One day at a time.
Death redefines life. It redefines words and exposes their complications, their other meanings, layers. Those of us who live with Death operate in this space of redefinition, a space that forces a redefinition of self.
Who am I, really? Whom have I become?
And is this a new me or is it the me that had been buried under the weight of assimilation and adaptation—to a new country, 21 years ago; to Mike’s world, so very different than mine; to newsrooms in small cities in western New England and the big city, New York. It was there that I learned to use the idea that others had of people like me, those stereotypical definitions of immigrant and Latina, to my advantage. I faked my knowledge of countries I had never visited and cultures I had never experienced, embracing a pan-Latin identity that is the identity they believed I had, even if it is one that doesn’t exist.
In the process, I lost myself.
Death has set me on a journey of resurrection. I am digging inside to unbury the real me, a me that is now more mature, more capable; a me who needs to learn to believe in herself, to stop second-guessing herself. Because all the decisions, all the choices, they’re all mine. I have no one else to blame if the decisions I make don’t yield the outcome I intended. That can be paralyzing — it’s so easy to make decisions when you make them together because you can always blame the other if things don’t work out as they were supposed to. But I’m glad I’m making decisions on my own. It is empowering to make decisions on my own. I just have to exorcise this thing called fear, this thing called self-doubt. I’m working on it.
Flora and I are in Los Angeles this weekend, spending time together, talking, browsing the overpriced vintage shops in Larchmont Village, eating spicy Thai food, visiting film studios, watching people go by. I rented a car and on our first foray, I celebrated that I was able, after some tinkering, to get both Siri and Spotify synced with the car speakers.
“Now everything is perfect,” I said.
“No, it’s not,” she told me from the backseat. “Daddy isn’t here.”
True, he isn’t. But hasn't perfection meant something else entirely since he’s been gone? Hasn’t life meant something else entirely?
“You’re right, but only if you approach our life today from the perspective of his absence, Flora,” I said. “Now, if you think about our new life, the life that’s just you and I, then I think everything is pretty perfect. We slept well, we got up on time and in good spirits, we had a delicious breakfast and now we’re on our way to Hollywood listening to Madonna, with Siri giving us directions.”
She didn’t respond. I let Silence ride with us for a while.
“Los Angeles is pretty cool,” she said eventually.
“What do you like most about it?” I asked.
“That you’re here with me.”
WHY – AND HOW – I WRITE
The key to writing a good story is knowing what you don’t know and finding the right people and documents to help you learn it. You have a fundamental question that leads to a bunch of other questions that need to be answered so that your fundamental question makes sense. This is how I write.
Follow along with Fernanda and get occasional stories.