When I started this blog, I stated that I would look to the regularity of my period for inspiration. Well, I took a vaguely menopausal break and, now, my verbal drippings have reignited.
November is a harsh month for me. I feel its cruelty creeping up in October and by Thanksgiving, the cruelty has made way for the arrival of a mute ghost. Her name is Sophia Torres and she is certain family to me…
My sophomore year of college, when I went home for Thanksgiving break, I was sitting in the family room with my family, watching TV. A local news anchor was describing how a transient had been smashed to death in Oakley Park. They didn’t mention that she was found dressed in black and her rapist’s sperm. The way the newsperson described things, with the emphasis on the dead woman’s unrootedness, made it sound as if somebody had squished a giant cucaracha in the park, gross but no biggie.
In December, when I returned home for winter break, I was watching TV in the family room with my family again. A local news anchor was announcing that police had a suspect in the killing of the cucaracha/woman. His name was Tommy Martinez and they flashed his picture. A horrific feeling zapped from my tripas to my pussy to a place where fear resides in my feet. The news anchor announced, putting our business out there, that Tommy Martinez was also a suspect in a cluster of attacks against other Santa Maria women.
The detective who’d been assigned to investigate my attack, Detective Flores, called my parents’ home. He asked me, “Do you know why I’m calling?”
A D.A. subpoenaed me to testify against Tommy Martinez for what he had done to me earlier that summer, during an August afternoon as I’d walked from an art gallery to the school where my mother taught second grade. Instead of describing what my attacker did to me to a courtroomful of Santa Marians, I boycotted the trial. I hid out in Berkeley. The thought of telling what Tommy Martinez had done to me was too embarrassing and at the same time not embarrassing enough. I got to live.
I went about the rest of my young adult life feeling weird for having a life since fate chose me to go on and Sophia to be chopped liver. Survivor’s gilt.
Guilt creates the worst ghosts and I’m especially haunted during autumns. Tommy Martinez haunts me through what he did to me and where he put himself and Sophia haunts me through what was squashed and cut out of her and in a sense, gave up for what? According to my belief system, she exists as a sacrifice, a human one, and sacrifices are supposed to have more meaning than anything else except that I don’t always understand what Sophia is supposed to mean to me. In part, she means sister. She and I became related through Tommy Martinez’s violence, and she’s family I’ve only ever known as a ghost. Sometimes, we only get to know people through hauntings. Isn’t that what history is? An ever-burgeoning haunting? My white grandpa died before I was born, and so I know him through stories that living family tells me and that is his haunting. One story about him is that he ate my grandma’s pet turkey and then karma wrapped things up festively by giving him a heart attack on Thanksgiving. There’s something similar with my uncle Henry. I’ve never known him sane, only crazy, and so his non-schizophrenic self exists through stories about how he was smart and a toilet paper mummy one Halloween. The smart toilet paper mummy version of him is one of the ghostly forms his sanity takes. I don’t really know any stories about Sophia except the one about how she died. Which is a pretty big story. The part of her story I feel like I could to relate to best would be what she felt like when she realized she was being followed…