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And in the four years I've spent mandating my own form of self-discovery, I've met a couple amazing people along the way. Some who turned out to be douchebags or sluts, some of whom turned out to be interesting (and by that I mean psychotic to say the least), and some who've imprinted one of whom became my own personal "guru." And I don't mean guru in the sense that we sat around in white robes drinking herbal tea talking about spirituality. Bello was more of a guide, or support buddy, or best friend, the "Skipper" to my Gilligan, and through our own separate journeys of suffering and inapprehensible circumstances, we ricocheted ours wisdoms off one another. In all honesty I could say with confidence that we truly have love for another in the most beautiful, pristine-and platonic-way possible. And I say platonic to reiterate that fact that
In fact, the first time I met Bello was the first time I saw a woman, other than myself, completely nude. Now just to clarify, this was not a "peeping Tom" situation, but only a native college freshman who wanted to know if her suitemate wanted to get a bite to eat for lunch. Little did I know that when I opened the door, I'd find myself staring at a silhouette of a caramel-skinned African woman lathering herself with lotion. I was flabbergasted. I could barely sputter out complete words, it was like my brain and tongue had just met. If I recall correctly, I might have stammered, "Oh Jesus!" Contrary to my reaction, Bello acted as if the fact that her breasts were flailing out was somewhat uneventful and probably found my redirection of eyes and awkward dance across the room (as I was making my way toward her chair-any chair), more perplexing. This is probably one of the best qualities that I admire about Bello. She has to be one of the most hysterically candid people I know.
So we went to eat at a nearby cafeteria (both fully dressed) and did the whole obligatory small talk. We talked about our lives; where we were from, our friends, our family, shit I felt I've recited a million times before. The situation got a little heavy when we started talking about her family. Now this part I'll leave out only in respect to her, as this is my reflection and not hers, but I'll tell you this: there were waterworks involved. Before I knew it I was compulsorily patting her on the back with one hand the back that I had just minutes ago seen in its native form and holding her hand with the other. Now, I'm not a very tender person, never have been. What I mean is that I turn into this completely awkward, panicked little child when faced with having to comfort someone...my palms get sweaty, my breathing accelerates and before you know it, they are having to ask me what the hell is wrong. I'm not saying it's one of my best qualities, but it's nonetheless very true. This isn't to say I'm void of all emotion, I have lots of emotions. It's just a shame that the only emotions I feel are anger and vexation. I think the last time I cried was when my second grade teacher wrote my name on the board for an indisgression that I didn't even do. And once at another time that I'll get to later.
So let me explain this a little further in my desperate attempt to make all things relevant. From the moment I met Bello, the naked and crying version, to now, there was this very inexplicable and picturesque connection, as if we shared some juicy little secret that no one else knew. We completely trusted each other and in there lied our comfort. We were one in the same-like yin and yang, ebony and ivory, if you will. I felt as though we were leading parallel lives and perchance, our paths came to cross.
*question?I suppose this would be as best a time as ever to tell you about what had transpired in the past four years that helped to mold the person I came to be. During these four years, I happened to also be enrolled at a university, a reputable one at that. But despite what you may think, my reflection does not have much to do with my attendance there. In fact, college for me was not about sex, drugs, and rock n' roll (and whenever people say or think that, I automatically start to roll my eyes). It wasn't even about the academia either. Hell, I don't remember half the things I've learned. Don't get me wrong, college wasn't a complete waste. If college has taught me anything, it's this: 1) How to do the most minimal amount of work to reach a maximal outcome of grades. 2) How to survive by eating ramen noodles all day, every day. 3) How best to treat insomnia. 4) Lastly, but most importantly, college has taught me that I need to grow from every experience that I've been handed.
How I learned this sound piece of advice? It actually took place back home in Los Angeles. See, my parents both earned a living owning a small golfing business and did pretty well for themselves. Our family lived a comfortable, upper middle class lifestyle in a nice neighborhood, with nice cars, and nice neighbors. Every aspect of our life was nice. But like all nice entities we acquire in life, they all come with a price.
The recession of 2007 had hit us hard, but it wasn't until in my second year in college that I caught a glimpse of what appeared to be the slow deterioration of our family business. It started with the avoidance of phone calls, then came the gradual selling of assets, then the final closing of the business.
My first thought was "what was I going to do?" This feeling of apprehension soon short-circuited to resentment and self-pity. Up till then, I was selfishly concentrated on one thing-which was to find a way to foster an education suitable enough to make me as much money as possible. I was not concerned with anything or anyone else. All I wanted to do was live a normal college life, just like everyone else around me. What I did not consider was what my family, especially my mother and father, was going through on a daily basis, how much they struggled, and how much turmoil they had gone through to get to this point. Looking back at it now, I am ashamed that I did not acknowledge that there was a lot more happening back home than I could imagine.
Truthfully, I was relieved to be attending school a hundred miles away for when I did go home, I could smell the air of despondence and defeat perforating throughout the household. It was the silence in our house that was so unbearably deafening that at times my sisters and I had to go out or do something or we'd have gone nuts. But for me, it was more than that. I felt if I stared into my parent's eyes, I'd shatter into a million pieces because I knew where we were headed. I knew that before long we'd run out of assets to sell, including the house-the house that the five of us had lived in for over twenty years-and we'd eventually file for bankruptcy. And as it so happened, my initial instincts came into fruition. But with no income and bankruptcy streaked over our name, we found ourselves asking, "Where the hell were we going to live?"
The next few months were far more grueling than the previous ones. We had three months before the house went under foreclosure so during that time, we went on a search for a place to love. From whatever leftover money we had from our savings and such, we guesstimated that it would be possible to cover first and last month's rent. Much to our dismay, it seemed that people were more reluctant to rent to bankrupt families with bad credit. So, we fell into a routine of rejection and subsequent loss of hope. It was kind of like that scene in Titanic where you see the old couple embracing one another in the bed as the water poured into their cabin. There was nowhere to go. We had tried it all. Now, this is about the time where you'd wonder where all our relatives were during this time. Simply put, they were nowhere to be found. That's right. Vanished. It was like they were petrified to catch a disease that we acquired-ABS (Aquired Broke Syndrome). If that's not adding insult to injury, I don't know what is.
I went home. But before that I cried hysterically-far more than my second grade experience. I mean, at that moment, I was at the brink of a complete and utter breakdown. My hands started to shake, my vision blurred, my heart felt like it would self-implode and to add fuel to the fire, I was sobbing uncontrollably. It was fortunate that Bello was with me at the time or I would have probably hung myself from my shower rod. She was the one who picked me off the floor and sufficed to say, she helped me get my shit together. I raced to my car to make the 100 miles back to perdition and as much as tried to convince me that I was in no condition to drive, and that she would take me. I told her I was fine and that I was adamant in going alone. Bello, true to her character, immediately hopped in her car and followed me all the way home. And even though I never checked to see if she was there, I knew she was right behind me. I'll never forget that. Damn, what a friend.
The two hour drive back to Los Angeles was excruciating. What was worse was my destination, where I'd find my mother lying unconscious in the hospital bed of the intensive care unit. My mother is a 5 foot, stout Asian woman. But contra to her stature, she's one feisty mama-take it as the whole "Napoleon-complex" issue as I'm pretty sure it is. So you'd understand my shock to see her in this state of affairs. She was far more emaciated and senile than I once remember. Like I said before, my mother attempted suicide, so within a couple hours, she came to. However, even if she did not die that night, I still believe a part of her did, as did the rest of us.
This part of my life was not a happy one. In fact, it was probably the crappiest I had felt ever in life. But in order to accurately reflect to you on who I am now, there was no tiptoeing around this particular experience. It was at this time that I had crashed emotionally, but I guess the fact that I can articulate this now just goes to show you the almighty healing power of time because while all this was happening, I did not take it well.
Okay, so let me try and tie up some loose ends here. How does this all fit in? Well, as I said earlier, Bello and I were running the same course, and by the powerful forces of UCSD Housing, we happened to meet. And strangely enough, while I was experiencing a pandemonium of problems back home, as was she. I discovered this while driving back to San Diego from another upsetting visit home. I called her for some consultation, only to realize that we were under identical circumstances. Her family had lost their home, the family business liquidated, and I heard in her voice the same desperation as I had. We sat in silence for a while until she said, "Look Michelle, we're not victims or survivors or anything like that. We're just doing what we gotta do. Don't forget that." And I never did.