This piece is part of the #52essays2017 challenge where I will share one essay a week in 2017. To learn more about this challenge or to participate, check out writer Vanessa Martir’s website and post about it. To learn more about me and my writing, visit my website or follow me on Twitter.
“People are shit.”
I kept repeating that phrase to my mother every time she asks why I am the way I am. Or how I am now.
“People are shit and they have taken away from me what I use to give freely.”
She says that I am so closed up while crossing her arms across her chest, showing me how I am now. “You are like this. When you use to be like this.” Her arms are open now, as if in a hug.
I agree with her. I use to be open, heart out to who ever needed it and a smile to help make everything okay. And people took it and I was glad for it, to make the world that much better. But people stopped giving back. When did that happen?
“You use to dance. And sing.”
Yes, that was me. I look at pictures in boxes and books and there I am, dancing and laughing. The world was okay then, there was nothing that I didn’t think I could overcome — racism, sexism, depression — and no song I didn’t love. Like the clave of a beloved Cuban son, I knew rhythm like my own heart beat and swayed and danced. And sang. And dreamed, as if it was my privilege to do so.
“But now you don’t. What happened.”
Twelve years in an abusive career relationship seeing the good and bad of humanity, bursting my optimism like fruit. One year in a place and with people who wanted to see me end. The loss of everything I built over those years — money, friendships, work, confidence. And then nothing…silence…no children, no marriage, no house…nothing that shows that I had done something for myself. All of it taken away even the opportunity.
And where were my friends when all this was happening? Some stood by my side, kicked my ass when it need it, let me cry when there was no other choice. But those I can count on one hand and I won’t even need all the fingers. Everyone else was gone, lost to me, dead to me. I only hear from them when they want something from me, need me for something. I hear from them when they want to take.
Where were they when I had a handful of pills in my hand? When I needed people to take from me then?
So, I don’t talk to many people, not like I use to. I am not who I was, I am enough — friendly enough, charming enough, I smile enough.
But just enough. There’s not much more energy than that. I have to save my energy, which use to go toward dancing and singing, for other things.
“People are shit,” I tell my mom as she slurped her wild rice and chicken soup. “So now I only invest the energy in the people who I know can prove me wrong.”