|Sylvia Julie Martínez
Somewhere along the way, you changed.
Your jeans, bigger. Your stomach, like dough. You smile less, yell more, with an occasional real smile like when you hear yourself yell at your kids to stop yelling. You used to grin at random kids when they'd run-fly through Safeway in Superman costumes in March. Now, you snap at your own kids when they touch the moving black and sticky conveyor belt for fear of their catching a superbug. You have fear where you had hope, and you hope your fears won't grow a face, praying your 4 year-old son won't need that kidney biopsy, and that your slender 8 year-old daughter won't worry her butt's too big too soon.
Somewhere along the way, you stopped dancing, couldn't even hear the music anymore. The rhythmic Spanish music and loud hip hop music you used to feel to your spleen stopped like a DJ whose system's power was accidentally tripped.
You stopped looking in mirrors. Too busy dressing up your own kids in clothes that seem to shrink every month, and too busy making sure your husband's deodorants are stocked, and also the Ensures, the chocolate ones he likes to drink driving to BART.
You don't effin swear anymore, even banning the word "stupid" for fear the kids will hear you, for fear they will become you.
Then one day, you spy a person in a mirror your housekeeper just cleaned.
"What the heck (hell) happened to you?"
You remember the half-marathons you ran, the size 6 (okay 8) jeans you used to flaunt that made your husband, and even other people's husbands, open café doors for you. You remember the long hair you used to let the sun dry while reading a book (one that didn't also have an illustrator's name on the cover) in the backyard. You remember the teaching job you had with benefits and direct deposit, the one that gave you a sense of your UC degree being literally worth something.
You love your kids, there is no question. And you are still madly in love with your intelligent, hat-to-the-back-on-the-weekend husband. But you realize you don't have to stop loving yourself, too.
So you start running again, growing out your hair and even playing with color, blasting your music driving to your part-time job, dancing as much as a sitting position allows, swearing like your retired, sailor dad (okay, maybe not), and you find a pair of jeans that make you feel good about your butt again.
Then you sign up for a writing class taught by some take-no-crap (he'd say shit) professor at a college with a name-identity-crisis, and he makes you remember the fire you carry in you (allusion to the Road, not purple, professor).
Now you smile more than yell, making the husband and kids smile more.
But the conveyor belt, still a hands-off zone.