Latinx Inspirational Teens & Young Adult

It was 7:45 in the morning, and I was already late for school. I only had fifteen minutes left to arrive, but it always took me around thirty minutes to walk there. The reason why I woke up so late was that my little brother Adrian was in a painful tummy ache all night, and, I was the one taking care of him. Our mom was already passed out on the couch, and I didn’t even want to know what she had for drinks that evening. Not that I ever want to know what she’s always up to when she goes out.

I went to bed at 3 in the morning to find healthy snacks for my brother, who was endlessly whining and crying about his sickness and hunger. I only gave him a glass of milk and touched his hair for a while until he finally fell asleep. In a very uncomfortable position in his little bed with superhero figures all over, I dozed off. When I woke up 4 hours later, I poured a bowl of cereal for him and one for myself. I brushed my teeth, changed my clothes, and kissed him goodbye.

‘I’ll be back soon, little man,’ I said to him, trying to hide my worry, and rushed out of the house, almost running for my life.

He just sat there finishing up his breakfast and gave me a vague smile. Our mother was still sleeping and snorting, not caring about her surroundings.

Even running to the school, I made it 15 minutes late. I was already full of panic about what the teacher and director might say to me this time. I had a lot of absences and undone homework. I always said I was too busy and barely had any time when my family didn’t bother me with chores. ‘Excuses, all but excuses! How could a thirteen-year-old be so busy?’ said the director after proceeding to call a meeting with my mother, planning to tell her how I was about to fail eighth grade, but she never showed up. She never did. 

The truth was that they didn’t know what I was going through and sometimes not even I was aware of it, and I couldn’t share everything that was happening at home. It just simply couldn’t come out. Ever had a knot in your throat that doesn’t let you talk and fills your eyes with tears?

My first class was English with a young 30-year-old teacher from the suburbs that was very patient and kind. Miss Rivera was my favorite teacher of all, although most of the kids didn’t like her. As usual, I did not hand in my homework and refused to see her directly in the face. I was ashamed and disappointed, and she was too. The teacher didn’t say anything but called me out when the class finished. 

‘Hello, Miss Marina. How are things at home?’ she asked.

This time, I sighed and looked her directly in the eyes. I was tired, with baggy red eyes that explicitly showed my lack of sleep. 

‘I’m okay, just sleepy,’ I replied. 

‘You look like you had a rough night. Let me know if there is anything I can help with. I can talk with the counselor, to your mother, or any other family member…’ Miss Rivera said with a caring, preoccupied face. 

‘It’s okay. Umm, can I just make the assignment for tomorrow? I know I haven’t done much but, I promise it’s not about being lazy,’ I said, trying to get her to understand a little without saying much.

‘Well… I wanted to show you something. I know you have missing assignments, but I wanted you to take part in this poetry contest, remember? I mentioned it earlier last month. The deadline is in two days, but I know you are a fast writer and learner. I was impressed by the latest poem you wrote a few weeks ago. It was very touching. Could you please take this sheet and submit your poem tomorrow or in two days?’ 

Overwhelmed and surprised, I nodded. ‘Okay. Thank you.’

Did she like it? She said she was touched. I know she congratulated me before, but she never said that to any student. I even forgot about that poem, but it felt great just writing and reading it. It was a feeling I’d never had before.

I had so much homework to do for Math and Science class, yet I didn’t care. I only wanted to write this poem. I went through the day swallowing complaints about the rest of the teachers, except the Physical Education one, he was a frankly relaxed dude and I loved doing sports. 

All I could think about was this poem. I didn’t want to fail this. Even if I didn’t win the prize, which I had no idea what it was, I wanted to at least write a line. Once I got home, there was nobody there. I took the poetry contest sheet from my backpack, grabbed a banana from the counter, and started reading the guidelines. 

In summary: Poem with at least two stanzas, free theme, deadline: August 28. 

‘Time to write!’ I shouted. It felt good to be alone.

The house was very messy. Chairs tumbled down, pennies on the floor, empty bottles of alcohol that I didn’t see yesterday, and dirty clothes from my brother in the living room. 

I went to an alert state, wondering where my family was. Was my brother safe? Did she take him to the clinic? I had no phone, no way to know. 

I couldn’t focus on the house, so I went out for a walk to the park closest to home. I took my other mini backpack and put the poetry contest sheet, two pencils, an eraser, a Wonder Woman figurine, and a bottle of water. 

In ten minutes, I arrived at the park. There was only one family with three kids on the slides and swings. I went straight for the picnic tables at the end, decorated with ceiba trees. 

I took a deep breath as I sat down on the hard-wooden bench and saw my surroundings. My mind was tricking me again with questions like ‘Is my brother okay? Did something happen? I should be at home… I need to protect him.’

I shook my head, trying to make my overthinking mind go away and focus on the blank paper I had in front of me. What was this poem going to be about? I just started writing.

Oh, mother, I don’t like it

the way you look at me,

the way you arrive home,

the days that you do.

Oh, mother, do you ever think

how does it feel to be me,

taking care of everything

that you forgot to do.

Oh life, when will you have a chance

to take me out of this house,

to give my brother a better life,

to be free and alive. 

It was already almost six in the evening when I noticed the sun was fading away, and I got worried my family would be at home wondering where I was and freaking out. 

When I arrived at our humble home, they were already there. Mom was cooking some Mac and Cheese and white rice. ‘This is all we have for today, like it or not,’ she said to my brother, who was watching TV. She looked at me as I opened the loud front door, letting intrusive mosquitoes in. 

‘Well, hello! Look who’s here! Where have you been, mija? How old do you think you are to be wandering around, huh?’ asked fiercely. 

‘Hi, mom… I was at the park doing homework.’ I replied while I greeted Adrian. 

‘Aha! Your school backpack is in your room. Stop lying!’ she said, grabbing me by the arm and looking me in the eyes. ‘Speak’ she demanded. 

I could feel the alcohol and nicotine out of her mouth. ‘Leave me alone, I took a paper to write poetry homework. Trust me!’ I begged for her to release me. ‘Please, mami.’

‘Your grades will tell later,’ and she finally released me. I rushed to my room and hid the poem in my school backpack inside a notebook. I took a shower, ate the horrible sticky mac and cheese, played with my brother for a while, and went to bed early. 

The next day, I woke up earlier and went to school before anyone was awake. I left a note on the fridge saying, ‘I will make you both proud. There is a contest announcement next Monday. Hope you can make it to school at 9 a.m.’

On this occasion, I made it on time to school. I was proud of myself. 

The classroom was empty. Being 10 minutes before the class started was a blessing of not being bothered by the chaotic, loud classmates talking about video games and crushes on the new girl. 

I never quite felt part of the group. It made me feel awkward to even just say hi to them. Nobody made conversation with me unless I was asked for a cheat sheet or to tell a humorless joke. Only the teachers would talk to me and honestly, I was okay with it. 

When the teacher went in 5 minutes before, I handed in my poem. 

‘Oh! So fast! I knew you could do it! Congrats, Marina. The details of the winners will be announced next week. Please try not to be absent.’ said Miss Rivera with a big smile on her face. 

The next days of school were as normal as ever. I was very impatient to know the results of the contest. My brain jumped to the thought of the winning prizes I read on the contest sheet: the 1st place will win $100 and two tickets to the cinema, the 2nd Place will win $50 and two tickets, and the Third place, $25 and two tickets, too. Also, they were going to be shared in a National Education Newspaper.

The following days I spent them playing with my brother, catching up on deadlines, and trying to focus as much as I could on my studies. My mom was barely at home, she said she found a job as a cashier in a local supermarket, however, I didn’t know if I believed her. She would come home without money or food and I had to improvise to cook simple and weird meals out of cheese, sauces, and rice.

Thanks to this contest, I started to write in an old journal I had from two years ago. First, I started writing random stuff that happened at home or school. Although none of it were happy events, it felt good to write them down. It was a release. I didn’t want to stop writing. 

The day of the announcement of the winners arrived. The whole school was gathered on the basketball court to announce the winners and upcoming events and contests. I wore two butterfly hair pins I found in my bedroom drawer which I loved, and wished myself good luck. I didn’t know if my poem was any good, my teacher didn’t say anything about it.  

Miss Rivera stood in front of the audience, and I was shocked by her ability to talk in front of many people and not feel nervous. She started giving a motivational speech on how important it is for kids to be introduced to novels, writers and poetry. ‘It can flourish the inner self you didn’t know you had. It can heal, and it can make a positive impact,’ she concluded. 

The third prize went to my classmate Javier, a smart kid who everybody liked. He went down from the bleachers to take his prize while each one of us applauded. The second prize went to a ninth grader named Amy. She seemed like she did not expect it at all. Her face was red like a tomato, and she looked like she was about to cry. I giggled a bit. We all congratulated her and shouted: AMY, AMY, AMY! 

Miss Rivera started, ‘and the first winner is a very special student of mine. She was always good at writing even though she does not have confidence in herself, but her poem very well deserves recognition. The first prize goes to… MARINA DIAZ, from eighth grade!’

Everyone gasped and applauded loudly. What? Me? I was in shock. I couldn’t move. There were too many people. Do I have to go in front? The surrounding classmates looked at me and shouted, ‘Go! Go for it! What are you waiting for? Go get it, girl!’ 

Oh no, this is a nightmare, I thought! But I won, I should be happy. I put a shy smile on my red face and walked toward Miss Rivera. She embraced me with a hug and congratulated me, whispering ‘I knew you could win’. I said thank you and took my winning prizes with a big smile on my face. 

I felt a rush through my whole body. I wish my family were here to see it. I wish they could see what I accomplished. The winners took official pictures with the teachers and director. I was already tired of smiling until I hear the voice of my brother from the back of the basketball court shouting my name and running towards me. 

The physical impact of his hug almost made me fall, but I held tight and made my eyes full of tears. Especially, when I saw my mother walking behind him with a balloon saying I’m proud of you. It was time to get a new journal and keep writing!

August 28, 2022 20:38

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