Embrace

in my dreams I hold onto you like the line of the train is falling as it moves through the tracks invigorated to see us getting along

in shock, I get scared that it’s too good to believe and that’s when the nightmare begins

usually in a train station if not already on the way to somewhere, a house, the same house that haunts my past.

we arrive by foot, by car, by bike, and it’s always received with a clenching electric door, will it stay open to me? us? I think it whispered in my sleep so loud that my jaw was clenching it shut

we barely make it inside the house, and i’m already in terror sweats, both in the dream and in real life. I’m dreading this encounter with the space that cheated on me repeatedly through lies of care and custom. my father’s prints everywhere marking the scene of revenge that those following us crave.

the raptors shoot at us. at the cage that covers our faces from the truth. yet we hide, knowing we’re about to die we hide.

i’ve never seen it like this before. remembering parts of this place more than I do consciously when navigating through to this time in my childhood.

every single time I wake up in tears right as they grab me, throw me, shoot me, hold me. Thinking I can escape their grip like everyone else I scream for help. why? i know nobody is listening, i know the bird has forgotten how to sing a song of hope rather than surrow. but I sing. and here’s where it gets cold.

my therapist says, “rewrite the story, write it once to remember what it was, to pin down the details haunting you, then rewrite it to be different, untangle it” but what I forgot to say is no, just like the dream. I let it seep in knowing it can be different and knowing it can change, but when the chase starts I feel as if I don’t know how to be anything but the mouse.

whoever is with me is better than this. better than the cycle of dreams that keeps haunting for more blood out of us for the mere assumption that there won’t be a peaceful return.

but there will be, and i’m embracing it now more than ever. I always thought that it would mean physically redefining what it would be like to move back home permanently and tend to the land like I foresee tending to myself but the truth is, the real work lies in my shadow, the one rewiting this moment from weakness to power.

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22

I feel like every year I always say the same thing. It’s been hard, it’s been painful, it’s been chaotic. But this year has a different tone. It’s been life-changing in all the ways that transformative years have.

I never thought I’d come this close to death again, at least not outside my head. This year I gave in. I found myself filling up the glass so high that at one point I just did not remember any reasons to keep going. That’s so painful to write and read. I didn’t believe in myself and honestly, I didn’t believe anyone around me. I found myself disproving all the love I was given to hold and in the process, self-sabotaging it. 

Mental struggles have always been something I was pushed to be ashamed of. Never believed or held, just pushed to ignore and “move on”. Nobody has ever taken the time to sit and listen and really think about what I was feeling and why. Until someone that did came along. And they cared, so much. That, in its totality, was terrifying. I’ve gotten so good at lying that I forgot to be honest with myself about the stake of putting someone I care about in the midst of fire between me, my head, and my demons. I have been mourning the loss of someone I love for more than a pandemic. 

I’ve been mourning loss since I was conceived. 

And honestly, that being the truth I don’t really know what else to say to make it real. To make people listen and believe me. But all I can do now is focus on the ones that do and are here present with me on this journey. 

It’s weird looking at age as a construct and also as timestamps for accomplishments and milestones that are hard to stomach. I did not choose this life to be so hurtful but once again I have to deal with the consequences of sincerity and breaking point. Yet, there’s so many more highlights I want to champion. 

In the span of a few months I have excelled at something I never thought I’d be doing, I’ve started believing in myself and my creative practice more than I ever have before, I have met some incredible people that have held me accountable and present in ways I didn’t know were possible, and I continue to rebuild my relationship with my mother and brother as the centers of my family union. 

This all started with moving to DC and coming upon independence once again. I left Miami escaping cynicism and superficiality, and then I came North to fall in love with it all over again. Coming here was the most impulsive decision I have ever made, and trust me, I have made some pretty impulsive decisions between trotting countries. Everyone was surprised, nobody asked if I was happy but rather they asked why? How? Are you coming back?

Coming back home became a coddled experience  for less ambiguity than the one I shared about my decision-making process. But it was good, it is good. I started a wave of depression that I could not beat alone, but this time I wasn’t alone. I was just heartbroken. It took every inch of me one day to not lose sight of my purpose in this life which is none other than to be the person I am around the people that I love. Centering my life around people is not only the understanding that I have of community, but it also allows me to stay humble and remember that I can’t and shouldn’t be selfish because the same way I have suffered from someone’s decision, there will be loved ones that will suffer due to mine. 

That sums up my first session with my psychiatrist too. He said firmly that mama and abu coni would be so disappointed and hurt if I left this world and most of all, that they already felt my sadness with me through their love. I never want to disappoint them, and I’m glad I beat those feelings day by day, hour by hour. 


Going to the hospital for suicidal ideation was not something I expected to do, nor did I want to do, but that I’m very glad I did. Being on suicide watch for the entire night at the ER brought back some medical trauma in ways where I already thought I had entered death as I knew it then, but in a much different context now. Being in that room smelled like my blood and soared through my IV scars. I physically felt sick to my stomach, and I was, too, literally bleeding already. I had tried to kill myself as I got my period that month. How poetic. 

When they asked questions like what was my plan, how I would do it, when I’d do it, I answered like a bot with a script. Knowing I couldn’t hold in the answers to those questions to myself anymore. I repeated, my name is Barbara Valencia, my DOB is … and I want to kill myself. I will cut my wrists, I will do it alone in my apartment, and I will not tell anyone. My preferred method of pain is cutting, I do it when I want to leave my pain in permanence, and I used to cope through this with permanent ink on my skin to deflect the fears that empty patches are canvas waiting to be reminded of this external pain. 

I don’t want to scare you, nor did I want to remember these painful details of what happened so soon and so raw. However, I had to tell someone that when I was alone sitting in that ER waiting room full of people and desperation, of COVID-19 patients, drug addicts, and dying folks, I was fucking terrified of how far my mind had come for me to end up there. 

I want to take a pause to break the stigma around mental illness and getting the help one needs to live in safety. I don’t describe this experience as a horror movie-like plot to scare or deteriorate the image of the life-saving resource that getting help really is for these cases. I am just a person who was taught to take my trust with me in and swallow it with my pride because nobody would care enough about another woman not feeling like herself in this world, over and over and over again. So this is where my hesitation comes from, and it was implanted by addicts that I know too well. Sadly, in a lot of ways, I too partake in this vicious cycle of belief at times and it’s the most destructive behavior I am challenging myself to break.  

ANYWHO, being alone physically has been hard. Yet, so intra-necessary. I have once again leaned on my friends for support when I needed the most and they showed up in ways I couldn’t have imagined. I am so happy to be part of their lives and feel very thankful for them being a part of mine. I don’t know what else to say other than I’m trying, trying really hard to be there for myself and my writing right now. And for once in a while, I am hopeful.

Answer of the day

At this point, there’s enough questions surfing through TikTok that anyone who struggles to succumb to the truth will lose faith in answers.

Yet when the rhythm of “Good Days” unravels a masked sadness, I know why the answers aren’t spelled out into words. They belong to the silence that unraveled with you.

There’s enough ambiguity between who we are and how we are that it has become so unappealing for either of us to look and not run.

I wonder what your coffee looks like these mornings. Is it sweeter? bitter? lonely?

Like in chess all the pieces at play are compromised, they switch word for word and trust for none. Checkmate is pain, it’s remiss recognition. What I wondered then and fear now is so different and cloudy. How could I take away the picture of us with a mistake that is worth fixing? how could YOU let it go so easy? was that all made up and disposed already? was I that easy to forget?

I didn’t want those words to come out. I never do. I want to keep pretending that things are fine and that they will miss us. that we will miss us. and that when we come back, if we come back, things will be easier, purposeful, and real.

No lies allowed. Only a pass for the bathroom, a pass to obscure, a pass to lie low when aiming high is too out of touch.

I don’t know what this is or what it was meant to be. I’m just angry.

liberation

I feel her in the tea that I know by herb and not by brand, 

she’s glistening in shadows that hug the city. The mountains forget what time it is. 

they lose themselves in the clouds like when my tummy hurt at the beach and all I could do is

lay

lay

lay

looking up trying to figure out who was looking down

what is a God if not the desire to be perceived with purpose rather than objective

I can taste the centrism perceived by the gringos that laugh at the words I can’t pronounce,

they think they’re so smart to battle the tongues of all the women who could not speak,

I was carried in wombs that weren’t allowed to see

the sun 

pray to the stars 

// without // screams

I crave the land like I crave my mother

looking at the mirror and glaring at the teenager that mothered spirits born and unborn

carried weights of absent men 

formed regrets of pubescent care

yet

I see her in the blossoms down the street from my window

I see her in the gardens that I’ll sow with my kindness

I see her in the mirror when I drop an insult to my knees and let it roll melted in neurons

I see her in my wish for love when all I’ve felt is deprived of such

my hands are dry but the rain is full

What I bring to the table


the table holds knives that butcher my skin taking a lap
the breaths of gasp taking effect weathering goodbyes


“she’s awake, she’s awake
up the dose, up the dose!”

intubated by the season smells of rosemary
bees pollinating sucking dry tears of stalking
gawking recipes leaving residues of bloody posture
nailing promise into gaze i saw the light by mistake


“she’s awake, she’s awake
up the dose, up the dose!”


committed to the smell of heineken grew into my curves
cries at matinees restless of absence grains of regret
demanding pan de vida pa quien pa quien
the table weighs concrete blocks resting impaled hands
spheres touching touching m e n

“she’s awake, she’s awake
up the dose, up the dose!”


recovering addict wakes up in a bed imprisoned I felt
sutured promises melting thoughts holding flesh
it’s the gaze be the gaze it sends a flashy text
your absence cannot be felt
your act cannot be played
your amnesia has finally settled into my regret

“she’s awake, she’s awake
up the dose, up the dose!”

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