Little Visitors

They say that your body is your home, but in this home, he is never alone. They all come to visit, late at night, uninvited, and always over staying their welcome. The more he asks them to go away, the more they plant their roots to stay.

She has been aware of this for quite some time. Each joke that he makes allows one to escape. She catches them, hoping that they will stick to her and let him be. She tries to be the hero like the ones from the stories that she read while growing up. But she knows the truth. In this world, heroes do not exist – not the way that they are fantasized to be. We are all just scared, alone, and afraid. She is no different yet she attempts to suit up and be the protector, still frightened.

He is choking now. These demons never rest. He opens his mouth to scream, not knowing that his fear is what allows them to be. With each worry, another creature breeds into existence. His cries for help are useless – he is only creating chaos.

She inhales, now greeted by visitors of her own. Never exhales. She holds her breath until every last one has entered her being. At last she lets out a sigh. She consoles him, “It’s okay,” wondering what it really means to be okay when your house can no longer be a home. She feels the pests inside of her, tearing her apart, begging to breed once more. She swallows, ignoring the lump in her throat for she knows that the creatures have band together to abscond.

She looks at him worriedly. She wants to tell him that it will never happen again. That he is safe. Instead all she can muster are three words – anything more will allow the darkness she has captured to flee: “I am here.” She tells herself that much is true. She tells herself that she will protect him. She tells herself that she is in over her head. She cannot control what cannot be contained.

His breathing has softened. The monsters are gone, but the pain is still raw. The two of them have defeated the monsters in this moment all while breathing a new form into being. One that she, nor he, can tackle alone. One that would not exist if she, nor he, would have shared their worries.

Instead of consuming them, this plague hovers over them, waiting for a moment of weakness. A moment of darkness. She would rather sacrifice herself than have her brother experience this iniquity, but she knows that such a sacrifice would be temporary. These creatures are nomadic, never happy with the nest that they build because the moment they situate, they destroy.

She pulls him closer and says nothing this time. Silence seems like the best answer to the unasked questions that linger between them. They both inhale. Afraid.

Alicia Alonso

We are all too familiar with the stories involving a woman’s love. A love typically accompanied by sacrifices. We accept these stories because she’s in LOVE. Love is a beautiful thing, but too often we are subjected to a woman’s love for a man. So often that we believe that such a love is a part of a woman’s nature. Wouldn’t it be nice for a different narrative?

Cue Alicia Alonso

“Dance is not an exercise. Dance is an art.”

Like many women, Alonso possesses an undying love, yet unlike the stories mentioned earlier, her love is not for some man: “Dancing is an expression of the happiness of life. It’s like laughing, you laugh with your mouth, you laugh with your body, you enjoy every moment” (Alonso). I have seen enough romantic comedies to know that when someone describes anything in such a matter, they are truly, madly, deeply in love.

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Born: December 20, 1920

Nationality: Cuban

Known For: Ballet

Faced with vision problems and being diagnosed with a detached retina, Alonso had corrective surgery. Her doctor ordered her to remain on bed rest for three months, but Alonso was not having it. She continued to practice dancing, using just her feet. After three months time, Alonso discovered that the operation was not entirely successful, leading to a second, and ultimately, a third surgery. Her three month bedrest became a year’s worth. Once again refusing to be separated from her true love, Alonso and her husband used their fingers for her to learn dancing roles.

Upon returning to work, Alonso was asked to replace an injured ballerina for Giselle. Despite her problematic vision, Alonso’s performance had critics raving, allowing her to establish. While training with partners, Alonso instructed them where to stand on stage.

“The difficulty was in dancing with partners, knowing where to find them without my eyes on the stage. They sometimes used special lighting effects to guide me. But the biggest difficulty was always coming off the stage, trying to find the wings and the curtain drops.”

Concealing her failed vision, and performing well into her 70s, Alonso refused to lose her love. Instead, she fostered the Alicia Alonso Ballet Company and the Ballet Nacional de Cuba to equip others with the love that allowed her to conquer all.

Quasi-Empathetic

Confession time:

I cry every single time that I watch The Hunchback of Notre Dame. . .

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Smile while you can.

and it is not because it is the most underrated Disney movie of all time. What truly gets me in the film is the scene during the festival of fools. My main man Quasi is stoked to finally be accepted by his peers. He even gets crowned KING – but unlike most movies, this is not an altruistic act from the crowd. He is only crowned because they believe that he has the most hideous mask; however, one guard in the crowd thinks it is a good idea to throw a tomato at Quasimodo. Apparently, everyone attending the festival is an asshole and joins in on the humiliation. And although I know what will happen each and every time I watch this scene, the tears remain consistent.

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Imagine longer hair and you have me 25 minutes into the Hunchback of Notre Dame.

I used to always be a bit embarrassed by my reaction. After all, I was crying over a fictional character going through a fictitious experience – yet now I know there is a deeper reason. It is not Quasimodo that causes me to cry (for he really doesn’t want to hurt me, he really doesn’t want to see me cry) – it is a testament to the animators’ ability to tell a story, and my own character. To quote the man behind my tears, Victor Hugo once said, “Those who do not weep, do not see.” I suppose that while watching The Hunchback of Notre Dame, I submerge myself into the film – I am not watching, I am seeing. Although the two seem similar, they are actually quite different:

Watching –  look at or observe attentively, typically over a period of time.

Seeing – be or become aware of something from observation or from a written or other visual source.

Unlike watching, seeing involves more activity. While watching, information stops once retained. Watching is a passive act. With seeing, information that is retained becomes processed, and it is through this process that connections can be made, allowing for empathy.

Up until recently, The Hunchback of Notre Dame would be the only time anything on screen would move me to tears. I did not cry as Mufasa died nor did I shed a single tear in Titanic – only Quasimodo resonated with me, he not only rang the bells of Notre Dame, but the bells of my heart. However, within the past two years, this was no longer the case. My eyes were like dynamites, ready to go off at any second. Here are some recent examples:

  1. Inside Out – as Bing Bong acts as a martyr and instructs Joy to “take Riley to the moon for him.”
  2. Community – “Abed’s Uncontrollable Christmas,” in which Abed envisions the entire study group as stop motion to cope with his absent mother.
  3. Queer Eye – every single time one of the participants revealed their new transformation and then said goodbye to the Fab Five.
  4. Forrest Gump – Forrest discovers that he has a son and immediately asks if he is “smart.”

These tears are not always a result of sadness. They stem from compassion (and typically cartoons). Yet this epiphany did not enter my mind until recently (ironically, this involved real people).

During my visit to the Georgia Aquarium, I watched a Dolphin Show. There was a segment in which one of the trainers had a child from the audience perform in the show. A crowd of 200+ people watched as a ten year old boy “trained” a dolphin. As the boy instructed the dolphin, we all saw the trainer discretely send signals to the dolphin – however, the entire crowd cheered for the boy. In that moment, all of us became united under a single cause: to make the boy believe. Yes, this is incredibly corny, but against my better judgement, I found myself tearing. I immediately tried to hide my tears – what was I crying for? When did I become such a baby?

After wracking my brain for some odd moments, a new question emerged: Why was I criticizing myself for experiencing the most heightened form of compassion?

Empathy.

In that moment, I was moved at how the entire crowd was able to function as a collective just to make one little boy – that none of us knew – believe that he was able to control dolphins. How absurd. How spectacular. How magical.

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Laverne illustrating the concept of watching from her speech at the cathedral (1996).

We are constantly told that there is no use in crying over spilled milk, and let’s not forget that it is banned from basseball as well. Big girls don’t cry (thanks Fergie). Boys don’t cry. However, to fully invest yourself into the life of someone else, real or imagined, is an incredible gift. So I say, crybabies, rejoiceth! In those tear-jerking moments, we stop watching, and we tear down the wall that we build to separate ourselves from others – after all, take it from Laverne, “Life’s not a spectator sport. If watchin’ is all you’re gonna do, then you’re gonna watch your life go by without ya.

 

 

#Enough

I do not need a gun to protect –

I need to load minds

with the ammo needed

to fight the notion that

shootings are expected.

I need to shield them

from the

crossfires

among those who believe

that their lives

equate to $5.46.

119 deaths.

$650 = 1 AR-15.

Do the math. It does not add up.

I refuse to add another factor to this equation.