Subway Sessions

Tip toe between the grates and concrete, between the hustler and the Mexican ladies. Don’t bump into the baby strollers. Cut off the too slow tourists and the sagging pants teens. A man in a wheelchair sitting outside of grand central station with little teeth and a lot of time, his dirty sneaker extending on to the busy sidewalk. Doors swinging open, swishing shut and commuters entering, exiting, holding and sneaking. “Thank you. Excuse you..” Long line at Starbucks and German gentleman with backpacking backpacks purchasing train snacks. Get pass the the metro machines, side step between the customers at the newsstand as the octopus giving prices and taking cash for a newsday, a water, a scratch off, no, the holiday one. Avoid the girl in the YOLO hat, stare down the blue eye-linered girl with too many accessories. First rule of riding the subway, “don’t make eye contact”. & Swim against the current into the station, watching the tail end of your train escape. Click away on the yellow bump road hoping each edgy person keeps their bags to themselves. Make no eye contact. Let no one win. Let no one in. Next stop 14th Street Union Square. Watch the end of your train wag it’s tail as it disappears into its tunnel. “Common courtesy!” A teenager with sense yells as he exits. The passenger next to you hums to themselves as they drops nuts into their mouth from an open plastic packet. A peanut lands on your leg, rolls right off the tip of your boot. Glance at the passenger who continues to shake the bag into their mouth. Ignorance is bliss is nuts to boots. Old man sits next to them and screams, “dis wot I hate bout da subway, people always lookin atchu,” and exits Myrtle Wycoff, hobbling cane clad. You notice the nutty woman continuing to hum as if the nut rolled off her boot, screamed and hobbled off with a cane.

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Subway Sessions

Sitting on the train, Samuel L. Aviators, untied salted work shoes beside Spanglish speaking friends that talk social networking. Internet realities taking over real life socializing networks. Fuzzy flaphats, a capped man with a broom mustache. Upper East Side local Bronx bound.  Napping, waking, drooling, coughing. Doors part and close, don’t lean.  “They think I’m playing, I’ll kill them” He jerks his body at the mustache man, stepping to, fear reflected in his sunglasses at night. Next stop, high buns and yoga mats, last stop cuchifritos and your baby mother.

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Two Thousand Thirteen

Roxy-come-lately on this topic but I can not recall the last time I had a new year’s resolution. Realistically, its a half month promise to yourself towards betterment followed by the bitterness of guilt for spending most of the year’s months in a complacent standstill. Lets call it the “comfort in consistency”. I will not resolve to fake self promises. Instead, I continue my upward climb and look forward to the “Next Step”.

& While there is comfort in consistency, there is also comfort in growth, improvement and THE UPGRADE. When I worked at Boys Town, I used to motivate my teens in telling them that it was all about “the upgrade”. Don’t just step up your sneaker game or your clothing and fitted game. Step up your life!

Call me superstitious but every new year and every birthday is an opportunity for me to look back on the year and say goodbye to it, begin new, feel like you’ve accomplished something and can accomplish more. Look at everything around you as a stepping stone, don’t feel too comfortable with what you have because there is always more that can be done and more that can be achieved. & When I mention superstition, its in the sense that however you spend your new years day or birthday whether it be how you celebrate or just your attitude, its the theme of the year to follow. So be positive!

I will not resolve to become healthier or to go back to school, I will not resolve to have better relationships with the ones I care for and I will not resolve to get rid of any leeches that may have sunk their suckers in me for the past year. No resolutions, just the continued work on actually getting what I want.

Kicking off the 2nd month of this year and I can say with confidence that my life has gotten better every year no matter how many rough patches I have come across. Let go of the victim attitude,  let go of excuses because there will always be excuses. I’ve upgraded my jobs, continuing to upgrade my health, upgraded my relationship, upgraded my friendships.

While most of my life has felt like swimming against a current, going against all odds,  I am a first generation female from a large family with parents from Latin America and the Pacific Islands who are by no means well-off. By race, gender and socioeconomic status, the odds are against me along with many other variables that I won’t get into. Yet, I have upgraded on my own & If I can do it as a person with many road blocks then what exactly is stopping you?

So everyone thought the world may end in 2012, and I will admit sometimes I felt comforted that “hey if the world ends, then this won’t matter!” BUT! We’re all still here and while the number 13 is supposed to be bad luck, let’s redefine 13. Why don’t we make this year the lucky one? We get this new beginning where we can start over new and forget all of our stupid patterns, forget all of our misfortunes and forget all the reasons why we just couldn’t get it together before.

Lately, I have been really worried for the people around me. I spend a lot of my free time wringing my hands, thinking and planning and wanting so much better for my family, for my friends, for the people closest to my heart. I want so much for them to upgrade it all, to never look back and to convince themselves that they can in fact do anything. Sometimes I feel like I can’t even breathe knowing that the ones I love are struggling. If I could make my own life better every year, how can I inspire this growth in others.

Anyways, fuck resolutions. Don’t make fake self promises to quit smoking or caffeine, don’t join a gym and never go. Don’t make a dream board. Don’t just dream. Start doing and keep moving and don’t stop…ever.

Believe that even when your wings have been ripped that you walked away with your head held high.

Believe that even when your wings have been ripped that you walked away with your head held high.

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25: The Sequel

As my birthday neared, I became anxious and nervous, overwhelmed by the thought of entering my late 20′s. Late twenties… adulthood, no way out of it. No youth left in me, a young nothing. My age now greets me as a responsible adult who lives on my own, pays utilities and rent; an adult who throws dinner parties instead of caution to the wind.

2 weeks before my birthday, my mother told me to get in contact with my HR person at work to begin the process of open enrollment for…insurance. I told my mother that I wouldn’t need to worry about it until I turned…26. While I appreciate Obama allowing me to swing from the umbilical cord this long, I felt aborted.

& All of a sudden, the year that passed me by went flashing in my mind, a year of jobs, moving out followed by the physical pain that comes from age and poor genetics. I became sad thinking that I am no longer connected to my mother in any way that makes me rely on her.  No more will she talk to be about doctors and insurance, income tax or phone bills.  Slowly but surely, I tight rope walked right off the umbilical cord and into my own life where there would be no one to blame or look for in times of need. Needless to say, this birthday had terrified me more than I had been able to verbalize.

I had said I would not make a big deal of my birthday this year, as I am known to have countdowns, parties, vacations, week-long plans for friends all over the tri-state area. My family jokes that I have a birthday month. This year, I said that in an effort to not become any older, I would not celebrate. Instead, I said maybe a small dinner gathering at my apartment. In all actuality, this entailed more planning than just showing up at any of my favorite bars or restaurants.

& Even though I felt so detached from my mother, I felt her flowing through me. I looked up recipes, made list after list after list of what I needed and which store I would purchase it from, creating a budget for myself and checking in with guests on what they’d bring so I could coordinate my menu. I took a day off before hand and cleaned my apartment, shopped for everything I needed and began food prepping. Although, my mother was across the country taking care of some family business, I felt her there with me. My mom is the event planner of the century, she has a beautiful home, always decorated beautifully and after years of being her right hand, I covered all bases, following all of her lessons.

In the end, I had, in fact, made quite a big deal of my birthday, employing the help of the men in my life, my brothers and wonderful partner. & Although, at midnight when I felt alone and forgotten, I tried to remind myself that sometimes in your adult life, that people do not worry about you because you should be the only one concerned with yourself. While I had a difficult time with myself that morning, letting stress, anxiety and the need for love get the best of me, I was reminded of the woman I had become, the woman I have tried to emulate for so long.

“I want my mommy”, is not exactly a phrase I am accustomed to. Growing up, I described my mother as strong and cold and when she soothed me, she was actually pretty rough and expected her own strength in me. Often, I felt disappointed that I was described as fragile, sensitive and overly emotional. My mother was not any of those things. I have reached a place where I can say, she is my bestfriend and nowadays, when I cry, I can only think of my mother and how badly I need her.

My boyfriend asked me that morning, what it was she does to calm me and I realized that she would hold me, wipe my face and give me a different perspective and let me know that everything would be okay. I looked at this man, bearded, worn, builder and fixer of everything, who towers above me with strong arms that take me in, shakes me, and wipes it all away. I saw my mother there with me and in me.

I washed my face and took on the day finally welcoming my 26th year on this earth. When everyone arrived, appetizers were out, trays of food were warmed by sternos & I welcomed everyone into my apartment in gorgeous brown vintage heels. I thought this year I would stay 25 and call it a sequel, afraid of adulthood, but I have to say that at the end of it all, I have never been happier to have grown another year.

I have wonderful friends, an amazing family and a loving man by my side. My mother told me not to try and be like her but to try and be better than her, and I must admit that on the night of my birthday, looking gorgeous, with everyone’s bellies and glasses full, I knew I would have made my mother proud. More importantly, I think that I could finally say that I am happy with where I am and with who I have become. Look Ma, no hands and it only took 26 years.

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The Kindness of Strangers

After a quite stressful week at work and even more stressful evening, I slept with the intention of making it through a pay day friday packed with meetings and paperwork, followed by an even busier weekend. I slept with the intention of putting the negative behind me, which is hard when you wake up to the bullshit of commuting in New York City. I travel all around NYC for my job and find myself ranting about the inconsideration of commuters. Its eat or be eaten, push or be pushed into the tracks. Well, I woke up late for work every day this week and if I did not have a job where I could make my own schedule I would be worried however my sleep has been the escape from all things undesirable. So late for work, I rushed down the steps of the train station just as the train had arrived and as I tried to push past everyone else who was late, with only 2 turnstiles, I was sure I would miss it. A man exiting the train stepped forward toward the turnstile to exit just as I was trying to swipe to enter and instead of doing the New Yorker thing of walking through anyways, he turned around, walked back to the train and held the doors open for me. It is moments like this where Blanche Dubois reaches out and says, “Whoever you are, I have always depended on the kindness of strangers.”

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Self Sabotage in the Subways

Subway suicides happen all the time and you never hear about it, the MTA does not make this a known issue and the newspapers almost never print the names of the deceased. This morning, the AMNY printed a story about the murder suicide of a man who stabbed his wife numerous times and then threw himself in front of the 7 train. Both were rushed to the hospital and both died, they were survived by their 19 year old daughter. Article can be found here in the AMNY.

When my friend Sunny took his life, he took only his own and you never saw a single article or news piece on it. Is that your way into the news? Do you have to make sure you kill more than just yourself? The news is supposed to report our current events but why is it only the tragic and dramatic that get room for print or television. Its always bad news anyways, why not give attention to the reality of issues here in NY. It’s not just about crazed shooters and fare hikes. So many families have mourned the loss of someone who used the trains or subways for self sabotage.

The MTA now has police on buses and trains to decrease crime and increase safety due to the recent shootings of children as casualties of gang related disputes. But how do you keep people safe from themselves? As New Yorkers, we are constantly in transit and are updated on the progress of MTA’s improvements and expectations. There are signs all over telling you about how much better everything is or will get. I will not say that I do not enjoy shinier train cars and knowing when the train will arrive but how many more lives will be taken before some form of precaution is taken to ensure a person’s safety from themselves?

While I don’t know if I will ever believe the count of deaths we are given statistically, I read that 7% of successful suicides in NYC are train related.  Seeing as little to no stories are published unless the story is good or the train station is major, I wonder if the lives taken in outer boroughs and on the LIRR are accounted for. In 2010, 8 lives were taken in less than 2 weeks, train conductors endure severe trauma, I am sure and will anyone speak up about a solution to this devastating issues.

On my morning commute, I sat on the express train reading the paper, tears in my eyes, reading this article about a couple’s dispute that ended in suicide and a girl left without her parents. I thought of Sunny and I thought about the family he left behind, the mother who mourns and the sister who will never forget. I remember the night I got the call, I remember looking all over the news and internet hoping to find something that told me what happened. I hoped that because I couldn’t find anything that it wouldn’t be true.

Maybe I am just ranting because I find myself with more questions than answers. But how can the MTA address this issues? How can they prevent this from happening? Safety does not mean safety against frotteurists and crazed gunmen, safety is foreseeing possible disasters and not ignoring the issues that are so evident no matter how taboo.

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It has been nearly 4 years and I still can’t bring myself to take that train ride.

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Subway Sessions

Tinsle toes to panty hose, sleep lines her face and borrowed clothes. There’s a scar on her neck, shifting eyes and shifting blame. Families share deep fried nutrition and advertising is the name of the game. The scent of McDonald’s & Polo. Gym bags sportsac, stand here, lean back. The next stop is 149th street Grand Concourse. Fashionistas with boy hair and little girls with beaded braids. He wears his sunglasses at night, inside and on train rides. Transfers are available. Sandaled toes and fitted caps sway with subway sleep. Peeking into the window, an aquarium of dreams that bubble above head, reaching for the ads, vibrating with the announcements. Waking to missed stops and panhandlers, riding the nightmare express. We stay current with free papers that line dirty seats with half done sudokus and hopeful horoscopes. Stand clear of the closing doors, please. & Thank you for noticing the missed connection.

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Treasure Chest

Standing across from you, fire in my fists, blinded by your voice.  You’re piercing right through me, I am the wall. Your words like sea salt to scar tissued insecurities and I’m raw. Hollowed at my core, I want to reach for you, dig my fingers deep in to the cavern of your chest, tearing you open, find the treasure in your ribs. I could build a home inside you, climbing the steps of your bones, a stairway to the heaven that is your slowed heart. The murmurs of broken romance. Palpitate, exhilarate, you scream. I search for the warmth in you and I paw at your arteries, feeling for your history. Veins like nooses where I could sleep inside you; instead I swing from the branches of your nerve endings and sling shot right through you until you grab a hold of me. Shaking me, bringing me to your senses; sound and sight. Bringing me to my knees, holding the me you see, disappearing in the parts you don’t. 

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A Dream

 

It was warm and my belly was full and round. Life was inside me and in the next moment, in an eye blink, life was in my arms and she was beautiful, not a newborn but an energetic, laughing girl. She, less than a year, still needed me to carry her but she raised her own head. I remember frantically wondering who the man was that would father my child. I remember thinking, was I ready for this? We were in a car and we were going to a home. There was no driver but faceless family members. I left the car and we were in my parent’s backyard, her still in the car. I thought, I need to know where you are forever. I will never walk away from anything as my own person. Part of me, inebriated and worried that I had forgotten about my child for a moment too long, opening the door to her reaching arms. Why did I feel so out of it? Was I already a bad mother?  She giggled, she wriggled and when I tried to photograph her, she turned away.
 
A boy I loved as a teenager claimed the baby girl for his own, she looked nothing like him and I wondered to myself how I could have birthed his child. I searched for blonde in her hair or green in her eyes, but she was golden with big brown smiling eyes that slanted slightly. She was mine, not his. He was as I remembered him, a mess. I told to him he could not be a part of her life, that she was mine and mine alone and that I did not need anyone to care for her. I remember feeling like it was impossible that he could be hers but I never spoke it, never told him that it could be someone else’s. He was hurt either way and took off to slain my name for a child he could never own, another part of me that got away. 
 
The only face I saw in my heart was the only man I have loved, not a boy from my past. I looked in her eyes and saw my own, I looked at her and saw him. When I dream, faces are never clear. Everyone is a blur and an essence of who they represent. Voices are not heard, thoughts are translated from memory. I cannot discern specifics, ever. I wake and feel the images slip between my sheets and dissipate into the fibers, waiting for another cycle of sleep that they may enter once again. 
 
I held her close to me trying to photograph her, through most of my dream, I just wanted her picture. I wanted to show the world how beautiful she was. Mostly, I wanted to show him. I began to panic when I realized she was not a newborn and thought that if her father received a photo of her then, already lifting her own head, not needing newborn mittens, with light brown hair all over her beautiful head, that maybe I was too late. Never did it cross my mind that he should have sought us out, his new family. I named her Madison Charles and she was all I had.
 
Pregnancies and babies in dreams are part of beginning anew. All I have is this new beginning and I cannot drag my past into it. My life is my own, I can lift my own head. 
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Behavior Modification

Recently, a teen on my caseload, lets call her Clarissa, asked if I was upset with her. At first, my response was, “Why would I be mad?, Its your life, Clarissa, you know what you’re doing.” Clarissa and I spent most of the day together, working on an internship application and making her appointments at the agency. A treatment team conference was held and all of the experts on her life are in attendance. Her entire history and life is discussed, flaws and strengths on the table, bullshit called, and goals set. Clarissa once asked me if I felt it was wrong for someone to throw things you’ve shared with them in your face. My answer was that it was obvious that she felt it was unfair and we discussed her feelings on it. Personally, I think its fighting filthy and desperate.

Working in foster care, you see a lot of self sabotage, longing for love and kids destitute of all trust. I try on a daily basis not to take it personal, I recall being a teenager not long ago and hurting so many of the people I loved. I recall disappointing those around me, rationalizing all of my decisions and never allowing anyone to understand me. I see myself in so many of my cases and in that, I see hope. I can sacrifice hours, health, hunger and sleep because too many people have given up on today’s youth. When Clarissa asks me questions about personal opinions, I see in her a search for approval and when Clarissa partakes in shocking or risky activities, she yearns for a reaction that says, I care enough about you.

Last week, my supervisor said to me, you know, its really telling that insert foster children’s names are doing well, it reflects in how much effort you have put in their success. I felt great at that point, that someone who has been in this field for so long and once had my position, would notice my drive to help. However, there is a detachment between supervisors and actual caseloads, while knowledgeable, most is hearsay through transition meetings. I prefer direct care, I want to work as close as possible to youth. It is the only thing that makes me happy.

The moments that count to me are not when recognized by someone in a superior role but when it has become a realization for the youth that I am caring for. Today, maybe an hour after telling Clarissa that I was not angry with her for not fulfilling her responsibilities and accepting her foster mother’s consequences of our treatment plan, she apologized for taking up so much of my time, using my office to type essays that she was supposed to have written before showing up without an appointment, taking up the majority of my day while my progress notes piled up.

This brings me to my reason for writing in the first place. As Clarissa typed away at my desk, hoping to be chosen for an internship, I ruminated over my own reaction, stating I was not angry. Well, I was not angry with her but I was disappointed. Clarissa is one of the only females on my caseload and we work together a lot. I see in her a drive towards independence, survival and success. Although, the “system” and the “agency” do not exactly promote complete independent success, my hope is to break the mold and really get our youth to see cause and effect, behavior and consequence, and goal and fruition.

After accepting her apology, I explained to her that I would continue to lose sleep, meals and paper work time if it meant that she was doing what she needed to do. I described to her, her behaviors that led me to feel disappointed and then described all the things that she had done that day to make up for it, taking care of responsibilities that were important. “As long as you do what you need to do, I don’t mind helping you…” She turned to me and said, “Ms.Rosanna, I don’t mean to interrupt you but I want you to know that I have learned a lot since you became my sociotherapist…”

& It is in those moments where I know I have done right. I know I have worked to my potential and I know that my heart is in the right place. When I quit Boys Town, a lot of my kids were upset, they said things like, “Ms. Rosy, you’re the only one that I could talk to…” or “You’re the only one that cares.” These are the things that matter to me. For so long, I have cared for the people around me. I have given 100% because I cared and so many times, I found myself hurt by those people or the decisions they made. I have since lost faith in friendships and I have become realistic about romantic relationships. I realize now that I can be content being someone that marries their work because I can give to those who need it, those who have gone forgotten.  One day, I will make a difference.

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