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Por Lo Que Soy
by Raven Rodriguez

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It had to happen. You know when the water is THAT calm you can always bet that it can only mean some demon snake is just below the surface ready to thrash about and wreak havoc in an otherwise quiet pond, scaring the locals stupid. It just had to happen.

And it happened just like it does in the movies. Even though the calm was eerie and unnatural, I still decided to take a swim. Meanwhile, my subconscious stood in the back of the theater screaming, 'You MORON! Don't go in the water!' I should have listened.

For reasons probably any semi-functional Latina/o can understand (the careful cultivation and evolution of guilt into this fierce conglomerate able to bend the knee of the world's most jacked up Vin Diesel), one day last month while picking my baby sister up from that lady's house to take her to mine for a visit, I decided to dive into the hellhole I swore 'Never AGAIN'. I sat in front of that lady's house and wondered if it wasn't yet time to put all this bullshit behind us. I blame the sun that was shining all too brightly in my eyes.

As I stepped out of my car and started up that lady's front steps, I could actually hear the scary background music start to play. Slow at first and it even made me hesitate, slow my roll and I thought maybe this wasn't a good idea. The forest was quiet … TOO quiet and the calm in my pond was unnatural. But just as in the movies, I ultimately failed to listen to my gut and proceeded up those steps to ring the doorbell.

My intentions had been to speak to my sister, the one who started this whole thing. You remember? The one who was (is) dating the ex-con, her baby's daddy who beats her? I had been really close to her and despite everything, I felt that perhaps having been a mother for over a year now would have changed her views a little.

I never made it to my sister. The moment I walked in THAT LADY attacked me at the door. My pond no longer calm and serene, just chaotic with the thrashing of this venomous creature's tongue. Her first wave was that of accusation, that I was keeping her grandchildren from her for nothing more than personal vendetta, and that, ultimately, all of this, this entire issue between my family and I was all my wife's fault.

I could see her slimy meandering body coming at me and just like in the movies, I tried to run but fell over the branches of her outbursts. She spat accusations of replacing my love for her with a love for a woman that was poisoning my mind against the family. I could feel her anger and bitterness snake itself around my legs, pulling me under. Before I knew it I was pulled back into the same old arguments, the same old squabbles, the same old shit. Soon I too was thrashing about my once quiet little pond and felt as angry and resentful as I had before. She accused me of inflicting the same pain on my oldest daughter that I had accused her of inflicting on me. She accused me of neglecting my oldest for my wife and the daughter we had together. She accused me of being just like her.

Then, in the middle of her threats of finding a way to see her grandchildren and getting around my vicious evil brainwashed insanity, I realized something. This had been the second time I had come into this house since I had decided to sever the ties with this family and both times I had ended up in this same fight. But not once, regardless of how much that lady was trying to hide the fact that, as always, this was about her and no one else, did she ever stop to ask me how my girls were doing. And I suddenly stopped yelling and just listened.

And as clear as the day I realized my mother could not beat me anymore, I stared down at this little angry ball of resentment and realized that I would now be completely free and able to hang the sign 'Guilt Don't Live Here No More' on my door. What I was doing, I was doing for the good of my children. What she was doing, she was doing for the sake of being right, of making me feel that I was as fallible, if not more so, as she. And as easily as I had allowed myself to slip under the muddy waters, I stood up to realize that the pond was only knee-deep.

I didn't even bother to say a word. I simply walked out with a renewed sense of conviction. I knew that this was not the environment I wanted my daughters to grow up in. I knew that going back to that house was little more than a distraction and a complete waste of time. I heard my mother yelling out after me, something about this not being the end. I smiled at my baby sister, got in the car … and I went home.

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