The Calderon Ballroom used to be the hub of community life in Phoenix, and it hosted everything from quinceañeras to wedding and birthday celebrations. Urban legends, such as the “Bailé con el diablo” cuento, became a part of El Campito folklore. It is believed that a young woman attended a party at Calderon’s and was dancing with the most handsome guy in the room.
“She was dancing away,” my dad told me, “drinking whatever he brought her. The dark haired man with the most expensive suit and the biggest wallet wanted to dance with her all night. But she notices as he pulls her close, the faint smell of rotten eggs on the dance floor. Worse, when he spins her around, she sees a horrible sight in the mirror. His forked tail is hanging out of his coat!” The story ends with the lady’s feet getting hot like coals, and her running out of there, never to be seen again.
Then, after telling me this story, he took us to eat at Calderon’s. I didn’t even want to go alone to the bathroom every time we visited for fear of seeing the devil in the bathroom, where, in fact, it did smell of sulphur.
When you try to place things, experiences and people in words, details that were clear become nebulous at best. So, it’s best to try to capture what the truth may be at that given time. This story is just a drop of life into the great ocean of life. It may just become a part of a giant tsunami; it may park itself somewhere as a lake – even a life that is stagnant and dark with moss might give birth if stirred with the right spoon.
Morbid best describes the way my mother talked about death. She talked about death as if it was her Friend. To me, it seemed that death was always on the outskirts, threatening my time with her. She would play strange games with me.
“What would you do if I died?” she asked me once as I colored in my superhero coloring book.
“Cry,” I said, not looking up at her. This question was not new. She would come and hug me and say Oh, you’d miss me? or kiss my cheek. But I was about 10 when she asked this time. My mind and heart battled separately and my mind, intent on the color red for Superman’s cape, refused to submit to the question. She continued to press, asking me what I would do after the crying was over.
“Maybe I would die with you?” I said. Separation from our little family of three would be impossible I thought. She looked at me.
“Well, ok,” she said. “But what about your life? Don’t you want to live?”
“Not without you.”
She considered this. “I know it might be hard, but people do die, you know. And kids go on living.”
I still didn’t look up from my drawing.
“Well, we’ll see when that time comes,” I said.
Take the temptation of your tears
Combined with the crisis point of the levees
Soon to be broken in your life.
Make this, not the distraction,
But the focus – the mirrors
So to speak.
The opportunity to tease
The fears that creep,
Trying vainly to destroy the satisfaction
Of your success;
This is the key to keeping
One step beyond
And turning weeping
Calm wins out
When the emotion threatens to overtake sanity.
Yet, do we really believe that calm brings equity?
Are oceans tossed or still?
What is the percentage of oceans raging and
The gross swelling of banks dismisses the idea
That calm wins out.
It just deceives the soul
Into a semblance of control.
So let go
Of your calm.
It’s not enough that I am strong.
Understand: my will is tested true.
I am stronger than the purest wrong.
And I didn’t know this until truth was tested.
For even when I know the right thing to do
By my own will, I am bested.
This has gone on too long.
My life is filled with trying,
To please yet another one.
And yet I am always crying
Bitterly refusing the light of the sun.
Participating in lying,
Until I am undone.
He makes me do what I never thought I would do.
He is a genius and a fiend of hearts.
Robbing me of my love, he pieces it out and takes me over.
What do you do when you know you have failed someone?
Do you simply give in to the bitterness of the offended?
Hurt constantly drilling a hole into your Psyche until blood, then water runs?
It doesn’t help.
The offense is great, and grace….not good enough.
Is it an answer to chastise yourself? Leave burns and marks for all to see?
What, then, brings relief?
Can failure breed excellence? Can I try someday, again?
Is every moment a fleeting moment, never to be recovered?
My very soul aches with the thoughts of loss.
The death of my dreams, the death of me.
Can I place all of myself in one word?
Where do I define this word?
Is it in a thesaurus or randomly seeking me?
Words don’t suffice when the other person is withdrawn, cold, outside the circle you try to create.
No matter how much you draw them in, the circle becomes smaller and splits
Like a zygote into twins.
These twin halves lie opposite of each other; at different poles.
Where one exists, can the other? Or do they drive each other away like magnets?
I feel you sleeping away inside of me like a giant undisturbed.
But if that giant wakes…
To come home today and hear your assertion that there will be no
Thanksgiving was like hearing, “There is no God.”
I pushed through to remember a conversation I had once where I responded to the questions of those who were passing through a time of grief.
I don’t know why this memory is strong. But it is a memory of people’s incessant questions to me…and to them I respond:
You ask me why…
And I say, “Just because I wanted to try to live.”
The ache and the pain I felt to the tips of my fingers and toes.
My throat was tight, my heart and chest hurt.
But I wanted to try.
So many years I felt dead.
There was no end to the sameness of existence. Years passed
Where I spent my time staring at beauty and not living in beauty.
Masks in museums were me.
And so I found hope in the little things of life, the small lives of
Other beings and insects.
I spared lives of ants for illogical reasons. I could not see “me” anymore.
I was murky; fully enveloped in the fog of grief.
But, oh, I wanted to still live, to breathe, to experience
The life I once thought I had.
Once, the sun shined for me.
And you came, too.
You lifted me from the past
But imprisoned me in the future.
And so I exist, trying to please, trying to do the right thing…
All because I want to try and live.
Is it fair?
I feel sometimes that I must escape my skin.
And I wish I could walk around as vessels and bones,
So that people could truly see the inner part.
There is beauty in blood. There is light in it.
The tendrils of vessels pulse with it.
There is life in blood. As long as
I am moving, I am alive.
And as long as I am alive,
I will do my best to stay that way.
For what use is happiness,
Without someone to share it?
I don’t think it even exists.
And you wait, sidelined by travel
And focused only on one part of me.
While my soul hopes and waits for more.
If I write this down, maybe my life will count.
Maybe it won’t.
I’m trying….I’m trying to live!
Once, I had the hope of a family.
How unimpressed I was by love!
How easily it came to me!
I turned away from Love,
Because it was so easy to get it.
I loved myself more than others,
And now, I love nothing of me.
Sometimes, the only saving grace is
The music in my soul.
It is inescapable. This is the blood of me.