Nature vs. Nurture
Nature vs. Nurture

Between the Raindrops

by Annie V 2 years ago in immediate family

And they say… You’re an adult now, this is your new life. But I don’t feel so brand new, not at all. As time flies by, these things become your new reality.

Between the Raindrops

And then I hate you. I hate you because you took everything that was us out of that house. Everything that was us — that was our family. You went and you tore it down and tore it out of our lives, out of my life, without a second thought, without any concern or understanding of what you had really done.

If there was one thing that was always constant, always enduring, was when my whole world around me was changing — changing way too fast, crumbling down to its infinite pits — I was able to go home. I was able to go home and everything there would be just as it was, just the same as always. Everything there held me steady. The way it looked, the way it smelled, the way it felt. It reminded me of who I was. Who, I’m not sure if I still am. It reminded me of who and where I came from, and where I always wanted to be.

That intrinsic, and very hopeful, pattern of paint you brought to life in the office room and in the family room: same pattern, different colors, same homey feeling. It was so dingy but just as much so, it was gaudy, it was perfect. Because it came from you, because you made it. Because you looked at what you had and you invented something better, you created something original, something no one else would have painted in their house, something personal and you did that for us, you did that for our home. You took that paint, you took what you were given, and you sought out wonders. How all the rooms in the house had their own color, their own charisma, their own aura; still somehow managing to weed together and feel like home. Each room possessing something one has, but another doesn’t. Each room conserving their own memories whilst perpetually making more and more each day. Even the little ones. Even the bad ones. And in each room, a reason to commemorate; a safe haven. A reason to look ahead into the uncharted world that lurks outside your door and allows you to be fearless, untouched. To be everlasting no matter where the world may cast you.

The way the office was so cluttered in that one corner of the room with the broken treadmill. The one we got because you decided we were all getting too fat, but no one really gave a shit, so it just became a toy we would play with until it finally broke and we kept it there for a while. And after that, that's when everything started piling up and became a mess, but only in that one corner of the room. And it drove me crazy when I would step in the room and see it and I thought someone should pick it up but I never wanted to be the one and at the same time I didn’t want to clean it at all because I still knew where to find everything I ever needed in that perfect mess. And you would always talk about “cleaning out and getting rid of all the crap in the house” but I had never offered to help and you had never gotten around to it and I smiled every day I would see that mess because that was us.

And my favorite room in the house was the kitchen with it’s tacky walls that matched the counters and the table, but not quite the cabinets because the paint was faded and a little chipped on some parts. In the same way, it was also ugly, but so perfect because it was us. It was our kitchen my whole life up until now. It was where dad had to sit in his chair every night when we used to eat as a family for dinner and he always made us get up if we tried sitting in it. And behind his chair we hung our artwork of all your very brilliant children as we were growing up, and they were actually very bad, but we were so little and you loved it and I felt so defined when you would hang them up. Even when I was older, and even when I pretended I didn’t care. It was where you made us do bible study as a family before we ate and you tried to make us all participate in the devotion but instead we laughed at dad the whole time. Every time he tried to pray. And I pretended like I hated it but actually I loved it. I loved it because for some reason I like you guys, and I loved it because we were finally together at the end of every day. And we would make fun of you, mom, as you lead the conversations and dad rarely spoke but when he did he would always say a really bad joke to try and fit in with us. The room grew silent and awkward, and we’d all kind of just look around at each other. Then his laughter would pierce through this impenetrable awkward silence that followed that terrible joke. And then there was really nothing else we could do as his kids but respect the big fat alligator for having so much courage as to say something so stupid, and we’d all laugh anyway because most of the time nobody even gets the joke or knew what he was talking about, and we would bully you and dad because it was the only way we could always really ever get along and you and dad would allow it because were a family and that's what we do, that was us. It was where we would all call dibs on which chore we were going to do as soon as dinner was over, because we absolutely had to help clean up and there was no getting out of it. Except for Amanda, daddy’s little princess. She would offer him a foot massage if it would take the place of her chores for the night, and almost always he would get suckered into it. It was where, when he didn’t, Amanda was no where to be found at dinner time. It was where I refused to sit and eat dinner knowing I would have to do double the work if she wasn't there, so I would go and find her. And it was where I found her crouched behind the couch in the living room, where she offered me the deal of a lifetime if I didn't tell. And it was where I shamelessly turned her in, without a second thought, and she got stuck doing all of our chores for pulling a stunt like that. And I would look up from the TV and into her eyes, and smile deviously with my box of apple juice as she swept the floor beneath my feet. Because that's what we do, that was us.

My room, of course, was very precious. It was pink with fairy wallpaper for years until Amanda and I finally painted it ourselves a dark deep blue that I fell in love with. Amanda would paint barefoot because she didn’t want to mess up her socks. But I had no choice but to wear my socks. I had to conceal what I had branded on myself at the age of 17 because you didn’t approve, and because you didn’t know. It was where I would always try to rearrange the furniture myself, because I wanted something different and I would always break the headboard and dad would get mad and have to buy a new frame. I broke it once. Amanda and I broke it twice together. We would dance together in that room at night to Uncle Kracker and Usher. We never really had any rhythm but we were always fun being silly, and laughing, and always so, so happy. It was where dad walked in on us when she was teaching herself how to "booty dance" and things got awkward really fast. It was where dad gawkily stumbled back out of the room pretending he didn't see, and where I lay on the bed laughing so hard, cranberry juice came out of my nose. It was where she ironed my hair for me the few times I would ever want to. Always so happy when she did my hair but not without those burn marks on the back of my ear that came into being in the process. It was where I laughed when my sister was around and cried a lot when she wasn’t. It was where we used to play hide and go seek in the dark with my brothers and sisters and sometimes cousins and neighbors. We played with blindfolds for the "seeker" and would actually completely disregard the real objective of the game, and just end up just beating the shit out of each other with pillows. Especially the ones who were wearing the blindfold. It was where we bribed those very people not to cry and tell on us that we were beating the shit out of each other with pillows, because that's what we do, that was us. It was where I would write and then throw away and write, and throw away because nothing was ever good enough. Because I didn’t want anyone to see. It was where I would pack clothes I wouldn’t need and food I didn’t eat and I would jump out my window and run away. It was where I would come back when dad went out and found me and drove me home. Me willingly, and not willingly. It was where I would then be grounded for a long time without my phone, and where you and dad would come in and make amends, even though, most of the time, I was wrong. It was where I would harbor stray animals for hours, sometimes days until my dad found out and made me give them away because we already had too many animals. It was where I would dream about my life every night before bed. All the good and all the bad and all I ever wanted. Plotting, scheming, hoping, wondering, dreaming. Feeling sad, feeling happy, feeling curious. Feeling shameful, feeling abandoned, feeling loved. Feeling hopeless, feeling uplifted, but always feeling safe. Safe as I reminisced. Safe as I dreamt. Safe and sound as I slept, my sister in the bed right beside me, in my crumbling, perfect world.

The bathroom next to my room is supposed to be the one place of privacy where, in our family, you never get any privacy. Where everyone would pick the locks to get inside and walk in on each other, just to put their dirty clothes in the bin, or grab a tampon, or brush their teeth while someone was showering. Where you and dad would always shower because your tub was broken all those years that you never bothered to fix. Because always you would spend that money on something for us, instead. Where someone at least four times a week would forget a towel and sit there yelling for someone to bring them one. Where they would just end up sitting on the toilet and air drying because the six other people who lived there all pretended they couldn’t hear them calling. It was where you would bathe us when we were very little and crying, because we had been very bad and dad had to spank us. And we would sit there and cry and act like a victim and try to wheedle you in to our side so that you would feel bad for us. We would beg and we would plead and you would put us down gently because you always stood by your husband’s side. And deep in our hearts we knew we were wrong. It was where I would look at myself in the mirror before hopping in the shower. Looking at my body but staring at my face. Hoping that I’m beautiful, praying that I’m strong.

The boys room could have been found in the same hallway as mine. It was a lot more cramped than mine and Amanda's, but they had our hand-me-down bunk bed that allowed for more space in their room. With their blue walls and kiddie athletic wallpaper that ran across the middle of all four walls, I was always so jealous. I didn’t think that just because we were girls we had to have ridiculous fairies that surround us on our stupid pink walls. I figured I was entitled to a blue sports room, just as David was. It was where David would throw his fits when he didn’t get his way and yell from his room about how he was gonna kill himself. He was six years old and a prisoner in his own frame of mind. He was quite the character: unstable, very insecure; a genius. But never wicked, only hidden. And it was where he knelt before his bed with you and prayed and prayed for a little baby brother because he was tired of only sisters. And it was where he would roll over in his bed at night with closed eyes, where he first began stumbling into his confounding faith when God had consummated his plea. It was where shortly after, baby Daniel slept a few feet away in his crib. Wide awake in the night, but never making a sound… Too young to even imagine how loved he truly was, how absolutely precious. Little baby Daniel: our answered prayer; our answered faith. It was where I would sneak into after rolling my corpulent little body out of my own bed. I would pick him up, along with my jar of peanut butter, and take him back to my room and set him down on my bed where I ate straight out of the jar with a spoon. We would lay beside each other quietly, as he was so still. And I would hum to him softly until he was finally at rest in the arms of my own.

Alisa had her own room because she was the oldest. She was always separated from the rest of us, but that was her own doing. Her room was even further away than all of ours. A room you wouldn’t even know existed unless you walked to the very end of the house by the family room to discover a dark brown door in the corner of that room behind the TV. Through that door was where she would sing. David would demand her silence from across the house, and she would respond by closing the door. But when I got very lucky, she would accidentally leave it a little open, and so I would crawl behind the couch and squat down so she couldn’t see. And through the crack of her door I would watch her as she would devise the most beautiful things I would ever hear. I would watch her as she paced the floors of her room. She would talk to herself and then laugh at whatever it was that she was saying. Amanda concluded that she was absolutely insane. I concluded that she was irrevocably beautiful. I would watch her when she would write things down in her journal. And I would watch her when she would look at herself in the mirror. She was so angelic, but she was so disguised. Never allowing others to see what she didn’t want them to see. It was where Alisa was in charge of babysitting us when you and dad went on a date together. Where she would find any no good reason to punish us and send each of us to our rooms just so that she would have the house to herself. It was where I saw her cry after her big breakup. You crouched down at her bed beside her as she clung to her pillow. Back against the wall, she faced the door. It was where I cautiously tried to push the door open, but I pushed a little too hard, and it squeaked a little too loud, and you both looked up and found me standing in the open doorway with nothing to say. And you delicately asked me to wait in my room. It was where I stood, feeling feckless and ashamed, staring into the broken eyes of my grieving sister. And it was where I stood in the empty blue room, when Alisa had moved away for college. Amanda worshipped this day so that she could move into Alisa’s room, but I feared it and I dreaded it, and when she left, a piece of me left with her. A piece that even through the years I have yet to meet again.

You and dad's room was always so warm. Dad liked it very dark with the blinds closed and you would complain how we aren’t "bats in a cave" and you would open them again. The light from outside would seep through the dusty blinds and shine bright on your dark wooded king size bed. Where dad would snore so loud you had to sleep with headphones on. It was where all five of us would fight over who will sleep with you in your room when dad was away on a business trip because you said only one of us at a time can. It was where we would all agree to this but then somehow all of us would end up on your bed together, cuddled up beside you to spend the night. It was where Alisa once found you and dad expressing your faithfulness alone in your room and it scarred her for life. It was where I would go over to wake you up in the middle of the night because I didn’t want to be alone, or because my asthma was acting up and I needed you to set up my aerosol machine. It was where I would stand and wait for you to leave so that I can take your place next to dad in bed. You would go and get me a warm towel with vix vapor rub to put beneath my shirt to help open my chest so that I could breathe. And while you were gone, I would obnoxiously turn on that blazing thing while dad was asleep because I have no consideration for anyone, and because I wanted both my devoted parents to be awake and baby me. It was where he would wake up and look at me dead in the eyes, only to find me already innocently glaring back at him. It was where my asthma would get so bad I would ask you if I was dying. And you would look back at me with assurance and humor in those eyes, and brush my hair, and grin admirably before you said, “No, you're not dying, Ana.” And I knew that I probably wasn’t. But that if I was, it would be okay, because I would have died in the arms of my savior. It was where on other nights we would all sit at the edge of your bed together and watch movies. Dad the first to fall asleep and ruin the movie for all of us because he snored so damn loud. So I would time it just right and clap really loud and then hurry to fix my eyes back on the screen and pretend like nothing just happened, as he awoke in a panic. It was where that would buy us another ten minutes to watch the movie before he fell back asleep. And it was where I would do this four or five more times until the movie was over, and our devious little bodies would part ways, leaving your room with dad still tired, and very confused. It was where me and Amanda would bring our cochitas and lay together in your broken bath tub. I would babble on and on about absolutely nothing, and ask questions about ridiculous things, and Amanda would close her eyes and suck on her bottom lip, completely ignoring everything coming out of my mouth until we both fell asleep, all of my questions unanswered. It was where we both lay limp in the morning, still dead asleep, as you dressed us both for school, one by one, and dad poured us cereal for breakfast. Or made us toast. Or chocolate milk. My favorite people in the world took care of us more than themselves. So selfless, so committed, so amorous… My parents… My certainty, my faith, my pillars; my life.

The family room was where we would set up our fake christmas tree every year, because it was less of a hassle. On Christmas day we would force ourselves to eat as much as we could of your burnt cinnamon buns before we were allowed to open our presents. Where the five of us would tear off the same three-year-old wrapping paper off our big, expensive gifts because dad thought he knew exactly how to love us with all his glorious money. It was where we would host our very own picnics in the summer when you didn’t have to work. We would set up a blanket and go to Publix to buy sandwich stuff and Pringles and store them inside of that old picnic basket. Then we would set it on our blanket and watch movies that I can’t remember for the life of me. Because food and you guys was all it took to really hold my attention. It was where always one of us was in a bad mood and would sit all the way at the corner of the room and pout and pity themselves while the rest of us casually carried on, fully aware of the crybaby in the corner of the room. It was where we would play that racer game you got us so very long ago. It was controlled with an actual steering wheel as opposed to a regular remote. It had a pedal and a break, and the nob to switch gears and we would compete our way to who is gonna do whose chores the following day. It was where we would either cheat or take that loss, and then somehow disappear the next day when it was time to pay our dues to one another. It was where you and dad forced us all to take piano lessons when we didn’t wanna sit still. Amanda and Alisa, of course — the victorians of the household — would sit properly and play perfectly and would be rewarded with all the cool stickers like the ones that said, “Good Job!” or “Awesome!” David and I, of course, always needed more practice, and we would get loser stickers like the ones that said, “Keep practicing” or “Almost there!” It was where I found a way to cheat instead of actually memorizing the keys on the piano, and where no matter how many shortcuts I tried to take, I learned that only hard work is what will bring you to an incandescent brilliance. Or more importantly, what will make me shine brighter than Amanda for a change.

And the backyard where we almost always hosted the family parties: Thanksgiving, Noche Buena, Birthdays… Where at nine years old I took it upon myself to set up the bar in the back under the patio with all the drinks, and if someone wanted a soda or a beer or some water, I was in charge of serving them. It was where I set out a tip jar because I was trying to earn money for a new basketball. It was where I learned that our family wasn't very generous. It was where we would play Spanish music and the men would play dominoes and smoke cigars while the women drank wine and exchanged memories. And while the memories were fun to indulge in, I was always drawn to play dominoes with the big boys and smoke cigars with the older men, but dad never let me. So I would ditch the bar and pull up a chair to watch, or grab them another beer when theirs was running low. It was where that one uncle would get way to drunk and take things way to seriously when he got too worked up playing NFL Madden or Guitar Hero with all the little kids, and we had to tentatively send him out of the room. It was where we had our own personal playground by the patio that we would play in, or take our Christmas photo there, before it got infested with bee hives or start to reveal the old, splintered wood and we had to take it down and throw it out. Where we wanted a pool for many years and almost got dad to say yes until you got pregnant, and then he said he didn't want a new baby around a pool so instead we got a trampoline. It was where we would rush home every day after school so that we can play "popcorn" or double jump each other. But just when we thought we were going to have some potentially dangerous fun, dad didn't forget to buy such a lethal toy for us unless we had the big ass safety net that surrounded the damn thing. But we would use it so much, the net started to fall, and so dad's safety net had taken a turn for the worst, as the big metal poles didn't have anything holding it together anymore. So we removed the rest of the net so that the poles would swing side to side over our heads as we jumped, and we made it into a game, so that whoever got clobbered in the head first, was out. And we would leave the battle field with bumps, bruises, and scrapes. It was where Sammy’s paw print left a mark in the cement by the end of the patio. Where I would go to trace my hand print next to his, and I would bow my head and close my eyes and pray that he had gone away to doggy heaven. It was where dad bought another motorcycle to remind him of his adolescence. He bought all the helmets and the jackets and the boots and the bandana, but he rarely took it out. He would maybe take it to the park for some frozen lemonade and then rush home before it rained. Or before it got too dark. He would wash it, and he would polish it, and he would cover it back up and store it away until it was precisely the right time to be free again. And it was where we kept all of our bicycles until we would ride to tropical park together as family. Dad in the front of us all for control, mom at the end for reassurance. It was where Amanda and I would compete for tricks while riding to see who has better balance, and it was where she always won, except for when her bike handle got caught on a vine when she was going too fast, and sent her flying backwards and off her bike, and onto the ground, where I would immediately stop to be at her side. It was where the same thing would happen to me but she would keep peddling and only looked back to make sure I can see her laughing. It was where it had taken me many burning years to understand her humor in my errors, and where she taught me that it wasn’t that she didn’t care, but that she had good faith that I could stand up again on my own.

But now the walls are white and dull and tell no stories. None of our lives, none of our past, and none of our future. Our lives have been erased by the sweep of a brush and no longer am I guarded and kept safe forever within the the walls of that home. Everything we are has been severed from that house: detached and eternally lost. Just as you built, you destroyed. And I hate you because you did that.

***

And they say… You’re an adult now, this is your new life. But I don’t feel so brand new, not at all. As time flies by, these things become your new reality. But I am still going through everything I’ve been going through since I was fifteen years old, but where has the time gone? Now, where is the place that I can go to be brilliant, golden. Where is the place that I can go to be fulfilled, to be whole? These things came from me not when I missed it most, not when I wanted it most, but when I was finally ready to let go of it. It is not what surrounds me that will define me or tell my story. It is precisely what comes from myself because of the previous years. It is who I became because of these things. Because of these things that are, in fact, everlasting. It is in my bones, and it is in my blood. This was when it became simple:

I am, and will forever be, from leather, from Spalding. I am from the boisterous beings and rebellious customs of peaceful chaos. I am from the sand, the ocean. Brilliant crashing waves against the shore, and heated gritty sand under my toes. I’m from brunch after church on Sundays, and round almond eyes from Alina and the Velasquez’s. I am from the accident prone and constant support. From "make good choices" and "because I said so." I am from weakness, blind faith, and longing. I am from reliance, and from visible, inevitable love and devotion. I’m from Cuba, and Miami with full bodied dead pigs on the table before Christmas Holidays, and Reese’s Carvalanche sundaes every Wednesday nights. From the little cousin cries while sleeping on camping trips with Tio hushing savagely and then justifying it with a: “…remember…Tio loves you.” And my sisters and I constructing masterpiece shows in the living room for the expecting playgoers. Us child geniuses: beautiful little prodigies. I am from old traditions, and newer beginnings. I am from an overly involved, beautiful mother; a demanding, overprotective father; aspiring sisters, and desirous brothers…whose pictures all cloak the walls of our new home.

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Annie V

Even though I stand still, this passion is a passage. If it takes longer, it hits harder. You haven't started your trip.

See all posts by Annie V