a consumption of time

a consumption of time

February. 

Spots and splashes of yellow, purple, blue, and grey grew in vibrancy as each day passed. The bruising. The aftermath of a trauma that I failed to fit neatly under a two inch bandage. 

I fell hard. Against a marble trimming. I woke up in a daze, convinced I was no longer living. My world, muffled and translucent. I rose slowly, using my hands to help me. Oh god, I was getting blood everywhere. I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror. I should have been horrified, but I was very calm. I called an uber. I picked a random pair of clean underwear to press against my wound. A sock didn’t feel as clean. I checked myself into the emergency room. 

I left with seven stitches and a tylenol prescription. It was snowing. I swore I died that day. My head was heavy, but my feet were light. An overwhelming sensation that my angels walked me back to Earth.

I returned home, alone. Prepared a bowl with detergent and water. I prayed over it. I found a rag. I cleaned the blood off the floor. The trimming. The phone charger. The door knobs. The bathroom sink. 

June.

A few months after the stitches were removed, I fell again. This time I was in the East Village by a mural of Mickey Mouse. I remember knowing it was going to happen. In preparation, I took off my air pods, put them in a clenched fist and brought myself closer to the sidewalk. A man woke me up. I hit my head but I could still see the world clearly. I said thank you and walked myself to the CVS.

A man in the store told me I wasn’t allowed to use their restroom. I begged. He told me to go to the restaurant across the street. Instead I walked to the make-up aisle by the cotton balls and facial pads and laid down. Soon enough, I would muster enough energy to go home. I was a long way from the Bronx.

September.

It was different this time. I wasn’t alone. We were in line at a comedy show. I knew now the cries of my body, the ones that preface my falls. Maybe if I make it to that wall? I thought before falling head-first– crashing into the pavement. I was told afterwards my eyes did not close. My arms straightened. My muscles tense. My neck, stiff. I literally froze. Blacked out. Next thing I remember was a splash of water. Strangers circled around me, yelling at me. You have to go to the hospital, they’re words zoomed through my mind. I didn’t care. I’ve been here before. I just wanted to be home. I left before the ambulance came.  

The day after I was utterly, terribly, incredibly sad. Depressed. Hurt. I was attracting chaos. In one year, I passed out three times (or seized– I’m still not sure). Each time felt like death. Each time, a transformation.

I’ve learned throughout my life that the pain of my body is not detached from the pain of my mind or my spirit. My body was a crackling vessel. An earthquake emerged to the surface. A liquified state. A constant questioning.

October.

After all these incidents, the gash is now a subtle scar. The bruising is long gone. Yet the concussions still showed itself in the words lodged in my throat. I burned palo santo each rising, allowing the smoke of burning wood to caress my neck. An attempt to free the misplaced words. I closed my eyes, one hand holding smoke the other my stomach. 

I felt drained, bloated, and unwell. Heavy. I was not moving my body like I used to, the world was not as clear as it used to be. I spent weeks this year in the dark, healing from head traumas. I had a lingering headache, a perpetual fog. I was in desperate need of a change. My body was begging for me to let go of what was not serving me. I held an incessant need to heal my body. This time it wouldn’t be from within, but from without. 

It was October, the day after the end. My shower lasted an hour. Sounds of thrusting water, heavy rain, and car horns orchestrated the soundscape to my steaming tub, skin, fingers. I was standing in my room now, in front of the mirror. I pulled my wet hair into a bun. I found my softest clothes. I put them all on. 


I bought strawberries. Some coffee. Ginger. Guava. Although, that was his favorite. I don’t take a bite. I had every intention of doing so, but instead I let time consume them. 

I watched a movie. I remember the words of the protagonist. She spoke of a time when she put her brain to rest. She was studying in the United States when she realized she didn’t understand the language or the culture very well. She didn’t have too many friends. She spent a lot of time by herself. It was then, when she felt free of the noise… when she began to write again. Abundantly. Quickly. 

I laid. I cried. A grieving, snotty kind. A yearning. I wanted to call him. But that wouldn’t feel good either. I tried crying more. Stretching my limbs this way and that. I stretched my jaw. Pursed my lips, stretched my neck. My shoulders. I took a deep breath. I stuck my tongue out. I closed my mouth. I got on my knees. Lowered myself . Child’s pose. I tried again. Ommm. I was gonna be sick. I walked to the shower. I bathed again. 

I covered myself in oil. Lavender and chamomile, the last few drops from the bottle we shared together. My skin gleamed, still a little pink from the hot water in which I cleansed. I watched beads of oil drip down my shoulders, my hips, my chest, my back. I reached up, tippy toes. Stretched out my joints, pouring the last few drops of the oil we shared down my back. I rubbed the scent across my legs. My toes. The space between my fingers. My face, my hair. Letting it all go. I threw the empty bottle away.

November. 

Laura told me anger is powerful. Women are taught not to lean into their rage. We should. We should yell, we should scream. We should come into community with sisters who will be enraged for us. My mother was my rage for a long time, before I ever was. My cousin was my rage, when I didn’t know if I should endure or fight through a relationship that would inevitably end. My sister was my rage. Laura was my rage. 

As I sank in sadness, in the static state of my desperation to be free of pain and sadness and woe. The women around me held on to my sorrow firmly enough to lift me up into something else. I allowed the rage in. This physical, this emotional, this spiritual pain. Impossible to neatly bandage, was in the open. I allowed it into the physical realm. These words I once misplaced rose again through my body. They were not lost, but lodged. In the back of my throat. Waiting for a good scream, a solid yell, a true release of expectation to be freed. My anger pushed me into a harsh self reflection where I inquired: how was I complicit in all of the spiraling shit that was 2021? 

A question that let me take the power of my pain back. How was I complicit? 

December.


Two days after the end of the semester, I fell again. This time, into a deep sweat. My body turned feverish, cold, hot, congested, trembling and aching from the virus. I forced myself to sleep. To eat. Then to sleep again. I slept for six days. I healed, and I am still healing. 

Two concussions and a positive covid test later, there is no neat conclusion. The metaphorical spots and splashes of yellows, purples, blues, and greys won’t fade. I won’t let them. I’ll carry these colors with me into next year, unsure what this palette will transform into next. 

Soon, I will return home. Prepare a large bowl with part water, part detergent, and part oils. I will pray over it. I will use my hands to splatter the mixture across my home. I will mop. I will burn sage. I will write more. I will paint my kitchen blue. I will pour love, abundantly. Gracefully. I will walk, confident that my angels are taking me exactly where I need to be.

“I wait.”

“I wait.”

I am 9.

I am hidden underneath the bathroom sink. Maybe if I hide, she’ll forget. Mami was downstairs, by her side a bowl filled with mayo, olive oil, and two eggs. Last time, I had to leave it in my hair for four hours. Trails of mayo leaked from my plastic wrapped head down my neck, shoulders, forehead. I don’t want to, I don’t want to, I don’t want to. 

Mami found me. You’ll be beautiful.

I am 11.

PLAP. PLAP. PLAP. 

I am on the shower floor, eyes shut, fists clenched as mami used a handle brush to PLAP. PLAP. against the large matted knot on the back of my head. Loosening the knots, she continued the force adding Silicon every few minutes. Ay mija, no llores. She says as my tears mingle with the running water. You’ll be beautiful. 

I am 12.

I am on Mama’s bed, listening to the tick tick tick tick of the rain on our tin roof. We are in the Dominican Republic, I am thinking about how life would be if my hair stayed down instead of up. I daydream of silky hair. Tomorrow Mami made an appointment for me to get my hair relaxed. I’m a little scared, but happy. I’m going to be beautiful.

I brush my hair into a bun– the last time I’ll smooth out these kinks. My sister comes with me, she drags her feet to the salon while I float. She hates it there. The noise, the heat, the smell of frying hair. 

My sister and I wait an hour before they start. A lady in a tubee washes my hair over a sink. The weight of my head straining my neck, her fingers scrubbing my scalp raw, I hold in tears. I’m going to be beautiful. 

I am in the salon chair now. Tia mixes what looks like a powder and a cream together. I stare into my reflection as Tia brushes the cool mixture into my hair starting from the back up towards the front. When she is done, I sit by the window. An open square in the cement wall with curved bars instead of glass. My eyes wander. I look at the women. Their hair. Their outfits. Tia starts to set another woman’s hairs in rollos. I wait. 

The mixture isn’t cool anymore, it’s getting a bit warmer. I wait a little longer. My scalp begins to tingle. Tia is laughing, talking to someone else. I don’t want to interrupt. I wait. The tingling is getting worse, the heat is rising. Is it working? I think to myself. I wait. My entire head is in pain now. I can’t wait anymore. It stings, it stings, it stings. I hold back tears as I get up, and go to Tia. Tia, me duele. 


Her eyes open wide, as if she saw a ghost. Ay mija! She yells. Ven, ven, ven. The pain is unbearable. I can’t speak anymore, it almost hurts to cry. A woman puts a towel around my neck, ties it with a butterfly clip, and she scrubs my head. As she touches my head, I feel like my skin is coming off.

Some did. My scalp, the top of my forehead, the back of my neck. It was bright red, almost purple. Little blisters were forming, some of my hair fell off. I don’t think it worked. Tia looked down, as I stare into my glassy eyes in the mirror. She left to call Mami. 

I go back to Mama’s house. 

I don’t have much memory of those next few days– I remember pain. Sadness, feeling ugly.

I am 25.

There are areas on my scalp that are extremely sensitive. Other areas, where I feel nothing at all. 

The mix of numbness and intensity follow me.

I decided when I turned 18 to stop getting my hair treated at all. 

I made the decision to feel beautiful without manipulation. 

2020 Taught Me to Breathe

2020 Taught Me to Breathe

My response to a scholarship prompt: 2020 was a challenging year in many respects. What have you learned about yourself that will enable you to thrive in school, your career, and in life? (250-500 words)

Breathe in. Hold. Release. 

Your breath. Your expectations. The pressure. To be “on” all the time. To be “productive” all the time. The pandemic was heavy with woe, and also opportunity– to slow down, to deepen our connection with ourselves and therefore those around us. As the world shared a brush with fatality,  I focused immense time and energy into my health. I ran, and ran, and ran. I found solace with my breath. And the perfect tree in a perfect park by a Bronx expressway where I sat for hours on end, befriending sounds of birds and passing cars. I cut out processed sugars and dairy. I ate berries. Kale, whole foods, and vegetables. I allowed myself to have faith that my body would protect me– because frankly I don’t believe anyone else could. During this same time, the news featured more murder by the police, more tragedy inflicted personally and institutionally– I did more research on eugenics, on the Tuskegee Syphilis trials, on indigenous methods of healing. I breathed in more knowledge, noticed where I held the tension in my body, and released the need to conform to any convention that was not in the well being of me, my family, or my community. As I learned so intimately as a first generation U.S. citizen and child of an extremely hardworking single mother– if we want change (both internal and external) it’s up to us.

Breathe in. Hold on. Let go.

Let go of previous definitions of normalcy. Let go of desires that do not hold prominent meaning– for life is too short to be wasting any second. Find stillness in your mind, and the answer will flow through you like a river. In 2020 I began my PhD journey. Prior to this, I was a youth program director for a girls center in Harlem where I taught a comprehensive and holistic sexual education program, organized college mentorship opportunities, and had conversations around art and resistance. “I can’t believe I get paid for this,” was my common thought as I worked there. Once March hit and we transitioned online, the programming continued– only now we had muted mics and floating icons. Today, I still mentor these girls (I don’t think I will ever stop) but I prefer one on one calls. I am using this opportunity as a PhD student and an adjunct professor as an opportunity to teach future teachers the critical tools and knowledge necessary to prioritize connection-making in the classroom. I share articles (Freire, Kincheloe, Quintero…) and tools intended to increase youth voice and agency and decrease traditional oppressive power dynamics in the classroom. So when the world does open back up, teachers are more prepared to ensure each young person rightly feel that they matter.

This virtual space is difficult. Drawn out. At many points, simply very sad (I really miss the physicality of class). But, this is also an opportunity for transformation. To let go of what does not serve us. To hold still in this space of recreation and learning, and then exhale into a new world with more mindful people that honor connection more than ever. With their students, with each other, within themselves.

little lessons

little lessons

I could go on for pages on the ways in which Life interrupted my plans to post, but I won’t. Simply, I’ll apologize and move on. I messed up. I’ll do better.

The professor looked in our direction, put their elbows on the table and told us if we could do something else, we should.

If we were able to enter a different field, shift academic trajectories, choose another program we should. If we decide to stay… if we believe this is what we were born to do…  “my condolences.”

I’m forced to be smarter here. I am in constant state of reeducation. I walk slower now, making sure I don’t “pull” when I should “push.” I adopt mannerisms, study ways my peers talk to the professor. I study outfits, diction… Durkheim.  As a graduate student in this prestigious program, I am aware both by nature and training of those around me. The air here is dense with complex text and discussion. Therefore, I breathe with intention. At a pace. I am learning. I can feel it.

I’m forced to be selfish here. I let a love be momentary once again. A fatal combination of free time and emotion led me there. And here. On my bed. Writing. I’m at peace. The goodbye was necessary, yet I remind myself it takes more than one to measure a relationship’s worth. Twenty two with two jobs and a thesis on the way… I need to be selfish in love. I am in a constant state of reeducation.

I’ll do better.

In the Door, a series (edit: short lived)

In the Door, a series (edit: short lived)

“Section 8 to Ivy League”

I saw her hands rise, just a touch. The tone in her voice becoming more urgent, less anxious. Sure of herself and her intentions, she spoke passionately against the field she taught in. Her words attacked the elitism and inaccessibility of education, her desire for inclusive research became her. I listened. I agreed. Yet, I couldn’t forget the initials by her name. The number of publications she’s authored. The number of times she’s been cited.

I couldn’t forget where we were. A bougie high end coffee shop in downtown Boston charging $4.75 for a pack of 3 gluten free cookies. Here, we critiqued the “elite.”

In a month I will begin my Masters degree at an Ivy League institution where you can feel the air of prestige even in the restrooms. This anger, this passion, this frustrated quiver in tone… it’s inside of me too. But I wonder, where do I stand in this fight for accessibility? How angry can I be at the “other side” while I plant my foot in the door? Is my desire to fight against the system contradictory to my walking into it?

In this blogging series, I am going to document my year at Columbia. My transition from one school to the next is more than a change of scenery. It’s letting go of a Section 8 voucher for more student loan debt. It’s a disguise of elitism, a false air of comfort… a childhood dream come true. Tackling with the complication of my position, I hope to make this experience tangible and in some strange way find strength in this vulnerability of sharing my journey with you.

I’ll be posting at least every other week.

(EDIT: I can’t even say I tried to keep up with this post’s promise. I apologize & moving on)

“fading”

“fading”

creative writing assignment

I didn’t like the shoes I wore that night. The rubber lining on the strap pinched the skin above my heels. But the heels matched the blouse, so I wore them anyway. My top was sheer enough to be suggestive, but comfortable enough for the train. I took one final look in the mirror to pull my skirt down, rake fly aways in, fix my lipstick. Routinely unsatisfied, I grabbed my keys and left.

We met up at a bar by Kendall station. I walked through seas of  twenty and thirty-somethings to find her. I felt uneasy that night, my skirt kept riding up and the wind felt foreign against my bare back. I kept shifting my weight from one foot to the other, rubbing against the coming blisters. Samantha complimented my shoes. We paid for our drinks and walked a few blocks down University Ave.

This part of the city had breaks in their sidewalks. We got to a door with the number 87 on it. The buzzer was broken. Sam touched her phone and a minute later we heard a voice above us. A man pushed his long hair to one side and leaned against the windowsill. Well look at that, he said to us with a smirk. The man threw down the keys to Samantha. Effortlessly, she caught them and sent him a kiss with her fingers.

The party was tired. Half the people were on their phones and the other half played beer pong. I saw a girl in a t-shirt and jeans, I was jealous. I pulled my skirt a little further down and looked at Samantha. I thought no one really had fun at parties, we were just faking it. Samantha faked it the best. Her body loosened to the beat of badly selected music. She made the party look almost slightly interesting. I left to find some quiet.

This is the youngest and prettiest you’ll ever be, Mami told me while I was growing up. I repeat this to myself in the mirror of the bathroom. The songs turned into soft echoes, silencing sounds of beer-pong grunts. I took off my shoes and bent underneath the sink. An empty toothpaste bottle with chunks of dried up blue paste stuck to the bottom of the shelf. There were prescription bottles and loose q-tips. Two-in-one shampoos and conditioners were stacked next to a box of condoms. I reached over to the band-aids and patched up my ankles. Anyone in there, a woman’s voice yelled behind the door. I left.

Midnight. A tall man in an Old Navy t-shirt and patchy beard put his hand on my bare back. My heart skipped a beat and I took a step away from him towards the wall. Sorry, I said although I wasn’t sure what I apologized for. What’s your name, he asked. He smiled. Who do you know here? I’ve never been good at flirting but I remind myself this is the youngest and prettiest I’ll ever be. I ask him to make me a drink.


His eyes were almost as dark as the circles underneath them. I propped myself on the kitchen counter as he poured equal parts vodka, orange juice, tonic. The chill distracted me from my discomfort. He gave me my drink and put his hand on my knee. I took a few sips and looked passed him. Samantha smiled, sitting on the lap of the man with long hair kissing her ear. I stopped thinking about my feet, I didn’t feel too exposed anymore. Calmness came over me. Tranquility paired nicely with the party.

The night grew darker. I grabbed onto the rail tightly trying to get down the narrow staircase. My ankles trembled in every step. I almost fell, but someone was holding me up by my waist. I said thank you and kept descending. I got to a door numbered 78, twisted the doorknob. A sea of cool air whipped passed us. I made it outside.

I thought about Samantha, where was she? The stars flickered quickly against the darkness of the sky. The stars were really street lamps. They were yellow, where was I? Cars rushed past us, rain pierced through my shoulders. Cold, shaking. My top was sheerer than I thought, my skirt stuck to my thighs. His palm rubbing my neck.

The concrete shimmered. Streets turned into mirrors. Street lamps doubled, the liquor store. Neon lights, bright blue beer poured through the window. Oranges, yellows vibrating together in the puddles on the corners. Gliding on the pavement, I became pigment. Music gone, only sirens. Bright. My breath. My heels crashed against the tides of cracked sidewalks. She looked into him, he looked at her.


I kept walking, for hours. She was tired against the lights of the city. I dreamt while I stumbled. Soft tapping of rain turned the scene into art. She tipped her head into the sky. I let the world do the melting, my colors fading. Water trickled into my eyelashes, she squinted and felt her breath swimming in slow motion. I started to cry. Does he know my name? Do you care.


I looked at the couple. On the other side. The street dividing us. Our mouths wide enough to swallow each other whole. She put his palms on his cheeks, his eyes were closed. She kissed his neck, he grabbed her waist. He said something in her ear. I looked at the street lamp, wondering. Is this one mine? He took out his keys and let us in.

Monday. Samantha asks if I made it home okay. I tell her yes. That night, I told my mother. I don’t feel too young anymore. 

Academia, Love Me Back

Academia, Love Me Back

My name is Tiffany Martínez. As a McNair Fellow and student scholar, I’ve presented at national conferences in San Francisco, San Diego, and Miami. I have crafted a critical reflection piece that was published in a peer-reviewed journal managed by the Pell Institute for the Study of Higher Education and Council for Opportunity in Education. I have consistently juggled at least two jobs and maintained the status of a full-time student and Dean’s list recipient since my first year at Suffolk University. I have used this past summer to supervise a teen girls empower program and craft a thirty page intensive research project funded by the federal government. As a first generation college student, first generation U.S. citizen, and aspiring professor I have confronted a number of obstacles in order to earn every accomplishment and award I have accumulated. In the face of struggle, I have persevered and continuously produced content that is of high caliber. 

I name these accomplishments because I understand the vitality of credentials in a society where people like me are not set up to succeed. My last name and appearance immediately instills a set of biases before I have the chance to open my mouth. These stereotypes and generalizations forced on marginalized communities are at times debilitating and painful. As a minority in my classrooms, I continuously hear my peers and professors use language that both covertly and overtly oppresses the communities I belong to. Therefore, I do not always feel safe when I attempt to advocate for my people in these spaces. In the journey to become a successful student, I swallow the “momentary” pain from these interactions and set my emotions aside so I can function productively as a student. 

Today is different. At eight o’clock this morning, I felt both disrespected and invalidated. For years I have spent ample time dissecting the internalized racism that causes me to doubt myself, my abilities, and my aspirations. As a student in an institution extremely populated with high-income white counterparts, I have felt the bitter taste of not belonging. It took until I used my cloud of doubt and my sociological training to realize that my insecurities are rooted in the systems I navigate every day. I am just as capable if not more so than those around me and my accomplishments are earned. 

This morning, my professor handed me back a paper (a literature review) in front of my entire class and exclaimed “this is not your language.” On the top of the page they wrote in blue ink: “Please go back and indicate where you cut and paste.” The period was included. They assumed that the work I turned in was not my own. My professor did not ask me if it was my language, instead they immediately blamed me in front of peers. On the second page the professor circled the word “hence” and wrote in between the typed lines “This is not your word.” The word “not” was underlined. Twice. My professor assumed someone like me would never use language like that. As I stood in the front of the class while a professor challenged my intelligence I could just imagine them reading my paper in their home thinking could someone like her write something like this? 

In this interaction, my undergraduate career was both challenged and critiqued. It is worth repeating how my professor assumed I could not use the word “hence,” a simple transitory word that connected two relating statements. The professor assumed I could not produce quality research. The professor read a few pages that reflected my comprehension of complex sociological theories and terms and invalidated it all. Their blue pen was the catalyst that opened an ocean of self-doubt that I worked so hard to destroy. In front of my peers, I was criticized by a person who had the academic position I aimed to acquire. I am hurting because my professor assumed that the only way I could produce content as good as this was to “cut and paste.” I am hurting because for a brief moment I believed them. 

Instead of working on my English paper that is due tomorrow, I felt it crucial to reflect on the pain that I am sick of swallowing. My work is a reflection of my growth in a society that sees me as the other. For too long I have others assume I am weak, unintelligent, and incapable of my own success. Another element of this invalidation is that as I sit here with teary eyes describing the distress I am too familiar with, the professor has probably forgotten all about it.  My heartache can not be universally understood and until it is, I have to continue to fight. At this moment, there are students who will never understand the desolation that follows an underlined “not.” There are students who will be assumed capable without the need to list their credentials in the beginning of a reflective piece. How many degrees do I need for someone to believe I am an academic?

At this moment, I am in the process of advocating for myself to prove the merit of my content to people who will never understand what it is like to be someone like me. Some of you won’t understand how every word that I use to describe this moment was diligently selected in a way that would properly reflect my intellect. I understand that no matter how hard I try or how well I write, these biases will continue to exist around me. I understand that my need to fight against these social norms is necessary. 

In reality, I am tired and I am exhausted. On one hand, this experience solidifies my desire to keep going and earn a PhD but on the other it is a confirmation of how I always knew others saw me. I am so emotional about this paper because in the phrase “this is not your word,” I look down at a blue inked reflection of how I see myself when I am most suspicious of my own success. The grade on my paper was not a letter, but two words: “needs work.” And it’s true. I am going to graduate in May and enter a grad program that will probably not have many people who look like me. The entire field of academia is broken and erases the narratives of people like me. We all have work to do to fix the lack of diversity and understanding among marginalized communities. We all have work to do. 

Academia needs work.

“Images of My Mother”

“Images of My Mother”

I want to tattoo my body
with the image of my mother
watch my hands master spices
see my calves grow in size
so I too can run marathons
with four babies on my shoulders

When my voice turns into hers
My tongue will grow heavy
with tastes of herbs and te amo‘s
watch my whispers soothe cyclones
remind all daughters to breathe
again and again

When I crawl into her skin
and I taste the church’s wine
I see God underneath my eyelids
feel the lord’s blood join our own
and the darkness would feel warm
for the first time

I want to tattoo my body
with the image of my mother
so when I look in my reflection
I can finally believe
I too have the strength
of a thousand women