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My favorite horror movie is Scream, a flick from the nineties where blondes and stupid men run up the stairs, trying to escape the sharp blade of The Ghost, a masked and crazy dude who comes from a dysfunctional family that is ten times more fucked up than mine.

I came out pretty ok, so I guess there was some degree of sanity in my household.

Before I came to America, I’d never dressed up for Halloween, or even for The Day of the Death, the Mexican equivalent of said celebration. In fact, I don’t even remember if they use costumes down in Mexico.

The first time I tried to mingle or pretend I was thrilled by the idea of being anybody else for one day, I went to the local K-Mart and bought the disguise from my favorite movie. That was my first Halloween in America back in 2005. I spent that day in Isla Vista, brought the costume with me, and put it on in a public restroom. It was already late when I was off, two in the morning, but people were still walking around, having fun.

Once I was ready, I looked at myself in the mirror, tilted my head to the sides, slowly, just like the character in the movie. I got lost for a second, looking at those hollow eyes. I walked out of the restroom and almost tripped over a short, skinny girl who had on a Wonder Woman costume, Absolut vodka on her right hand, and obvious drunkenness on her face.

She wanted to yell, but an inopportune hiccup got in the way, and she almost threw up on my face. “I’m sorry! I’m Sorry! I’m sorry!” she said, holding the half-empty bottle in front of her. Or half-full, it depends on your personal view in life. I wanted to say that it was ok, but I couldn’t. I didn’t speak English at that time, but I did know the meaning of the word ok. What I did instead was surprising to me and scary for her.

I tilted my head to the sides like the character in the movie.

Her eyes peeled open. “I’m gonna go now,” she said and staggered into the restroom.

I smiled behind the mask.

What was left of the night was boring and monotonous. I tried to scare more people, but many of them were not easily scared. I got bored. My first Halloween in America was depressing. But there was one thing I kept with me. It wasn’t the costume. It was the idea of being anybody else for one day.


It had already been a year since the first time I came to Santa Barbara. My hair loss was beginning to be conspicuous, so I decided to hide the truth with the hair I had in the middle of my head. It worked out for a couple of years; I looked like Albert Einstein minus the 160 IQ.

That morning I spent too much time looking at myself in the mirror. I began to feel worried when I realized I’ve been doing that a lot. Was I losing it? Maybe. I guess there is not a real limit for crazy. The thought of being anybody else was still in my head, but it almost felt incongruent, vague. I didn’t want ‘to be myself,’ like many people say on TV. That was vague, too.

“What do I want to be, then?” I asked myself while still looking at the mirror.

“Anybody else,” I answered my own question.

See? There is no limit to crazy.

That day my uncle Max came and picked me up and drove me to Los Angeles to spent two days with them. A warm plate of lasagna waited for me at his house, as well as the family members I’d met the first time I was there. I also spent some time with my uncle Pedro and my aunt Gloria. I felt strangely happy.

And I say ‘strangely’ because I don’t feel happy most of the time.

My uncle Max asked me an important question. “Are you planning to go back to Mexico?”

We were in his living room at that moment, watching Cat Woman on his flat-screen TV. The other relatives watched Halle Berry kick ass in her latex costume while my uncle waited for me to answer his question.

“No,” I said after a brief moment of hesitation. “Maybe visit sometime, but I don’t want to live down there anymore. Too much crime.”

“Then it’ll be good if you start thinking of a career,” he said. “You don’t want to be a dishwasher for the rest of your life, do you?”

That question made me think of Jenaro. He also asked me that once.

“No,” I said, “that doesn’t sound like a good idea.”

“So, what do you want to do?” My uncle Pedro joined the conversation while Cat Woman was looking at me from the flat-screen TV.

I thought of Esmeralda. We had a similar conversation a year ago. “I could be a writer,” I said. “Go to school, learn English.”

“That’s a good idea,” Uncle Max agreed.

While everyone decided to pay attention to the movie, I thought about the first paragraph I wrote in my journal, especially the phrase: an unimaginable amount of willingness to triumph, to succeed.

Ok, I thought, this is what I am supposed to do.

When I came back to Santa Barbara, the first thing I did was to go to City College and apply for the ESL Spring 2006 course. It looked like something awesome was about to happen in my life.

Christmas and New Year’s Eve:

I spent Christmas in Santa Barbara and New Year’s Eve in Los Angeles. It was fun to be everywhere, meeting new relatives I would’ve never met if I hadn’t come to America in the first place. I’m sure this has happened to many people; you find yourself walking on a random street, and you see someone on the other side, and there is this feeling inside you that seems to recognize that person. But you can’t do anything about it because you two haven’t actually met before. Every time blood calls, we are deaf. And that’s ok. Sometimes it’s better that way.

When I came back to Santa Barbara, after having spent another wonderful day with my newfound family, I was playing in my head all those conversations I’d had about the future. It looked as if that was how my life would be from then on, always focused on the promise of a new and better day.

I didn’t know if that was good or harmful. I had to find out later on.

I was still looking at myself in the mirror, thinking about being anybody else. I had a little bit of clarity this time, and that was good. In fact, I had it wrong. It wasn’t about ‘being anyone else’ but becoming a better version of the person I was. My relatives were right. I didn’t want to be a dishwasher for the rest of my life. I was still me, and the truth was I hated everything about my life. But I had to be positive.

The most exciting chapters of my life were just around the corner.


Photo by Vladvictoria.

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