What you resist – persists.

No more roadblocks! I realized what has been stopping me from completing my Descansos project.

The previous post is a story from the Bronx – a memory that popped up. I realize now that in blocking out negative events from my past, I have inadvertently blocked out the positive memories as well.

“What you resist – persists”

So I came to understand that it is this past that kept creeping up on me and I was constantly resisting it. This project has confronted me with my past. I was not going to be the next victim on the side of the road – which is the premise for the Descansos project.

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Another Day at the Point.

(Another premise for a short story… Please let me know what you think.)
It was a typical New York summer morning, you know, hot, muggy and the air had the thick charge of war. Last night was not a typical Friday night, though. The sounds of battle were louder than usual. The gunfight, the police sirens glaring and the urgency of the ambulance’s lights seemed closer. The popping of gunfire kept me sitting at the edge of the bed, curled up in a corner. It goes on for what seems like hours. The noise constantly going and the sounds of timber popping in the fire! I don’t know if I could go out there and do that.

I head outside for some air. Sitting on the front stoop waiting for what – I don’t know – just staring off into space. My mother comes out a few minutes later sees me sitting there. What’s the matter honey? The sounds last night kept me up. Don’t worry, honey that was far away – it won’t affect you, she conforts me. With these words, I forget last night’s events. Quikly, she loads the kids up into the Kermit-the-Frog green 1972 Chevy Station Wagon. Every third Sunday of the month, always at six am, we would head down to Hunts Point market. The point, as it’s reputation precedes it, was an unusual sigh of relief from this war zone. It was full of activity and life, unlike this neighborhood.

As we pull away from the house & round the corner, the sights of the South Bronx come into view. Building after building burned to the ground and the unlucky ones that did not burn or collapse, stood like hollowed out skeletons with an empty stare. This created a field of ruble, among empty shells of the past, that my older brother and I would use as our playground.

We were one of the lucky ones. Our block was one of the few that were not destroyed from the usual fires. Each of the houses on our block were owned by normal folks and as such did not suffer the demise of the ones owned by the slumlords. Many of our friends have lost their homes this way.

Finally we arrive at the Point. I love this place! Here I see my mother’s true ability of negotiation. Her strongest virtue is her ability to haggle with the vendors to buy cases of carrots, oranges and tomatoes. She would work them down to the point where the guys would say, lady! I give up – I can’t go that low. At that instant, she would say, Ok kids lets move on! She would take a small step forward and start walking away. Sure enough, the vendors would stop her and a strange thing would happen. Her eyes would light up and she would get this look on her face, she knew she’s got them. As she turns around, she would add, I will only take it, if you throw in two pint of strawberries. Sure enough she would get it and we would be satisfied for the rest of the day of shopping.
Fulton Fish Market
Eating berries and playing safe innocent kids games on the loading dock of the Point. Safety among the chaos of the city.

I liked this story enough that I started a new blog all its own. It is a fictitious journal of the daily adventures of a young boy surviving the urban jungle of the war-torned South Bronx. Check it out!

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Foolish Old Man… – 3rd installment

(Another portion of my short story… Please let me know what you think.)

Kirk finds himself drifting off to the days when he was a good boy. He reminisces about the wooden mop he so proudly rode, as his horse, off to the sunset. Those were the days when life was good. Those were the days that were so rudely taken from him.

At that moment Mercy walks in to pickup Marc. “Hi Kirk”, she says in a soft soothing voice. Instantly Kirk snaps out of his fantasy and enters his reality. Mercy’s voice reminded him of his daughter’s voice & the sentiments of anger and bitterness hits him like the cold chill on a bitter winter’s day. Immediately his facial expression changes. The right brow drooped a little, the fists started to grip the sheets tightly and the hairs on the back of his neck came to attention. Here he finds himself reaching for the past. He reaches deep into the tunnels of his life and pulls out anger. “What are you bothering me for!? Take this kid home so that he does not bother the good folk who are trying to get some rest!”

Mercy sees both sides of Kirk. She glanced in earlier to check on Marc & saw Kirk enjoying a truly innocent expression of love. Now only to be broken by the anger of a bitter old fool! How much more can she take? How much longer can she deal with her father’s illness and Kirk’s self-pity. She asks herself these questions more and more as the days go by. This place, this job, this man! are getting to her and are starting to get to Marc.

Marc had befriended another older gentleman before & as they were growing closer together, the gentleman died. That day, Marc shows up to the nursing home and runs to Carl’s room to show him his new teddy bear – only to find an empty, freshly made bed. His belongings were no longer lined up on the bureau across from the bed either. “Where’s Carl?” is all he said – all that needed to be said. It became clear for him that Carl will no longer be there to play with him. He cried for days. I don’t want him to experience that again with Kirk – how about the day his grandfather passes away? How is that going to shape Marc’s future?

“I can’t do this anymore” exclaims Mercy. “I need to find a better way!”

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Roadblock on the Side of the Road

Here I am! I have to make another Wednesday call to my SELP coach. I don’t know what to say to him. I am stuck in my descansos project & he is going to tell me “Not again!” The program started on Dec 3rd and here I am a month later & I am still in the same place. What is my roadblock? What is stopping me from doing my work for this project.

First off I do like my project & I am inspired by it, but it is in my speaking to others that I run into troubles. I seem to be bringing with me sadness & negativity. Typical reaction is “Why would I want to do a SAD project?” “Why don’t you choose another project?”

I am not clear on my direction/intentions for this project & it shows. I am a fraud & it shows! In the Advanced course I distinguished my act that I lived by to be “I can’t do it so leave me alone!” This declaration seems to be back in full force & they see it! But worse of all I am letting it stop me – I cannot do that I need to get past this.

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Foolish Old Man… – 2nd installment

(Another portion of my short story…)

The next day Mercy was not working for Kirk, because she needed to admit her father into the nursing home for some physical therapy. She’s an old pro at this. This is not the first time she’s admitting someone into the nursing home. See Mercy’s son, Marc, has lost his grandmother about a year-and-a-half ago. She had been ill since 1997 with Alzheimers and slowly deteriorated – until her body could not take it anymore. Mercy had been taking care of her mother for years at her father’s home. Feeding her lunch, changing her diapers and putting her to sleep at nights. But when her father could not endure the trials of homecare, Mercy & her father had a major struggle with what to do next.

Everybody had their opinions on what to do. “I would NEVER do that to my mother” was offered up as a suggestion. “that’s the last place I would put somebody I love” was another suggestion. But nobody was dealing with the day-to-day struggles of taking care of your mother with Alzheimers. Nobody else had to put up with the cursing and screaming that injected negativity into their lives. Nobody else had their heart broken when her mother would answer “no I do NOT have a daughter – you could not possibly be mine.”

Deciding to admit her into a nursing home was the most heart-renching decision Mercy & her dad have ever had to make. After her passing, Mercy’s father could not take the loneliness and suffered a stroke. Today Marc’s grandfather is admitted into the nursing home for physical therapy, in order to recover from the stroke.

Marc comes to visit his grandfather, but the hollers and screams of pain scare him away. So much pain and suffering for a child of four to understand. So he plays in the pristine white hallway in front of Kranky Kirk’s room. This space is full of heart defibrillating machines and lifesaving emergency devices; full of nurses running back and forth; full of light and activity but void of life. Marc plays in his world of endless possibilities and does not ponders about the lifelessness of the space he is in. All this noise of possibilities shatters Kirk’s loneliness. By play fighting with his G.I. Joe action figure Marc disturbs Kirk’s world. “He has an M16 rifle.” he shares with Kirk. Kirk calls him over by asking “what is all the ruckus about, Marc?” Marc continues talking about the M16. You know I had a rifle too, in the war, shares Kirk. The two share war stories – Marc with his fantasies, Kirk with his realities – all in all, just keeping each other company and at the same time comforting one another’s pain.

“Have you always been old? Why does your mom call you Kranky Kirk?” asks Marc. No, laughs Kirk. Kirk shares that his full name is Selkirk Viola, but admits that everybody at the nursing home knows him as Kranky Kirk. I’m not that old – Did you know that I was born August 21st, 1945? And that I used to be a flower child – but Kirk jokes that he, unlike Marc, was a late bloomer. While Marc plays with his G.I. Joe, Kirk tells stories of his days in Vietnam when he would find himself picking flowers for his rifle, while in the middle of the killing fields. This kept him from thinking of the dog tags landing around him, expecting fully to one day seeing his “Viola, Selkirk” tag resting on the ground next to the violets.

Here is where he found his tough shell, which he uses valiantly as a shield to protect him from the sights of death.

Death has become a familiar foe. Everyday the sights and sounds of a nursing home draw Kirk further away from reality. Daily, ambulances pickup those departing for a better place. Their trips – only a reminder of Kirk’s own inevitable destiny. The only thing that brings him back into his day is the times that Marc and his “Desert Storm fatigues” G.I. Joe come to visit his grandpa. On those days Mercy takes care of her father while Marc & Kirk sit and talk.

Marc continues to play with his action figure. “Santa wrote me a letter” Marc shares with Kirk. “Santa does not…” Kirk, realizing that he is about to destroy Marc’s innocence, stops himself. “What? Santa doesn’t come to your room?” Marc asks innocently. “Don’t worry I’ll ask Santa to come & see you – but you have to be a good boy!”

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