Uma espécie de ante-neurose do que serei quando já não for gela-me o corpo e alma. Uma como que lembrança da minha morte futura arrepia-me dentro.
Fernando Pessoa- Livro do Desassossego: Composto por Bernardo Soares
A kind of ante-neurosis of what I will be when I no longer am chills my body and soul.
A semblance that foreshadows my death shudders inside me.
Fernando Pessoa - The Book of Disquietude
*content warning: abortion, miscarriage, drug use, and suicidal thoughts.
Excerpt from a collection of place-based essays for a manuscript in progress titled
©All The Places that Called Me Home
- Michigan Avenue and 15th Street -
Santa Monica, California
After my first abortion at the age of eighteen, I fretted as to whether I’d ever be able to bear a child. When I was nineteen years old, I met with a palm reader. I wanted to know how many children I was going to have. She read the many lines on the base of my little finger and told me that I was going to have seven. She never clarified whether these lines referred to pregnancies or actual children but, I jotted down all the notes of her predictions, journaling all as I’ve done for the entirety of my life.
She was right. I became pregnant seven times. At eighteen, my first abortion, and at twenty-two, my second. Two early miscarriages at the seven and eight weeks of my first two pregnancies with Federico at thirty-one. Then Cielito, when she was about to become viable, albeit with the aid of incubators as I lost her at her fifth and a half-month of development in my womb when I turned thirty-two. Then I birthed Magaluna Amanda after a nine-month high-risk pregnancy at thirty-four. Then I lost Sebastian Yamandú or Seraphim Yamandú, on the starting of the third month of his life inside my uterus shy to my thirty-six birthday while Federico was touring in Japan. Seven pregnancies—indeed, the palm reader was right. My blood type, RH Negative, could have been one of the causes, though I fretted it had been a blunt hit on my crotch when I was a child, a rape at sixteen, or the application of a DIU during my first marriage at twenty-five, or maybe the abortions. But the final diagnosis was an incompetent cervix. I was incompetent in the eyes of society.
On the 11th of February of 1998, at 5:00 pm, I clocked in at Shutters on the Beach Hotel to begin my shift as a cocktail server to the famous five-star hotel lobby so frequented by Hollywood celebrities. I picked up my uniform freshly cleaned and impeccably ironed at the housing desk: a light blue shirt and a long pleated dark blue skirt. As I was changing in the locker room, I struggled to zip up and fasten the button of my skirt to no avail, so I returned to the housing desk to request a larger size of a skirt. My pregnant belly had widened my waist, and the smile in my face showed zero regrets for the gained weight. I received a blue jumper, and back in the locker room, I stretched my arms up, and the garment smoothly glided me into—the maternity dress impregnated with life. My baby moved as though grateful for the release of constrains, and I whispered something motherly, even to my surprise. I went upstairs to begin setting up China plates with potato chips, light candles, fluff pillows on the cozy sofas by the fireplace, straighten up crooked frames, and learn the special dishes and the fancy wines offered by the sommelier. I remember walking with absolute pride bearing my pregnancy with sheer joy. I remember feeling in complete awe, in gratitude, moving graciously. I remember the experience of myself in a place transpiring in a permanent smile, a visible golden aura, and diamond-like sparkles shining in my eyes. Federico and I had just listened to the heartbeat of our baby, and the doctor had told us that it was a girl. Just a few days before, we had decided that we were going to name her Cielito Celeste (Sky Baby-Blue) like the sky and the symbol of Uruguay. Despite the previous two early miscarriages, however, as painful and as complicated as they had been, the prospects of this pregnancy that had slightly passed its fifth month meant the world to us. The gestation was progressing fruitfully, filling our hearts with joy and with renewed hope.
Two hours and a half into my shift and the lobby were swiftly crowded, even on a Wednesday night. Although I was young and felt strong, I moved aware that I was carrying a precious gift in the center of my body that needed care and thoughtfulness. I picked up a round tray and placed two glasses of Kendall Jackson cabernet, and as I was walking towards the table where the order had been placed, I felt suddenly dizzy. A spasm followed, and my eyes seemed to draw into a spiral of dark grays. Immediately after, I felt a spilling of warm liquid wetting my underwear. I turned around searching for a coworker, seeking help, and instead, my eyes met Seth’s, my manager, who seemed as pale as my countenance probably projected, as though he was reading my mind, and sensed what I was living through then and there. I stood immobile, though my legs shook uncontrollably, and a shiver moved down my spine, to land in my bottom, and remained there, burning my sphincter in the most primal symptom of fear and dread, making me tremble even more. Seth came to me and held me by my arm, and I said, stuttering, that I needed to go to the bathroom, and asked him, I don’t know how, if he could call Federico to come to pick me up. In the bathroom, I raised my jumper and lowered my panties, repeating, “please God, no, please God, no, no, please God, don’t let me lose her.”
Fede arrived a few minutes later. I was afraid to sit on the seat of the car, pushing forward my bottom, trying to place the lower part of my trunk, my genitalia, in the air, not wanting anything to come in contact with it, so frightened to do anything that could drain my insides. I arrived home, and Fede called my doctor, the hospital, over the phone. He told me we were going to the Emergency Room. I felt so much pressure on my lower abdomen that I removed my undergarments. I needed to go to the bathroom. I walked towards it, afraid, crying, desperately about getting there. A bubble came out of my vagina, a thin transparent balloon, that lingered there, half suspended, its end still as though tethered to my vaginal canal, just like a balloon, held invisible from my inside for an eternal instant. And then it burst out proceeded by a shower of the warm fluid where my baby had swum in what I thought had been the safety of my womb. I will never forget Federico’s eyes, fighting back the tears and touching me with his gaze still filled with love and sheer impotence, the confusion of not knowing what to do, how to sustain me.
The nurses rolled the stretcher through the corridors of the hospital. At the same time, I lay there, almost inert, only able to see the ceiling and those horrid lights, a cold whiteness illuminating the tunnel that was not nevertheless, to lead me to a physical after-death. Both my arms were pricked multiple times, to connect wires and tubes to receive IV and medicine, or to draw blood. Monitors controlled my heartbeat, my pressure, and a belt around my belly sensed Cielito. Cielito’s heartbeat kept on running faster than mine, which was natural for her age in gestation, but then it gave me hope, or so I clung to this idea out of utter despair. And then we waited and waited.
By the night of Friday, the 13th, I knew that even if my body regenerated amniotic fluid, her chances of completing gestation to the ninth month would not grant a healthy body or an able brain. Two days without amniotic fluid in the uterus would have had placed a grave risk harming her growth, and even hurt her skin, her soft bones, brushing or bouncing against the walls of my dried uterus. She was shy of a viable state that could have enabled her to survive in an incubator, but the perils would have been even vaster, not allowing her to thrive. We had to wait even more, but time dragged its feet, heavily. We had no choice but to wait and leave nature to decide or to act accordingly. I trusted that it was going to be what it needed to be and surrendered to a fate still unbeknownst to us three. I was numb and so unequivocally sad that I seemed to have lost a connection with reality. I started to sing lullabies, and The Beatles' songs, but my voice would break down, and then I fell asleep, just a few minutes before midnight—before the beginning of my 32nd birthday.
A day after my hospital release, I came back home, and I went to bed with a box of pictures that I have accumulated throughout my over-a-decade of traveling. I asked Federico to buy a board and glue, and I embarked on a quest for my lost identity. I wanted to remind myself that I had lived, and that I had been happy, and that I had survived many a time before this painful breaking. I've been to places, I've known people, and I had loved many, have been loved by many. I put myself back together as pieces of a puzzle. Or so I thought that I did before going to sleep and having my first nightmare. I started to scream, and when Fede woke me up, or so he thought he did, I mumbled gibberish and words disconnected. Eventually, he began to write what I'd tell him. Sometimes, in a second of lucidity, I would see him jotting down notes, him biting his lip, nodding as he swallowed tears that he'd held back in his eyes, but spilled over his tongue, filling his mouth with salty water.
The nightmares were terrifying. They unearthed painful memories that I had hidden in the basements of my mind. Many monsters from my past came to life looking at me in the mirror. I was them, and I feared so much sleeping at night that I started to sleep during the day most of the days, and at sunset, my days would start, and they'd finish at sunrise. Especially on weekends doing cocaine, pacing the inhaling of seven lines through the night, which I would draw with my ID from Uruguay, mi cédula de identidad, over the plastic cover of three cassettes, one by Miles Davis' A Kind of Blue, one by "Death Can Dance," The Summoning of the Muse and The Promised Womb, and the third by "Pink Floyd," and I'd played the most Comfortably Numb, on relentless repeat. And this became my ritual, while I'd write poems on Being Angry, on Being Sad, On Being, on Not Being, filled with orthographic errors that I couldn't care less to correct today, and semblances of those dark and bloody nights at the hospital in a multi genre manuscript: The Bliss (so called) Madness.
It didn’t matter what I dreamt of from my own hidden past. Every nightmare would relive the dark hours that took releasing an immature placenta after having pushed out the dead body of my little baby on the day of my birthday. As I write, I still see her tiny body over my breasts and stomach, and tears fall down my cheeks. I remember how Fede softly touched my face and count her ten fingers, her ten tiny toes. If I close my eyes, I see her rose-petal skin, as delicate and soft as the skin of a peach but almost transparent; her slanted eyes, as though a pencil has drawn two narrow lines at the closing of her eyelids. I couldn’t see her eyes open, and this will always break me down, make me sad. This fact shattered my identity by falling in the most profound depression states that would pull me down to even crawl on the floor crying and sobbing interminably until my nose would bleed, my heart would physically hurt, or until I could barely breathe. The pain of emptiness is something that I will never be able to describe, not even metaphorically. Still, I wrote pages and pages of those moments, cried a million tears releasing the unbearable madness through poetry and prose, seeking for its bliss, which reconstructed at times my identity. I would spend hours engaged in art craft, painting, dancing at home in a trance.
I went to the 99 cents store periodically and bought me candles in jars. I remember observing the wick enflamed, and the melting of the first layer of the wax, liquid floating densely over dry thick creamy soil beneath. Sometimes, I would eavesdrop into the sound of the candle burning, and I would count the hours a jar would take to extinguish. Then, I would boil water on the kettle, and fill the jar, watch the water entering the spaces between the hardened bottom, and with a spoon and a knife, I would cut the pieces until they could be thrown away. The cleaning of a jar would take many nights, until it dried, and the glass was crystal clear. I had collected sand for many of the places I had been, from rivers and beaches, and creeks, which I’d kept in Ziplock bags, with crystals and shells, and twigs of woods. I started a collection of jars, and each one brought back the memories of the waters that I had swum in, and as if daydreaming through candlelit nights, I was one with the water, and with Yemanjá swimming by my side.
I would make homemade candles, decorate jars with sand and shells, practice yoga and meditation following the breathing techniques of Paramahansa Yogananda, and hike the Santa Monica Mountains in the high of mushrooms. I would lie down on blankets on the grounds of Temescal Canyon or Yerba Buena to watch the stars for hours, the Leonidas meteorite showers, full moons. Then I would circle back to wanting to die. And all the while, I grappled with that strange sensation that I missed a limb that had been amputated--a sort of rare dysmorphia. I kept forgetting something that I needed to do, or to have, or to take with me when I would go somewhere, obsessively.
It took me a full year to find me back, though, and only when I had decided that I wanted to be all right precisely on my next birthday when I turned thirty-three years old. But it was because I almost overdosed. While I leaned back trying to breathe in and out as if that would make my speeding heartbeat slow its pulse, I realized that I didn't want to die-- even though I'd wished that my body dissolved into the night almost weekly during that year without daylight.
The Bliss (so called) Madness was written on a very old fashioned Apple computer, and in a rough English with multiple words in Spanish every time that I would encounter an untranslatable expression, or a word which I knew clearly in Spanish but not its homologous meaning in English. I still have no idea, what this title means, but it's probably me, all the way to my origin even if the journey was to take twenty-two years. I've come to believe that I have kept my pain in this box and in it, I have kept the soul of my lost child unable to let her go off me. How can one miss someone who they really never met? Now the locks are already loose. She is ready to be set free and, for the first time in all these years, I'm ready to let go and this will be her bliss.
But I had a lot of help along this journey. Federico’s constant love and profound solidarity kept me returning from that “comfortable numbness” where I would often retire to or escape to during that dark year. But I wanted to heal so, it became essential that I reorganized and began anew. I sought psychological and physical help. I found a new job, underwent numerous tests to find the possible causes of my repeated miscarriages. In due course, my doctor recommended that I tried to become pregnant. And then and there came the sun, when regeneration brought me to live the extraordinary experience of carrying my beautiful daughter Magaluna to term: y dar a luz a mi hija, natural y amorosamente— my Magician Moon, my Druid.
Still, on every approaching Valentine's Day ever since, I'd cry, and I'd grieve. At forty I celebrated my birthday for the first time, and only because my mother had died the year before on July 16th, and I wanted to honor her life. Federico and I invent all kinds of rituals every year, like going to the Holy Cross two days before my birthday to leave a flower on the grass, on an inexistent grave. And last Sunday, we kneeled in front of each other, and stared into each others eyes as we shared the memory film reeling in our minds. And we embraced and wept without a need to say a word. But I am tired of grieving. I don't want to grieve anymore. I'm tired of seeing Federico wondering so fidgety whether I'm emotionally strong or fragile on every day of a week forthcoming my birthday. And I want to celebrate my daughter Magaluna, listening to her songs and to whatever she has to say which is always so enlightening and generous toward life.
In hindsight today, all is 20/20. At my thirty-third birthday, when I realized that I wanted to stay alive, I soon went to school and I began an exceptional journey pursuing knowledge. I have studied for twenty years, and I have taught for ten. I continued to write poetry now for almost a half a century of my lifetime, and I am now working on my first novel, drafting my first collection of creative nonfiction essays, editing prose poems from a bilingual project I've been working for over a decade. I've made an exceptional family with Federico and Magaluna, and I am always inspired in the loves of my life, my reasons to exist, my alegría de vivir. I care to be healthy, and I want to work with others to advance environmental and social justice. I want to live in solidarity. So Cielito bestowed resilience upon me. and wisdom. I am aware of the ecosystems that I am, and the many worlds within the world that I inhabit. My gratitude to Cielito, whose short life in my body impacted me to make me who I am today. Gratitude and lucidity as clear as a sky in an unpolluted Earth day. Now I know I am home restored.
words - Cecilia Martinez-Gil
violin - Scarlet Rivera
At Dawn on February 14, 2020, my family will be at the beach to open the locks of the box, and to release the memory of Cielito onto the Pacific Ocean.
Celebrating Yemanjá - Dancing video footage by my dear friend and Uruguayan compatriota, Gabriela Lopetegui 2/2/2020 - Temescal Canyon, Los Angeles.
Song "Prophet" by the awesome KING PRINCESS
Inspirational and resilience resources @federicoramosmusic and @magalunamusic
Gracias a todos quienes desde cerca o desde lejos me siguen abrazando en esta vida vivida por la mitad de un centenario (y casi un lustro)