By most accounts, last night should not be memorable.
For one, I forgot myself. That drinking boundary you learn not to cross sometime in your early twenties? Yeah, I leapt over it. In too little time, I had way too much to drink. And no, I’m not giggly-proud about it like you sometimes get in your twenties when you push boundaries. This was not an example of a day seized, but of restraint lacked.
My arrival home was everything you hope against: early, sloppy, out of control. My clothes are heaped in the corner, covered by the towel I used after the shower I took as soon as I could. My exit from the staff party at the school I work at was unnanounced, and came too shortly after the person I’d been hoping to sit with all night finally took a seat right next to me. One of those drunken moments that you know nothing will do but your bed.
It should be embarrassing. I should be cringing as I recall the details that do come back. This was not like my Saturday night, which was long and surprising and memorable. I should be in bed regretting the things that did and did not happen.
But, lately, I’ve had this urge to write slice-of-life pieces. To capture to the best of my writing ability life as I am living it. And nothing feels regrettable as long as it’s worth writing about.
Waking up at 2:30 in the morning after almost a full night’s rest with the desire to write, for one. Seeing a new text message from the name you were hoping for. The absolute comfort of laying down on a shower floor when that’s what your body demands of you. Using the advanced technologies of this modern world to talk utter shit with friends across the world. Still a little queasy yet craving a curry-covered wurst you had once in London. Waking up the next morning (er, the same morning, later), walking down the street and thinking how incredible it is that life goes on, that yesterday’s events have not left a single mark on the outside world.
I posted a shorter version of this a while back. I still have no idea where it’s going, though, but I wanted to share again. I think fellow book lovers will enjoy the little world, even though I don’t exactly understand what that world is.
Miranda read on, trying to find the strength to reach the end of the page, which conveniently ended on a paragraph. The tricky part was to stay awake enough to understand what the words were trying to say to her, but not so awake that the comfortable tiredness she was feeling would get scared away. Just a few more lines and then she’d be able to lean back in her chair, rest the book against her stomach and close her eyes.
However, she had been thinking about maintaining that delicate balance and when she did reach the end of the page, she hadn’t comprehended a single word of what she had read. She moved her eyes back to the top of the page, but a few sentences later the sun stepped through the clouds and put Miranda to sleep.
She woke up with a shiver, and the book which had been covering her stomach like a miniature blanket fell to the floor of the porch and landed face down on the planks of wood, its pages crumpled, its spine strained, the postcard which served as a bookmark a foot away, spat out during the fall. Miranda brought her feet down from the railing of the porch and smiled to herself as she picked up the book. She loved accidentally crumpling pages, spilling beverages, scarring books with evidence that someone had read them. She made a half-hearted attempt to smooth out the damaged pages and then looked around her, trying to determine how long she had slept.
I’m full of good food, I visited a Jewish cemetery, I was up until five in the morning.
A hug I received last night is lingering still on my skin, the precise weight of it against me. I can still feel how my clothes shifted under the wonderful, unimitable pressure of someone else.
There’s an impatience to my afternoon, because the hours are trickling by like slow moving traffic with nowhere else to go and I meant to finish writing a chapter today, and I also need to go take pictures of a building for a friend. Like anyone who does anything, I sometimes have my doubts about whether what I write is good, whether I am managing to convey all the nuances of life that I mean to within the confines of the story and the characters. But I also have moments of furious inspiration that leave me enthralled, as if I’ve just defeated something.
Across the room, a woman with sharp features is wearing a shirt that perfectly displays the elegance of her neck, her collarbones.
I walk around my neighborhood to my usual spots and am turned away by early closing times, by full seats, the world busy appreciating a mid-week holiday. Just like that, the afterglow of my meal, of my night, the hug, it’s gone. Although I usually protest against the very idea of it, I tuck my tail between my legs and go home to write.
It is perfect.
Air trickles in through the open window, barely fluttering the curtains. I find exactly the music I want to listen to. On a muted, nearby television, the basketball team I most often root for is winning. Woody Allen wears a baseball cap, hiding from fans at Madison Square Garden. The chapter is done in a matter of hours, beer-and-smoke-accompanied hours that are exactly the kind that cause me to love what I do.
Right toe lined up with the middle of the rim. Ball nestled in my left arm, against my hip. I’d bend my knees and bounce softly twice, taking a deep breath with each one, usually repeating to myself a song that was stuck in my head, or imagining that a made free throw would lead to requited love from the girl I liked, or trying to clear my mind of anything but the shot. If I made the shot, I took another one. If I missed, I took another one. At least a hundred free throws a day to track my progress.
This was the summer before my junior year in high school and I’d decided to train in the hopes of becoming a better basketball player. One that a college might want on its team. Four to six hours a day, I stepped to the free throw line, I passed the ball against a wall, I dribbled up and down the court. I went to the weight room, strengthening my legs to avoid knee injuries, improve speed, jumping. Push ups to improve my shooting range, overall upper body strength. Every day for a summer when I was sixteen, I practiced hook shoots, pull up jumpers, tear drop layups. Two sessions a day, I put on my basketball shoes and did everything I could.
My brother, two years my senior, was born with natural talent that I never had. Me? I was born with discipline. I ate huge, protein-heavy breakfasts to bulk up on muscle. I woke up early so I would have the gym to myself. I stood at the free throw line, sometimes imagining the lives other kids were living, and I counted until my percentage rose to 80. When friends spent the night, my dad had them stand by the basket and hit my arms on the way up so I could finish when being fouled.
I never made it to play college ball. I started practicing too late. I needed another year, a better understanding of how recruiting works. But those days of discipline have served me well in my life as a writer.
1,000 words a day. Some days are a little more productive, some days are a little less. But every day, like stepping up to that free throw line, I open my laptop and set my fingers on the keys. When the air is perfect and demands my attention, I find somewhere with an outdoor outlet so I can write outside. When it rains, I bring an umbrella so that the laptop is not in danger. On hungover weekends, I start a little later, but I start. Two sessions a day, I sit down with coffee, or beer, or whatever, and I write.
Maybe that’s what, in the end, I was training for. Not improving my jump shot, but establishing a habit. When you want to do something for a living, when you want to get better, there is no choice but to simply do it.
A cab driver once told me that during the 1985 Mexico City earthquake, he saw a man kneel down in the middle of the street and begin to pray, only to be hit by a bus shortly afterward.
I don’t know how much truth there is in the story, but its merits as a story are hard to dismiss. It’s relevance to what I’m going to write here is dubious, but it seemed like a good way to get things started.
I lived through several earthquakes before I felt one. Even as schoolmates and family members around me stood perfectly still, arms slightly out as if preparing for a balancing act, looking at me like I was in some way deficient for not sensing that the earth was moving, I couldn’t tell anything was happening. I imagine myself as a kid, closing my eyes and trying real hard, as if the earthquake is an answer to a test question, requiring only mental exertion to be felt. Probably, I’m misremembering it. Probably, I felt tough, like I somehow had a higher threshold for pain than those around me because I couldn’t tell the world was shaking. Probably, I suspected that everyone was lying to me, that they were undertaking some elaborate Truman Show-esque prank at my expense.
There’s a definite disconnect between how earthquakes are portrayed (or how they really are elsewhere) and my experience with them. I was informed of the latest earthquake, a 5.2 centered in the neighboring state of Guerrero, via Twitter. Mexico City is now so well-prepared for earthquakes that they’re easy to miss. The buildings sway ever so slightly, as if in a strong breeze. There’s no violence to them. I hear reports of five-point-fours or six-point-somethings, numbers that in other parts of the world are catastrophic, and I don’t see any difference in my surroundings. Buildings stay up, roads stay uncracked (er, they don’t split down the middle like they do in movies, every road in Mexico City is cracked).
Every now and then, I’ll wake up in the middle of the night and imagine that I feel the 10-story building I live in swaying from side-to-side. But there’s no panic, even in my dormant state-of-mind. I look at the glass of water by my bed, I look up at the overhead light that hangs in the middle of the room. Even if I did see evidence of a quake, I don’t imagine I’d do much more than sit up and wait for it to be over, maybe stand in a doorway if it felt particularly violent (I’ve only stood in a doorway once, and when my sister-in-law picked up her son and took him down 9 flights of stairs to perhaps-excessive safety, I followed suit and carried my laptop down to street level).
It’s like Mexico City and earthquakes have been in this very long relationship, and all the fire has gone from their fights. Driven together by the tectonic plates beneath them (star-crossed lovers? Please. The stars are tiny, pinprick things that can’t effect a thing down here on Earth), a long, perhaps tumultuous history tucked in their past, they’ve put aside their quarrelsome nature to settle comfortably against each other. They understand each other now. Even when they want to get on each others’ nerves, the other just moves along in the same direction, too experienced to try to fight back, knowing that it will all be over soon.
Probably, it’s nothing like that. Earthquakes, in my personal experience, are just so benign that the only interesting way I can talk about them is with personification, with invented memories, with a story a cab driver once told me.
The party on the rooftop of building 103 has what appears to be an entire roast pig and professional hula girls, of which our party has neither. We have more girls, and louder music, sure. But the girls aren’t single, and the booze is running out fast. At least building 103 doesn’t know that, or this would be really embarrassing.
Oh my god, did one of the girls just take her top off? Yes, yes she did. And what’s this? She just jumped into a pool and now everyone else at the rooftop party of building 103 is joining her. Some of them aren’t even wearing proper swimming attire. Their smiles are bigger than ours.
Off to the side, there’s a couple waltzing to the music we can’t hear. They mean it, too. They’re not dancing ironically. They’re dancing for the sake of dancing, for the sake of holding on to each other. Like they’re so much better at love than we are.
No one is dancing at our party. Should we be dancing like they are? Should we be taking our tops off and jumping into the pool that our party doesn’t have? Should we have ordered a pig, picked a more amusing theme? Should we have made this a black tie event? A costume party? Are our hors d’oeuvres sufficiently delicious? Are our conversations sufficiently witty?
A neighbor has come to complain about our party. We’re proud of this development, but offer to turn down the noise. We offer him a beer, but he scowls and goes away. Moments later, he appears on the rooftop of building 103, holding a piña colada served in a pineapple. He chats with one of the hula girls, and it becomes clear to everyone at our party that he is going to get laid tonight. Very few of us are going to get laid tonight.
We have run out of mixers and ice. There are broken off fragments of chips polluting the homemade dip we were so proud to have. Someone, drunk beyond reason, is making a scene. Over in building 103, a bonfire has popped up. Our neighbor is strumming a guitar, the entire congregation is circling the fire and singing along.
None of us wants to say it, but we are all thinking it: we would rather be at the rooftop party at building 103.
Hi everyone! So, a few days ago I found out that a former high school classmate of mine was undertaking a Kickstarter campaign to fund a book he’d put together. To help him spread the word, I’ve invited him to come along and post on my site about his book, Letters to Momo.
In September of 2010, I received an email informing me that my cousin Momo, as I called him, had been imprisoned. His situation was deeply challenging to say the least: 23-years old and about to graduate from university abroad, his world was suddenly confined to one of the largest high-security prisons in Liverpool. His parents and sisters were all home in Mexico, an Atlantic Ocean away.
A truly compassionate, loving, and caring person only a year my junior, Momo has always been my closest friend in the family. Although we lived in different countries most of our lives, no physical distance ever kept us from communicating. Crushed by his imprisonment and the realization that he had been facing this situation alone for months, I made an unconditional commitment to live the experience as close to him as I possibly could.
My mind was made: I resolved to write him one letter each day for as long as he was in jail.
Many letters and a few months later, Momo was released from prison and flew back to Mexico City. Once home, he finally told me face-to-face how important the letters had been. He told me the letters became his lifeline, that they gave him love and strength to overcome his physical and psychological prisons, to find meaning in his experience, and to ultimately achieve personal growth and liberation.
That is why today, we’ve just launched an amazing Kickstarter campaign to crowd-source the funds needed to publish the book Letters to Momo – the collection of all daily letters I wrote to my cousin – exactly as he received them.
My daily letters were my way of walking with Momo and infusing him with strength, resilience, and above all, love. The letters were written to help him not only survive the incarceration, but to transcend it by consciously seeking the value of the experience as a platform for liberation and growth. Never brooding or negative, each letter has a positive and inspiring tone as an empowering reminder that he was not a victim of circumstance and that if he chose to, he could author the change he desired in his life. In short, the letters were intended to rouse the personal power to overcome we each are innately born with.
Today, we want to publish the book because we believe in the power of its message! We are certain the letters can inspire and empower others to confront and overcome barriers to their own liberation, regardless of situation or background. As Momo states, “it would be a blessing to share them with the world because there is no ownership to such sincere insights.”
Never written with the intention of being published, or for anyone other than Momo, the letters were written straight from the heart in genuine stream of consciousness. Today they remain intact and in their original state, as pure as originally sent to Momo. And that’s exactly how we want to publish them.
Our vision is to share, not to sell. That’s why we want to get this story out there because we firmly believe that no one should walk alone!
Today, let these letters walk with you.
About the author…
Born and raised in Mexico City, Alejandro is a 26-year-old writer, poet, traveler, and social entrepreneur. A lover of the experience of life itself, he treats the world as an emblem of possibility. Each of his projects is an intensive expression of his entire person. Even though all paths of attainment are different, his goal remains the same: to help enhance quality of life by reminding us of our innate ability to own the change we desire - and to smile at that realization communally and loudly, every step of the way.
You can reach Alejandro and visit his work via http://www.letterstomomo.com.
You can also stay up to date on the campaign’s progress by following on twitter @LettersToMomo and liking the Facebook page: www.facebook.com/LetterstoMomo
My mom, who likes to keep tab on her children even when they are halfway across the world, lest they managed to get themselves kidnapped while she was not looking, sent me a message while I was in London. “Where are you?”
“Just got home,” I wrote back, referring to my friend’s flat, where I’d spent no more than a few nights. I didn’t even think about why I chose to say it that way. It was reflexive, as if spending the night was the only requirement for a place to be called home.
Then why, last night, as my flight descended over Mexico City’s sprawling expanse of lights, did I not feel like I was coming home?
I’ve lived the vast majority of my life in this enormous city. When a form requires me to fill out an address, I give them the same one I’ve been at for 20 or so of my 25 years. This is where I sleep, where I wake up, where most of the books I have ever bought sit on their shelves. I work here, the baristas at the coffee shops I write in all know me by name, or at least by my usual order. Wouldn’t a part of me feel dishonest in calling another place home, particularly a place I had no rights to, a place in a city I’d barely ever been to before?
At some point during my visit, my friend’s wife asked me if I could see myself living in London. My answer to this question, regardless of the city/town in reference, has always been yes. I could see myself living absolutely anywhere. There have been advantages and disadvantages to every place I’ve lived, and because of that, I’m sure I could find joy anywhere I go. This, no doubt, is excessive optimism. But, as I read in Danny Wallace’s Friends Like These, “It Is better to travel hopefully than to arrive disenchanted.”
Even if I can call a place home, the chances that I’ll grow sick of it are almost certain. I know I asked why as if I didn’t know the answer just a few paragraphs ago, but I guess the reason Mexico City doesn’t feel like home when I land is that it’s been home too long. I’m a traveler at heart, and even though I admittedly haven’t explored all this city has to offer (there are so many neighborhoods here I can’t even name them all, much less say I’ve been there), I’ve been ready to go for a while now.
So, yes, London felt like home. The coffee shops with windows for walls so I could look out onto the street as I wrote. The pubs that don’t play music so that conversations are the main event of the night (or afternoon). The beauty of the people everywhere, how different things look from neighborhood to neighborhood, the clarity with which the operators speak on the Tube. Yeah, I’d probably hate the weather and the costs. Something has to be there to balance the other side of the equation.
Instead of feeling like I’m coming home, it feels like I’ve left one. Not that I want to hop on the next flight to London (although I wouldn’t have any complaints if that’s where my travels took me, and I’m sure my friends wouldn’t either (or at least they won’t admit to any complaints)). I just feel like continuing on to somewhere unexplored, to finding out what I love about someplace new. It feels like, at least for now, traveling is my home, and I’ve just barely tasted it with the tip of my tongue.