(This is an auto-biography I turned into for my 10th grade English class for May 2006. Names have been changed to protect the guilty.)

A Note From the Author

My story is not unlike the stories that you have read elsewhere; probably just void of sex, drugs and violence. My story is about an artistic and introspective teenager. She is a bright girl, but for many years she struggled with fear.

She deduced many years ago that all actions were driven from either fear or love; a purer variation of Freud's theory that all actions are stemmed from the carnal desires or desire for violence. Perhaps Freud wouldn't like this story.

This is the story of that girl's unending pursuit to make decisions based on love instead of fear. To accomplish more than she can. To accomplish more than just being. Although the story does not end with the final page of this essay, it tells you the spark that lit and internal revolution and foreshadows what is to become of the future.

My apologies for the length of this essay. I'm afraid I lack the skill to condense milestones and I am aware that this essay is quite a few pages over the maximum. I hope however, that you see sincerity in my testaments

I dedicate this essay to everyone who has supported and cared for me. You are not lost in my thoughts.

I had a normal childhood, accounts can been drawn of me scribbling with crayons, blowing bubbles running in playgrounds; all of the universal marks of early youth. The home I reside in now has seen all of my faces, for I've lived out almost my entire childhood within the weathered structure of number 1165.

I was a member of a content nuclear family, the Tavarez's. The innocence of my age knew nothing of sour family relations. I blame that on my distaste for verbal confrontation. Even as a young child, I trained myself to bottle up anger, to take orders without inquiry, to be mute. I received emotional military training. Perhaps it would not of seemed so sick if I was not seven years old.

By my fifth grade year, I was beginning to observe changes in my family structure. My father was coming home from work much later than before. My mother tried to keep a steady head, but even as a ten year old, I could sense something wasn't at ease with her. This sense only refined as time passed. I saw less and less of my father's face and less and less of my mother's smiles.

One day, during the summer of 2002, I noticed that my mother got a package in the mail stating in bold font "Christian Divorce". My throat dried, I could not believe that my worse nightmare was coming true. I realized that I could not even remember the last time I saw my parents kiss. Heartbroken, I confronted my mother sobbing and feeling a sadness that was far more intense than I had ever felt. My mother tried to console me and tell me that nothing was final yet, and that she and my father were still trying to work things out.

A few days after I began the sixth grade, my father was deployed to Bosnia for nine months for the military. At that point I knew my parents would not make it.

After I graduated the fifth grade, I was already beginning to smell the rotting meat of depression, which forebode the taste of it. My best friends moved away, after all of our promises to start middle school together in Seeping WillowsMiddle school. In the end, I was the only one.

Words could not express the agony I felt. I was so excited to enter middle school, only to discover it was a confusing place that forced you to grow up when you weren't ready. Every night, I would cry myself to sleep and hope that I wouldn't wake up. I figured being caught in sleep for eternity was better than having to live to see a hell everyday. I couldn't decide what I despised more, going to school or going home.

I was so innocent, I did not know real sorrow existed. I felt that it was beyond standards of unfair. I tried to work out anger by screaming into pillows and punching walls. Drawing my sole temporary pleasure, and the more I drew the more I realized I wanted to do it for the rest of my life. However, what with having recently lost complete faith in myself, I immediately reduced that to an impossibility.

During the summer a friend of mine told me about her school, Summer Academy. She told me it was brand new and completely disorganized, but anything sounded better than Seeping Willowsat the moment. I began in the 2003 school year.

I loved Summer, in spite of the fact that the entire 7th grade class was crammed in a portable the smelled of dust intermingled with a certain bodily dispatch. I was more than happy to enter a physical gas chamber as a opposed to an emotional gas chamber. Being there helped me restart my childhood and close the book on Seeping Willows.

Scoliosis is a condition when the spine grows sideways, as opposed to the favorable way of growing straight up. My spine exposed itself as unfavorable in late elementary school. I had a very minor 5 degree curve in the lumbar region of my spine at the time. The doctors told me that as I continue to grow, the curve will most likely expand. I could have been given a brace to stop the progression. The odds for surgery were very slim, but I was still afraid of them.

By sixth grade, my back was beginning to bother me. When we went back to the doctor, we were told that the curve in my spine had dipped by about 10 degrees, and I was beginning to form a smaller curve in my mid-back. Despite the pain, I was still not a candidate for a brace.

Throughout the seventh grade, my back pain escalated. It became a daily hinder, so I felt that there was no need to complain about it. Everyone knew I had back problems, so it was like complaining about math homework; futile.

I was no fool, though. I brought it up with my parents and I got my spine examined again. It had progressed to the point that I would need a brace within half a year's time.

Then, one day, less than three months after my last check up, I looked in the mirror and realized that my shoulders and hips were asymmetrical. In my stunned eyes, I looked like a Picasso painting. Sure, I had noticed a huge increase in back pain over the course of the past few weeks, but this was the norm for me. If there ever was a day my back wasn't bothering me, I'd probably of thought something was wrong with me.

I was professionally examined two weeks later. My doctor was baffled. In the time since he last saw me, my original curve and my smaller curve had increased 10 degrees each. I was beyond the help of a brace, I needed surgery. The procedure was scheduled for November 17th, 2003. My surgery was the beginning of my stepping out of childhood.

The prospect of surgery did not scare me anymore. How could my fear of melted away so quickly, without detection? I found that with the surgery, all of the unreasonable fears I had as a child melted away (Needles, rollar coasters, funny-smelling food...).

I was enthralled with the idea of being courageous, because I never had been. I experimented with placing my thoughts stray from my back pain. It made me feel better than who I was, it made me recognize that this was the type of person I wanted to be. I wanted to be strong and brave without thinking; as though it was embedded into me. In some small way, my tinkering with this foreign concept ignited a later, more hopeful reality. I noticed that almost everyone that meant something to me and even people that did not were more afraid for me than I was for myself. And for what? I just...didn't see the point of fear. There had been rare cases of infection for my particular surgery and even less (if any at all) cases of paralysis or death.

The one week I was in the hospital after my surgery, I was never more aware of my physical self. The morphine had almost completely halted any insightful thought I had. It was like there were parts of my body I didn't know existed. Pains I didn't think I could feel. I was praised raptly because I never complained about pain. I could not explain it was because I was conditioning myself to be a better person. I wanted to have bravery for those who did not, and I like to think it worked from time to time.

Because I was doing so well, I was discharged days early. I was immensely proud of myself for impressing all of my relatives with a courageous face and a speedy recovery. But my mirth dissipated as soon as I got into my father's rusty 1990 Izuzu Trooper. At that point, the morphine had wore off, and all of the tiniest bumps in the road felt like hundreds of aluminum bats pummeling my back. I was sobbing, begging my father to stop the car. I no longer felt like a heroine atop a shining hill.

A few days after sleeping in my own bed and taking prescription pain killers that could take down a horse, it was clear to everyone that I was fine, there was no need to act brave to nurture the insecurities of others. I spent about two and a half months at home, recovering from my surgery. I discovered a new passion for writing and relit the torch to my old passion for art.

Once I began school again, I realized a handful of things had changed. One was that I spent the past two and half months of my life laying low and spending days exactly how I wanted them. It put a small frown on my face to have to go back to school and concerning myself with grades, especially since I had such an explosion of creative thought during my time at home.

Another very significant change was the constant movement with an extremely sensitive back. Getting shoved in the halls or classrooms placed on opposite ends of a was silent murder for me. I believe this constant physical weakness led to a sort of self-hatred. Being physically weak led me to believe that I was mentally weak. Which, wasn't true until I began to believe it. My dream of being durable in the sight of pain would have to wait for now. I slipped into a muted form of depression, probably hurting the people around me more than myself. Thankfully, this period ended before it could do any serious damage to my perspective or internal organs. I heard somewhere that depression creates organ-eating acids. Although this concept is questionable, it's too late for me to find out if it's really true or not. (:

In the valiant name of strengthening my back, with the encouragement of my family, I began walking daily. Initially, walking was a mixed bag. Three factors altered the experience of a walk; 1.) The music I listened to. 2.) The level of pain in my back. 3.) The kind of day I had.

If I was listening to Linkin Park, had severe back pain, and had a hectic day at school, it was needless to say that strolling aimlessly on my own was not going a celebrated task. It was only in the beginning that my walks were colored drab.

In time, I stopped listening to Linkin Park while I walked. And if ever my back was ever in crippling pain, I would probably stay inside. On the couple of times that this happened, I was more or less a zombie, terrorizing Chapel Lake Estates with my catatonic movements. Perhaps I even munched on a random child's brain; I try not to recall my moods or thoughts when I went on those walks.

Most of the time though, my walks were and remain to be very pleasant, to say the least. There is something ethereally free about the act of walking in my neighborhood. It is hard to place, because it's a painfully typical suburb. Perhaps because there is a connotation of ownership to it; it is my painfully typical suburb. Over time, I learned get so lost in my own world, and began dancing in the middle of the street to whatever techno song just happened to be blaring in the space between my ears, giving no second thought to the possibility of random passerby watching me. Could you detect life and strength in a little jig?

Some of my best ideas and loudest revelations have been birthed through the simple act of placing one foot before the other. Few things in life give me even a fraction of that bliss. A storm cloud will loom over the day that my dirty Chuck Taylors stop their tread along my neighborhood's gutters.

I cannot write an auto-biography without mentioning art. "Art", like the complex word "love" takes on many definitions, all correct in their own ways. I am noone to place label on a word; all I care about is to submerse myself as fully as possible in the verb of art, whatever that may be.

Change is a natural part of life. Embryo to fetus, teenager to adult; what have you. I may change the color of my hair with a renewed frequency, and change the color of my eyelids even sooner. People will stroll in and out of my life at whatever discretion. But one thing that will never become transitory in my life is art. Every drop of ink, a smudge of oil pastel, every pixel on Photoshop; all of it is seething my thanks to God that I am alive. And quite frankly, I know no better way to pray.

One thing I that never fails to irk me in narratives is the usage of clichés. They spawn predictability and unoriginality in stories. Although I have complete control over the clichés in my own stories, I faintly have control over the clichés in my life.

It is something everyone has heard before; a boy and a girl are childhood friends or rivals (in my case, it was both.) They lose contact for a period of time. By an odd act of happenstance, they meet again, more complex than their former, youthful selves. In many cases, the boy and the girl are neighbors. Because this story has been told so many times, we already have an idea of what will happen next.

He, very much like myself, was a slave for the visual arts and a mistress for the written arts. Again, like myself, his past was spotted gray with a broken family and an absent father. He spoke with a mixture of cynicism, oddity and sapience. He had the rare ability of acquiring the laughter of others whenever his heart desired. Had the key to my smile, and he did not need to be in my presence to unlock it. A yearning to be more than who he was. He was at times, the only person that reminds me of an extended version of myself. It would of surprised no one if ever we became a couple.

Perhaps his only flaw at the time was the yellow-tinge to his skin and the slant to his dark eyes. In the paler eyes of someone fathering a white Cuban American girl, a suitor of any color but white, and coming from any country but Castrolandia was unacceptable.

The boy doted on me in complete silence for over a year. I remained completely unaware of this fact, for I assumed myself uninterested. In what appeared to be an attempt to move away from my purely platonic grasp, he acquired the commodity of a long distance relationship.

Before he was who he is today, he was sweet and timid. His boisterousness came with age. He expressed concern for me about my operation, which, I later discovered was only a chip off the iceberg. He was perhaps the only one that was afraid I would die on the table, and had even broken up with his girlfriend, with the intention of pursuing me. He arrived on a bicycle a handful of times during the recovery period of my operation. In the end, he lost his confidence in asking me out and went back to his old girlfriend. I have never given him reason to believe that I know this piece of guarded information.

I dreamt one night in the spring of 2004. In this dream, he and I were stood alone in a dank elevator. We began to weep in each other's arms. When I woke up, I had to acknowledge that denying that my feelings for him was completely useless.

For the next year, he and I juggled with one another's hearts. It was evident that he was struggling more than I was, seeing as he had more hearts to juggle with...

Nonetheless, he had somehow found his way into my usually solitary act of walking; enriching it with warmth and laughter. The convenience in the geography concealed my intermittent intention of getting closer to him in the name of romance. I proved myself as a coward, though. I spent countless hours with him alone, and did absolutely nothing to reproach the subject. And because he didn't either, we went back and forth, painfully questioning to ourselves whether or not one felt the same about the other. I was deathly afraid of rejection, and could not stand the idea of failing in romance like my parents had. Still, I relished his company, and I'd like to think he enjoyed mine, too.

Towards the end of the year, after a particularly messy string of events pertaining to another one of his many suitors at the time, he meant to tell me that it was over between us, but ended up telling me that he indeed cared very much for me. He divulged to me that he was much more troubled than his loud exterior let outsiders believe. I saw that eventually, his ambiguity would result in something tragic.

In the next year, I found that some of my feeling for him had faded. But in fact, this was the time his presence in my life was the most impacting. He had been sending me stronger signals of interest, so one could imagine my surprise when I discovered he had collected another future ex-girlfriend. What was more frustrating was that I was mustering the courage to ask him out myself. As if there was not enough shock in this story, I rode my bicycle over to his house and with a mortified stammer (which is a huge understatement...), I confronted and confessed my feelings to him. "If a freak hurricane comes and kills her, there's nothing I can do. What happens, happens," was a charming line he told me in reference to his new beloved, later forgetting her name and dubbing her as "it". My prediction of that relationship ending in two weeks came true.

The fact that I had done this though, was a huge turning point in my life. Not since my operation had I exhibited bravery of that quantity. I was becoming more outspoken and less afraid of things in general. He himself said that my confession made him proud of me.

On the latter hand, I had heard a couple of unsavory rumors about him, and could see that he was not as nice a guy as he used to be. We continued walking together almost every week, and I had more or less decided he was attracted to me, but probably did not want to be or did not know it.

In January of 2006, I did something that I had never done before; ask someone out on a date. It really was not as horrifying as I thought it would be, even when he rejected me. He explained that despite his feelings for me, he was still somewhat fickle and wanted to focus on school...the words mish-mashed together after that. I responded simply that I refused to chase him any longer, that if he wanted to be with me, he would have to do something about it himself.

I felt fantastic about myself, amazed at my own strength. Feeling dejected was an inevitable feeling, but at least it was not the dominant feeling. I realized that without meaning to, his refusal to see me as more than a friend made me a better person. This is where the extensive cliché ends, though. I repay all that this boy has given me by denying him my existence in his life. I am a ghost to him; lurking in all of the old places, gliding by wordlessly. Sometimes, he will turn and think he has caught a glimpse of me, but that is all it is. A mere glimpse.

I do not know how else to act in this situation, and I know it is childish. But I am afraid I will get sucked into the whirlpool of him again. I certainly don not want to become victim of his recent distasteful fashions. I feel immense guilt for this, it is not in my nature to be so outwardly rude, nor do I wish to cause him more pain than I already have. But I have to think about my own well being before I can think of anyone else's. I half-hope for the day that we can speak to each other again, without all of the confusion that hovered over us.

For now, all I can do is thank that equally joyed and pained mark he had in my life. Who would have thought bravery came in the way of Ben's distance?

Another staple of annoyance and pain in my teenage years came in the form of a hulking man. All the same, another person that helped me grow metaphorical cojonés. 6'4", 230 pounds, decorated military official, eyes made of cold, green steel...and the emotional stability of a six year old with ADD! Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you my father, Master Gunnery Sergeant Francisco Emanuel Tavarez!

Despite a very misleading physical figure, my father is one of the weakest people I know. He was absent during the two most difficult periods of my life. I still haven not completely forgiven him for his indiscretion against my mother. I may spit on my father's name with startling consistency, but I have never denied that he received the shortest end of the stick in the divorce. Sometimes, if I squint my eyes and tilt my head, I can even see that he cares for me.

When he returned from his year-long stay in Brazil, he brought back a little souvenir. A lanky, tanned woman that was old enough to be my sister. For nearly a year, she inhabited my father's already cramped condominium. The little English she spoke was garbled, the only solid things I knew about The Brazilian was that she had ovarian cancer a few years ago and likes shoes very much.

For a year, I practically begged my father to tell me what was going to happen with this girl. Were they to wed? Would she go home? My father tortured me with his silence. Even though I had learned to stand up to an implausabily intimidating man, I could not break through to him. Angry and frustrated with his lack of communication, I made myself as scarce to him as possible. All the same, years and years of passivity were shed from me, and I began accepted my anger as valid in ways I never could as a child.

A scandal broke over the family, where The Brazilian was caught lying to my father. Deceiving to cover herself from a huge, immature decision she made. Lying to humiliate and expose my sister as some sort of criminal.

I hold a large amount loyalty to my sister, and I was disgusted with this woman, feeling relief when I discovered that she would be going back to Brazil in less than a month. In the time that she was gone, I realized that my venom against my father was wrong, and that I should be making great strides to patch things up with him. I tried to do more things with him, even if there was still a slight lapse in communication.

One day, my father was driving me to a birthday party and out of nowhere, he blurted that The Brazilian had been in his home for the past three days. I was flabbergasted, seeing as not but two days ago, I had asked him about her and he brought up nothing. Feeling repulsed and betrayed, I speechlessly slammed the door of his Jeep and put on my best happy face for the party.

At a later date, I expressed my anger... in a most spirited vocabulary. He apologized profusely, giving me the impression that he only half understood why I was so upset. He revealed that he was most likely going to marry her. I was still ill at ease with the new set of circumstances, even though I was offered a glimmer of clarity. I told myself that my gross feelings would pass and that I would work it out with him in time.

About a week later, during the spring break of 2006, my younger brother eyed me with caution as he entered my room. He innocently asked if I knew anything about my father's planned union to The Brazilian or about a supposed wedding party. My voice heavy in cynicism, I told him that I knew nothing, that our father choose not to tell me things of substance. Frankie seemed a little shocked with what I told him, and unveiled to me that my father and The Brazilian went to the courthouse two days ago and threw a small party to celebrate the event. And it was definitely a party because there was cake.

A sick feeling in the pit of my stomach formed and grew into a sick, acidic feeling on my tongue. When Frankie left, I screamed into my pillow, like I had not in years. I felt much better afterwards.

For many days, I remained stoic about my father's marriage, just to see how long my father had the audacity to keep it from me. After about a week, he did bring up the marriage and things got pretty ugly. It was among the first times I had raised my voice to him, The very first time I used profanity in his presence. He refused to see how it was morally wrong to hide a new marriage from his child. He tried to justify everything, tried to label me as an estrogen-driven vessel of emotion. He told me that he didn't see the point in telling me the exact date of the wedding because he had already told me he would marry her eventually. He tried to tell me that the party was just a family gathering, when it was most certainly a party because there was cake!

The thing that drove me ballistic was when he told me that the marriage meant nothing, it was just for The Brazilian to gain citizenship. That really, marriage doesn't mean anything at all. I couldn't believe what I had heard. No. No. NO! What authority did this man have to tell me that marriage means nothing!? Me, someone that has been fighting for years to see decency in the concept of romance in this corroded society. Was that one of his many high-and-mighty military privileges? How distorted does your mind have to be to tell your kid that!? Why should I have to deal with this unholy man anymore? WHY!?

I hung up on him mid-sentence, another act I would have even considered during my days of submission. I may of been sobbing, but brimming through my pain, I felt exceptional. I could finally tell myself that my father was wrong; not me. Even if he never saw the plight of his ways, I knew that I had more strength than an apprehended servant to the Marine Corps. I finally had that resilience I had been admiring for years.

Sitting on my bed, my fingers still curling the phone. I wiped my tears away on my sleeve. What was I crying for, anyway? I chuckled softly to myself. I pushed the door of my room and went downstairs. This calls for a celebration! Where is that cake I baked?

As of present, I am not on speaking terms with my father. I do not know the date of which I will speak to him again, but I hope that it does indeed, arrive. It is never my primary intention to breed negative emotions. But in the same token, I will never again allow him to castrate my voice. I will never allow him to make me feel beneath him and unworthy of opinions. This can be stated no truer.

Despite the obvious complexity of my words, I assure you that I still hold my own set of immaturities. My downfall is my humanity, and to be human is to be in a constant state of error (I might be quoting someone, but I am not sure). Oh, but it is still quite human to desire more; and this is something that belongs to humanity that is not an err. It is still somewhat instinctive for me to choose to flight in moments of peril, but I'm trying to fight this. I do not know how long it will take for me to mold my visage into reality, but as long as I bear my name, have my own pallid eyes and stride in my own way; I will fight to be this person.

Castrolandia- translates to "Castro's land" in Spanish. Meant to imply spite over the Communist dictatorship.