We’ve been here before. I recognize that tree.

Maybe it’s the pandemic that has me riled up. Maybe it’s that the state is opening things way too quickly. Maybe it’s the spike in cases. Maybe it’s because I’m on a time frame. The sooner we reopen [redacted], the moment my time with my son ceases. There’s a lot to unpack here.

Last month, I posted several poems about identity. Namely, Latinx/Chican@/Hispanic (whatever you want to label them) poets talking about how they’re not seen as enough. And I relate to these poems because I’ve been there, still standing there, for the better part of my life.

I guess I’m considered “white passing” because I’m three shades too pale to match the stereotype. When I speak, I don’t carry that accent. Because I’m so Americanized that even my white friend in high school was in shock when he learned my real name.

I don’t speak Spanish. It doesn’t come naturally to me. But that never meant I can’t speak Spanish. It’s a skill for survival when your grandparents only spoke one language. When your favorite food comes from Mexican restaurants. When the majority of the population around you speaks Spanish. When you have Spanish-speaking patrons who need assistance.

I may not have enough to carry a full conversation with someone, but enough to have polite conversations and point them in the correct direction.

But now, after nearly nine years working at [redacted], the ability to do my job correctly has been called into question. And once again, I’m standing here trying to prove myself to my peers. Because they didn’t understand me in the first place.

When my city put out a shelter-in-place order, a few of us were relocated to a call center. When asked if I was comfortable with answering questions in Spanish, my response was, “No.” To which I added, “Because I’m not even sure I’m comfortable with answering these questions in English. I don’t understand the order.”

There wasn’t a lot to the order, but certain things contradicted previous or later things. For instance, people were told not to go out for nonessential reasons, but can still have a party at a relative’s home so long as there is no more than 10 people and they practice social distancing. Several business were exempt, but still had to submit plans. When asked for clarification, we got contradicting answers from several different officials. They didn’t even give us a script to follow, which is something call centers are known for in order to prevent misleading and vague responses.

I’m not being singled out in anyway. Other staff with issues have to improve their skills. What gets me is that I’ve been on this job for nine years and not once have I been unable to assist a patron. And when I can’t assist them, it’s for reasons that I wouldn’t be able to assist them in English.

Yesterday, I sat in front of my supervisor and a witness and spoke to them in Spanish. My tone was angry and annoyed. And I could see the change in the demeanor of my usually perky supervisor. And I saw the expression of uncertainty in the witness. Neither of them knew I could speak Spanish. Not proficiently, but enough to assist people. Enough to do my job.

Truth is, I’m not annoyed with any of the two. They’re pawns. Doing what they’re told. I’ve worked at [redacted] longer than the two of them combined. And my speech wasn’t for them, but for the two that put them up to this. So I amended it when necessary and left things out.

Especially my final words: “Si creen que no puedo hacer mi trajabo, me voy. Esto es mi dos-semanas.”

Mind the missing accents (if any), I can speak it but writing it still befuddles me. And as my supervisor (whose first language is Spanish) stated, it confuses her too.


Dear Diary,

Something happened. Something I swore wouldn’t ever happened. But it’s done. I’ve done it. It’s out there now and I can’t reel it back in. I created original characters and content for [redacted]. Which means, [redacted] now owns something I created. That’s how this works, right? You’re bamboozled into needing a job and the only people who want to hire you know you’re creative. And they spend years on you before they start asking for things here and there. It’s mostly PR related things, sure. But then the clincher happens and you’re asked to create something for them. Mostly because they’re afraid of copyright infringement. Which, they’re in the right to, because we’ve totally skirted the edge of that legality on more than one occasion.

While it’s been my intention from the get go to create new content, my goal was always to base it on characters my predecessor established. Just replace his writing flair with my own nuance.

But I adapted [redacted], a beautiful children’s book by [redacted]. And within my adaptation of the story, I added a new character that wasn’t featured in the original story? Why? Because I wanted to, that’s why. This character was voiced by V. And, sure, maybe I’m bias, but I loved her reading of the character. So when the director told me to stop using other people’s works for my puppet shows, I quickly thought, “Well, shit. I have a character already. Might as well use her.”

Thus R.F. was born. And today, I finished the first short story that I’ve written in ages. Mind you, this isn’t an original story. It’s based on Stone Soup, a folktale that’s been rewritten hundreds of times in different ways (most notably, by Marcia Brown).

If you don’t know the story of Stone Soup, let me give you the run down. So a new guy in town (usually three new guys in town) are hungry, but they can’t find anyone who is willing to just give them some food (shocker, I know!). So they settle down in the center of town and make a show of bringing out a big, old kettle. They fill it up with water and some stones, and light a fire underneath it. Of course, the townspeople are curious so they go an inspect what’s going on. No one’s ever heard of stone soup, of course, because it’s a flat-out lie. But the three guys sell it up. And people all want to try it. But there’s something missing. Potatoes. Someone volunteers that. Still, it’s missing something. And someone volunteers that. And the list continues until they made an authentic soup with the townspeople none the wiser.

But my story is met to set up a bigger tale with the characters created. While I won’t focus each new puppet show on the trio created for this rendition of Stone Soup, I do plan on using them a few times down the line. There are stories to be told and these just happen to be the voices that are speaking to me right now.

My only regret this work-for-hire business means I won’t be able to keep any of them should I leave [redacted]. We’ll see.


Simple Little Bookworm

There’s a question I hate and it’s been asked a lot. I’ve mentioned this before. At lunch, I settled down to the stir fry. Made it the night before for lunch in hopes that my bank account will thank me later. So after reheating it, I sit at the table. My copy of M. R. Carey’s The Girl with All the Gifts is left to just the side. Meaning to read it as I eat, of course. Though, I’ve never been able to read at eat. Watch TV? Sure. Play a video game? Yup. Work? Why not? But not read.

Most civilized societies know what certain social cues mean. An open book or wearing headphones/ear buds means the person is not open for a conversation. A closed book, on the other hand, means you’re about to get asked some personal questions. Questions that you’ve managed to dodge for a while now.

“So Guillermo,” the unwanted conversation starts, “are you in school?”

“No,” I respond.

“Why not?”

“Graduated already.”

The conversation veers a bit, but it’s back on track soon after. Why aren’t I looking into a graduate program? She thinks I would enjoy the library science program. It looks like it would suit me. “Have you thought about going into computers?” “Yeah, I thought about code before,” I say. It’s a half-truth. I did look into it and felt unbelievably bored looking at all the nonsense. Sure, it’s important nonsense; it’s just not the sort of nonsense I’m into.

“You’ll regret it when you reach my age,” she half concludes. How much older are you than me, lady? “Did you ever think about going back to college?”

“Sure. I thought about pursuing my MFA in creative writing. But I stopped writing a while ago.” Again, not entirely a lie.

“If I were you, I would have published a book by now.” Yes, because it’s that easy.

I finished my lunch. I grabbed my book. I left the lounge. It wasn’t abruptly. I’m not that rude. I hid in the supply room and read my book.

Work has been pulling on my nerves. Yesterday, I had a small lecture about a text sent after seeing nothing was set up the day because some oaf didn’t pick up after himself after Saturday’s event. The text was misconstrued as angry. I have to remember that this isn’t the team from the past. They’re not used to my nuances. They’re not too sensitive, and I can see how I was in the wrong. Suddenly feel like others are seeing me as the loaded gun with a hair trigger. It’s utter nonsense, I’m sure.

No matter, though. No matter how bad my day goes, our text message conversations eases it. We talk nonsense. We talk about work. We talk about whatever comes to our minds, whatever our imaginations give birth to.

And that’s something to look forward to.


Things to Come

Nothing dull ever happens at [redacted] even though most days pass at a slug’s pace. Friday, however. Man, fucking Friday. We often joke that life at [redacted] could fuel a television series for years—I imagine a cross between Seinfeld and The Office (UK or USA). And if our work life were a TV show, it goes without saying that Friday was the cliffhanger season finale. Maybe, one day, in the distant future.

Back in February, I started thinking about writing again. Something other than this blog and press releases for work. I’ve written a poem here and there. Nothing major. Just lines on the page that I hope will grow into something more. Of course, this gets me thinking about returning to college for an MFA in creative writing. It’s a thought that’s popped up several times in the past, but my bank account just doesn’t see it in the cards. Besides, there’s my relationship with Shaun that can be affected. My time is already divided between work and him with a splash of social life here and there. Throwing school into the mix will just place more responsibilities in the way. And right now, I’m trying to figure some shit out.

Then there’s the whole rust factor. This December marks the ten year anniversary of my college graduation. And all I have to show for it is a couple of press releases published in a weekly that doesn’t even hold my byline, one short story published in a college literary magazine, an essay published in a newsletter, this blog that only a few strangers read, and a job at [redacted] that becomes uncertain as the days go by. I’m not complaining. Not really. But something needs to give, right?

And, again, the realization sets in—all I do is complain about it. Complain about this stagnation. No one told me to stop writing. I chose to. No one told me to stop going to poetry readings. I sheltered myself. No one told me not to spend time on reading old works for revision purposes. I hid them away. I created the creative block—this Trumpian wall—in my mind to hinder myself. I don’t need a muse—shit, I wrote volumes of work before Jeanna. Before I even got laid in high school. And, yes, inspiration is nice; it’s just no one said it had to be romantic. Shaun inspires me every day to do things. I’ve painted more since he’s been around than I have in the years prior. I’m not good at it, but that doesn’t matter. I still do it.

Writing has always been my thing. As has storytelling. In elementary, I penned my The Munsters/The Addams Family-esque short story about a haunted house in which a family of weirdos lived. In high school, countless of compositions books went filled (and unfilled) with bad poetry. (I still have several of these, but I’m too afraid to even open them.)

It seems the trouble, lately, is getting started. That’s where the outline comes into play. In the past, I stood firmly against the outline. Writing should be a wild ride, a road trip without a planned destination. For instance, at the beginning of this post? No idea that I’d end up here. Just look at the intro paragraph. And I’ll by no means change it because that would mean changing this paragraph and I’m already done with this paragraph.

Will the outline help me? Who knows. But I’m willing to try anything. Either way, even with a road map, writing will still remain a wild, wild ride. It’s just that now I have an inkling of where I want to get to.


[Redacted] Strikes Again

[Redacted] will host an event that leaves me feeling uneasy. An event that borders on desperation. An event that plays on the desperation of others, actually. And while I want to go into depth about it here, I remain uncertain how safe this public journal is. With that aside, I should like to forget that I mentioned it here.

A couple of years ago, I went to the assistant director with an idea. A shot in the dark, I knew, but something worth exploring. A Book Riot podcast had introduced me to the concept of the Human Library™. I did the research. Several venues across the nation—nay—the world—were hosting their own Human Library events. All with positive feedback, I might add. It wasn’t enough, sadly.

The idea was scrapped and I never brought it up again. I told my friend, who would have been my partner in the venture, to try another venue. The passion for it still burns within me, but the anti-progressive [redacted] wasn’t ready for it.

And yet…

How am I supposed to feel about this? While it’s not on the same level as the Human Library™, this upcoming event carries the same premise. Two people who would never think of talking to each other are placed in front of the other. Instead of stamping out prejudice—something this country so desperately needs this year as Trump will be inaugurated in a matter of weeks—we’ll be playing some twisted literate cupid.

Am I pissed? You bet your sweet ass I am.


Clearing My Head

I’ve been thinking about going back to school these last few months. [Redacted] just feels like a dead end these days, and even if I were up to getting my MLS, that is the last place I want to use it for. I’m not even sure if the fools in charge are aware of running an art department along with a library (because, let’s face it, [redacted] is less and less a library these days).

I guess I’m bitter. With all the reports and memos and complaints filed at HR, nothing is changing. And while it’d be a dream to just up and quit, there are several responsibilities that need to be taken care of. School seems like a pipe dream. Besides, I’ve been out of the education system for so long. How will I adapt to going back? How much of my “knowledge” has been forgotten? These days I find it hard just to find the right word.

Nothing inspires me. A mixture of apathy and ennui, I am foggy headed.

Looking into MOOCs, I found a nifty one called Future Learn. I joined some courses and am getting back into the habit of having student responsibilities. Joining discussions. Taking notes. That sort of thing. None of these courses are worth a damn outside of knowing a little more on certain topics. They’re fun. Educational. Time consuming, but I’m working at my own pace. Which is something that going back to school wouldn’t allow me. Baby steps, right?