Damn! Not again!
I sigh and glare malevolently at the offensive pen in my hand. It can't be that noticeable, I think to myself, but it is. It practically leaps off the page.
I can hear Mom coming up the steps to check on my progress. There's no point in writing anymore. I have plenty of experience with what's about to happen.
"Well, let's see," she says over my shoulder.
The way she inhales so sharply might as well be an explosion of disappointment.
Outside, the bounce of a well-inflated basketball echoes in the street. My best friend is already on his way to the court for another epic battle. I'm the outside shooter. He needs me. I need to be there, but I know that's just not going to happen.
"Javier, you need to be more careful with how you write. You cannot hand this in to your teacher with this horrible smudge. It's disrespectful. Not to mention you misspelled diligencia."
"Do it over," she says imperiously as she takes the page and swiftly tears it off the notebook.
I can only nod while repressing the urge to cry. It's the second page she's torn today.
"I'm sorry, but what you write is a reflection of yourself, so you need to take better care in how you present your work. You made a mistake because your mind is already on your game with your friends, but one day you're going to realize that there are more important things in life."
I can't possibly care about the important things in life. I'm eleven! And right now the most important thing to me is to join Manuel at the court so we can beat William and Camilo. Why can't she understand that?
Satisfied, Mom goes back downstairs, leaving behind ninety-eight pounds of rage. A bitter tear of resentment falls and smudges the blank page of my notebook, already ruining it before I even begin writing. With a herculean effort I rein my emotions, clear my head from how badly I want to see that ball fall through the hoop without touching it, and start over...
26 years later...
I just wanted to say, thank you.
Thank you for tearing all those pages from my notebook when I made mistakes.
I didn't understand the lesson then, but I see myself enforcing it each time I write, and as a result, I was able to complete a novel. A whole novel, Mom!
I didn't have to tear my own pages, (Thank God!) but I can tell you that on my keyboard, the "delete" key no longer has a label upon it, testament to a whole lot of digital page tearing.
I wanted to tell you that you were right.
If it hadn't been for your commitment and devotion to my academic success when I was a kid, I know I would've never seen my name on the spine of a book.
You were there each and every time, despite having a whole house to take care of, despite having another child to raise, and we both know that was a huge feat because my little sister was NOT easy. ( I'm going to pay for this one next family gathering ) Despite whatever worries assaulted you in the most vulnerable hours of the day, you were right over my shoulder, guiding me, pushing me, teaching me, and also letting me know how proud you were of my A+ homework and tests. Thanks to all your efforts, I'm a writer today.
But how can I call myself a writer when I couldn't possibly write anything remotely adequate to convey how grateful I am for you in my life? How can I write a whole novel, create an entire set of lives on the page only to sit here, unable to say much more than thank you, for all you've done?
When it comes to you, there aren't enough superlatives to attribute to the kind of mother you've been. I'll just say that nothing in my life would be what it is without you. I wouldn't be the person I am without all the work you did to keep me growing straight. I wouldn't be the kind of father I strive to be without the example you set when I was a kid. I owe it all to you, Mom.
It infuriates me that I have at my disposal two entire languages, an abundance of words and phrases that fall hopelessly short of expressing what I feel when I think of you. I have no choice but to rely on simple phrases in the hopes that you feel my gratitude and eternal admiration.
I love you, Mom.
Thank you, for everything.
I pray I can always make you proud of me.