So it begins. The bass drums through me as I move my body to the music, my eyes closed. Psi U is full of bodies, all moving in a haze. If I swing my hips too quickly to one side, I find myself grazing a hip, but if I miss the rhythm, a hand creeps along my side. The dance floor is a careful game, where if you are with the music, you are rewarded — by not getting body slammed. There are rules. Never open your eyes or look for too long either, but I forgot that momentarily. Beat. Eyes open. Beat. Eyes go to the front. Beat. I see you. How long has it been? A month since the last time we’ve seen each other, but months since we’ve looked at each other in the eyes like this. Beat. Another beat comes to mind, coming straight from my head, the music filling the room fades in my ears. I begin to hear “We Lied to Each Other” playing in my head and we lock eyes.
The average person lies two times a week. That was my first lie of the week. In reality, the average person lies two times a day. So I guess that was my first lie of the day. I wonder if that includes sustained lies, which go on over time. Does your lie count go up automatically each passing day, or is it just one offense? I thought about this whenever I cried about my dad, curled up into myself and alone.
My mom and my dad met at the University of Michigan, where an engineering and biology student fell in love despite all odds. He was from Costa Rica, an international student proud of his Lebanese roots, who was destined to inherit his father’s company. She was from Ecuador, more or less “fresh off the boat,” naturalized three years before starting college. They came together and, in the same breath, fell apart. My father wasn’t supposed to be with someone not Lebanese and definitely was not supposed to be with someone from Ecuador. It was his father’s company or her. My father knew that from the start. But she didn’t. When I grew inside her, he left. I stretched her belly, while the distance stretched between my mother and father, as he married the woman he left her for. I sometimes think about how my mother received her new baby as my dad received his new wife. If my dad did not lie about his circumstances, would I be here?
Here I was, in my mother’s home country, and I felt like an alien. It’s funny how people associate you with an identity before you claim it for yourself. Before I even knew what being Hispanic was, I was it. There was no discovery. Just a comment about how I’m a funny wetback and here I am. If only they had seen me struggle to understand my mother’s tongue or witnessed how much I stuck out from the average Ecuadorian. They didn’t see it, but I did. I felt so removed from this place, and by extension, removed from my mom. I would never understand what it would be like to be truly Ecuadorian, to be forced to move to another country. But under the clear blue water in Ayampe, I could exist. With the surfboard pressed between my legs, I felt it all. I savor the Ecuadorian sun pressing against my back, the salty Ecuadorian water burning my eyes and, for a moment, I feel Ecuador. Standing powerfully on my surfboard. I feel like my mother.
I feel like my mom every now and again, but never as intensely as I did in this moment, standing with you at the CCTC. We had been talking for two months. Everything was falling into place, as I began to feel like my place was right next to you. You, who explained derivatives to me in your “I’m an Engineering student” voice. Your roommates began to feel like mine. Your dorm began to feel like mine. You were mine, and I was yours. When I’m surfing, sometimes I can feel the board about to slip out from under me the moment before it actually happens. For a split-second, before, I am aware that I will fall and the board will shoot out from under me. We were walking back from a date, where you took me out to ice cream and poked at my cheeks for how messy my face got, and I was hit with the same feeling. Maybe it was the look in your eyes or how your pitch changed, but I just knew. As you cradled my hand in yours, we were over as quickly as we started.
This really is happening, huh, at the CCTC?
You told me how you couldn’t lie to us anymore. Your parents wanted you to be with another Armenian. Not me. Your breath catches for a moment. You push out the rest, how they’ll stop paying for college if you stay with me. You held my heart in your hands and now it’s bleeding. A part of me wonders why I’m not yelling at you for getting me into this mess, for letting me fall in love with you when you knew it was non-viable. For using one of your two lies of the day to lie to me about what you wanted. I couldn’t help but think about what a waste this all was. A waste of time, energy, vulnerability. And then it hit me. I was my mom. Is this also where my dad ended things with her? What did she feel like when she heard the very same lie? Did she also feel like her heart was torn out of her chest for someone who was unworthy of her love? Are we bound to repeat history over and over again like our parents? I laughed at the sheer irony, and you looked confused. I laughed till my stomach ached and the bus came to take me back to my own dorm. I laughed as you turned into a small figure and the bus moved farther and farther away from you. I laughed as I pressed my face against the glass, willing myself to look away from you. I laughed until my breath caught and I thought to myself, “Is this what it took for me to feel closer to my mom?” I laughed until I heard my mother’s voice on the phone, which brought me to my first tear. So it begins.