"Why am I still alive?"
That is a question I ended up asking myself regularly.
I should not have been alive this long.
From my frail body to my asthma. I ache and sneeze at every little irritation my body does not like. And the list is huge.
I can't have dairy as I am lactose intolerant and my vision is poor since my left eye has astigmatism.
Ever since I was little there was something I had to complain about.
"Ya, no seas Payasa!" My mother would always say.
My mother called me Payasa so often the rest of the family addressed me as so, but what was I to do?
My parents made so little they couldn't keep up with my medication, much less with every new problem found in me. So I should put up with it.
But it was hard.
Life was hard in general and it got so much worse when my parents went at each other's throats.
I don't know when it started for sure. My dad's constant substance abuse or my mother's marital indifference towards him. My father became engrossed in his smoking habits.
My mother became engrossed in a new guy every few weeks. I don't know which one caused the other.
He'd come home high or drunk and she'd sometimes never come home.
"What is wrong with you! Emilia Hernandez get your a.." My mother's screaming would get shut out by the door to my room slamming close.
Since our immigration status voided us from having proper healthcare. My parents had to pay for my medical problems in cash.
So my mother scolded me for wasting precious family income when I broke my glasses.
My sister would already be in my room waiting for me.
She was all I had in this crazy world.
I stopped going to school altogether. It saved money on my asthma and allergy medication if I stayed home more often.
I wasn't bullied, but I wasn't friends with anyone either so it was for the best.
My sister was the complete opposite.
She excelled at school. Great grades. Ran for president in many clubs, and had tons of friends. The best part, she never failed to include me when she brought them home.
We were placing slips of paper; [Vote for Cinthia Hernandez] inside transparent pens. It was to help her campaign as treasurer for the robotics club. But it stopped short by my parents fighting.
Dad smelled like marijuana so mom kicked Cinthia's friends out of the house. She called him an embarrassment for the family.
He always retorted with how he needed to smoke to get through financial stress. Since I was draining all the money away with my medical problems.
He wasn't wrong, but it didn't feel good to hear it.
My mother didn't call him out on it, but I wasn't expecting it. She continued calling him a dead beat instead. Which led to more fighting and back and forth on her cheating.
All my fault and I knew it.
La Payasa ruining the family again.
My sister took me back to my room to continue working on her campaign. Her way to help distract me.
It was difficult pushing the little slips of paper into the pen as millions of thoughts flooded my mind. I didn't want my sister to see me cry in front of her so I excused myself to the restroom.
My sanctuary. I hid one of my dad's box-cutters under the sink and let my favorite color flow unto the porcelain counter.
The cuts weren't deep, but they were enough to let me feel punished for being alive. The wounds let me feel the adrenaline of physical pain overwhelm my emotions.
"Why am I alive?"
I was a burden to the family and I was always reminded about it especially after the divorce. I wasn't only a burden to my parents but my sister as well.
Somewhere down the line, I caused her too much inconvenience she left me as well.
I would see her shut herself in her room more and more, and she would spend less time with me. It was obvious she started to avoid me.
When her friends came over again, they shut themselves in Cinthia's room.
"If I stopped being such a Payasita over every little thing, I wouldn't annoy her friends so much." She told me.
I do agree that I'd cough too much. That I had nothing in common with her friends. That I made it awkward for her being there.
I didn't have much practice socializing so I can't blame her.
But it hurt.
It hurt when the divorce came.
My father became tired of my mom's cheating so she cheated as well to get back at her.
In their bedroom.
He was completely drunk and pissed off when she caught them in the act.
He hit her.
So they fought for custody in the divorce.
Custody over my sister.
My sister asked the judge to separate us since I was, " as bad as Dad".
It hurt so much.
Everything was over by the time I came to realize.
It was me and my dad now.
We kept the same house as my mom and my sister moved in with a new guy.
My dad came home drunker than before.
"Hey Payasa, when are you going back to school. I can't have you freeloading, so you'll either learn or work." My dad said as he lounged on the couch.
He didn't even look at me. He didn't need to.
Because every time he did his face showed disgust.
"Why am I alive?"
"A clown is necessary for family entertainment." My father told me, "But you are a burden even as one, everything would be better if you don't come home one day."
He was right.
I was alive because I wanted to prove that I didn't have to be a burden to the family.
But it was too late now. The family destroyed because of me.
But if I could prove I can stand alone I could at least show him.
Show him that I have worth as a daughter.
That night I didn't cry.
After my ritual in the bathroom, bleeding my arm gave me courage.
Courage to prove myself to my father, my mother, and my sister.
And so I packed what I could in a backpack and left. I left to the nearest bus station and with whatever money I had I would start a new life somewhere. I had it planned out.
I would wear my best clothes and go to every store to ask for a job. I'd use that money to get an apartment nearby and start from the ground up.
I was going over my plan as I walked under the moonlight.
A girl alone walking to the late-night bus.
Almost as soon as I saw a guy, he started following me.
It wasn't obvious until I made a few turns.
My family was too poor for most electronic devices that my sister and mother were the only ones with phones. I couldn't call for help, so I decided to run to the bus station.
There was a couple already waiting for the bus. They reeked of alcohol.
I was too shy to tell them about the guy following me. I got scared that they would scoff that an ugly girl like me would have someone stalking me.
I no longer had any self-esteem so thinking about it made me whimper and struggle to hold back tears.
I was nervous.
Being alone in the middle of the night.
Getting on the bus and waiting for my new life.
When the bus arrived my anxiety skyrocketed. A knot in my chest cramped my abdomen and I couldn't hold back my tears. I went up to the bus driver and paid my fare and sat in the back.
I covered my face on the back of the seat in front of me and let my tears flow.
I wasn't loved, no one cared for me.
My breathing was becoming ecstatic so I took a deep breath of my inhaler. I laid back and took another deep breath to calm down.
"Payasa?" The guy next to me recognized me, but I didn't recognize him. No, he was middle-aged so he was one of my parent's friends.
"What are you doing here, are you alone?" He asked. I couldn't see his face, but that made my anxiety worse. He looked exactly like the guy who followed me. He was the guy that was following me.
I didn't answer and huddled my small body closer to the edge of my seat to look out the window.
"Whatever it is, we're here so please don't resist I don't want you bruised before I turn you in."
His words were confusing. My face turned a shade paler as I struggled to make sense of what he said.
Looking out the window I see that the bus had stopped behind warehouses. Many trucks and men were waiting around the bus.
The man next to me grabbed me by the arms and started pulling me out of my seat. Other guys walked in and headed towards me. The couple from before sat with pale expressions and looked away.
I tried to struggle and scream, but they had already covered my mouth and begun to drag me off the bus. I saw one of the guys pay the bus driver as I was being pulled out into the street.
There where more men waiting around the bus.
They put a blindfold on me, but I could hear the screams of the girl that was also on the bus. The girl of the couple headed for the same fate as me.
A fate that isn't difficult to guess.
That became my complete identity before I knew it. Years of service, this became the only thing I knew. I forgot my name, and I had no one before so if I ran away I would have no one outside.
But here, I had other girls in the same state as me. Girls who relied on me for emotional support. I have my sister to thank for.
Before the divorce by showing me the care she did, it taught me how to deal with people like me.
Before the divorce by showing me the care she did, it taught me how to deal with people like me. Depressed individuals with a lack of self-worth.
Before I had no purpose. But now I could at least call myself a tool. A tool for the carnal desires of men and the occasional woman.
Before long I was no longer defiant, but instead a part of the community.
They let me have the freedom to walk around and use my meager pay as I saw fit. And so I saw myself buy my medications at a nearby pharmacy.
One of the girls came with me, and they knew she wouldn't separate herself from me as I was the only thing she had in life.
"Is that you Payasa? She looks so much like you." The girl pointed at a poster that I never noticed.
It was a poster of a lost girl named Emilia Hernandez on a bulletin board by the back wall in the pharmacy.
"No lo creo," I responded. "My parents never cared for me, and she is way too young and pretty to be me." I wasn't wrong. The girl on the poster was definitely at least 4 years younger.
And plus my name is Payasa,
And plus my name is Payasa, not Emilia Hernandez.