I really need to choose one specific day every week to wash my clothes.
My current method hails from the world-renowned
“Wait until you have nothing left to wear but one dirty towel” School of Laundry.
I had to heap everything into the basket with my hair still wet from the shower.
At the Rubell Collection, a wax woman resting her chin on a plate of glass hangs suspended about an inch above the floor. She’s plugged into a nearby box,
some type of computer or gaming system, via thick black wires that spring from her back. Her eyes are closed, and now and then her fingers twitch, like she’s dreaming.
Is this what escape looks like?
This morning, a fascist Italian man shoots six African migrants in Rome. This afternoon, I read about Uma Thurman’s mistreatment by Weinstein and Tarantino. Tonight, I drink Svedka with passion fruit juice until the room looks shaky. My best friend throws up in the toilet and is guided upstairs by two nice girls already in mom-friend mode. I want to check on her, but I don’t trust myself to not fall down the stairs. Bonnie’s current hook-up (the guy she told us not to let her get with tonight) is perfectly sober and wants to go up, so I stop him with a hand on his toned bicep. It takes me a second to talk as I process the weirdly nice feeling of it, but I say something like, “I wanna see her, but I’m drunk. Help me.” The words barely slur.
He takes my hand and lifts it, leading me up the stairs and stabilizing me when we round the bend. I make sure to block his way into the room once the girls accept my “It’s me!” and I peek my head inside. Bonnie is sitting on the bed, hugging her mesh trash can covered in a plastic bag, concealed to her waist by a blanket and clad only in her bra. Her hair is in a floppy bun on top of her head. She smiles meekly and says, “Hi.” I ask if she’s good and she says she’s okay, so I nod and leave.
In the darkened hallway, I tell the boy something about how I didn’t like our “hookup” that one time and he stops me, pulling us deeper into the shadows. He questions me, his hand drifting to my ass (his favorite of my features). I pull away and frown. “You can’t just take advantage of me because I’m drunk.” He denies that he did that, but I don’t wait to argue, starting messily toward the stairs. I hold tightly to the handrail and make it down, even though my eyes widen and I almost trip on the last two steps.
We find a little Cuban cafeteria tucked into the back of an old combination grocery and dollar store with metal bars on the front doors and windows. It’s called Rubido’s.
My father eats his pan con bistec with pleasure, chewing with his eyes closed.
He declares it the best in the city.
My father is 78 years old. Born and raised in Cuba.
He has been eating pan con bistec for four times as long as I’ve been alive.
This is not a compliment; it is Apollinaire declaring a new Picasso.
You’re mad at yourself. The first week of a fresh month and you’re already messing up plans, getting to campus and rushing to the Campus Life Center because you NEED those $5 Frost Science Museum tickets in your hands and you need to solidify these plans you are already romanticizing. Plans of the neon-aquatic, the see-through jellyfish swimming in the clear water tanks, pitch darkness surrounding you as you watch them do their dance. The planetarium you already saw yourself looking up at, the imitation stars saying hello to you but they can’t do justice to the stars you see when you look up at the sky as you enter your home. You want to experience all of this with the one friend who’s made you see things in a new light, just like science has done for generations throughout history.
You don’t have those tickets in your hand. SOLD-OUT, the sign reads. Your instinct is to blame yourself, and you do, and you tell said friend that but once again, she makes you see this lost opportunity with new eyes.
Maybe things just happen. Science is full of inexplicable happenings.
Today I went to the movies with my mother. I don’t even remember what we watched, I just remember the huge tub of popcorn and the diet cokes and the Twizzlers and Raisinets—we do love our junk food.
I remember that we worried about the latest Trump scandal, that we worried about the DOW Jones tumble from the day before, that I was worried about some test or other, something that really must have mattered because I’ve completely forgotten it now.
It’s strange, looking back, to think about what seemed so important.
Blind date with a book. A beautiful concept that you’ve seen circulating the Internet and is now available to you in person at the library. You eye each of the descriptions until the one that reads Historical fiction novel seeks reader who enjoys female relationships, new cultures, and retellings of Biblical stories passes your eyes and you grab the anonymous package and take it to the circulation desk. The girl next to you at the desk looks over as you’re trying to explain that this package is indeed a book that you indeed want to check out. You’re ready to open the package while heading up to the second floor when that same girl, who happens to be your elevator neighbor for the brief thirty seconds, asks you what the book is all about. You explain you have zero clue and that the concept is to not know until you peel away the brown paper wrapping and sit down to enjoy the words without prior judgment. I suppose that’s beautiful, not knowing what you’re getting yourself into until you’re ready to fully immerse yourself, she says as her bumblebee yellow sweater and short bob exit the elevator.
You still haven’t unwrapped the book.
Potluck today, potluck tomorrow. You haven’t seen your two closest friends in forever and you wonder why you need these two to feel like yourself. Aren’t you tired of depending on others for a personality or a sense of purpose?
You enjoy yourself in a conference room filled with adventurers who recommend restaurants and secret tips for Parisian hotspots but what strikes you as critical in this room of people is how everyone’s experience is individual and incapable of imitation. You may go on the same hikes as your study abroad crew, eat at the same places, see the same buildings, but you alone will have this particular perspective about the city.
You’re thinking about the alumni who told you how much of a doppelganger you are for her close friend in London who does drag. You want to meet this twin of yours and ask if her life is an alternative universe from yours. A universe where you’re not holding back tears from those friends you haven’t seen in forever. A universe where you are your own self, an individual existence that isn’t afraid to share the scary coincidences she has felt in the past weeks or the fact that four days is too much time apart. A universe where you aren’t codependent.
Today I find out police officers in California worked with neo-nazis in 2016 against anti-racist protesters and that Pence didn’t stand at the Olympics for the Korean entrance, despite his “stance” against protesting during sporting events. Hypocrites. Like me, spending the afternoon in Christian church despite being a bisexual deist.
On Saturdays I’m usually at home with my mother, listening to old Roberto Carlos songs and drinking café con leche and writing. It was sunny, I hope. February up till then had been sunny, carefree.
Right now it’s 11am back then. I’m sitting at my desk in my underwear. Knowing me,
I probably haven’t brushed my teeth yet.
Laundry, again, but just a small load this time.
The official Obama portraits give me the same thrill I get when I think about how my racist white ancestors would hate to see my mulatta self happy and prosperous. In the background of our national story, a CDC employee leaves work sick and disappears. Dystopian post-virus wasteland, anyone?
It’s Galentine’s Day but you’re not celebrating. Everyone’s too busy and you’re sad. Sad because your friends are graduating, sad because you shouldn’t be so controlling of things you can’t control, sad because you wanted today to be a celebration of women but they’re too busy to celebrate. It’s just a symbolic day, it doesn’t mean anything anyways.
You buy a one-way to Paris for $180 and you finally watch The Shape of Water on your own, your plaid blanket hugging you as the rustic underwater aesthetic of the movie envelops you. It’s Bioshock with a romantic twist.
Going to movies on your own has always been a surefire way of removing yourself from a sad day and you come out of the Cinemark feeling new. You wonder if it’s the movie itself or just the fact that you can sit in the forced darkness and forget about the sadness of your own life for two hours and counting. A sadness that’s still there despite all the good that’s happened to you.
Heading to the bathroom three times during class to check on your acne. To check it’s not too disgusting for others to look at. To check if it’s not as bad as you make it all out to be in your head.
Plotting out tomorrow’s day and not wanting to get your hopes up. Kristy wants you there for her third tattoo at 11am. Ocho Placas. Orange blossoms for the time she cherishes of being in Morocco, four months where the smell of oranges didn’t immediately remind her of Florida but of a home in another culture. You’ll be there, but you still worry about running late or not even making it at all, a worry that is too premature a concern.
Little worries that are little when you stop at 2:25pm.
One hundred shots in less than five minutes.
Five minutes and how many little worries left this world in that moment?
I first hear about Parkland when my creative nonfiction class ends at 4:50. One of our classmates warns us to avoid the area because of an active shooter. I barely blink at the news, leaving the class with fellow students, venting about how awful gun control is in America. My phone tells me people were injured, and some may have been killed. This causes my eyes to widen and my head to shake. I get in my car, complain about the hour I spend in traffic, and spend the rest of the day watching TV and scrolling on my phone. I retweet some stuff about the event, but I don’t feel much beyond anger and annoyance that this happened again. It’s such a quintessentially 21st century America thing: a mass shooting.
Valentine’s. Nat and I had our heads buried so deep in a sand of kisses and K-dramas that we didn’t learn anything about the Parkland shooting until the fifteenth.
I love living on the fifth floor because no one comes up here.
What happens on the ground can’t reach the two of us,
can’t reach this small and simple world of pillows and blankets.
Imagine living in a 30th floor apartment overlooking Biscayne Bay, or in a penthouse suite in Manhattan. So high up that even safety is a foreign concept: distant,
difficult to make out—what’s there to be afraid of?
So high up that the sound of a gunshot loses its momentum
and falls with a terrible scream right back down to earth.
Showering in preparation of my first time seeing Black Panther, I finally cry about Parkland. Being the multi-tasking, tech-addicted girl I am, I shower with my phone in one hand and cleaning materials in the other, so I’m currently reading the profiles of the dead and seeing their pictures. I dry and get ready, donning my all-black outfit including a leather jacket. My beret will complete the Black Panther Party look.
I pick up my friend, drive too quickly, drop her at the front, and search desperately for parking in front of the theater, but the lot is filled for the first time pretty much ever. I spot a pair heading to their car and follow, thinking, “Thanks, white girls,” as I throw my vehicle in the spot they vacated. I run the long distance to the entrance with a fraction of my brain worrying about nazi terrorists while the rest is excited ramblings about the film. We make it to our seats in the middle of the trailers without popcorn, but I brought gummy worms and M&Ms from home.
The next two hours are a mess of feelings for me. I wish the little kid I was had the chance to see this, especially the gifted genius girl of color. I tear up throughout, but I only cry at the end when Killmonger reminds us of the slaves that jumped from ships. I realize my ancestors didn’t leap and I contemplate this. I wish I could see it again immediately.
I finished Candide today, for class. It bothers me a bit—how easy it was to sit down and read.
I watched Black Panther and liked it. I ate popcorn, smiled, laughed.
I went back to the apartment to do the laundry. I did my sheets too. I went through every piece of clothing and used some Shout to coat each stain, and then I threw it all into the washers and waited for 34 minutes in the rumbling, windowless room. After that, another 60 minutes in the dryers, followed by 20 minutes folding everything and dragging it back up to the apartment.
I went to sleep tired, knowing I’d have to do it all again in a couple of days. I went to sleep
knowing the laundry took more out of me than Parkland, because I really hadn’t stopped
to process it, because I didn’t want to.
I went to sleep thinking of Candide. If this is the best of all possible worlds,
what are the others like?
The art hoes from school are having a garage sale and you’re heading all the way down to Homestead to support them and hopefully score some beautiful clothing for cheap prices. Your semi-acquaintance semi-friend Nicole will be there and it’s incredible that the first thing you remember about her is the little green beret she wore to the first general meeting of the club you preside over. Green, not raspberry. You always crush on people but never know if you want anything from them but simple friendship. You would never have believed that the cool woman at that meeting would now be hugging you as you step on her driveway to take in what’s for sale. You leave with a Keith Haring sweatshirt, a striped t-shirt, and the tiniest paint palette pin as handcrafted by her dear friend Alanis.
It’s from there to the Dangerous Women reception at the Frost, where your brother takes in the amount of people at the opening and wants to know why so many old people are at this event. A remark that you cringe at because an old woman just glared at him in annoyance. It’s too packed to enjoy the exhibit but you see Madame Garcia and she cheers you up.
You can never enjoy yourself in packed museums, packed theatres, packed festivals. To you, art is meant to be consumed in silence, a quiet space that you can rest in until you decide it’s over. A moment of silence that doesn’t scare you as you’re left with your own thoughts and opinions, thoughts that normally frighten you when left to mingle with the quiet.
It’s a regular Sunday to most, but today is your symbolic celebration of Galentine’s Day. You invited ten people but those two close friends, practically limbs, of yours are the only ones to agree to the celebration. It’s a celebration of Publix six for $4 roses and printed collages, a lunch of vegan coco-curry chicken paninis and bubble tea. It’s accepting that these two will always be there for you even when your brain tells you they don’t care. It’s the dorky shaggy-haired worker at SpecialTea asking your friend where she got that collage and her saying you made it for her. It’s him telling you you’re a good friend and your friend responding, She really is. It’s falling asleep in one of their beds as they watch a movie together, letting your brain rest from a beautiful day but a long day nonetheless. It’s a celebration of unspoken comforts and ties that aren’t easily breakable.
A cop pulls me over for something ridiculous and I cry silently in the car. As I drive away, the horror of being near police hits me and I howl-sob so hard I can only see the road in bursts. In Nigeria, several schoolgirls are kidnapped by Boko Haram.
Why do you give them the attention they desire? An attention that will only leave you tired as they remain convicted in their ways. An attention that left me tired the moment it left your lips. Is my sexuality a joke? I know you meant it as a joke but I’m tired of joking about something that makes me feel like I’m in the shadows while you get to use it for laughs. Do you struggle with these shadows? I don’t think you do. Do you struggle with this tip-toeing that you take in order to not scare others away? I don’t think you do. I’m sure it’s a joke but you’re feeding into the male gaze, the hatred of these men, is that a joke? It’s a joke. It’s a joke. It’s a joke. I KNOW IT’S A JOKE BUT IT’S NOT FUNNY ANYMORE. It’s not funny to pretend for the sake of sensationalism. It’s not funny because it’s a privilege some of us don’t have and something that’s just shits and giggles for you. It’s not funny how I left crying in my car over my frustration, an anger that is valid but exaggerated. An anger that I’m still learning to be okay with and not suppress. Suppression tends to lead to explosions, and the last thing I want to do is explode.
Instead of even hearing an assault weapons ban, the Florida House requires displaying “in God we trust” at schools and declares porn a health hazard. There’s a protest in front of the state capital. Doubt they cared. Elsewhere, Brigham Young University’s “Women in Math” panel is all-male. Iron knee.
Gun news: Oregon passes bill against domestic violence ex-convicts owning guns and there’s a CNN Town Hall featuring Parkland survivors. In entertainment, Jared Leto’s new trailer shows him as yakuza. Yuck, you’s tone-deaf— unlike talented Janelle Monáe and her bisexual anthem in video with subtle purple, blue, and pink lights.
The radical notion that women are people.
It’s the text on the front of a black sweatshirt your friend gave you. A sweatshirt that provoked discussion about whether women are truly better than men and compliments from the employee at Chili’s, all in one day. When you later relax with Laura and talk to her about feminist issues, it comes naturally and with passion.
But when Laura asks if you want to hang out with her co-workers from the biology lab and you realize they’re all older white men, one of which could be Lindsey Buckingham and Shaggy from Scooby Doo’s lovechild, that natural passion dries out into silence as they talk animatedly about getting wasted at the beach and their matches on Tinder. You’re trying to hide the text on your sweatshirt, an action that goes against the very drive you have about feminism and social justice concerns.
The radical notion that you shouldn’t be ashamed of your passion for women, as people and as the subjects of pressing issues.
Heading to my third viewing of Black Panther, I read about the nuclear waste from a Cold War project set to be released by the melting ice in the North. I snort a laugh. “Of course this would happen. Why not?” I’m starting to accept this is the darkest timeline.
Yesterday a shooting took place at Savannah State University. One former student was killed.
Tomorrow, a shot will be fired at Oakland High, and the school will be placed on lockdown.
Today, I finished One Hundred Years of Solitude, and I kept thinking about the biblical hurricane that swallows up Macondo in the final paragraph.
How do we manage to live under the weight of so much history?
I came back from the weekend to a load of laundry and the smell of rotting garbage.
The roommates left banana peels and some kind of beans in the trash,
just sitting there like a slushy. They left the sink
cluttered with grimy dishes and glasses and forks and knives.
Whatever’s on that stuff is crusty now, and black.
I can’t wait to live in a studio apartment next semester.
I know I should try to remember, try to stick steadfastly to Never Again. But time moves so fast,
and it’s so easy to forget about everything when you’re on the fifth floor;
you just let it slip away by grabbing the detergent, the basket. Put on some music and poof—it’s gone.
All gone, if only for a little while.
The Supreme Court rules no immigrant (green card resident or other) has the right to a bond hearing and the Arctic has been averaging 27 degrees Fahrenheit above normal. But! The Fahrenheit 451 movie with Michael B. Jordan looks cool. At least the book’s dystopian existence isn’t real. Yet.
It’s been the second month of the year for a while now. For some it sped by, for others it took way too long. Time is relative in motion when we think about what we’re going through. It speeds when we tend to be happy and having fun. Slows when the thoughts are too much and the pressure is overwhelming.
It’s been a month of extreme love and extreme anger. A symbolic day in the month that was the epitome of both. A month that’s shorter than its eleven companions but has been filled with the most life altering moments.
A month of concerts and exposure to new people.
A month of art excursions and ghosting the friends who love you.
A month of planning for the future and thinking about the past.
Twenty-eight days of everything and anything.
Twenty-eight days too many.
Twenty-eight days too little.
Isabella Marie Garcia is an undergraduate honors student at Florida International University in Miami, Florida. Double majoring in English and Women’s and Gender Studies, with a minor in French Language and Culture, she is heavily interested in work that challenges gender ideals, female sexuality, and brings taboo subjects up to the surface. Though never previously published, she won runner-up in the Undergraduate Poetry category of the 2018 FIU Literary Awards Competition and also curates her own writing blog, which can be found at spookyrose.wordpress.com.
Aaron Pupo is an undergraduate honors student double majoring in English and Philosophy at Florida International University. Their research interests include queer studies, feminist theory, and the lyric essay. They have been published in the Miami Herald as a contributing writer for the LGBTQ Column.
Manuela Velasco is completing a Bachelor of Arts in sustainability and the environment with a minor in English at Florida International University, where she was Vice President and Editor of the Honors College literary magazine, Palate. She was born in Brazil and lives in Miami, Florida. Her multi-genre writing includes poetry, fiction, and nonfiction, typically concerning matters of identity.