reality in a movie

It’s strange how things trigger your memory. I was watching the Selena movie, out of some morbid fascination I’m sure. The movie isn’t that good, it’s just that her death was such an impact, every one of my friends from college has a “where were you when Selena died” story. I mean, Tejano music is HUGE in Texas (look at the name). Selena was a big deal here.

Anyway, I was watching the Selena movie and there’s two scenes in there that really hit me every single time I watch it. The first is the rant by her father when she’s getting ready to do a tour in Mexico. The whole “we have to be more American than the Americans and more Mexican than the Mexicans” statement rang so true, so close to home, that it makes me take notice. “We have to be twice as perfect,” he says in the movie. And it’s so true. Mexico is so much a part of my soul that I cannot imagine what it would be like to be monolingual or monocultural (and I’m pretty sure that’s not a real word). But I’m constantly having to prove myself to everyone. Don’t mispronounce anything, don’t be too anything, don’t be this and don’t be that. It’s exhausting and unfair.

The other scene is the shopping scene. You know, the one where the sales clerk looks down at her and tells her that she wouldn’t want that dress (yes, I know that was done in Pretty Woman too). And I think about the time a sales clerk refused to wait on my mother because she just _knew_ that she couldn’t afford Chanel No. 5. Or the time that a clerk called in to the credit card company to make sure my card wasn’t stolen, because, dear Lord, how could _I_ have an American Express card and afford to spend that much money on clothes. Or the many times I’ve had clerks follow me around the store, semi-discretely, making sure I don’t steal anything because I don’t fit their mold of an average customer.

I don’t usually dwell on these things, but the movie pushed some buttons I suppose. Anyway, watch the movie if nothing else to see what I’m talking about.

living arrangements

My loving family comes back today, so I guess my unplanned vacation is over. It’s been strange being alone this last week, especially for someone who’s never lived alone. I never moved away to go to college. Never moved out to get my own place. Never moved in with a boyfriend or whatever. Never left for more time than to take a vacation or go away for business.

This house is mine, or mostly mine anyway. I did move away from my parents’ house when the shit hit the fan two years ago. And my mother and my brother came with me. Arianna eventually saw that if she moved in with us she could live without paying rent, so she came later. But it isn’t her house–it’s mine. The lease is in my name, though Arianna contributes to the rent (now) and my mother pays for some of the utilities. And I’m never alone.

I almost missed them, these people who are my family. Until last night, when a 5-minute innocent conversation with Arianna ended in a yelling match, I had convinced myself that I _did_ miss them. But I have to confess that I liked being alone. I liked the fact that my stress level was so reduced. I liked not having to hear my mother whine and Arianna cut into everything and everyone for an entire week. It was blissful. It was too brief.

Arianna moved out the year she turned 20. She and a friend rented a house from her friend’s aunt and they just moved out. It was at a time when Arianna was particularly difficult to live with. When she was partying and self-destructing and she didn’t want us around to tell her that she was doing stupid things. She was 20, she had a job and a car, why should she stay home?

She stayed away for less than a year. That’s not to say that she wasn’t over at the house all the time. And my mother even went to her house frequently to make sure that she was okay-frequently. In that time she managed to destroy her credit, by putting everything on credit cards and then forgetting to pay her bills. She got herself put on academic probation at the university, completely destroying her GPA forever. She ruined friendships, obliterated boyfriends and burnt herself out on the club scene.

And then she moved back, claiming that her roommate was getting married and she didn’t want to find another one. Reality was that she had overextended herself so badly she could no longer afford to pay rent. The Arianna that came back was more subdued than the one that left, but she was so bitter at having to return that it hardly mattered. It never occurred to any of us not to let her come back home.

I know, with that deep-seated “I Know My Family” conviction, that Arianna is moving out as soon as she finishes school. That’s one year away. She has stated time and again that she will not be responsible for my mother, no matter how pathetic my mother’s situation may be. As far as Arianna is concerned, my mother should have planned better for a just in case. And when she has enough money to live on her own she’s out of here.

I have told my mother that our current arrangement is only lasting until my brother is grown up. until he can take care of himself I had made it my duty in life to make sure that he’s taken care of. After that, my mother and I will have to work something out. I am not going to be responsible for her for the rest of my life. I think that I have done enough by putting my life on hold, first because my father was ill, then because my mother couldn’t take care of herself, now because I don’t trust her to take care of Juan. After that, I’ll consider my duty to have been done.

little girl

I’m still trying to figure out how I ended up babysitting last night. Not that my niece is a baby. At four, she’s sometimes more of an adult than I am. And she can take care of herself, or at least help me take care of her.

“Tía, you have to clean your room,” she told me after seeing the piles of clothes scattered on the floor. “Your floor is dirty,” she repeated, rolling her eyes with her hands on her hips. I wonder if she got that from my mother or hers. Or maybe even his.

These days she so reminds me of her mother. Not in looks; she has her father’s darker coloring instead of my sister’s burn-in-the-shade complexion. But she has those serious eyes, the ones that look at you as if she can see right through you. And she has that graceful nature. She can be so still, so quiet, for so long that I often wonder what’s going on in her head. And she’s such a girl, addicted already to buying shoes and having pretty things in her hair. And so incredibly smart, though she only holds conversations when she feels like it. She is such a wonder that I sometimes doubt my long-standing theory that if I don’t have children ever it won’t be the worst thing in the world.

For some strange reason she reminds me of a cat. Self-contained, independent. Even as a baby she would only let you hold her for so long before she started to squirm and demand to be put down. Today she will tell you what she wants to wear, where to stop the television when you’re clicking away and when she’s hungry and sleepy.

Earlier in the day, early evening that is, there was a knock at the door. Expecting my sister and the kids, I didn’t think anything of it. Instead there was a little boy or may 3 or 4 years of age. Behind him I could see one of those motorized mini-cars that are sold for kids, and I knew immediately who he was, though I had never seen him before.

FLASHBACK TO CONVERSATION WITH ARIANNA: “So it’s Saturday morning, early, and you’d already gone to work and Mom was still asleep. Somebody knocks and I look outside to see this _boy_ out there. He drove over in his little car from a few houses down. And I open the door and he asks if Alicia can come out and play. And I’m thinking, whoa! A guy just drove up to our house to pick up Alicia, didn’t think that would be happening for another ten years. So I told him that Alicia was at her real house,” Arianna told me, amused smile decorating her face.

So, having been instructed by Arianna about Adrian’s habit of “driving” over to play with Alicia, I knew who he was. And I had to tell him the same thing, that she was at her real house. And my mind kept fast-forwarding to ten years or so from now when guys really will be coming by to pick her up. It’s an amazing thought.

And as I watched her sleep I remembered staying up all night at the hospital waiting room, waiting for my sister to have her. And now she’s telling me to clean my room and to put on the Carlos Santana CD when she’s in my car and having the neighbor kids come by to play. Time flies….