I often wonder what people think of me.
By often I mean constantly.
Constantly means when I'm taking a shower. When I'm getting on a bus. When I'm wrestling my coat into my locker. When I'm putting on makeup in public bathrooms.
Sometimes people say what they think of me, but when I hear it, I often decide they're wrong.
I've heard people call me a bitch. I'm not, though, really. I am a know-it-all, I am bossy, I do complain about people who irritate me. I don't go out of my way to hurt people. I don't talk about people behind their backs. In my little neighborhood between Martin Luther King and Dekum street, I learned better than that. I am not a bitch.
According to some I'm a hipster. After watching “Portlandia” I sincerely hope not. I don't think I have the holier-than-thou attitude hipsters come programmed with, and I don't own any old English riding boots or look good in tiny floral skirts.
I spend most (all) of my time with a group of boys. They spend all their time playing Magic™ and talking about their Dungeons and Dragons™ characters. Looking at my friends, it'd make sense for me to be a nerd.
But guess who isn't a nerd?
I'm not so lost in a fantasy world that I can condone myself blowing off priorities and failing classes. I'm not so tangled up in a game that I allow myself to spend upwards of thirty dollars a week on cards. Where I come from, in a little red house full of brown-skinned abuela and a blonde-haired mama, I learned better than that.
People seem surprised when I say I have Latino heritage. I don't think it's so hard to believe. I've actually found myself in arguments over the subject—“Shut up, Brel, you are not Mexican.” I didn't say I was. “You are not Hispanic.” Yes, actually. “You ain't got nothin' but white in you.” You don't know me.
It's almost worse when people believe me, especially adults. It seems like after the fact is public that I'm Hispanic, people expect something different from me—like somehow my entire self changes because they know my racial background.
Well, where I come from, where half the people around me are white Southerners and the other half Hispanic Coloradans from Pueblo, I learned better than that.
If I'm none of these things, then what am I?
I'm a big sister. If I was asked my best friend, I'd say [redacted] or [redacted] or [redacted] (sorry, readers, protecting the innocent, etc. - M.). If I was asked who I'll love for the rest of my life with no conditions, I'd say my baby sister. In a way, she's also my baby. She's my number one inspiration, second to none. She's made of the same stuff I am, only different—she got more of the Southerners, with her honey hair and sturdy body. She's gonna grow up and be tougher than me, but right now she's just irritating, aggravating, impossible, and the best thing my parents ever gave me.
I'm a woman. I'm not a little girl anymore, but sometimes the veil that separates is blown aside, and I can be both for awhile. It takes a woman to look at a situation and say “Let's make the best of this” and then do it. It takes a woman to run interference between a group of seven teenage boys and three teenage girls. It takes a woman to know exactly what to do when [redacted]'s carsick and [redacted]'s homesick and [redacted]'s just plain sick. Where I come from, kitty-corner from J. and her five kids and their however-many kids, across the street from M., down the street from C., and with a little sister of my own, I learned that.
I'm a singer. I sing in multiple choirs and multiple bands, as well as being notorious at home for loud, midnight-showertime concerts. I know how to croon jazz, I know how to open up and sing opera, I can turn my vocal vibrato on and off. I am in the honor choir at my school, I am part of a family that is held together by music. Where I come from, singing bluegrass while stacking dishes into a cabinet, I learned that.
I'm a Brel. I don't know what a Brel is really, but am I supposed to yet? It sure seems to me that if I knew exactly what I was already, there'd be no reason for me to live.
That's how it feels to be me. It feels like nobody knows, not even me yet, and by the time I've figured out what I am, I'll have lived that definition out. It feels like a book where the end's gone and got lost, and now I've got to go find it. It feels for all the world like I'm alive—and I wouldn't have it any other way.