Tuesday, January 05, 2016

remembering Michele

There are some people that you know but never met.  I am not just talking about that fb friend that writes just what you were going to say; or the neighbor you listen in on and know every bit of his/her life, even what he/she looks like because the walls are thin or your backyard overlooks the bathroom.

More like you have read his/her books and felt the author's soul reach out to you.  Or you have befriended said author through some medium and had almost actual conversations.

It might be real or imagined, but the connection is still fierce.

Right before I went off fb a few years back, I made that kind of connection with an author I had known about and read before.   This time, though, her voice sounded through the radio, as I stayed in bed until the story ended, as if it were speaking directly to me.

Why hadn't I reached out to her before?

We are from the same town.  We had similar experiences growing up and getting out of said town. And there were certainly six degree connections -- her uncle and my dad were "friends" (they worked on political campaigns "together"), she graduated high school in the same class as my bestfriend/neighbor, we had probably passed each other in the mall.  Hell, maybe I even cashed her out at my stationery store job or at the cool clothes store.

I got out of bed that morning (or was it nearly noon?), opened my laptop, and connected with her -- I think it was fb and I sent her a message.  And she wrote back...we traded messages (I didn't know at the time she was known for keeping up with fans/readers/followers).  Turns out she was dating/engaged to a classmate of mine from elementary school.  I found out that he owned a vegan restaurant blocks from where I first lived when I moved to Oakland.  Small, small world.

I felt like I had someone in my corner; it was a good thing.  Someone who understood what it meant to be from where we were from and doing something others thought was atypical at best and crazy at worst.  I bought all the books she had on amazon, what else could I do to support her work on my budget?  And I kept them on the shelf close to my bed.  So whenever I was feeling low and nearly defeated, I could see what making it out of Oxnard looked like.

When I checked out of fb, I didn't realize I was checking out on that budding connection. 

I made a plan to try to see her or visit the restaurant next time I was in Oakland.  But every time I was in Oakland, I didn't have a car, or not enough days, or not on that side of town...

And then my world imploded.  I lost track of time and people and life in general except for the next emergency I had to fix/deal with/recover from.

When I saw that she had passed away, my heart broke, again.  Why had I not reached out when I had been back in Berkeley area? Why did I not know she was fighting cancer?  How could something so important have slipped past me?

I did not have the emotional strength to go to her memorial in Oxnard, even though I was there, and give her family my sincerest pesame.  I just cried at home, shocked that this light could be taken from the world.

Rereading her early work now ... She was, in fact, a role model, of a sort, in many ways.

Yesterday was a year since she was taken from this earth ... and I spent many hours over the last few days sending her messages in my heart and head -- hoping she is at peace now with no pain, hanging out with her mom and tias and abuelas and friends, listening to our messages of love and loss and remembrances for almost friendships and soul connections.

Here's one she could have written for me ... back when that chola at middle school suggested I tell people I was "Spanish," this was exactly how I felt.

Mi Problema
~Michele Serros, Chicana Falsa

My sincerity isn't good enough.
Eyebrows raise
when I request:
"Hable mas despacio, por favor."
My skin is brown
just like theirs,
but now I'm unworthy of the color
'cause I don't speak Spanish
the way I should.
Then they laugh and talk about
mi problema
in the language I stumble over.

A white person gets encouragement,
for weak attempts at a second language.
"Maybe he wants to be brown
like us."
and that is good.

My earnest attempts
make me book bad,
"Perhaps she wanted to be white
like THEM."
and that is bad.'

I keep my flash cards hidden
a practice cassette tape
not labeled
'cause I am ashamed.
I "should know better"
they tell me
"Spanish is in your blood."

I search for S.S.L. classes,
(Spanish as a Second Language)
in college catalogs
and practice
 with my grandma.
who give me patience,
permission to learn.

And then one day,
I'll be a perfected "r" rolling
tilde using Spanish speaker.
A true Mexican at last!

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