Ñ.

A few days ago, while thinking in the shower (where else?), I realized that the ñ in my last name isn’t there. Like, it does not exist anywhere. I confronted my mother.

Why didn’t you include la ñ in my last name on my birth certificate?!

Yo si lo escribi.

Obviously, you did not write it. Cause it’s not there!

Yes, I did! It was the state that didn’t include it. Ya, dejeme oir. She went back to the tv.

I was left flabbergasted. How. Dare. They?! Someone decided to ignore a crucial part of my last name and left me…with the last name Canola. Canola! Like the oil! I used to despise my last name growing up. Why couldn’t I just be a Cano like my cousins? I was teased – mercilessly – over it by my peers. I even smacked this shit out of a kid in middle school for making fun of it (and I’d do it again!). Something about it just didn’t sit right, man. Why?

CAUSE MY NAME IS MY NAME. And it’s not Canola. It’s Cañola! I hear my dad’s friends call him that and it sounds so cool to me. To say it, you reallyyyy gotta wanna say it, and with your tongue. Moreover, it’s part of our blood. It represents a lineage of hard working, ill-tempered, and hilarious people with dark hair and freckles scattered throughout their bodies. It ain’t no punk-ass’ last name, I’ll tell you that. My father doesn’t take shit from a single person, and I know it’s because to do so would be to dishonor his last name.

Is it dramatic to say that thirty-year-old Jax feels robbed of her identity? Forced to assimilate even her last name? Mufuckas wouldn’t even let me have my last name. I didn’t even know how to fucking write out the ñ on a keyboard until a few weeks ago when I messaged my cousin Nancy in an uproar at the revelation that I have been spelling my name incorrectly this entire time. Maaaaan.

Cañola. Jacqueline Cañola. That’s Jacqueline Motherfucking Cañola to you.

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A.

I stole a rose from a wedding yesterday and as I held it in my hand, I remembered the time I got into your car and, in my drunken stupor, grabbed a withering red rose from your dashboard.

Who gave you this? I jealously slammed it back into its spot.

It was from my cousin’s funeral, you explained. Always so goddamn calm, even in that moment.

Oh.

I don’t remember if I apologized. But even now, years later, I think about that moment and cringe in embarrassment. Years later, holding a rose reminds me of you. Lots of things remind me of you, all the time. Today – Father’s Day – reminds me of you.

The moment I learned you were a father always manages to pop into my head, uninvited. I had hopped onto your bed and boom: The way you did that reminded me of my daughter.

Huh? What? Who?

I was baffled and upset – how do we have a six-year friendship and you have a four-year-old daughter and I’m learning about this now? You asked why I was upset that you had a daughter. I tried to explain myself but I found myself unable to do so, because the truth would make me sound like a stage-five lunatic.

I am certain you will never read this, so I will confess. I am not upset that you have a daughter. I could never, ever be upset at the existence of a beautiful and innocent little soul. I could not be upset that you had a life outside of me, seeing as we weren’t together. I am hurt and sad that she is not mine. It hurt that I was not privy to the love and beauty that it took to create her. It made me sad, because in that moment, I realized I would never be the mother of your children, your wife, or yours.

In the middle of busy and loud Kartabar, when we had known each other for a short while, you looked into my eyes and wondered who your wife would be, what your future would hold, what your children would look like. Half of me shrunk into itself with hesitation: this conversation is far too intense for a first date. The other half knew, unequivocally, who she’d be: me. I had braced myself for the inevitable but that moment, as I sat cross-legged and wild-haired, shattered it all, for our relationship was never the same again.

Every rose, every wedding, every blue-eyed and rambunctious little girl remind me of you. Lots of things do, all the time. Mostly, the things I do not have.

Happy Father’s Day. And I am sorry about the rose.

English or Spanish?

Jackie, which language did you learn first: English or Spanish?

I learned both at the same time.

Ok, but, when it was time to go to college, did you still struggle with your English?

I was going to give you a moment to let that sink in, but I won’t. I know the majority of my readers, therefore I know that many of you speak/read/write in Spanish as well. So I wouldn’t be surprised if any of you have ever heard:

Oh, you write so well!

You don’t even have an accent!

You are so well-spoken!

But I don’t get it, how can you learn both at the same time?

The individual who asked me such an absurdity is college-educated, only a few years my junior. We are peers. And this peer cannot fathom the fact that I am proficient in two languages and don’t have a hard time with it. I must be frank: I was insulted at first. Me? ESL? But I am an English major! I could read and write in English and Spanish since I was four! One of my poems was featured in a creative writing anthology! Me? Then I started to wonder if my English was choppy. I talk so fast and I stutter a lot, that must be it!

Then I got pissed. Fuck whatever accent or lack of accent that I might have. Fuck what I know or how many fill-in-the-English-word test problems I can do or how many A’s I got on the fucking hundreds of essays I have written. My coworker implied that every person who speaks Spanish is stupid. They are incapable of processing words. They will struggle in high school and college and work because their parents taught them Spanish. Not just Spanish-speakers. But Creole and Japanese and French and anything not English. English English English. I love English but it is not a way to gauge someone’s intelligence. I love English but you can live your life just fine without it.

I take most things with a grain of salt and approach many experiences in my life with humor, and that is how I tell this story. But when I sit and think about it – really think about it – my blood boils. She insulted my mother and father, my sisters and family. She insulted so many of my friends and the students that I help. That person insulted my brethren. She insulted all of my people whose tongues hold orchestras of Spanish sounds. Since that day I have a grudge, and I need to get it out out OUT DAMNED SPOT OUT before I annihilate all of her preconceived notions with a few palabras en ingles. Because we know I could.

She is no better than me and I no better than she. Apparently, however, I am the only one of the two that thought so.

Ginkgo Biloba.

I’ve put on the chunk in the past couple of months (I blame it on the merriness of jesus’ birth and the anxiety of a Y2K repeat) so I am on a cleanse. I am avoiding sugar (except for pumpkin coffee bread, come oooon) and fried crap. The soda, alcohol and junk I have is minimal. I don’t believe in depriving myself, but realistically, to lose some weight and be an overall healthy individual, you have to cut out the majority of the bad stuff.

I’m eating a lot of green and leafy things. No dairy. Normal portions. I’m the glutton that continues to eat without being hungry, so I eat enough to allow me to live. Actual meals, not feasts. I speed walk around the high school like I’m running away from a rat and being on the third floor requires me to take the stairs. So, I’ve shed some pounds. My mojo is making a comeback.

I drink a lot of water, so for the past couple of days I have been incorporating a cup of tea, to mix things up and to prevent losing my goddamn mind. A lot of them are good for stress, headaches, and burning fat (ching ching!). I used up my coworker’s peppermint tea, so I grabbed a new one – ginkgo biloba, it’s called. I made myself a cup and tra-la-la’d to an ELL English class I help in twice a week. I sat and sipped my tea as the teacher yelled at a student for being…a student. Halfway through:

Bluh. Bluuuuh.

I felt it first and then I heard it. It was my stomach. I only got to eat half my sandwich, I must be hungry.

Bluuuuh. Bllllllllllll. Bbbbbbbb. Holy shit, what is happening?

You know how you clench real tight to minimize the bubbling sounds coming from inside you? I must have an ass of steel right now, the way I was squeezing these buns. I sat upright and the pain shot up my ass and through my spine. I slinked down into the desk and the pain punched my belly.

I dealt with the noise and the stomach pain and started to wonder what made me upset. Obviously, nothing, since I eat less than a damn baby bird. An hour later I walked back to our class, tail between my legs. I felt woozy. I’m unprofessional, so I brought it up to my lady coworkers.

Something made me sick, man.

Nah, it wasn’t anything I ate. I haven’t touched dairy.

Ugh, I might have to go home early.

To which one of my coworkers said, “Yeah, that tea you had? I looked it up. It’s supposed to work as a cleanser. Like, a digestive cleanser.”

Really? Really, god, mary magdalene and all the angels? Really, universe, galaxies and cosmos? Really, karma? Really, Jackie? All a girl wants to do is be healthy and this is what she gets? When I went on a cleanse I meant a bad shit cleanse, not a shit shit cleanse.

Fuck this diet. Coca-cola never gave me the runs.

Rey.

I hate Lana del Rey.

Not because she exudes mystery or because her nose is strange-looking, but because you said she was your favorite, perfect, and beautiful.

I remember the precise moment. You were making a right onto Newport Avenue and she came on the radio and you came out with that shit. I said that was strange because she wasn’t all that interesting. What I was really thinking is I look nothing like her. I am nothing like her. Since then, I have been jealous.

I used to like a few of her songs. So usually when I hear her voice your name pops into my head and I change the song real quick. Ever since then I blame her for our gradual realization that your idea of love and my idea of love are vastly different. I blame her for your terror of commitment and for my relentless insecurity. I blame her for past ghosts which we both pretend aren’t there but cannot outrun. I blame her for the time I cried lying beside you.

I also blame her for the times you made me shriek with laughter and when you played with my hair. I blame her ass for making me feel comfortable and open and vulnerable once again with someone. I blame her for showing me that liking someone doesn’t have to hurt. I blame her for not hating or regretting you, because you took my weak heart and gave it life when I needed it the most. You showed me that I can, and will, move on from the deepest of pains. Despite your faults and despite the outcome, you are a king amongst men, and few that I know compare.

So sometimes, when a Lana song starts, I turn it up and let it play.

Mistakes.

For those who have been rudely ignoring me (*ahem* all of you), I am currently serving as an AmeriCorps VISTA with the Pawtucket high schools, Tolman and Shea. Though I am getting paid, this is more of a volunteer position. Our goal is to connect juniors and seniors with jobs, internships, college resources, etc. It isn’t as easy as it sounds.

To keep it fun, I’ve already begun to infuse my ridiculousness. I looked at two students today and said, “I probably shouldn’t say this but…there’s a chance you might make a mistake.”

They looked at me, wide-eyed.

“A lot of us make mistakes. Picking the wrong school or major isn’t the end of the world, though. It’s okay.”

I figured I’d give the girls some truth. Or maybe I’m just bitter and cynical. I dunno, you tell me.

It is my job to expose them to different colleges and majors and careers and anything that will help them transition into the adult world. I want to encourage them to dream big, way bigger than what they have believed possible. It is also my duty, I believe, to prepare them for reality. You cannot predict, at 18, how your decisions now will affect you at 25. You do not know all there is to know, you’re 18. Some of us pick colleges or jobs that turn out to be what we expected – and more; others, not so much. There is no outline, no guide, no guru. The Oprah channel is a bunch of shit, don’t believe it. Life is not fair (*Mr. Schanck as he points to the poster on the wall*).

In 2005 I thought I was the bee’s knees and that I didn’t need college or a job or “the man” to be something. Turns out, that was a lie (*Maury Povich voice*). We all need a future. We have to feed our families, pay our bills, contribute to society. It took me two years of straight boozing, two years of total ass kicking at CCRI, three years of exhausting commuting to and from Boston, and a few months having a heck of a hard time finding a job to be where I am today. No one told me that I would graduate from a private university and be unemployed. No one told me my incredible looks weren’t enough to get me hired as a director of communications. Rude. Actually, yes, they did say it, but I’m as dense as a rock.

Fortunately, I now have a role that I enjoy, in the field of my preference, trying to make a difference within a demographic that is severely underserved. It is low-paying, however, so I need to supplement it somehow (and selling my body on Craigslist wasn’t working, obvi). So today I found myself in an interview for a weekend job answering “What are your plans for the future?”

Um. I might as well have driven into a wall at a buck fifty. Um. For some reason I hadn’t thought they would ask me that. I could literally feel the confusion on my face. I was tempted to respond with “I’m grown. Why are you asking me this?” But the truth is, I am not sure what will happen after my year with AmeriCorps is over. Will I serve another term? Will I be able to snag an awesome job? Will I travel? Will I write a book of short stories? I felt like an 18-year-old on a first interview. The voices in my head weren’t letting me think and my ass was getting sweaty. I answered as best I could.

I should get to thinking about it, though, for the sake of my future, but my head hurts and I have a knot in my neck, man. I’m just trying to make it to Friday. I can’t possibly know how my life will be in 5 years, much like 5 years ago I had no idea where I’d be now.

Anyway, after sharing a bit about myself, one of the girls said, “Wow, so it’s like you are going through what we are!”

Exactly. And will I make mistakes? You bet.