Rain, Passports, and Books

I was born during a monsoon. Two days later I was given a faith, a nationality, and a chance.  

My writing dreams began one day at a Walden Books in Tucson, Arizona. It was day trip across the border because my mother had gone back to university and needed some supplies: namely a large English-Spanish dictionary. I’m guessing that the reference to a now defunct bookstore chain and the need for a print dictionary lets you know that this was way before the internet. I was eight.

While my mother compared the two boulder-sized books, I stayed in the children’s section. I wasn’t sure what I was looking for but decided to go through a shelf. And then I saw it: A Babysitter’s Club Mystery novel (Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt has brought back so many memories I thought long gone).

I’d seen the TV show on Disney Channel but there was something incredible about seeing entire shelves of stories that were there waiting for me. And not just that, there were books about other characters and their stories. By the time mom picked a dictionary I had my own boulder of books in my arms.

Stories have been my companions in the best and worst days of my life; and most of the ones in between as well. So it’s not much of a surprise that twenty years later I decided I wanted to do a Creative Writing MFA.

That’s when it got a little complicated.

After applying to four programs in the fall of 2013, my heart got broken four times when the response letters came back. But then last fall I decided to try once more.

I worked on my manuscript and sent it only to schools with a more experimental and transmedia approach to writing. This time I only applied to three and I got accepted into all. I chose the one I felt in my heart was the best choice.

Today I sit waiting to know if an immigration officer who has never met me in person deems that I am able to go and fulfill my dreams. I got an email about a decision being made and that I can collect my passport next week but no answer on whether or not I have a student visa. I shouldn´t be nervous since I sent a lot of documents to prove I can speak and write English, that the school does believe me qualified to be in this program, and that I can support myself during those twelve months. And yet I’m nervous as if I haven’t gone through this before.

I got my first American visa before I was even a month old.  That doesn’t make me special it just makes me a border kid. However I don’t know how my life would’ve turned out had things been different.

Monsoon months in Sonora are special in the way that you can smell the rain and the damp earth before the first drop falls. You go from this dry acid-like heat to this dust storm that swirls dirt everywhere ,and brings down trees and telephone poles, to finally this crazy downpour that floods the streets in under thirty minutes. We were lucky we had a truck because my mother went into labor on such a day.

She said she saw something odd when I was born, but I was rushed away too quickly for her to get a better look. The next time she saw me she noticed a large kind of bump on my back. The pediatrician came in and told her that I had Spina Bifida and, that if by some miracle I was ever able to walk, I would need crutches or braces for the rest of my life.

Well, I happened to have the miracle of family.

Back in 1986 I doubt there were loads of neurosurgeons in my town so the women in my family got to work getting me an appointment with a doctor in Tucson ASAP. But before I could be taken there I needed a few things:

I was baptized the day we left the hospital. It wasn’t a big party like it usually is with christenings. It was just my parents, my grandparents, my aunt and uncle who’d be my godparents, and my brothers. I was baptized one rainy afternoon in the sacristy.

That same day I got my first passport photo taken. My first passport and first American visa feature a days–old me crying wrapped in a blanket. I don’t know if that would fly today with all the particulars that are asked of a visa application.

Once in Tucson, I was checked and studied. The doctor told my parents that their daughter indeed had a form of Spina Bifida. But luckily because of the type I had, I was a candidate for a procedure that was still pretty new. Eight months later I went into surgery for about eight hours, if not more. Flash forward twenty-nine years and I still carry a large scar that reminds me everyday to be thankful. I’m a dancer who plays with trapezes, hula hoops, and lyras, and an aunt who picks up her nieces and nephews. I have walked through many cities and towns in different continents. I am lucky and blessed.

Dreams turned words. Another beautiful piece by Romina Becker
Dreams turned words. Another beautiful piece by Romina Becker

So maybe that should be enough.

I get that last comment a lot when I tell someone about writing and how I hope to one day write fulltime. Or when I tell them about my disappointments and then how I’m currently working to get that visa for the UK. I hear, “Just be thankful you can walk, now grow up, and get a normal job,” at least once a week. It’s not that the people who say this mean to be negative (I actually think they believe they’re helping), but their own experiences and circumstances have given them these murky-grey-colored glasses.

I know that there are these incredible people who have overcome every odd in order to fulfill their dreams. But most of us need a little help. It doesn’t even have to be someone who stands with us for the whole thing. My mother is no longer physically in this world but it’s because she fought so much for me that I know better than to listen to the people who tell me to give up.

I just wish I could know what those other people’s dreams are (were) and maybe give their glasses a cleaning.

Next week I find out if my application was a lot of work but successful or very expensive and unsuccessful.

Whatever happens, I’ll just keep searching for that one chance. Because if my family saw a chance where they were told to make due, I can certainly make one for myself and my future.