Fog, unwritten

fog“The fog is so thick today in this god forsaken place,” she thought as soon as she opened her eyes. Sadness and loneliness are like old friends, you can always count on them. This is a different landscape than yesterday but she understands its ways only too well. Yesterday, the sun had broken through the clouds, presaging something auspicious. Days like yesterday made her feel an atom of hope. She felt she could reach out her hands and find a forgotten book or some special object that could make her happy. Like an author writing her own words, she felt a sudden trepidation: she would conjure up an alternative story. Things don’t need to be the same every day. Everything could be different, “I will rewrite my story”, she tried to convince herself.

But today the fog penetrated her pores, invaded her thoughts and lodged in her brain like a viral infection taking over her body. Why, she thinks. Why do I allow this fog to creep in and be the protagonist? You don’t belong to this plot. You are uninvited.

She felt helpless.

She abandons herself to the fog. “Let it do its harms, let it stare at me with its hungry  vicious eyes and crawl in like a cat, silently, little by little”, she says, almost defiantly. She is tired of fighting the fog. She is giving up. “If I don’t fight you any more, where will you lead me? Will you finish your job and lacerate me to pieces? Will you wrap me in your dark claws until you muffle my soul to eternal silence?”

This is all probably fictional. And I am probably the author who is inventing this story. I  will therefore refuse to submit her to this plot line. She will have to wake up tomorrow and pretend that today was just another bad day. That the fog had crept in uninvited in a dark alley that did not belong to her.  Tomorrow, I will write that she will have the strength to reinvent a different plot line for her day. I will rewrite her tomorrow. She will open her eyes to a different day. The fog will have moved on.









The hyphen condition



No use denying: the hyphen in Arizona-me is here to stay.

The hyphen is not a mere punctuation mark. It signals both a proximity and a distance. The hyphen brings Arizona close to me but it also separates Arizona from me.

This hyphen-condition is there everyday: when I wake up until I fall asleep. It also inhabits my dreams as if to punctuate the gap. The hyphen is a fracture deep within my soul.  It signifies that there was another me before Arizona. It reveals that this me in Arizona is still a very unstable condition.

Arizona is relentless, cold and scary. It is raw, brute and pretty much like its desert, it can dry you out like a raisin.

I lost my country for you, Arizona. I lost my family. I lost my friends. What do you give  me in return? An unwanted ticket to an unwanted version of myself? The equation does not seem fair.

No more roses in the desert.

On a torrid August day I moved and left my roses behind. I stopped trying to grow roses in the desert.

I now admit that roses were a sign of my rebellion. An obstinate challenge to the forces of the desert, if you want. Don’t take me wrong: roses do grow in the desert. But they are not “naturals”. You have to keep fighting against the high temperatures to keep them alive. Water them everyday and they will survive. It is in the nature of roses to be resilient and withstand a lot. During the scorching summer months some will even venture to open their flimsy petals for a forgiving early morning but the unbending sun will burn their petals in minutes and destroy their beauty.

It is not worth growing roses in the desert. Even with a lot of TLC they struggle and suffer too much. It is a sad business to grow roses in the desert, believe me.

I moved a month ago (yes, I still live in the Sonoran desert) and I have not planted a single rosebush in my garden. I now grow flowers that are “naturals”. One of them is the colorful and hearty bougainvillea which grows abundantly locally. Bougainvillea are not fussy in the desert: they don’t need a lot of water, they grow joyfully and plentifully in the desert sun. Contrary to roses, bougainvillea don’t require much TLC. Even in the middle of the summer, their branches will produce leaves that mutate into exuberant pinks, deep reds, bright whites and magenta.

I left my roses behind. This does not mean I love roses any less. It just means that I no longer want to fight the fury of the desert.

I need to learn the lessons taught by the indigenous people of the Sonoran desert. For them, this desert I now call home was vibrantly alive. They had a profound respect to this place. They respected its elements, climate, energies and whims. For them, the desert was a sacred land.

I can’t continue to struggle against the desert. The desert is stronger than me. I surrender.

The Seed and the Desert

a seed


A seed,
blown away by an unsuspecting wind,
finds its way
to the desert

The Desert
–unaware of itself–
shelters the Seed

The Seed is desperate
And angry at the Desert
–And at itself–

“I am an outsider here”, the Seed thinks
“I am hungry and thirsty”
“I am drying out, dying out”

The Desert had been there for thousands of years.
And following the destiny of deserts,
It waits, unperturbed.
It knows that magic can come
–in a single drop of rain–

That night, after a long scorching day,
Rain fell on the desert.

Lock, stock and barrel.

She called it the adventure of her life. With a glint in her. Little did she know that it would be nothing short of a revolution. How it would unscrupulously penetrate her pores, melt the walls of her entrails, corrode the established life.

No leaf would be left unturned.

He knew it and he was afraid for her. She was so fragile. Brave, granted. But emotionally flimsy, like the wing of a butterfly. Maybe her intelligence would compensate. Fill the void.

What he didn’t know is how much her sadness would sadden him.

You know we are doing it lock, stock and barrel, right? She smiled her disarming smile, waved her hand and dismissed the question, transfixed by the attraction.

Rerouting Arizona

Let me do a bit of rerouting for the sake of this blog: It hasn’t all been sour lemons in Arizona. It is true that Arizona has represented a revolution in my life. But my story in Arizona should not be reduced to “the sadness of geography“, that unavoidable feeling of loss that marks the immigrant experience. I am now aware that Arizona has brought back traumas and memories that had been unattended to for too long. It made me look inside and confront my demons. This is not easy but the proverbial “make lemonade when life gives you lemons” withstands.

Arizona is a mirror. It is difficult to face the mirror.


The truth is I had been negating certain things in my life for too long. I had been telling myself that the easier route was to lead life as if certain moments had not meant much.  Maybe, if I avoided those moments long enough, they would cease to exist? There were too many decades of overlooking, of bypassing, of taking detours. As a natural defense mechanism, I chose to forget and foolishly persuaded myself that a black hole would magically suck up all the bad. Of course it did not.

I struggled to adjust and for years I could not find my bearings.  Arizona painfully and relentlessly pushed me into recognizing my shortcomings. It required not only an interiority but also a sobriety that was not available to me then. I became too self conscious of my insignificance in the United States. More than ever, I was yet another number. A mere immigrant statistic.

Arizona made me more alone. Arizona made me more aware.

My life in Arizona is very quiet. I have made very few friends. It is true that Phoenix is not the friendliest of cities and many people complain about feeling lonely. The vastness of the city makes it challenging to make friends and people hide too many hours in their cars. The long lasting summer heat can also become truly oppressive. People tend to spend their times in air-conditioned spaces and skip their outdoor walks. Yet, to be fair and honest (remember I am talking about mirrors), it’s not alone the vastness nor the heat of Phoenix that are to blame:  I am not the easiest person to make friends with. I am incurably shy and self conscious. On a lighter note, even though loneliness has the power to kill you, it can also make you stronger. You have to look for resources other than people. So there is a silver lining to my loneliness: I feel compelled to go out of my shell and seek solace and company in things and activities. Yoga has been one my best “friends” here in Arizona. It has given me sobriety in the midst of my turmoils. It has showed me that I still have what it takes to face the game. That I can pick up the pieces and move on. It has also taught me that I am responsible for all of my choices, therefore I’d better make good ones. And…let’s face it: Arizona has been my choice. I’d better own it.

Arizona is a metaphor. It is a state of mind.


Show me how you
learned to forget
how you learned to lose
your world
thinking you gained

That world one day was here
and, on a given Wednesday,
at a given hour,

Show me how you dug out
the roots,
how you dried that brook,
how you effaced that hue of blue
from the sky.

How did you do it?
I need to know.

Like that world had never been
your very own entrails

Untouched by the loss
by the hole in your soul.
Oblivious of that brook,
of that blue.

You roam the foreign streets

The northern star guides me not.

Nothing – no book of theory or literature, not even my undergraduate or graduate days when I studied American literature and culture, least of all my many trips to America or even my marriage to my American husband – prepared me for the actual impact of moving to America. I now have the distinct feeling of being different, in many ways an outsider. To be honest, being different here suits me well in some senses and I hope I will continue to cultivate my differences, while making the necessary cultural adjustments. But when I look at the sky and despair over the fact that my stars are all upside down, when I struggle in vain to spot the Southern cross, when the Northern star guides me not, and the constellations have no place in my foreign sky, it’s still to the great literature written in America and the thriving music that I turn to find my bearings and make some sense of this strange land.

A hyphen between

Not one language but a hyphen between

Neither here nor there
– but the middle –
something only definable
and discernible
through the experience
of both here
and there
and everything that it means.

This duality becomes her
It maps her.

She is a foreigner, they say.
Her command of the language is impressive.
But foreign.
She is odd.

What they don’t know:
she has become a foreigner
both here