By Idalis Nieves
It’s been almost four months since I’ve read a book for pure leisure. It’s been almost a year since I’ve enjoyed a movie or TV show without analyzing the symbolism, themes, and correlations to real-life situations without wondering if the material used stayed true to a book(s).
What have I become?
In second grade going on third, I’m waiting for the next book from Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events to appear on the library’s shelf. No luck. The Hostile Hospital, The Vile Village, The Reptile Room, The Miserable Mill. The librarian says the next one will arrive sometime next week. To lessen my impatience and slight disappointment, my mom takes me to Burger King for chicken tenders and fries after she lets me check out the tenth book in the series: The Slippery Slope. It’s not the first time I’ve read the books out of order.
Summer ends, and I’ve read all of the books in Lemony Snicket’s saga. Two more would soon be written. Before I enter third grade, my mom and school librarian suggest I read books with hopeful and happily-ever-after endings. In school, I read the American Girl books. My dad buys me hardcover canvas books of the Grimm and Hans Christian fairytales at a bookstore on the military base.
My last slumber party was when I was fifteen years old, but I only had five or six friends over as opposed to ten or eleven friends. I made it a rule that no horror movies would be allowed; I dealt with nightmares of Chucky chasing me weeks after my tenth birthday.
Being trapped in a confided space with nothing to stop a doll half a foot shorter than me from making me a victim. What he did to me varied; slicing me, torturing me with his violent promises, and making others do his bidding for me. Controlling them like a demented puppet master. He made me want to hurt those I cared about.
To make up for the choice, we made soda cocktails consisting of Coke, Sprite, Fanta, and whatever else my mom purchased. If brave enough, one of us would mix everything on the folding table together and face the sugar crash after an hour or two.
Five years have passed since the last time I’ve done a hodgepodge soda cocktail. There’s a metallic, heavy taste to drinks I once enjoyed. “Drinking from the bottle is better,” I reasoned with my mom, a bottle from Coke from the Mexican supermarket in my hand. “The taste is smooth and purer to me.”
I had only seen two movies that have been nominated for Oscars this year. The posters Kendra pulled up on her iPhone were familiar to me, but most movies I either had no interest in or no time to see on my own at the time of release.
“You’re bad at this,” Miranda playfully chastised me at the 1882 Grille on third street. “You need to get more into the times.”
I had seen all but three movies she listed from the 80s, 90s, and Disney movies on Miranda’s iPhone.
Kendra soon criticized Miranda for having seen Tim Burton’s “Sweeney Todd” as Miranda revealed a clear distaste for violent movies.
“If it’s a musical, it’s an automatic yes.” Miranda faced me again. “You need to be caught up on some modern pop culture.”
“I did better than you on cult movies,” I retorted futilely.
A remembrance of movie posters turned into an inside competition as to who was the more versed in movie trivia. I barely won.
I’ve read and remembered a majority of the assigned reading throughout my academic life—advanced English from high school to some of college. I was once told that I read too much by an idiot that failed two of his tests and made it his mission to make me repress a scream of frustration. A teacher that took my book from my desk gave me the same impression. I came back with another book in response.
The number 1,369—the number of light bulbs in the protagonist’s basement home—is significant in Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man. The unnamed narrator is the third generation since slavery was abolished. It’s mentioned that 87 years have passed since slavery. Ellison’s novel was published in 1952.
1952 – 87 = 1865. The end of the Civil War.
The number three is also important, but I have to finish Invisible Man first to better comprehend it.
Currently on chapter 15. Currently doing two papers about the book.
“How many copies of Invisible Man you need?” chuckled Devin.
My dad sat with me over during the past Winter Break watching various episodes of “Mork and Mindy” and “Daria” in the living room. We had a debate over whether or not the writers for “Mork and Mindy” wrote actual lines for Robin Williams considering how much he tended to improvise his lines only for them to end up in the final product. When I turned on episodes of “Daria”, my dad often told me how I was like her, and by that extension, him; distant, quick with a cynical remark, too smart for my good at times, yet aware of how some of the things that interest me result in me isolating myself with a majority of the world. Or at least parts of the world that confuse me.
“I at least want to know what goes on in your life,” he stated after a nightcap and after I had a (sort of) breakdown about feeling inadequate in my relationship, “so that you don’t have to go through it alone.”
“Doesn’t being an adult require you to handle situations on your own?” I asked.
“That’s grown-up of you, but even adults need their loved ones from time to time.”
How do I prevent myself from breaking down under the pressure of wanting to be as perfect as humanly possible?
I want to be as close to perfect without becoming a solitary artist. I want my work to be appreciated, to show my parents the tuition they pay isn’t going to waste, to be the polar opposite of the ex Devin had before me, do well in my jobs so my employers can give me stellar letters of recommendation when I enter the world. I don’t want to fail.
I want to drive and have a license, but my parents are using that money to pay for my classes and Jan Term. I can’t criticize them. I hate putting Devin through so much; making him drive after work or asking his mom to. I’m an adult. Twenty-one. But I’m still such a child. I depend on my parents for tuition, my Netflix account, and to schedule most of my doctor’s appointments. Part of me wonders if I’ll ever have control of my life.
Devin slammed my laptop screen down, put it aside on my desk, and kept me between his arms. “You need to stop studying for a minute.”
I tried grabbing my Ecology flashcards, but he picked me up, placing me on the high-rise bed in my dorm and in his arms again.
Away from my study material. Away from an upcoming final.
“I’m far behind. I need to know this.” Tears hot with anxiety trail down my cheeks.
“You’re going to be fine,” assured Devin, wiping away my tears with his thumbs only to see them multiply. “You’re my insufferable little know-it-all; you’re going to pass.” He kissed away a tear.
My veneer cracked. I broke down in extended bouts of sobbing, my face buried in the familiar scent of Dove for Men lingering on his K-9 unit t-shirt. Devin kept me close, ignoring my apology of staining his shirt with tears and snot. It wasn’t until another hour when I was calm enough to speak.
“I don’t…want to fail. If I fail…then I’ll be behind…and my parents will be mad at me. I’ll be mad at me. I don’t want to…let them down. They’re giving so much for… me to be here.” Devin handed me a tissue. “I’m so scared. I want to succeed.”
“You already have in my eyes,” Devin whispered against my lips, carrying me down my bed. “You’ve gone further in college than I did, and I can see how hard you’re working. That’s not being a failure, babe.”
“But what if…”
Devin silenced me with a gentle and promise-filled kiss. “Even if you do, it won’t make me think less of you. I won’t disown you, and I know your parents won’t either.”
I cracked a long awaited smile. “Insufferable little know-it-all.”
“Takes one to know one.”
I got a B on the final. I won’t have to take Ecology again!
I have my own little club now; my mom can longer think of me as weird. During my summer vacation after high school, my mom buys me a pass to Ever-free Northwest in Seattle. In laymen’s terms: My Little Pony-Con. Once inside, I was welcome to a woman in her late twenties dressed as Pinkie Pie, party cannon included of course (made out of cardboard and painted to look accurate), passing out plastic leys to members. Decked in pink from head to toe with cupcakes made of Styrofoam on her belt, she recited lines from the show and continued on.
Part of me was out of place as I wore a cartoon t-shirt and jeans, but it didn’t matter. I’d buy a unicorn horn and tail later from one of the booths. Maybe I’d even stay for the panel featuring some of the voice actors, if they didn’t charge for autographs. I was one with my fellow geeks—young, old, veteran members, first-timers—though not as willing to part with my money, though many were; investing in handmade full body costumes of various earth pony, Pegasus, unicorn, griffin, and alicorn characters. And I must not forget John de Lancie’s trickster and ally draconequus—part dragon, part lion, part pony, and part snake with deer and goat antlers—Discord.
There’s no point in being grown up if you can’t be childish sometimes?
Houston’s “I Like That” showed up on a throwback Facebook video. It was a song I remember dancing to. Thirteen years ago. I’ve been listening to it for a few weeks. Why am I analyzing the lyrics of this song and others like it to reveal it as empty beats, superficial, and possibly misogynistic?(Don’t get me started on “Candy Shop.”) Why am I acting surprised about this? Sex and the glamourizing of shady dealings (i.e. drugs) is nothing new in music. In the permissive and repressive 50’s and 60’s, songs were written in code, a trend that still occurred as decades and other trends changed: Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds, Tambourine Man, Ridin’, The A Team, and Milkshake to name a few.
Without realizing it, Houston was an artist my friends and danced to before age and lunchroom banter would corrupt our ears. If the beat was right, I’d dance (maybe) all night. Hardly any song I listen to and have found fond memories of comes out squeaky clean. Why did my parents let me listen to this “garbage” if they knew it was glamorizing drug use, washing over abuse, laced with not-so-subtle propositions of magical manhood, and misogynistic? Why did I have to find out on my own through lunchroom banter and the Internet? Curiosity always kills the cat.
Looking into Houston’s history and lack of presence after his first single, he suffered an emotional breakdown and tried to commit suicide by jumping from a window while on PCP. When Houston was stopped, he was restrained and locked in a first floor room. While in that room, Houston gouged his left eye out with a plastic fork. After the incident, he was arrested by London police and put in rehab for a couple weeks. He’s currently making a comeback and hoping to find a new manager. Hope to hear more from him.
“Seriously? I feel so old.” The commonplace phrase of my circle of millennial friends when we watch any video with the title “fill in type of media turns fill in double-digit number this year.”
Matilda andDisney’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame are the same age as me.
I want to have Matilda’s smarts; the ability to read any book in the world and understand it without the aid of the Internet and Sparknotes. I doubt I’ll ever be as smart as Matilda; doing complex math in my mind and the prospect of going to college at the start of puberty. None of it is real. No matter how many times I dress up as Esmeralda for Halloween, even in accurate costume, I won’t be as beautiful as her. I won’t be beautiful enough to have multiple male interests, turn someone away from the enemy, and become a symbol of hope. Part of me identifies with the disfigured and abused Quasimodo. But maybe there’s hope for me. Both get a happy ending.
Eminem started in the music industry in 1988. He wouldn’t achieve mainstream notoriety until 1992.
My dream is to be published. I went through seventeen rejections before I got a letter of acceptance. Part of me was grateful a magazine said yes, but another part of me realizes it’s just one magazine. One magazine doesn’t equate to success and fame. Like Eminem, I have to work harder and keep getting my name out and my version of Dr. Dre will find me. Like Eminem, I won’t be automatically favored and parts of the world’s demographic may even hate me. Like Eminem, I’ll use it to create my anthology, my future empire.
What will become of my world? What will become of me?
Now is a time I feel like I need to fight. There are still hurdles I need to jump and a race I’m nowhere near finishing. There is no one around to coddle me and tell me the evil in the world will automatically disappear through a wish on a star. I’ve given up on wishing stars, special times during the day to make a wish, and a cootie-catcher determining my future husband.
I’m not giving up on hope, my passions, my family, and myself. There is so much more I have to conquer. Growing up may knock me over, but getting up from them will define me.
The flower that blooms in adversity is the most rare and beautiful of all.
I have a good enough head on my shoulders for being a fairly sheltered military kid. My dad was overseas a majority of the time, so it was my mom and me. When he did come back and retire, it was an adjustment for all of us to know he’d be home at night. Being an only kid I enjoyed solitude when I had it, which grew, as I got older. Sometimes I got calls from my mom asking if I had any weekend plans when I first came to college. At first, I went to parties. Now I lay in bed with elastic waist pants watching Netflix with a bowl of popcorn or dry cereal. My dad gave me a long talk about the dangers of being out late at night and to always fight back when I first moved in. We both cried during the first goodbye. He was proud of me. I’m glad he is, and still remains proud of me.
About the Author:
My name is Idalis Nieves and I am a Linfield College student class of 2018. My field of study is Creative Writing; a major I decided on back in high school. From age ten and onward, I’ve enjoyed writing stories and poems for my friends and myself. I was never told by my family I should stop reading, though sometimes my love for books had gotten some unwanted attention from past teachers.
As a writer, I enjoy molding and shaping my words to design characters, settings, and one’s innermost thoughts. I’m greatly honored by the opportunity to have my work being read by more people on a greater scale. I aim to keep conducting more of my words into relatable characters and build stronger language.
Facebook link: https://www.facebook.com/idalis.nieves.946