lucia maria

Native of Argentina. Lover of the Italian language, storytelling, and feminist authors. I am a walking Beatles encyclopedia. Every day, I fall more in love with this world and the people in it. On bad days, I'm merely amused by them.

An Autobiography: Page One

Sometimes it feels like another life; the transition is still a blur to me.

I remember my entire extended family and closest friends bidding good-bye at the airport. I remember sitting inside a wide airplane next to my crying mother. I had been on planes before, plenty of times. This time felt different; we had emptied our apartment and brought all our toys along. My little brothers were across the isle playing with their Transformer action figures; my dad in a pensive state. I don’t think I cried once, for my romanticized version of the United States was waiting on the other side. I pressed play on my bright yellow cassette player and let the harmonies of John and Paul’s voices lull me to sleep.

I had gotten used to saying good-bye, anyway. My maternal grandmother had died of Alzheimer’s two years prior, and I had watched her turn more like me in the process. She went from living with my grandfather to living in a nursing home, where we could visit her at odd times. My weekly schedule, at the time, comprised of eating lunch at their apartment, between school and after-school activities. Once my grandma was gone, the lunches became lonelier. I was allowed to eat in the TV room while watching Scooby-Doo: a treat! But the vacant stare in my grandfather’s eyes told me otherwise.

My grandpa died a year after that. He was diagnosed with lung cancer and given two years to live, but didn’t make it past six months. We weren’t allowed to see him for a while, for my mother explained he was sick. I thought it seemed like the longest flu I had ever heard of. It was on a Monday that I saw him last: good news came our way that grandpa was feeling better. But his physique shocked me when I saw him. He was skinny and pale; it looked as if life had already started to make his way out of him. A few days later, we dropped off my mom down the street from his apartment. I watched from the backseat, looking up as my aunt told my mom everything would be okay. My mom’s eyes were red, tears coming down with incredible speed, and there was nothing I could do but stare. From one day to the next, one of the homes I frequented most often was out of my life, as were the people that inhabited it. I wasn’t able to grasp the concept of forever, but it shook my sense of stability.

I like to tell people that my grandfather died of a broken heart; I haven’t seen a love like the one between the two since. But that stems from my storytelling nature. Music had awakened something in me from the very first formative months: thanks to my mother, who would sit by the speakers and play The Beatles when I was in the womb. 

As we boxed up our books, photographs and clothes, I thought of nothing but the exciting life that lay ahead of me. The prospect of a new language, expansive backyards and brighter days thrilled me: I envisioned my life like a movie. It was not until later, when I began to feel the paradoxical pull between my identities as Argentine and American, that I reflected back on the joyful childhood I spent in my home country.  

My rest might have been blissful enough, only a sad heart broke it. It plained of its gaping wounds, its inward bleeding, its riven chords… It demanded him with ceaseless longing; and, impotent as a bird with both wings broken, it still quivered its shattered pinions in vain attempts to seek him.

Your Mom Was Right About Everything

I remember the first time my mom told me the truth about love. We had just seen “The Notebook” for the first time. I was 15. My best friend, Anabel, had come with us to the movies; we cried and wiped our tears as we left the theater, but by the time we got in the car, we were all talk.

For those of you who have had the misfortune to miss out on such a lovely tale, it’s important to know that the male protagonist of the movie, Noah, is a dreamboat. First of all, Ryan Gosling plays the character. Second of all, the dude is way in love with Allie, the female protagonist. I mean, really in love. He writes a letter to her every day for an entire year. He builds the house she’s always wanted, in hopes that she’ll find him again. He never marries, because he loved her, and she was the only one he could ever love.

Anabel and I start professing our undying love for Noah as soon as the car pulls out of the parking lot.

“I’m going to marry someone exactly like him!”

“I hope he’s just as cute as Noah.”

“I can’t wait to be in love.”

By the time we reach Anabel’s house, my mom had probably had about enough. We were 15 years old, and it was time reality kicked the Disney princess fairy tales in the ass. It’s been ten years, but I vividly remember the moment my mother stopped the car and turned to face the ecstatic faces of Anabel and I. It was to be the last glimpse of hope she’d see in our twinkling eyes.

“I don’t want to disappoint you girls, but it’s pretty unlikely that you’ll find someone like Noah. Those types of men don’t exist. No one is ever that romantic. I’m sorry to break it to you, but those guys only live in movies.” 

It didn’t go well. First of all, we didn’t get it. We thought my mom was insane and probably just old. 

“What do you mean those men don’t exist? If that’s true, then I’m never going to fall in love. How am I supposed to get married if Noah isn’t real?”

“Well, he won’t be like Noah, but you’ll still love him,” was my mom’s absolutely best and most honest response. “Just because he isn’t the most romantic man in the world, doesn’t mean you won’t love him.”

“OF COURSE IT DOES! I am never going to marry ANYONE unless it’s NOAH!” 

(God, I was the worst at 15.)

Life went on. I turned 17, and I got my first “real” boyfriend. He was rad, and we think we loved each other, but a year and a half later we broke up. This was the period when I received the second wave of “mom relationship advice.” There were to be many of these waves.

She told me not to hang out with him too much, because that was unhealthy. I told her things have changed since the ‘70s. (I was still the worst at 17.)

She told me to think about myself first.

She told me that he should make me feel valued, and important, and worthy. But that, at the same time, my self-worth did not rely on him.

Which reminds me, she told me not to rely on him to be happy.

She told me to be objective, as much as I could be, when it came to analyzing his actions and perspective in life.

The point is, I heard her, but I didn’t listen. I thought she was being old-timey, and how long had it been since she dated, anyway? It’s way different now. Women are more independent; they don’t wait around anymore. They get things done; they go for what they want.

But the thing is, things are exactly the same. For starters, we still live in a patriarchal society. The obvious aside, relationships between people are just as complicated now as they ever have been and ever will be. My mom warned me not to lose myself in a relationship, and during the first couple of tries at this thing called love, I think I didn’t listen to her. I wish I would have. She went through it herself too, after all, so that I wouldn’t have to bear any heart breaks. But, alas, there was nothing she could do. Nothing but talk to me, and try her hardest to get through. My mind, at the time, was too preoccupied being “in love.” 

And, to throw in a second ‘alas,’ we’re a bunch of creatures that are constantly breaking each other’s hearts anyway. Isn’t it a pity, how we cause each other pain?

Good writing is always about things that are important to you, things that are scary to you, things that eat you up.

—John Edgar Wideman

may you find peace, genie.

may you find peace, genie.

Billie Holiday. being my favorite as always.

Billie Holiday. being my favorite as always.