“By writing I put order in the world, give it a handle so I can grasp it. I write because life does not appease my appetites and anger… To become more intimate with myself and you. To discover myself, to preserve myself, to make myself, to achieve self-autonomy.” – Gloria Anzaldua
Writing has increasingly become the manner in which I self-medicate. In a world where we seek to be seen and validated, writing holds the space I need to unfold, hang, and air my pensive sensitivities. I share stories that need telling. And most importantly, I rest my mind and my heart because I’ve acknowledged myself. It’s a completely selfish act.
As I process the grief that continuously reappears in my life, I discover triggers that deeply affect my state of being. Seemingly unimportant experiences that remind me of my father, reminding me of his death, weave in unexpectedly. I understand now, this is how my grief appears.
My father went to Trade Technical College and became a certified diesel engine specialist. He was a mechanic on Bandini Blvd. between the 710 Freeway and Soto Blvd. I recently began working at a middle school in East Compton and use the 710 to get to and from work. Going South on the freeway is perfectly fine, but driving North begins to distract my mind from traffic. I head in the direction of the memories in which I would meet my father at his place of work. The 710 was the most accessible way to get to him, exiting on Bandini West, driving past the smelly slaughterhouse, and driving into a large diesel truck service station. My father would be underneath a big rig motor and he would crawl out in his navy blue mechanic uniform with a giant wrench in his hand. Always thirsty from the heat, he would give me a half-hug because he was sweaty and filled with engine grease on his hands and arms. This was the way he worked for almost 3 decades. This is the way I remember him.
Driving home today on the 710 really push my feelings in a heavy way. I sensed the memory through my body and shook it off. I don’t want to drive on the 710 North again. It triggers my grief. Sadness becomes my passenger as a search for the next highway home.
To end this piece in a good way, I have to write about dancing. My father LOVED to dance. L-O-V-E-D. He would laugh and carry a huge smile when he moved around on a dance floor. He enjoyed live music, Peruvian dishes, and a cold drink. He would invite the ladies to dance, panuelo waving in his hand, fancy white shoes shuffling and spinning. Only once did I have the chance to ask my father to dance with me. Mirrors of each other, in that moment I discovered that my love for dancing was a genetic bond I share with him.
I went out dancing on Saturday night, my left leg still feels the cramps from the lack of stretching and inconsistent exercise. Whatever. I dance like I mean it and I will sweat, jump, spin, groove, and rock to the music. My cumbia is my dad’s cumbia, and I remember him this way. He is my dancing partner on the dance floor.
There are other triggers that take me to the memories of my father. When they show, I just pray that I “handle it” with grace and patience, never with shame.