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Posts tagged Q. Vergara
America Hates the Poor: Emergency Preparedness is for the Rich

BY Q. VERGARA

 

The earthquakes that hit Southern California during the Fourth of July Weekend got quite a bit of news coverage. And while the information was useful, they kept insisting people should stock up on emergency supplies in the event of a natural disaster. It makes sense to plan ahead and be prepared, but let's be honest, it isn't always practical or realistic.

Image by Jessica Weston from  Associated Press

Image by Jessica Weston from Associated Press

According to The San Diego Union-Tribune (2019), California ranks number one in poverty across the United States. The U.S. Census calculates poverty in two different ways:

  1. based on income, and

  2. based on a measure called “supplemental poverty measure”

This measure allows the census to calculate how many people are living in poverty by how much government programs are assisting low-income families. Using this measure, California's poverty rate sits at a whopping 19 percent (San Diego Union-Tribune, 2019).

If so many families are struggling with day to day necessities, how are they expected to buy anything extra? When you're wondering where your next meal is going to come from and your stomach is touching your back, how realistic is it to buy groceries to set aside for "just-in-case?" When you're already living every day in emergency mode, because your finances do not allow you to breathe, how are you supposed to spend the money you don't have for an imminent hypothetical?

Image by  Marcello Migliosi  from  Pixabay

Having money in the U.S. not only provides you opportunity, but allows you to mitigate any damage you encounter when things go awry. Trouble with the law? Post bond and pay a good lawyer. Feeling sick? Fly to where you can get the best medical care and pay for it, no problem. Natural disaster? Pay earthquake insurance, move, rebuild, whatever. When you have money you are no longer at the mercy of your surroundings. When you have money you can be proactive. But when you're living in poverty, you're forced to be reactive and adapt. 

Beyond stocking up on food, there are a countless number of other hurdles those in poverty must face if hit with a natural disaster. Hopefully you don't have kids, elderly, or disabled folk in diapers—gotta stock pile that. Hopefully you don't rely on medication—can’t go over your allotments on insurance. Hopefully you have a house or at least enough room to even store the things you keep. God forbid you live on the second floor and have mobility issues. In an emergency, there's no chance in hell you're getting down those stairs. With just a little bit of money, you could have moved somewhere else, bought extras, and paid your way out of trouble to keep you and your family safe.

Image by  StockSnap  from  Pixabay

Image by StockSnap from Pixabay

The super hurricanes you see on TV have been jarring enough. Infants in plastic storage containers, floating in dirty murky water on a stack of pillows and blankets. What would I do in that situation? If it happened tomorrow, I wouldn't have enough money to evacuate.

Not enough money to be awarded the same opportunities to keep my family safe. Not enough money to be safe. That's a scary thought. Having the foresight of emergency preparedness does nothing, because I still need the money to buy shit.  

I hope by the time the big earthquake hits, I have enough money in my pocket to keep my family safe. I pray that by the time it hits, I have enough money to keep my community safe. 

Yellow

BY: Q. VERGARA


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There's something about an overcast windy rainy day that completes me. The whites blending with the grays and blues. The smudged sky made my heart smile. The whistling of the wind in the palm trees as the voluptuous clouds lollygag by, pulls my mind to wander. I can't help but listen to Coldplay's first album on repeat. The cold air kisses my cheek through the window trying to lure me out.

 "I miss you," she whispers before building up her might and billowing a hard gust of her breath through the trees and she leaves. My eyes try to follow her long flowing invisible silhouette but I only catch the train of her gown and the damage left in her wake. Before long, the trees and plants fall back to their resting positions and sway as if they had never been touched. I can't be certain if it's her lulling them as her breathing swells or Coldplay's melodies and lyrics serenading the leafs.

 

And on and on from the moment I wake

To the moment I sleep

I'll be there by your side

Just you try and stop me

I'll be waiting in line

Just to see if you can

 

Coldplay's words always held a special meaning to me. The melodies felt like a familiar embrace, like a familiar scent on familiar clothes. I could close my eyes and feel your breath on my ear. It's been 15 years since I've touched you. Why do days like today remind me of you? The song ended leaving me a moment with the cold realization that I may never go back home. Coldplay spoke to me as the Wind teased me to come outside for a hug. Her breath was intoxicating. The moisture in the air teased a light rain fall.

 

I awake to find no peace of mind

I said how do you live as a fugitive

Down here where I cannot see so clear

I said, what do I know

 

I felt like a fugitive unable to relax until I made my way back to you. I was born with your soil and roots beneath my feet. We came from the same dust. But here where loyalties lie and citizenships brand, I wait and long for you through the cold murmurings of the wind. Sparks was one of my favorite songs on this album. I couldn't help but sing along in a wispy low voice. The sun reflected light off the clouds in a way to almost make them look like they were satin and glimmering--winking at me. My face broke into a gentle smile.

 

Look at the stars

Look how they shine for you

And everything you do

Yeah they were all yellow

 

Yellow. This was the epitome of my love for Coldplay and cold days like this. I was fixated looking out the window at the branches dancing to Chris Martin sing. I knew they were dancing for me. The California Hills laid at my feet in comfort of this moment, blowing kisses back to Saudi. Cold days like this have always been my favorite. I used to miss home in a way that pained my soul but now, I miss it on my favorite days.

When I met Saudi, without the American Narrative, I was in 7th grade. He stood misunderstood with a sparkling smile.

 

Your skin

Oh yeah, your skin and bones

Turn into something beautiful

You know, you know I love you so

You know I love you so

 

I fell in love with his traditions and ideas--the way he spoke and how he laughed from the middle of himself. He was eager to learn how I lived and how I didn't judge him for his hard consonants. He loved me beyond the way people talked. He loved me the way a child loves with every ounce and fiber of his being. Saudi loved me in a way that I longed for on these cold days. Saudi's love gave me warm pillows and heated fluffy blankets filled with memories and smiles. His love grew my virtues, and when America tried to teach me how to think, He reminded me to lead with love.

Bankrupt Childhood

BY: Q. VERGARA


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I got embarrassingly nostalgic and low-key emotional seeing a particular photo set on Facebook. We've been hearing the news for weeks now and it hasn't bothered me. The topic has always been a business debate, but it's never been about saying goodbye.

But tonight something happened. I sat down to smoke my bedtime bowl and perused my news feed so my thumbs could get their daily work out - phalange fitness is priority in my life. I see the regular everyday posts about politics and photos of babies and videos of cats and what the fuck ever. Then, I scroll down a little bit further and see the most adorable little girl. She has deep cherry brown hair and brown skin. She's standing in a store aisle surrounded by shelves that reach towards the sky filled with toys. The caption reads something to the effect of, she'll never get a chance to experience Toys 'R' Us like her older brothers, so here's a photo shoot of her inside the toy giant playing around for as long as she wants. +13 More. My finger was a curious.

Wow, Toys 'R' Us is actually closing, I thought.

The next picture was taken from behind as she looked up at a shelf. I could feel my throat get dry. But smoking weed does that to you, right? The third picture she's holding a toy twice the size of her. I felt small again. I could feel the little girls shoes around my feet. I felt a tinge of pain. The fourth picture she's running back to the camera with the gargantuan toy.

My son is nine months old. He's learning how to walk. He is my first child. He'll never experience the rush that was pulling up to Toys 'R' Us. He'll never know what it's like to see shelves filled up to the ceiling with every toy imaginable. He'll never know the critical thinking that went into toy selection. Finally choosing which toy to take home when your mom has a strict one-toy policy was difficult, but taught me to identify my wants and pick most accordingly with what fit my short-term and long-term goals (and Mom's budget). It always came down to Barbies, but which one was always the game changer. The only two places that even came close to Toys 'R' Us were Discovery Zone (Am I showing my age?) and book stores, specifically The Little Professor. Toys 'R' Us had that magic you could take home with you.

Becoming a parent for the first time was wild enough from conception to delivery and then gets even wilder after they're born. Being able to pass on a familiar experience from your childhood that filled you with so much excitement and happiness felt like a rite of passage. It was more than getting a toy. It was knowing a place exists that understands you and your wants.

But in all honesty, even if it stayed around, I doubt I'd take my son there as he grows up.

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Some years ago, I don't even remember how far back, I found myself in my local store in disbelief. It still feels like a lucid nightmare. Not because something terrible or traumatic happened but because of the feeling that stayed with me after I had left. It was like seeing your high school crush for the first time in 20 years and he's almost unrecognizable; not only because of the harsh whiskey stench that he marinates in, but then he farts and starts laughing at the rancid smell like he did all of those years ago and you remember why you stopped liking boys your age. It was like seeing an ex-boyfriend tripping balls off bug spray like you didn't even know that was a thing people were doing these days. You were humiliated for him.

But I digress, the last time I was there the air was thick. This big warehouse felt deserted and abandoned. No music playing. The aisles were ominous and watched you as you walked passed. I could hear squeaks on the linoleum floor an aisle or so over but I never saw another customer. The occasional employee would be spotted but I was to 'weirded' out to approach anyone. The inside of the store made me feel the same way a dead body would if it were propped up on display with its eyes open in a frigid oddly unnatural position. Uncomfortable was an understatement. The paint chipping on the cracked walls were just a small detail in the grand scheme of things.

That lasting image was traumatizing. I didn't want that to happen to my son. I couldn't discern if it was because I remembered how new and sparkling the store had looked in my childhood or if it looked as dilapidated to everyone. I refused to take that risk though. "It would have looked haunting to anyone," I said trying to convince myself. I felt like I would be introducing this beautiful boy to where toys came to die.

Is this what growing up felt like? It felt like time was betraying me. Like I woke up one day and I was old even though I thought I saw youth staring back in the mirror. Time was slipping through my fingers and burying me alive as I gasped for air. Has the world always been this disgusting and evil or are these new deadly trends a sign of the crumbling times? Was this the beginning of the end?

How did those pictures trigger such a powerful reaction? Or was I overthinking all of it? Was it just the weed? Did it even matter?

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Years after my last encounter with the toy giant, my mom got a seasonal job there. When she didn't get hired on, I was mad at God. My mom was perfect. I was mad that not hiring her, made her feel less than she was worth. Recently, learning how many workers lost their jobs and that some even lost their retirements with the company, broke my heart. I understood why God didn't let us depend on that income. The devastation of losing a second house would have been more than we could have handled right now. I guess Chance the Rapper was right: "my God doesn't make mistakes."

When I thought about the chain, I thought back to a better world. A world that didn't have mass shootings, and overwhelming hurt and pain sprinkled with anxiety and a splash of depression. I wished for a world that didn't betray me overtime with new deadly trends. I wished for time not to team up with gravity and make my skin droop - for time not to affect our youth and for moms and dads to stay with you forever.

It became less about Toys 'R' Us and more about how time was speeding up. Maybe the amount of time a year is got shorter because I've lived longer. One month when you've lived through 360 of them seems less significant, and the more time that goes by, perhaps the next month will become even less important. Time was betraying me. Being thirty in 2018 was drastically different then what it was when my parents were my age. The thought of reaching some level of stability and success was fleeting. Who knows if I would get there before my parents are taken from me. It was a constant fear of mine. My dad's health has been declining over the years and seeing him age so much has had an unspoken effect on me. My grandfather died unexpectedly. What would stop death from doing to my son what he did to me? I constantly felt threatened not to get to comfortable.

Aging has been a terrifying inevitability if you're lucky. I may not even get the chance to age. I felt like becoming a mother made me mortal. I remember coming home from the hospital while my son laid in the NICU when he was five days old. My invincibility cloak came off and I haven't been able to find it since. Now when I go out, my only mission is to get back to that smiling face by any means necessary.

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I thought Toys 'R' Us would be here forever. Why would I think any differently? And coming to the realization they're closing their doors for good has been far more difficult for me than I'd care to admit.

My mortality, seeing loved ones age around me, becoming a mother. I'm living life on the other side of the glass now. The side that is no longer experiencing life for the first time, but helping a tiny human experience his. I never thought at 30, I'd finally feel the shift of becoming an adult.

My parents are now grandparents, so I guess this is goodbye then.

Bye. Thanks for the smiles.


Q. Vergara is currently working on her first book with Vital Narrative.