Learning To Love You More




Assignment #14
Write your life story in less than a day.

Rosa Rio
Coolidge, Arizona USA
Email Rosa



I was born in the mid 80s, sometime in the evening on July 29th. Mussolini, Rasputin, and Peter Jennings were also born on July 29th, so I m probably stubborn and was probably on television once or twice. My mother bled a lot during my birth. I m told I could ve killed her, but she lived to tell me that story over and over again, and agrees that I inherited her anemia when she sees my blood drip for half hours from little paper cuts and scraped knees. She also gave me her full lip. We re friends, my ma and I, real friends.
I am Navajo and also part Pima (but I m not Navajo enough for the Navajos and I m not Pima enough for the Pimas). I have pinches of white blood in here, somewhere. I m not sure what. I could contest the claim that I m not Navajo enough. Here it is: The first memory I have involves me laying in a cradleboard in my grandmother s dark bedroom. My cousin Valerie who must ve been 6 at the time came in curious as ever. She was told to leave me alone. I remember the words. I must ve been no older than 3, but I think earlier, 2, even 1.
I was born and spent the first 3 1/2 years of my life in the capital of New Mexico. There will always be a running joke that I am from the Newwww one and not the old Mexico, since people forget that the gap between Texas and Arizona is occupied. I wouldn t pay attention to New Mexico either if I was from New York or Pakistan, but rumor has it that the aliens pay attention (Roswell).
I have been into stories for years. I drew comics when I was 4 and played pirate obsessively. This was when the immediate family moved to Champaign, Illinois, total suburbia. My brother played video games and sports. He was a ninja turtle for Halloween. I had a friend named India, this black girl who threw the best parties a 4 year old could desire, and another friend named Carrie. Carrie had trash up and down her hallways and I remember seeing a gerbil once. Her house was thick with that air conditioned cigarette smell. I remember my father watching horror films and even though they would choke me up (and this was bad parenting), I d peek around the hallway at the television screen. It was alluring to me. Just the stories, being scared, it was all exhilarating, fresh, and set off my imagination. My mother worked at a craft store. My father taught art courses at a university with a Native American mascot. My father spoke out against this vehemently, and my mother tells me there s now a FBI file on our family, since he protested in the early 90s. I shrugged.
I started school in Champaign. I went to a preschool that was sponsored by the college, and I was under supervision by who knows who. I wore a number on my back, and they noted my behavior and I became a living category. I must ve blocked that out, cause all I remember is playing in the rain, duck duck goose, and reading a book about body parts.
I only lived in Champaign for a year. My father stayed there. My brother, mother, and I, we all moved home. Newww Mexico. I went to kindergarten and I was already adopting a shy personality. My first day of school everyone made fun of me coming from a Champagne bottle. I kissed my first boy that year. He was a witch for Halloween, and we bonded over the Wizard of Oz. I was terrified and confused after he pulled away from his forced 5 year old test of affection.
I went to another school. I had a boy friend (or is it boyfriend) there who I desperately want to find again. I want to ask what he is doing. He performed I Am The Walrus in the school talent show with a friend. His mom smoked a lot and hung out with my ma. He d bring her cigarette wrappers to school, and one time we went to the circus together. Maybe we held hands? He had the reddest hair, the palest skin, the bluest eyes, and the most stylish suspenders any boy I ve ever seen have. He was gone when 2nd grade swung around. Everything was pretty common up until I moved again a few years later. You know, elementary school: talent shows (I organized my own puppet show), bloody noses, monkey bars, crushes and kisses, all the beautiful things I want to touch again so badly. I remember being in an advanced reading class, and when I picked my first pet (who was an abused saved dog) at a vet s clinic. I said That one, and everyone was surprised that I chose the dog cowering in the corner as opposed to the happy, yappy friendly dog. My great-grandmother died when I was 7. My first funeral. I remember crying so hard I couldn t even stand up. She was the sweetest thing. She called me names in Navajo that meant things like beautiful and strong.
My mother and I moved into my great-grandmother s trailer. My brother stayed with my grandmother. I was now in 4th grade. All the kids called me city kid, and somehow I toughened up more than I would have ever imagined. I started cussing, doing the most daring bicycle tricks, and playing basketball all day long. My cousin and I told ghost stories obsessively. Any reservation is isolated. My cousin and his father lived way up on a mountain. I remember a big gapping window and asking if I could hear a ghost story late at night from my uncle. I remember him opting for a quotation of Zomby Woof. My uncle is the one who taught me to ride a bike. He just put me on there and said, Just pedal! I lived there for a year. As I said, I wasn t Navajo enough for the Navajos. I wasn t from the reservation. I was like an alien, but I still got asked to go to the reservation burger joint and asked to trade stickers with girls.
I moved again. My father was out of the picture for what seemed like forever. He was just the artist/art teacher guy who sent me Andy Warhol postcards or those Keith Haring images with the little kid sitting on the big guy s lap, but my parents wanted to make things work again. My brother stayed with my grandmother. Pops, Ma, and I made our way to New Mexico but ended up in an apple valley instead of the usual abode. I rode bikes. I got detention. I loved animals and horror movies and dancing. Nothing worked, my parents were wrong. My father moved back to Illinois. My mother and I moved back in with Grandma, who I would give my heart to if I could.
I then lived in my hometown for an insufferably long time. I played basketball and was really good. I was a point guard, and our team made the championships. They called me and this other girl, the magic duo, because we were great dribblers and excellent shooters. I had fun until I made my team go into double overtime one game, and my coach took my 11 year old ass outside of the gymnasium and yelled, You fucking pussy! Next time, you make that fucking basket! Don t cry, you fucking baby! We could ve won this, if only you were good! I still talk about that. I didn t take sports seriously after that, and I can barely shoot a free throw now.
Jr. High came up. I hung out with this freckle-y little girl named Teresa that I had met a loooong time ago. We walked to school together. We had sleepovers a lot. She was actually hanging out with me since I was about 8, but jr. high was the best friend period. She had a unicorn poster in her room. It was small, like 8 by 4 and there was loft bed to compensate for lack of space. I was still heavily into the supernatural and dancing. Supernatural dancing is more like it. In 8th grade, we started doing drugs and drinking. We thought skaters who really amounted to nothing but trouble were worth our time. I claimed to quit that stuff, but I really didn t, but that still caused us to grow apart. I saw her in high school, and she had crude tattoos and bragged about heavy drugs. She hung out with girls that were always popular.
High school. I dropped out my first year. I got really depressed. I might ve liked a boy here. Freshman year, I served a stint in a mental hospital. It was awful. I ate a lot of breakfast burritos, read in my room, and noted that I didn t dye all of my green hair to black, like I had thought I did. This black kid whose name I can t remember would mouth sexual things to me in group therapy. He cornered me in the hall once and told me I was so fine. I just told him I was a lesbian and got another girl to play along. She was bigger than him. In drug education class, he argued that pipe was spelled p-u-p-e. The most interesting person in there was this boy who played with building blocks all day long and had the occasional burst of anger. I tried high school again after a year off. I hung out with this girl I really miss named Nica. We were funny. I liked us. We were cute. I really liked us. We would go to shows and make collaborative drawings and pretend we were able musicians. Nica made me happy. Something that made me far happier was when I spent all my money to see an the Kon Ichikawa film retrospective at a college movie theater. I d go by myself. That was the only way I could go. I d cry sometimes and I d walk home so happy. Something intangible made me feel complete and all I did was talk about film for the next 3-4 years of my life. I still love that memory, me and Kon Ichikawa. We grew apart and I never knew why, me and Nica. Now we slowly email each other about two times a month. I kind of lost Ichikawa, too, cause I don t have money to purchase his films.
I tried high school one more time. I moved with my dad, yeah, that guy. Coolidge, Arizona. Population 7000. Small, suffocating, dusty, smells like a farm, is actually composed of many farms. I made the wrong kind of friends right away. I got into a near fatal car accident. It took me a while but I eventually left behind my games of insobriety. I was the only person in the car who wasn t air vac d. I remember shouting, Slow down! and loud music, and blood and how the giant gas guzzler looked like a smashed cola can.
The only person who made me feel worth a damn in high school was David Mauldin. He was my case worker, since I was in an enriched program and my teacher, at one point. I like him a lot. I called him. He bought me a bicycle once because I was having trouble getting to school. You know how people joke about buying other s ponies? Well, I d buy Mauldin a pony if I could.
Recently: I just lived in Tucson for college. I had a stalker. I had two actually, real ones, not jokey like some people say. One was a boy in a hat who left me threatening messages that he perceived as cute and flirtatious. He d come into my work to laugh and tell me he liked my style or ask if I was busy or if I liked this or that or blah, blah, blah. I was never directly cold, but occasionally I d pull out a Maybe never, and hope he d leave me alone. It took 8 months. The second guy I met at the bus stop. He would forget easily, things he said or did even minutes before. He left me alone. He made me feel more uncomfortable somehow. In Tucson, I made hardly any friends. I got really into The Marx Brothers and I played with my cat in my apartment endlessly. I had neighbors that would talk to me for hours and it got sorta old. My roommate and I grew apart but we cried together once while discussing Little Women. She wrote me a sincere note saying she admired me for how I liked to learn and how I loved animals and was sweet and funny. I haven t written back. I will. I need to gather words.
I live in Coolidge, Arizona now with my father. We butt heads all the time, but try anyway. I got a grant for my writing last week. I let a lot of people know. I wrote this essay on Vietnam and human defense mechanisms. My grandpa was a valedictorian who had to serve in Vietnam. He is a very tragic endearing figure to me. I miss him. Lately, this one girl I talk to is so negative it makes me sad. She has been like this for 5 years. Sometimes I wish she would stop talking to me. I am not a mean person, I ve never told anyone they are bothering me. I don t like negative things. I am better than I used to be. I like books right now, more than ever. I read 6 at a time. Today I got a new book. It is a field guide to North American Insects & Spiders. While I drove home with my father from the library, he started yelling at me. I was in a good mood. I learned about The Palace Examinations in China and drew all day long. That s a good day, but we fought. I got upset and threw my bag down. Cursed, which I don t like doing, and walked for 3 hours. I stopped a few times. I thought I could lay down in this big field of who knows what and look at the sky. It is not like the movies. It was muddy and mosquitoes preyed upon my skin, but it calmed me down in a way, even though my brand new 6 dollar sneakers got covered in dirt and dust and gunk and I kept hoping I wasn t going to encounter road kill in the dark. When I see road kill, I get unusually upset. In December, I am getting a bunny. I am thinking of moving but I don t know where. I can t live in Palookaville forever. I am hoping someday I will finally meet someone as charming as the kid who sang I Am The Walrus. I still like ghost stories and hanging out by the train tracks. I am trying to be a film curator, cause I finally have money in a way (oh, loans!).