An epilogue

Peru 2014 139.JPG

Caral, Peru. Photo by J. Calderon, 2014.

“..we found you lying

Choking on the dirt and sand

Your former glories and all the stories

Dragged and washed with eager hands

But, oh, your city lies in dust…” “Cities in Dust” by Siouxsie and The Banshees

A terrible situation I have experienced for many years recently ended. (Year of milagros) Though I claimed I would samba in joy, I didn’t. Nor did I throw confetti, pop bottles or make it rain.  Certain routines feel awkward. Certain places bring back memories.  The reality of victory is simply that, a reality. Life has moved forward quietly.

I do ask if it’s really over. I wonder if my work with this particular situation is done.(My second career as an exorcist)Call it PTSD (though I don’t like to, given my personal experience loving someone with true PTSD) or shock, I have moments when I brace myself for more fighting.  After years of experiencing abuse, it will take time to resolve these reactions.

I wonder about the other party. Has this person reflected on choices made and actions taken? Can this person heal?  I don’t have it in me to truly hate this individual. Deep inside, underneath layers and strata, yes strata, of God only knows what, this person is in so much pain. It is a pain so visceral and so overwhelming that it has terrorized others for decades. That’s some mierda.   I will continue to lift this person up in prayer. Fix this person, Jesus.

Though I say “icant”


My secretary gave me this paperweight for Christmas. To know me is to love me.

or “I’m unable to can”


Team Petty. T-shirt collection to prove it.

for a laugh or to keep from cursing on the daily, I know I can. Taking on a malicious individual has taught me that I can stand strong. I can fight back without compromising my better self. I can win.

Holding the door open

I am a woman of patience. Too much patience, I sometimes think, but in my line of work, it is essential. That being said, I grapple with my tendency to be mild with folks, even as they work my last nerve.  I can occasionally channel my #innermongoose.(A fearless favorite) On a day to day basis, I tend to keep my thoughts to myself.

Since Election Night, I have experienced many emotions. Grief is a messy process and it is different for everyone.

Through social media, well-meaning friends and  acquaintances have posted, either in their own words or via shared images and articles, that it’s time for everyone to move on.  I have been asked to choose love, to hug more, to open doors for strangers, and even to pray for the president-elect.  I have been questioned about love for my country, regard for unborn children, and even the way I am parenting my child through this crisis.  And, sabes que, I have had enough.  Ya me tienen harta. Tu no me mandas!


Not you, not anyone, other than the Lord and sometimes my mama or daddy.  Tu quien eres?

Tu no me mandas.

I can cry, rant, curse, laugh, and react in any way I want. I can take to the streets in protest. I can declare the president-elect #NotmyPresident.  If you don’t like what I have to say or do, GTFO.  Vete. Largate. Borrate.  Don’t let the door hit you on the way out. I am done.


This morning, I unfollowed a fellow blogger. She’s likable and well-spoken.  I respect her enough to head out on my way. She’s entitled to her opinions. She is standing strong in them.  So am I. There’s nothing to be gained by trying to change her mind and sharing my judgments with her.  She will believe as she does. I will believe as I do.  With one difference. She has a privilege I do not.  It’s easy to tell people how they should be feeling and acting when it’s safe for you to do so.  The most dangerous of the president-elect’s followers won’t attack her.  While I can exit stage left on any conversation that makes me uncomfortable, I can’t escape reality.

In the days, weeks, months, and years to come, I have to be prepared for the worst that could happen. I have to arm (yes, I said “arm”) my only child with the knowledge and skills to grow up into an empowered woman of color. (Mothering a warrior)These are our lives.  These are our rights. If you can’t understand or respect that, then let’s wish each other well.

Honoring a lost friend

I learned a lot from Charlene Brown. I met her at Columbia University in July 2004. We were roommates while enjoying a National Endowment for the Humanities grant to study the Renaissance. We became friends right away. We shared a love of musicals and plays, art, good food, and the marvel that is New York City. We were also comrades, the only openly religious members of the summer teaching institute, and therefore supported one another when anti-religion ideas were put forth.I will never forget Charlene’s smile and her gentle manner. I am sad to learn she has lost her battle with cancer.

One of my fondest memories of that New York summer was rushing back to Morningside Heights in a rainstorm one night after watching a show. We were drenched but laughing all the while as we ducked into doorways and hopped puddles. Our shoes were damp for days.

I never kept my promise to visit Charlene in the Central Valley. We kept in touch via cards and emails. The last time we corresponded, she was hopeful about treatment and focused on her teaching. I am happy to learn she kept teaching history throughout her battle with her illness and that her funeral was a huge celebration of her career and life.

Now I know she’ll never miss a show and she will always lift a prayer.


Farewell to a young star

10 Things I Hate About You wasn’t meant for an Academy Award. But to a young English teacher who wanted to instill a love of Shakespeare in her charges, it was a godsend. The 90s high school update of The Taming of the Shrew was an instant hit and remains a cult favorite.
It also introduced me to Heath Ledger. I liked him instantly. He had sparkling brown eyes that crinkled at the corners when he laughed, a sprinkling of freckles, a lanky frame, a devil may care energy. Even though it was a teen romantic comedy, he shone.

I followed Ledger’s career as he co starred in The Patriot, led the fluffy A Knight’s Tale, then really showed his acting chops in Monster’s Ball. My bro dismissed him as a pretty boy. Then he starred in Brokeback Mountain. And the world realized what I had known for years, that he could break our hearts as only a gifted actor can.

Heath Ledger is dead at 28. Accident or suicide, the facts are not available. But we have lost a great talent.

Un recuerdo de una falsa ilusion

A veces pienso que todo fue un cuento que escribi. Que fuiste un personaje que invente y que el fin de la historia fue un desenlace que se me habia olvidado. En fin, ya no existe ni el uno para el otro. Resultamos ficcion.

Que dirias si supieras lo que me sucede? Que he sido transformada completamente. Que mi universo es otro. Que la magia que nos fascinaba, la del cine fantasmagorico espanol, el de las fotografias chinas en el museo, la magia de las pesadillas y los presentimientos, es real y al borde de ser revelado. O quizas ya ni me conocerias?

La vida es un misterio. Aun vivo.

Y de ti, quien sabe.

Dream recollection 26: Exorcisms

What follows are the remaining edited audio transcriptions from this fall. I haven’t touched my tape recorder in months but with all the positive changes I have experienced, I decided it was time to clean. The power of these subconscious worries and fears on my life is all but gone.

Undated, possibly late September or early October
(clearing of throat)
I just woke up from a nightmare. I haven’t had one in a while. I haven’t been recording my dreams. It bothers me to wake up worried. I could give the rationale that I’m finishing up my period, have a cold, didn’t eat much for dinner. I’m trying to do some distress tolerance.
I dreamt about Soldier. Someone else was pregnant. We were reunited but just as friends. There were decisions to be made about the pregnant girl even though he said he didn’t care. I found a box of his stuff: some drawings, strange writing. It was all graphic and disturbing. It was about sex with a woman he was treating as a whore. I also found two cards, sort of like prayer cards. One listed positive and negative qualities. The negative ones weren’t so bad. They described him: ambitious, driven. For some reason, it was scary. The prayer card was blasphemous. It was the opposite of the Creed,celebrating the suffering of Jesus, not because it led to forgiveness of sins or the love He showed us, but because He died. It chilled me to the bone.
Then Soldier arrived with a kind of pastry or dessert which I put in the fridge. I was tempted to take a brick to his windshield. He knew what I was going to do. He said,”I wouldn’t do that if I were you.” We got in the car. I was terrified of him. So I woke up.
I don’t know why I am dreaming this way. He and I are getting along ok, as far as I can tell. I don’t know if I should blog about it.
I miss him a lot. I don’t know if it’s because he made contact or if it’s because of all the reasons I’ve previously stated.

No date
We were on family vacation. My brother and I were young again, college age. We were in a room with three singles. He was playing video games. I was tired from cleaning. He said my mom was coming. She said things were horrible. Then she flew into a borderline rage and attacked me. My brother pulled her off. I tried to stay calm and see if she was ok. She came at me again, trying to strangle me.
It’s really cold in my house.

October 10th
Just woke up to a Bobby Capo song. Soldier was in my dream. He came to visit me. He reached out and touched my stomach. I woke up because it made me jump.

Dream Recollection 24: The Valediction

In the dream, I am driving down a dusty Southern California freeway with Lisa and one other person(Mom?). I pull up in front of a high school building and place a call on my phone. A woman answers. She tells me Soldier is gone now. I have arrived too late but she is willing to talk to me in person. I make a snide remark about how surprised I am she will talk to me since it is likely he hates me. She denies it, says she admires me because of what he has said. Lisa is wary and warns me to be careful. My life is wonderful now and worrying about soldier is something I should leave in the past. Biarraza(her last name though I’m not sure why she goes by it) arrives. She is a slender Latina, much to my relief, not overly sexy, and down to earth. We get along instantly. After a heartfelt conversation in which we fill in the blanks for each other, she pulls out her phone and places a call. She hands me the phone. It is Soldier. His voice puts me into a quieter mood. I tell him all I ever wanted to do was help. He says he knew but that I risked my own health which was unhealthy. I tell him I thought I could relate to the urge to kill myself. “You would have never willingly killed yourself.” I argue with him, pointing to the many episodes of early 2007. “You might have had the feeling but you never had the will. That’s not you. You love life.” We congratulate one another, wish each other well, and say goodbye. I hug B. Lisa and I head back onto the road.

Making it official

My partner in crime, my work mentor, has taken a job in a neighboring district. How could she pass up only two night duties and a three-minute commute? It sounds like my dream job. While I support her choice, I can’t help but feel scared about this coming fall.

Goodbyes are hard for me. The thought of being abandoned is even more difficult. But I know that Mentor will stay in my life, that our friendship which has endured for nearly 12 years will continue.

After our lunch at her home today, I cried on the drive home. Yes, it’s a familiar scene, me falling apart all by myself, after parting with a loved one on positive terms. But I did not let it overwhelm me. I called Izzy and he helped me refocus. I used my Cognitive Behavior Therapy techniques to monitor my thoughts and create alternative ones. By the time I got home, I felt alright, if a little drained.

Izzy said something very wise and valuable this afternoon. He pointed out that I have kicked ass for years, that my anxiety disorder has been a part of my life for years, and I have done well living with it. I am committed to managing it so that I can handle goodbyes and changes in a more healthy, balanced manner.

The support of good friends doesn’t hurt, either.

Last letter to a cherished friend

June 1, 2007

Dearest Brett,
There are so many things I wanted to say before you died. I wanted to tell you just how much I loved you, just how much you meant in my life. We were only friends for 4 years but in that time I grew to depend on you. We might not have spent huge amounts of time together but every moment we shared counted as a positive memory. Thank you for bringing laughter and positivity into my life. Your enthusiasm was infectious and you always lifted my mood and spirit.

In the time that has passed since my last visit, many things have happened. I stopped seeing and talking to that guy I briefly mentioned. He never stopped being aloof and unavailable. I’ve actually fallen in love with someone else, my friend_______. I think you would have liked him even if it’s not the most conventional of relationships, if I can even consider it one. I’m a romantic and I put my heart out there so watch over me. Make sure to keep protecting me.

I’m sorry I didn’t tell you about my depression. I wanted to focus our time together on your comfort and recovery. I felt so selfish and immature. I felt ungrateful. You were in excruciating pain for months but you stayed strong and fought to live. I weaken so often and I become willing to throw away my life. Forgive me for my ingratitude and forgive me for not telling you the truth. I didn’t want to disappoint or upset you. Forgive me for not trusting you to see my negativity and flaws. You were an accepting, loyal friend, and you would have offered me your support.

I have been blessed with a true friend. My sensitivity, vulnerability, and emotionality never irked you. You believed in me a lot more than I believed in myself. You saw so much in me, the way you did in everyone you met. I never knew someone so genuine, collaborative, altruistic, and generous. You treated me like I was worthy, even when I did not see that for myself. Thank you for embracing me and for taking the time to appreciate me.

In the last several months, I was treated to your affection. When you said you loved us to T. and me, I felt it. When you looked up to accept a brief visit, I know those few moments meant a lot to you. I will never forget how you held my hand when we first visited the hospital after your diagnosis. I could tell you were worried about me, the soft-hearted one. How humble I am before such goodness. You were the sick one yet you wanted me to be all right. I thank you, Brett, for being such a good, caring friend. Even in your darkest hours, you never lost sight of others. You were never self-seeking. I was lucky to know you.

We have shared so many memories. You almost marrying me off to old Ron at the Iron Gate. I could have slapped you the next day. The old lady at the Victorian saying you smelled good. The crazy man in his bathrobe at Guido’s, how our conversation became stilted and strained as we nervously pretended we weren’t nervous. Our lunches at Val’s, me always spilling my strawberry shake or root beer float on the table. The beers at Buffalo Bill’s. Late dinners at the Englander. Reminiscing about 70s nostalgia at the Hayward Museum or on VH1’s I love the 70s. The Secretly Irish. I have so much to laugh about when I think of you. I will miss your corny jokes, outlandish stories, and blunt words of advice. I will miss taking part in elaborate lies. I will miss you shouting, “CALDERÓN” down the hallway or over the phone. I will miss you, brother.
I wish you happiness and peace. Save me a spot at your table.
God speed.
Your friend always.
P.S. Thank you for inspiring me to recover. You are a warrior. You are strong, brave, and full of integrity. You are the kind of person I hope to be. Keep me in your thoughts. You will always be in mine.
Hasta pronto.