Why Can't I Cry?
I'd rather sing, dance, paint...
Patrisia Gonzales and Roberto Rodriguez
"Why can't you cry? my wife asks me, with an ancient olla (pot) on her head filled with her tears.
Published on LatinoLA: April 18, 2002
"Because I'd rather sing," I respond.
I can't cry. But I can bleed. And I do bleed. Over the years, I've had much to cry about, but nary a tear. Yet, I actually do cry, but without tears.
I cry precisely because I'm unable to shed tears, because I can't laugh or smile, because my face was severed from my heart (an Aztec/Mexica description of a person who lives with trauma), because my spirit lives outside of my body, because I long ago died, and I cry because of my eyes.
That's not the only time I cry. I cry when I see the brutality of homelessness, when I see senseless violence in the Middle East and on the streets of America. I cry when I see women degraded and young men beaten. I cry at the legitimization of genocide and crimes against humanity, and I cry when exposed to vicious racism and vilrulent anti-semitism. But mostly, I cry due to the eerie silence in the face of military aggression.
The tears I cry don't roll down my face. My eyes do well up, but never am I able to sob. The tears that I shed roll inward and are converted into memories. Sometimes, I intentionally forget them, just as for 22 years I forgot my dreams and nightmares. Yet, more frightful was the reality I was living after having been severely beaten by the hands and clubs of the law.
Thereafter, as a young journalist, reality was being afraid of getting behind the wheel of my car, fearing that each time might be my last, afraid to see red and blue lights in my rearview mirror. It was also about forced separation and lost loves, loneliness and the inability to love. About love that would last forever but could not be. Lots of crying, but no tears and no sobbing.
Reality meant regularly visiting the cemetary, mourning the many, many friends I grew up with, played basketball with, shared stories with. Tut, Li'l Mike, Tommy, Angel, Trini, Sal, Gloria and on and on and on ... and more later on ... That's where our reunions would take place, sometimes days after our previous reunion. Drive-by shootings. Heroin. Alcohol. More senseless violence. And even cancer... all felling friends before their time. That's why I've never attended a high school reunion. Mictlan -- the next life, that's where we'll all meet. Who's left? I don't know. For me, my barrio in East L.A. was also like a huge cemetary. That street life wasn't
part of me, yet it was.
Why can't I cry? Because I can't go back to L.A.? I can't cry, because I'd rather sing... for all the same reasons...
I'd rather sing to my wife, sing to my famiy, sing to my friends, sing to my elders, sing to all elders and sing to all those whom have shaped me, but whom I no longer remember.
That's what I'd rather do. Singing is prayer, I've been told. Maybe it's also crying, yet I wouldn't really know because I don't know the sensation that comes from crying, except I do know that it silences. However, I do know the sensation of breathing deeply and belting out soundsfrom the pit of my stomach, when my vocal chords cause birds to pause and others to join in. I've gazed into the eyes of elders when I sing, knowing it brings them back memories of loves long ago lost. That's why I know singing is prayer.
I think one day I will sob -- when I least expect it. But what will I cry about? I don't want to cry anymore. A generation ago I died at the hands of the law. Last year in a cornfield in Mexico, I saw myself dead. In a virtual dream-state, I was given the juice from a maguey plant. That night, I remembered my dreams for the first time in 22 years. It was shortly thereafter that I saw myself dead. Yet I was told that this was not a bad thing -- that warriors need to die several times. I've done that. I've died several times. I've died because I want to live. I've died fighting for justice. And that is a good thing, yet each time I come back, I'm still rejected by this world that would rather I remain silent. There's no broken pot on my head. Instead, the crack is on my skull.
Why can't I cry? Because I choose not to cry and choose to no longer bleed. Because I choose to celebrate life and sing for peace, dignity and justice. I'd rather blow the conch shell at the crack of dawn and I'd rather bang the drum softly to hear and feel my own heart. That's how I know I'm alive. I'd rather paint, dance and speak in my own tongue: Tehuan tikateh zenyeliztli.
We are one.
COPYRIGHT 2002 UNIVERSAL PRESS SYNDICATE
"Column of the Americas" is posted every Friday and archived under "Opinion"
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