) responsible for any action a man had towards me because those actions were reactions because again I was supposedly una nena sensual. I didn’t respect la doñas advice, because well the last thing an unmothered daughter who has a mother wants, is someone trying to mother her. I didn’t think that he was like any of the others who told me “eres toda una mujer negra” and I couldn’t understand why this viejita would want to keep me away from someone who like her, was kind to me, until he one day kissed me on the cheek, caressed my thigh and said the same. He made promises to me that you only make to women in the midst of steamy consensual one night stands. I didn’t know he was being paid to attract girls into thinking sexual pleasure with him meant freedom for them. It didnt, it meant you being an object for his jefe y sus clientes, while he had fun, in the middle of a very illegal situation. Hombres, nenas, dinero. I got away from his horrific and obviously illegal negocio with struggle one because stockholm syndrome (aunque me hacia daño, cuando me fui de casa le confiaba) and also theres no real way out even if they let you go, I was still his and he still bought me piraguas. I almost convinced myself that it was ok and he convinced me a few times that I wanted everything Id say no to or cry about because, “its me. Not the men who like to hurt you.” To be clear this mentor was one of those men who lurks in the neighborhoods of Puerto Ricans in economic exile ij the US, in search of angry fatherless girls. The only thing he mentored me on was that women existed for the pleasure of men and “heres what they need to do about it” and “heres how you help yourself” and “te toy haciendo una mujer”, but again, I wasnt a woman. Those men think las nenas enfogonas are the easiest to touch and kiss. A part of the trauma of those Puerto Rican enclaves in the states is that there exist a few angry fatherless nenas who dont need to be scolded for laughing in the middle of danger rather held away from it. Rosa tried, she tried. It all ties right back to the traumas of US colonialism. Just like some Puerto Ricans blame themselves I did the same. Just like some Puerto Ricans believe the US to be helping them, I thought the same of un hombre, grande que me compraba piraguas y me decia linda y me decia mujer y asi me trataba.
I still wanted to write, I was dying to write, but I couldn’t. I shivered from the outrageous temperature in the room and I thought about how, even walking down Paseo de Diego in search of malanga and another can of salsa de tomate for me and my friend’s dinner meant a man would stop me asking when the last time I had been intimate with someone was because he needed “some”. Granted, we’re all adults here and it is perfectly fine to be totally honest about wanting to sleep with someone. But it was objectification because no lo conozco ni me conoce. Of all the people in the area, women negotiating the the prices of pana, men selling platanos on the hot sidewalk, women my age strutting and twisting their hips as they walked, he looked to me because “eres una negra y me encantan las negras. Huelen a coco y caminan con una sensualidad…”. There I was again, being sensual with no real intention and never deciding to be so because I was an object.
I soon decided that I didn’t want to write. I wasn’t a writer and the author made a huge mistake taking any interest in me. So I left. I left the shit out of that taller leaving behind my bag and I sat on the benches outside of la ciudadela. It was late, no one was nearby, just me, the ancestors, una brisa, and the lights. I blinked and lagrimas fell to my lap. I cursed myself for being weak, for allowing some past experiences to define my sensualityand ability to write. I knew I couldnt be honest in that room about how I felt because I would have ruined the energy amd it wasnt fair nor my place. Yo estaba en una jaula. I ranted to a friend mentor a real one via text, I couldnt/wouldnt dare say the words, “I’m not even a writer. I chickened out of a workshop about sensual poetry. What the fuck is my problem? I act sensual sometimes to get free drinks and I guess sometimes I carry a natural sensuality, men and women have fallen in love with me watching me dance, and I have nothing against either of them staring while I bat my eyes to the beat of Maelo Rivera, but I couldn’t write about it hahaha fuck it I guess I’m not a writer. They stole that too. No soy nena de la iglesia but I’m not sure I have permission to acknowledge my sensuality sometimes because that means to be honest that I love to behave in a way that men believed me to be when I was younger so that they could justify their hands up my school dresses and their eyes undoing my track and field uniform and their skin undoing inocencia. I guess I’m not a writer and the author made a mistake ever thinking that I was.” She assured me that I was a writer. And “remember writing brings healing and sometimes the healing happens during the night in the middle of Santurce in front of your favorite author.” I didn’t understand how that could possibly be healing. I was angry. I was so angry. I even wanted to be angry at the author for seeing. Yo estaba mas enfogona que el diatre.
Rosa used to tell me, “negrita caprichosa (just like my madrina would say), be angry all you want to but one day youre gunna have to stop being angry for a while and feel whatever it is that you need to feel and acknowledge whatever that feeling is and why the hell you even have that feeling in the first place. Or you can wait for it to catch up to you. It will catch up.” I ignored her like I ignored most women in authority over me. But there I was 5 years after she tried to crack inside of my anger which only made me angrier to be honest, there I was 5 years later in la ciudadela, lagrimas. Lagrimas, finally. Lagrimas. I wished it had been la lluvia. It didn’t rain that night as far as I can remember.
There I was five years later feeling what I needed to feel. Nevermind the desire to write a sensual poem about skin, nevermind loving that author so much my heart would race anytime she complimented me. Nevermind she invited me to watch her magic, I was in the middle of Santurce digging into an anger so deep that I had never dealt with it, just let it out to lash at anyone in my way, especially women with authority over me because they were the first to throw the actions of men onto me as if it belonged to me.
I had despised anyone who dared try to figure out why sometimes a straight A, peluita with a smile, who was so kind and sweet, sold string bracelets she handmade to raise money for kids in the Dominican Republic when she was 13, could quote Pedro Albizu Campos since she was 12, was one of the top students in the region, felt a spiritual connection to trees and plants and could figure out their properties without reading a word about them, could play three instruments, honored her ancestors with candles and prayers, why a little girl like that had a horribly evil streak towards anyone in any sort of authority. Even when it all ended, even when I went off to college four years ago I couldn’t allow established authority nearby, professors for example. I can name two professors that I have actually trusted before the last week of classes. Oddly enough they were both from my college experience in Puerto Rico. Even more ironically one was Dominican and the other was Puerto Rican. And the most ironic characteristic of all, both professors women. I pretended I had no interest in the material they taught because I was a political science major and one course was about anthropology and the other literature. Please. I’m a writer and a social advocate against racism who is working on a memoir about cultural memory. I needed them and I needed to be open to what they had to teach. Those courses were more for me than “European politics” ever could be. Nonetheless, there’s nothing like the intelligence, wit and care of your own people to humble you right back down to being the respectful being you were raised to be and need to be if you plan to ever learn anything else from them or others. They saw me just like Rosa could see me and there I was, vulnerable after that night in Santurce. They told me I was great even though I arrived late to their classes and only engaged when they forced me, and invented reasons to think they were bad professors for me. They both had me in their offices catching up on the work and keeping myself strong for the projects, big and small.
I felt everything that I needed to feel about choice, sensuality and authority that night in Santurce. I felt the way authority had failed me and how sensual was written on my skin without my consent because of a different kind of authority, an authority I didn’t have over my body perhaps as a smiling negrita perhaps as a girl who thought all attention was good attention, and how I was struggling to choose to be sensual to complete a workshop because I “was sensual” before I even knew such choices existed. I felt why I couldn’t trust most women in direct authority over me because I saw the women I was raised with who called me “sucia” and who sometimes unintentionally, often times not, made the way men treated me, my responsibility. I was frustrated with myself for not being brave enough to stay in the workshop, I cursed myself for leaving, I hated myself for a moment because I had the once in a lifetime chance to be in awe of the passion, laugh at the jokes, learn from the wisdom of my favorite author all because she invited me to do just that but I was missing it, but cono, that same author indirectly brought me to my knees after years of unprejudiced anger because I was outside and I was having an anxiety attack and I was feeling what I needed to feel. She didn’t teach me how to write and I didn’t get to laugh at her jokes but she helped me be brave enough to sit in the night of Santurce and feel what I needed to feel, to crack inside of anger all because while walking to my last class of the day, she saw me, told me how she had heard about me and respected my eagerness to learn from her.
Sometimes the healing happens because of a word, one word in the middle of Santurce, San Mateo de Cangrejos, tierra ancestral de cimarronaje, bajo la luna llena. Sometimes that’s exactly how it happens and you sit there, completely undone. Because that’s what healing is, becoming undone. I walked back to the workshop as it was ending. The author looked directly at me and slightly raised her eyebrow insinuating that she noticed that I had become undone, that I had healed though I doubt she was sure. Anbyody like her who knows about healing knows your eyes will look a little bit differently once a part of you heals. I learned nothing about writing sensually but I had become undone, and you must become undone in order to write. I wrote her a terrible poem about what I felt, took a breath and chose healing. She mentioned in front of the others that whatever frustration I had felt was probably a result of being between two languages. I think she knew it was deeper than that because my face has never been one to hide my feelings. Borinken has brought me to my knees a hundred times with love and I’m allowing her to bring me to my knees a hundred more times for the healing. Rio Piedras welcomed me home but Santurce welcomed me to the undoing of anger, the healing.
La ciudadela de Santurce no es el verdadero Santurce. Existe por encima del verdadero Santurce que existe por encima del San Mateo de Cangrejos, y aun así esa tierra ancestral de cimarronaje me sanó. Y pues aun así, a lo loco, con muchas cosas por encima, yo, una cimarrona, me puedo sanar también.