The Translator

The cashier noticed her before I did.  She was wearing an easter dress and a pink rosette around her temple where her hair was pulled taught by a meticulously styled ponytail.  She was peering hesitantly at the cashier, wanting to be noticed without appearing disrespectful.  I knew that look, that hesitation, that assertiveness.  It wasn’t her first time taking charge.

“May I help you?”  The young cashier’s lack of condescension helped the girl relax a bit.

“How much money are these?”  She held up a pair of pink heels.  The cashier scanned the barcode and told her the price. “$34.99”

The girl smiled tenuously and walked back to her mother who was standing by a pillar trying to appear casual as she waited anxiously for the verdict.  The little girl whispered something and the mother shook her head as she returned the shoe to the display counter.  It exceeded her budget.

The encounter left a reminiscent smile on my face.  I remembered that not long ago I, too, was a 5 year old child leading a dual life: that of a child and a translator.  At home my parents ruled with a swiftness that left no doubt of their competence and authority.  Outside of home, those same unwavering parents walked with hesitant steps as they struggled to navigate their new country.  They were proud of their native language and forbade speaking the foreign tongue inside their home.  Yet, they were well aware that our family’s survival depended on that same foreign tongue – the one I was learning in school.  

That’s where my role as a translator was born.  I became the bridge between two worlds; at once novice and teacher.  I quickly learned to read and speak English, unaware that my parents’ demand for academic superiority was a pretense hiding basic necessity.  My parents did not have the luxury to learn and savor the new language, or the patience to understand the nuances of the new culture.  What they did have was an eldest daughter whose sole responsibility as a dutiful daughter was to make them proud.  Historically, my family’s lineage of daughters brought our family pride by fulfilling gender specific roles; but in this country, my bilingualism was the root of their pride.  Thus, at the tender age of 5 I embarked on a journey to become their translator.

Although my role as a translator has evolved over the years, what remains of those formative years is an acute awareness of the meaning of words and the emotions they convey and conceal in translation.  In my world, Spanish is soft, safe, emotive, and carnal; while English is rigid, authoritarian, detached, and exotic.  The two languages coexist within me in a symbiotic dependency.  Without one, I lose the other.  Without either, I lose myself.

As I watched the little girl – the young translator – carry the shoe back to her mother, I couldn’t help but think that maybe one day she, too, will see herself in another and be reminded that her story was forged by necessity.

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“The Translator” by Azul Serena

Confession

What would you have me do?  Tell you that I think you’re cute, funny, kind, and sweet?  That I find your intelligence incredibly attractive and your presence invigorates my desensitized senses?  

And for what?  So that your silence can continue to foment my inquietude?

No love.  I will not say those things, for you know them all too well.  

Rather, you will see me running through this world like the carefree wind blowing by your ear.  Do you hear that?  It’s the music of my soul, ecstatic in its knowledge of the vigor of my power.  A creative soul.

Take your time love.  Mull over what you need and what you want.  Peruse your thoughts.  Listen to the words you yearn to say and heed the silence that you hold so dear.

When you’re ready and your lips regain their usual smirk, I will know if the words coming from my lips are the words we need to hear.

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“Confession” by Azul Serena

Invisible Women

Invisible women
Wives of men, Mothers of sons.
You ceased to exist the day your body was sold through the holy sanctity of matrimony
Stripped of your father’s name and prettily cloaked by your husband’s name.
Do not be fooled.
Your new identity comes at a price too horrific to name: Erasure.
You are no longer Eve, daughter of Man, autonomous person;
You are now His Wife and Their Mother, invisible woman.
Nameless, faceless
Worthy of mention after you’ve birthed a son to carry the family name.
Worthy of shame after you birth daughters, poor souls condemned to expunction.
Who are you? Where have you been, seen, heard, felt?
Tragically no one but you will ever know.


This piece was written as a response to my many observations of the gender politics that riddle family gatherings. Whether knowingly or unknowingly, the men in my family have the habit of introducing first their sons by name, followed by their unwed daughters by name, briefly mentioning their married daughters as “My daughter, so-and-so’s wife,” and introducing their wife last as “My Wife.” They don’t mention her name and rarely ever turn to look her in the eyes when they make the introduction. If she’s lucky her husband will make a half-hearted wave in her direction; but that’s a veritable rarity. With this behavior he enforces a hierarchy that clearly renders women invisible, worse than a second-class citizen.

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“Invisible Women” by Azul Serena

Marlene

Marlene lived a life of longing and loneliness. She was enamored with love and spent her days studying the fine art of courtship as intently as she studied history scholarship. Every day she awoke before the sun with a stoic determination that was rivaled only by the previous day’s display. She coiffed her hair carefully, parting it at the side to add just the right amount of coyness to the finger wave that rested just above her jawline. Her eyebrows were penciled in meticulously, forever resting in a graceful arch awaiting the right time to morph into the appropriate reaction. Her lips were a chameleon draped in hues of red and orange; languorous coquettes that strove to ensnarl their victim in a trap of soft curves and sharp edges. Her hips were also a cherished apprentice. They eagerly mimicked every sway and rhythm known to hypnotize the male gaze and loins.

Marlene was by no means beautiful; but there was no denying that she was sweet and caring with just the right amount of eccentricity to be interesting. Unfortunately, this was not enough to entrap an errant lover. As a debutante she ignored her disquietude for she knew that even the modest blooms of every season were plucked and showcased after the pompous blooms had withered away.

Seasons came and went as she waited her turn. Patiently. Devoutly. She witnessed the wedding of her first love, and experienced the disappointment of learning that her second love was a veritable dandy. By the time her sixth love made his appearance she was sure that her time had come. She returned to the schoolroom to master his favorite pastimes: photography, travel, sports, and beautiful women. She adopted his preferred patina and feigned enjoyment of his favorite whiskey. She was ready for undying love. He was not. Marlene watched as he paraded on his arm woman after woman, some for longer periods of time than others, but all with the same undoubted finality of temporariness.

Three years she waited in limbo until the day he announced that he was ready to settle. The fortunate woman, unquestionable owner of his rogue heart, was a mystery to all but Marlene. She shimmied and charmed, batted her eyelashes and fan, and effortlessly inserted compliments and verses into every conversation. His ego swelled and her heart held its breath. Her dreams took flight, levitating her spirit with an ease that had lain dormant for years. Soon she’d wear the lace veil that had graced her grandmother’s crown, and rule with equanimity the confines of his domain.

Marlene waited another year with more patience than before, comfortable in the knowledge that she’d have a lifetime to savor her prize. By the time the fifth year made its appearance without the accompaniment of his professed love, her unfaltering confidence began to waver. His eyes still roamed incessantly and although they frequently fell on her, they never lingered long enough to notice her.

She continued her wait until the seventh year when he awoke one morning and decided that the sensual brunette tangled in his sheets would bear his name and children. They married two months later. Marlene attended their wedding. She showered them with rice and well wishes, and even gave a speech.

At the end of the ceremony she mourned her loss with a soulful sigh that carried nearly a decade of misplaced hope. She wondered what sign she had missed and resolved to be more attentive the next time her true love came to claim her. She pulled a weathered tome from the shelf and nestled herself in her couch. There is always a tomorrow made possible by a today, she hummed.

———
“Marlene” by Azul Serena

My Violin, Our Love

I’ll know that I am ready to commit to you and our relationship the day I learn to love you the way I love my violin. Within seconds of laying eyes on my violin I knew that it would change my life forever; however, it was years before I understood my transformation.

The violin challenged me to persevere when I was on the verge of hopelessness, and to rejoice at the minor victories that come with mastering its complexity. It was a humbling experience that taught me that its beauty was a reflection of my commitment to learn, refine, and perfect the foundational techniques.

There were days when the music flowed effortlessly from my fingertips, giving me a false sense of grandiosity. I, the violin virtuosa, was unstoppable, brava, a prodigy! But inevitably, time and again I fell from that precarious precipice; the pain was a direct correlation to my arrogance. In those moments, I, the apprentice, was too eager and inept to be granted the honor of touching the delicate instrument.

Thankfully, soon enough – or maybe not too soon – I learned that the joy of being a violinist doesn’t stem from the ability to play beautifully, rather it stems from our ability to transform the screeching sounds of our rigid fingers into the driving force that wills us to practice for hours on end simply to hit that note and play that rhythm.

Thus, the day I learn to embrace the fact that love requires more than fluttering lashes, rosy cheeks, and puckered lips, will be the day I learn to treat our relationship the way I treat my violin: gently, reverently, passionately, patiently.

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“My Violin, Our Love” by Azul Serena

Of Life and Hair Loss

These days he spent a few extra moments in front of the mirror, lamenting his loss with each tilt of his head. He didn’t tell his wife this, but he kept count of how many hairs he’d lost overnight; she’d never believe him. It appeared that last night’s casualties amounted to four: three from his temples and one from the crown of his head. At least these days the recession had tapered off to no more than five hairs per night. He sighed deeply as he gently caressed his hair before opening the door and stepping onto the cold tile floor that led to their bedroom.

He was only 24 years old when the hair loss began. At first he didn’t pay it much heed. It was unthinkable that his luscious tresses – the same ones that women envied – would succumb to this mundane tragedy. By the end of that year he could no longer ignore the truth that stared back at him every morning when he raised his head from his pillow: he was balding.

Initially the fear was nothing more than undiluted vanity. He liked running his fingers through his hair while he talked to pretty women. And he certainly liked the sensation of the rushing wind ruffling his hair as he biked across the city. Losing his hair was equivalent to losing his power of seduction. Preposterous.

Now it was a matter of practicality. A balding head implied years of wisdom and an unquestionable resignation to Life’s many whims. He had neither. He had energy to expend and goals to contrive. He had bravado. But he certainly did not feel complacency. How then was he expected to live with this unwanted burden? (Or lack thereof considering the lightened weight of his head.)

It was tragic to realize that he had set the value of life on looks and vanity. Nevermind that he had a roof over his head, a loving family, and a solid college education. Looks and vanity were his downfall – he was the true son of the fallen angel. He was human. Thankfully, as a true human he also had undying hope. He knew beyond doubt that his hair would never grow back, but that didn’t stop him from hoping otherwise. Maybe this hair loss had its benefits after all.

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“Of Life and Hair Loss” by Azul Serena

One Year Reflection

A year ago I set out on a journey to share my writing publicly with the blogging community. I was nervous and half expected to fail in this endeavor because I didn’t know how my writing would be received. Today, I am humbled by the responses and interactions with my fellow bloggers. I may not have the opportunity to interact with you in person but the idea that my writing resonates with you, and yours with me, is more than enough encouragement to continue working on improving myself as a writer. Thank you for your time and support!

Here’s to another year of learning and growth!

With gratitude,

Azul Serena

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“One Year Reflection” by Azul Serena