By Venezuelan standards, I have always been defined as an “intense” person. Not quite the same meaning as the English word carries I would imagine, but it gives an idea of a person constantly looking for something spiritual or emotional. Being an “intense” person in our slang just means you are one of those people that looks for meaning everywhere, you feel too much, you look for connections too much, and you beat yourself up too much about places and scenarios that might not exist. Books and songs were normally where I escaped to find somewhere I belonged because I couldn’t begin to say or express what was inside.
A therapist once said to me that this happens because as children we’re not taught to deal with our emotions, we are taught how to react to a situation and get over it. We aren’t taught to name what we feel and in not knowing how to discern our feelings we sometimes feel lost or make our own imaginary scenarios worst. The first way of dealing with something is being able to define it.
It was a fortuitous event that this encounter was during Covid and it brought me back to the first person that ever taught me to try and name things and get out of me the emotions.
When I was about 13 my mother – always the sergeant- decided that I needed to continue English lessons. As the daughter of immigrants, it was drilled into my mother the importance of learning as many languages as possible as a way to survive whatever life could throw your way.
I remember sitting on Mery’s couch on my first “lesson” and stewing in discontent. My mother had chosen for me to receive English lessons on the same day as we had after-hours lessons at school. I wasn’t sad about missing extra school, I was upset that as usual, I had to be the odd one out because of my parents.
Mery knew straight away that something was amiss (not hard when dealing with a teenager). And she did something that struck me to my core. She asked me what my feelings were and offered a solution taking them into consideration. I remember the shock I felt, where I was, and how I was sitting. I remember the shock on my mother’s face. It was as simple as changing the day we met, for another day of the week.
Mery had a love for literature and when she realized I dwelled in books, she made sure we read the hard ones together. The ones that made you think, the ones that had tons of words I didn’t know in English. Looking up the meaning in a dictionary wasn’t an option. If she saw a word she doubted I knew, I was asked to explain the meaning in my own words and come up with an example.
As a last resort, we opened the dictionary. Having the word explained in Spanish was never an option.
Mery believed in the stars, the universe, and the power of light but most definitely in the power of love. It was through love – a very frustrating form of it some days – that she taught me to put my feelings into words. She taught me how to expel my anger, frustration, and my darkness by writing on a wall. She then taught me how to transform these words into hope by putting them forth in the Universe. Simple words weren’t enough. There is an immense vocabulary out there and some words fit better than others, she always pushed me to find just the right one. Later on, I learned that different languages convey the meaning better than others and so I embraced having a crowded mind.
Mery was the first person I lost during Covid and I couldn’t put it into words. I couldn’t put her into my own words.
I have been thinking about Mery a lot lately. I remember her as a sort of nostalgic magic. Someone that was caught in between worlds but somehow managed to steer me into my own world.
It took me 3 years to get these words out. The last couple of years has been a journey, where I have often thought of Mery and those English lessons in her study that always smelled like incense. I’ve often recalled how I used to find comfort in them and later on in writing. For a long time, I couldn’t write; I haven’t been able to write. I wrote a lot of things in my head, but couldn’t find the will to put them to paper. I was too numb for any words to come out and putting anything in writing would make all my denial, real. I needed a mural other than a wall to write single words on a wall because stringing sentences together was too difficult, too permanent.
I am better now and slowly starting to find the words again, starting to find the magic again. Every time I find the words I always think of Mery and her one-partly glassy eye, her scar above her lip, and that kind smile. She gave me a great gift when I was just a child and I don’t think I ever found the words to tell her; I hope she always knew.
Mery. Gracias, por todas las palabras y lo que no dijimos pero siempre supiste, por siempre.